My family kicked off 2020 by having a no-spend January and it was honestly the most cathartic way to start a new year!
With so many holiday celebrations and gift exchanges crammed into the end of the year, it can be difficult to break out of the season of overindulgence. A no-spend month is perfect for refocusing on your financial goals and embracing a simpler mindset.
Obviously, you have to spend some money to get by, but we narrowed our budget down to only bills and necessities for the whole month. That included important things like our mortgage, utilities, car payments, gas, groceries, and any purchases related to health and hygiene, like toothpaste or laundry detergent.
We also agreed to keep paying for certain things we were already committed to, like dance class and Disney+ (that’s a necessity, right?). Other than that, zero additional dollars were allowed to be spent.
Overall, I’d say we were successful! When I tell people about our no-spend month, a lot of the same conversations come up. I thought I would share some of the frequently asked questions I’ve encountered in case you’re interested in planning a no-spend month, too!
How did you get your husband on board?
Although my husband is the breadwinner for our family, I do most of the budgeting and financial decision-making. He has always trusted my judgment so it wasn’t hard to convince him that a no-spend month could be beneficial.
There’s no way that we would have had a successful month without teamwork and discipline! We definitely both had times when we wanted to buy things, but we would just text or call each other instead. It was really fun to share the same sense of accomplishment at the end of the month!
Did you have to cook every day?
During the no-spend month, we primarily ate food that came out of our kitchen. No restaurants, vending machines, or concession stands for the entire 31 days. Most nights my husband or I cooked, but some days we ate leftovers or had meals with friends and family. The biggest challenge was making sure my husband had enough snacks and produce at work so that he wasn’t tempted to buy anything impulsively.
I’m an obsessive meal planner so I actually love making weekly menus. Plus, cooking at home saves so much money! If you don’t already meal plan, this would be the perfect time to get organized and find a system that works for your family. And if you aren’t a confident cook, don’t be afraid to get in the kitchen and start practicing!
What did you do with your kids all month?
I’m a stay-at-home mom so I’m used to finding creative ways to pass the time. We did a few more crafts than usual and then we tried to get out of the house as much as possible.
As you’ve probably seen from the monthly and weekly event calendars on this site, there’s a ton to do in Columbia! For starters, we have annual memberships to Riverbanks Zoo and EdVenture Children’s Museum so we were able to visit both of those places at no extra cost. I also checked the library schedule and found multiple storytimes and activities that we were able to attend. Playdates at the park are easy and fun, too.
We actually never told the kids outright that we were doing a no-spend month and they didn’t seem to notice any difference. It just takes a tiny bit of planning to keep them busy.
How much money did you save?
Honestly, I’m not sure. We didn’t go into the month with a certain dollar amount in mind. I just know that every time we were tempted to buy something, we stopped to evaluate whether or not we truly needed it. Even if we only saved $10 a day, that’s $310 more in our savings by the end of the month. I estimate, though, that we saved a lot more than that.
There were a few items that we put in our Amazon shopping cart to revisit later, but by the time February rolled around, we didn’t even want them anymore. We realized it felt better to keep the money in our bank account than to spend it. That frugal mentality has stuck and every day we find ourselves questioning whether or not buying some new material thing adds to our quality of life (Spoiler alert: it usually doesn’t).
I’m incredibly proud of how quickly we’ve become more intentional about what we bring into our home and grateful that our needs have continually been provided for.
If you’re thinking of doing a no-spend challenge but a month seems like too much of a commitment, you can always adjust the time-frame. Maybe that’s one week or just one day. You never know what you’ll learn about yourself or how it’ll change your family!