July is No Spend Month — What’s it About?

No Spend Month

It’s July 1st, and my debit card is in my dresser drawer instead of my wallet.  So begins the first day of No Spend Month.

The Challenge:    

Can our family of 3 spend less than $250 for 31 days?  Can we stop looking for things to buy to improve our home and lifestyle? 

The Purpose:   

To stretch ourselves to become more mindful and disciplined about the money we spend, and to save some extra money in the process.

The  Tradition:  

Last year I noticed that I was spending a lot of my time thinking about things I wanted to buy.  I didn’t want to be like that, so I decided to stop buying anything for an entire month.  We spent less than $200 for all food, gas, and everything else during the month of July.  It wasn’t easy, but we did it.  We saw such a great reward from it that we decided to make it an annual tradition for our family.  It’s important to us.  This will be our 2nd Annual No Spend Month. 

The Details:

This month we have a total budget of $250 to spend on anything we would buy for ourselves. 

20080701 - Jar of coins

  • food & eating out
  • gas
  • clothing
  • coffee
  • household necessities
  • entertainment

Not included:

  • Tithes and other gifts.  
  • Rent, insurance, and bills. 
  • Health expenses. 
  • Work expenses.
  • Savings and investments.

The Habits:

It would defeat the purpose if we spent our time window shopping for things to buy as soon as the month is over.  I won’t be checking out store displays, craigslist, eBay, or catalogs.  I won’t be visiting blogs that feature more things I could buy.  I’ll be making dinner at home.  I’ll be finding things to do for free.  I’ll be freeing up my time to use for something else.


I’ll admit it, I’m nervous this time.  I know it’s good, but it could be hard.

31 days…



Related Posts:


Don’t miss what’s coming next! Subscribe to Small Notebook’s RSS feed.

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Great idea to put a time limit and a price limit. Praying for all y’all to stay strong! You can do it!

  2. wow. very inspiring. a friend of mine does something similar — but she calls it a “money fast”. i think the food and the gas would be the toughest to stick to at our house. but maybe we could work up to it? one week, then two, etc…?

  3. What a great challenge. How did you determine the $250 limit? We’re a family of 4 (2 of them teens) and we couldn’t do it — it’d cost more than that for just food (even eating at home 3x a day) and gas.

  4. Suggestion for entertainment:
    If you have interlibrary loan put some movies on hold and add some popcorn to your fod budget (the kind you have to make homemade…it’ll last longer!) You can have an almost free movie date night …with 3 kids and very little money to spare on entertainment this is our inexpensive date for the week/month :)

    Can’t wait to see how you do at the end of the month (course I know you’ll do great! LOL)

  5. Wow! $250 a month?! get out of here! There is NO way I could do that!! I spend $250 in gas alone. Do you live close to work? how many cars do you have? I would love to hear the details here.. .ie. when you do spend money this month – what exactly is it on. Plus would you supply us with your daily menu? What will you do with the kids all day? I am so ashamed of my grocery budget it’s not funny. I stopped at the Piggly Wiggly for a “few things” – $65 later! ouch.
    Details please!
    Good Luck to you and the family!

  6. I’m doing something similar…I joked to my husband that we can’t buy anything that isn’t consumable for the rest of the year (but I know there are a few things we’ll need to buy). I really like your idea of a dollar limit.

  7. Oh my gosh! This is totally my mission this month too – except my budget for food, misc items is $500 cash – no credit card. No unnecessary purchases…

    I made a little NO SPEND MONTH button on my blog if you want to use it!

    xo, J :)

  8. tell us more….please

  9. Thanks for the encouragement everyone, and more details are coming soon!

    Jill, the food and gas is the hardest. Last year we had to decide which one to spend our last three dollars on. One or two weeks is a good goal if a month is too intimidating. Even just one day can make a difference.

    Nancy, if we had teenagers, we couldn’t do it. After having all of my nieces and nephews visiting for a couple of days, I see how much kids can really eat!!

    Great idea Amber! I love homemade popcorn.

    Jessica, a whole year? Wow, I could never convince Doug to go for that.

    LobotoMe, good luck! I’m glad we’ll be able to share ideas.

  10. Hi! My husband, our two boys, and I are “Compacting” for the next year. We will not buy anything (with the exclusion of food and gas) for the next year. Birthdays and Christmas will suffer, but our savings account and enviroment will flourish.
    Each month we choose a focus, like this month is food. I’m a vegetarian and so we will focus on health. Next month we will try to throw out only two bags of trash in thirty days. Not easy.
    Our blog is http://www.twofish4.wordpress.com
    It’s always nice to see other people with an awareness of what they consume.

  11. I like the idea of having a focus each month, twofish4. And Happy Birthday! Perhaps birthdays and Christmas will seem even nicer without all the excess.

