I’ve been trying for years to have a successful no-spend month challenge. YEARS. Let me tell anyone who’s hoping to do one of these – IT IS HARD.
It all starts out well… there’s strong determination… I’m on some kind of a will power high… I have a plan for how I’m going to do it and give myself a substantial reward to look forward to at the end of it. Then, 3 maybe 4 days and already I’m threatened with ending the challenge early. Even if I somehow manage a couple of weeks, invariably, things unravel quickly there on. Somewhere I see an Instagram shot of a planner… uh oh. Or I smell KFC… yeaaahhh fail.
But, I’ve finally cracked it. I just had my first successful no-spend month EVER that I managed to have a successful no-spend month. I feel like I might have foolproof way to do it. Want to know how? Read on for my tips!
Before we start though, a moment of truth: In order to do anything like this well at all, you’ve got to really want to do it. So, you sure you want to do it? And, if you do, maybe you want to start with a smaller challenge – a no-spend week perhaps?
Read on, if you’re set on the successful no-spend month:
The biggest factors in a successful no-spend month are planning and substitution. Maybe also a little bit of cheating… sshhh… But listen, discipline, not deprivation, is the idea behind having a successful no-spend month. Can you control your emotions and temptations? That’s the idea behind this challenge. So it’s okay to prepare well – it’s not cheating, it’s just good planning.
- You get to pick the month and your no-spend month doesn’t have to start on the 1st of the month – you get to decide when it starts.
- Set a reward that’s worth fighting a month of cravings and desires. I even gave myself daily stickers to track each day I went without spending any money.
- Go through the upcoming month’s calendar and identify all bills you have to pay, any memberships and subscriptions that you need to renew, and any birthdays / anniversaries you need to buy presents for. Basically, there are some things you can’t avoid spending money on, so get those out of the way beforehand or for the bills, set them on auto-pay through your bank.
- Fill up your vehicle’s gas tank and get a carwash.
- Buy enough groceries for the duration. Frozen vegetables and fruits will go a long way; but things like onions, ginger, garlic and potatoes stay good a long time on the counter.
- For my no-spend month preparation, I stocked up on my favorite snacks and some fun foods that I could prepare or reheat. Just in case I started to crave some kind of food.
- How do you spend your leisurely time and do they involve spending money? Think about substitutions. If you’re a reader, find out if your local library has an app you can borrow ebooks from, or talk to your other reader friends and see if you borrow a couple of good books. If you like going to the movies and indulging in theater food – find some of your favorite movies you can either Netflix (first month free!) or if they’re in your personal collection, even better. If you like shopping, don’t even go to the mall. Stock up on shampoo, face wash and other things you would normally swing by the mall for. Basically, eliminate or substitute any discretionary spending situation for the month ahead. I even bought some Lush goodies so I could have spa days right at home.
- Break the routine spending habits. The hardest thing to give up for me was my daily morning Tim Hortons coffee. My office kitchen has hot chocolate, so I brought in marshmallows and instead of drinking a coffee everyday, I was making myself a hot chocolate with marshmallows. You might not like that option, so come up with your own!
- Go through your social calendar – if you have meals with friends planned, maybe you want to cook? No? Then consider deferring those plans. It might just be easier to work with a month where your social calendar isn’t busy at all.
- Find fun and relaxing things to do at home. I find that if I’m just home, I’m not spending money (minus online shopping – but ban that over the no-spend month).
All this proper planning went a really long way in making this happen for me. Let me know in the comments below if you’ve managed a successful no-spend month, and if you have some additional tips for someone who’s trying it for the first time.