Those who joined Novembers ‘No Spend Month’ not only reported plumper bank accounts but a deeper understanding between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ and radically better spending habits. They also found themselves with a chunk of free time which they put towards more meaningful activities, like developing much loved hobbies and spending quality time with friends and family.
Here are 7 tips and tricks for a successful No Spend Month, from those who have done it before. A special thanks to GirlNextDoor and CymbidiumKelly for their interviews, where all of the following content came from. For more great advice, check out their new blogs, Girl Next Door Finance and The Centsible Life.
1. Examine your spending habits for the past few months. Weed out all your non-essential expenditures and entertainment costs, such as movies, eating out and shopping. Settle on figure that covers all of your essential costs for the month.
Creator of the No Spend Month, Kelly, advises that after you come up with a figure, “scale it up by 25%… this is more manageable without being too constrictive.”
2. Analyze your motives for ‘non-essential’ purchases. Think about why you swing by Peets everyday at 3 p.m., swift through the Sale rack at Old Navy or head to the movies. Since these are the purchases you’ll be cutting, it’s helpful to identify why you make them (you’re tired, you want to find a great deal, you want to get out of the house).
3. Begin developing counter-habits. This way you’re prepared to battle impulse habits. Get a can of Maxwell’s for the office kitchen, plan to work on a new hobby each time your hit with the shopping bug, and have a stack of library books (or movies from the library) waiting each time a “night out at the movies” occurs to you.
4. Choose a realistic time period to launch your No Spend Month. If you know the next month is filled unusual activities (or lots of extra spending), like out-of-town guests or a whirl of birthdays, start it next month. Then again, if you’re feeling tough, a month like December may be the ideal time to buck up on your discipline.
6. Figure out the things you enjoy and how you can do them for free. Love buying books, stock up at your local library. Love to eat out? Invite friends over for a Potluck.
7. Focus less on changing numbers and more on changing habits. GirlNextdoor wrote that she found this more beneficial than constantly working to keep spending to a bare minimum. She wrote:
“Instead of just trying not to spend money, evaluate what you want to spend money on and its relative importance to you. Focus on why you want to spend money on an item, rather than its cost…”
Instead of fixating on “but it’s only $3.50” or “but it’s 70% off! I will never get a deal like this again!” think about why you really want the item, what value will it add to your life, and evaluate if you really need it. One of the most powerful lessons reported by those who completed their own No Spend Month was a much deeper understanding of their “wants” and “needs”, and how easy it is to mix them up. Proactively thinking about this will help ingrain better spending habits for the future.
8. Find a support network to check in with and post your progress. CymbidiumKelly shared that she started her No Spend Month in the Wesabe Community because she knew it would keep her honest with herself about her family’s spending. She shared that “It was great to know I could go to Wesabe when I was feeling frustrated or discouraged about financial matters. I always felt that everyone participating in the discussion was really supportive and encouraging. It kept me motivated when I would have otherwise wanted to give up.”