  12. Excellent, excellent idea, Rachel! I wish I had known about this ahead of time, but I suppose it’s still early July. Hmm…

  13. Hey Toblerone, you can jump in whenever you want. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it doesn’t have to be on the 1st. It’s just nice to try it.

  14. Hi Rachel..good luck with your challenge.. :)

  15. This is such a great idea. I am actually going to be tracking our expenses really close this month because I am trying some new software out and want to see what our actual spending is. It seems I get lazy in the summer. You are really inspiring me- I can’t wait to hear how it is going!

  16. That’s great, Amy!

    Thanks Laura

  17. second time visiting…first time commenting…

    wow. $250 and you live in the city. we live in the same metroplex, I believe, and don’t think I could do that. but what fun & peace in trying! we try to live simply anyway but eating out is our standard treat :)

  18. Hi Christie, that’s right, I live in Dallas. I love to go out to eat too. If money were nothing, I would always get take out and never cook dinner again. Maybe I would get tired of it… no, I really don’t think so. Thanks for commenting!

  19. @ Rachel ..me too on the never cook dinner again ;)

  20. I think we need to jump on this bandwagon next month. We’ve joked around about “Spending Freezes” for a few days, meaning we try not to spend anything except on the regular monthly bills, but we are rarely successful for long. If I don’t go to the grocery, we don’t have food and we end up eating out…not a good thing for the “spending freeze.” I just got back from Target where I spent $203! I don’t know how that happens!

  21. I absolutely LOVE this idea! I really need to try this out

  22. Jump on in whenever you’re ready! Let me know, and I’ll cheer you on.

  23. How is July going for you? We both started the same day. We discovered some really cool resources like freecycle.com

  24. Just found your awesome blog! You’ve done such a great job with it, uncluttered – just as you are advocating we live our lives! A few years ago, right on my husband’s birthday, we realized we owed a lot in taxes and it was time to tighten the money belt! We didn’t go out for months, had creative free dates, and didn’t frequent stores. Looking back, it was a great way to learn we could do with less. You are going to have a great month!

  25. Jessica @ Practical Nourishment says:

    Just wanted to say I’m enjoying your blog. It sounds like we have a lot in common: gardeners, worm farmers, Nourishing Traditions fans, and more I’m sure. I’m looking forward to learning more from you!

  26. I just found your blog and I may try this next month. Unfortunately, my son has outgrown all his clothes and school starts August 11th. I’ll have to do back to school shopping this month. Fortunately, there will be a tax free weekend in metro Atlanta on July 24 through July 28.

  27. Excellent idea! I will try to do the same- but minus gas prices since I commute four hours a day there is no way I could keep my gas budget under $250.

  28. orionbelted says:

    How did you start with the figure of $250.? Is it a percentage of your monthly income? Did you figure beforehand what you spend ‘frivolously’ and just use that figure?

  29. To come up with our budget of $250, we started with our usual monthly food budget. We thought if we made the food budget cover everything, then we would only buy what was necessary.

    At the time, we typically spent about $300 a month for groceries. We had some food in the pantry already, so we discounted it to $200. This was our budget the first year that we did a No Spend Month. This year since gas is more expensive, we added $50 more to make it $250. Not a scientific method at all, but it worked well for us.

  30. Well! I’m a little late in finding this post, so I guess I missed the chance to play along in July. BUT I’ve actually been thinking about doing this very thing! So, I’m going to make October my “no spend month.” WISH ME LUCK!

  31. I checked it out and I’m officially on board!! October is my No-Spend Month and I’m encouraging others. I think it’s a GREAT idea! I’ve got $50.00 for the month for myself, household of one. I’m expecting to get creative with a box of muffin mix in the middle of the month…

  32. i’ve started my no spend month yesterday! $150 for one single girl and her three rescue animals. thank you so much for the inspiration. way to bring a reality check to my spending! please check out my blog http://junoandpinkcarnations.blogspot.com for updates. :) thanks!!

  33. L from TN says:

    I began my no spend month october 1 and was really excited about the possibilites this presented but now I’m really struggling…or at least i think i am. It is just me and my 9 yr old daughter and I began with $300.00 a month just because gas is so high. After grocery’s and gas and lunch money for her for 2 days I’m down to $55 and it is only Oct 10. Gas has taken a big chunk of my money and not to mention groceries however i shouldn’t need to buy anything grocery wise unless its bread (and i even used coupons haha). I really could use some encouragement here. Any words of wisdom? I don’t want to quit because I know in the long run i will see results but still a little discouraged.

  34. smallnotebook says:

    Hello L, My suggestion would be to add some money to your budget to continue through the month. You don’t need to follow the same rules that I did — you can tailor it to best fit your needs and your family. If you added another $100 to your budget, it could help you from being discouraged and quitting, and in the end it’s only $400!

    I’ll throw out a couple of questions that you can think about to help you plan your spending for the next couple of weeks. Did you buy the groceries that you normally would, but hoped they would cost less? Were you driving to all of the places you would normally go, without realizing how those little trips add up? What are some changes you can make?

    One of the main goals of No Spend Month is becoming more mindful about spending, and you’ve accomplished that! So sit down and plan what you are going to do for the remaining weeks. Carpooling or combining trips will help conserve gas. Perhaps you have a friend who could brainstorm ideas with you. I think it’s great that you are working at it and giving it a shot.

  35. Last year, my family paid off $20,000 in credit card debt by not buying anything unnecessary all year with the exception of: a $15 Netflix subscription, three meals out, and very small birthday and Christmas gifts (and only to immediate family members). Our ‘outings’ consisted of visiting the library and the frog pond near our house. Now, we’re very proud of ourselves for our efforts and awfully glad to have tackled the situation before the economy turned downward.

  36. At the end of October, I ended up with $1.03 left over. I budgeted very tightly as normal and included gas as a work expense (since I live 45 minutes away from the office). I simply made meals of whatever I had in the house, walked to the store to get milk once a week and made a sandwich for lunch at work each day. It worked out SO WELL for me that I’m doing it again – this time, I’ve got four coworkers on board to start the New Year!!

  37. Hi! We just started out “No Spend January” and it’s been so hard! I am so glad that I found your blog…I will be reading for inspiration and possible a better plan as we go through the rest of the month and into the rest of the year.

  38. Just saw this tonight and was motivated to have a No-Spend February. Thanks!

    Diana´s last blog post..February is No-Spend Month…

  39. Hi,
    I decided on Jan ’09 as our no-spend month. I did not set a budget, but what I did was decide that we would eat all meals at home, drink coffee that we made, think of alternatives to spending money. The first three weeks were incredibly easy. The last week was somewhat harder. I don’t know what it was that made it harder. I guess more bills were coming in for Feb. and I was feeling overwhelmed (like I wasn’t spending anything extra yet the bills just kept coming from previous spending and that really stressed me). I did need to stay away from any shopping. Not that I would go spending, but it was good because it made me feel that there was nothing that we really needed. I found the more I stayed away from stores and spoke to very spendy friends(I had to explain to them that this wasn’t a curse, it was something that my family and I CHOSE to do) the better I felt about what I already have. My kids were ok with it. We were all VERY creative with our meals. I can honestly say that there is not much excess in our cabinets anymore. We have learned to use everything that we have and make some really great creative meals. So thank you for this challenge. I did find that my grocery bill was a lot larger. This month my goal has been to reduce it and find more creative ways to save on groceries. The end of January was definitely not the end for us. We have taken away from this challenge the fact that we can wait and search for better deals on the things that we truly need and not just want because everyone else has one. This was a wonderful learning experience for my sons!

    corinne´s last blog post..Knitters Coffee Swap 4

  40. Great Challenge…I have made a challenge to just have a monthly food bill of 80 dollars. So far I have spent 21.72 on additional items for what I have staple. Good luck on succeeding with your personal challenge.

  41. Monica Aquino says:

    This is a great idea, I will be doing this for the month of May 2010. Still debating on the budget since living in the greater LA area is super expensive!


  42. Hi Rachel!

    I decided to declare this month (August 2011) a No Spend Month of our own after I slightly overspent last month, in order to balance things out and get back on track.

    Hubby wasn’t sure at first about it, since all he does is occasionally buy groceries for me. I told him that I’m trying to break my “hoarder” and “consumer” mentalities and this would be a concrete way of doing it. I spend tons for various supplements (for medical reasons), but will leave those out since they ARE kind of necessary for me.

    Right off we needed to go grocery shopping. Hubby went for me. I set a $10 total limit on fresh fruit, despite peaches (my favorite!) being on sale for 88 cents a pound last week. One trip to the store (about $17 for food items) and filling up our compact car ($40) in one outing! Yikes! With gas, I think I’ll try the $250 ceiling.

    We won’t pull out and spend cash, but we’re keeping a receipt tally on the bathroom mirror. I want everything to still go through our bank account to record in our budget program on the computer (You Need a Budget–good stuff!).

    I did refer to this post for explanation in my own blog post about No Spend Month, and made hubby read your posts (all of them) so he’d understand and be on board.

    I look forward to reading more ideas on this site, a new favorite of mine!

    Sheila Henne´s last post…No Spend Month

  43. I love this idea! I am a couponer and have a small stock pile of groceries and toiletries that we use on a regular basis. Surely we can cut back our spending for one month and make use of what we have on hand, plus use our creativity! I know that prices have been increasing and I can see from our budget that we have been spending more on groceries than we’d like to. Perhaps this is just the thing to help us cut back a bit each month.