The No Spend Month Challenge

Can our family of 3 spend less than $250 for 31 days?  Can we be more mindful and disciplined about the money we spend?

3rd-no-spend-monthEvery July our family takes a break from spending. This will be our 3rd Annual No Spend Month. No Spend Month is short for “No Spending Except for Basic Essentials This Month.”

We’re constantly told about things that will make our lives better, and yes, sometimes they do. But that daily message to buy, have, and make things nicer never stops, it consumes our time, and it can make us not see what we already have.

We’ll take a break from trying to add more. The tight budget is for accountability.

Details:

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

Included:

  • Groceries & eating out
  • Gas
  • Clothing
  • Household items
  • Entertainment

Not included:

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

What we’re starting with:

fridgeI have gas in my car and this week’s groceries, plus the food we normally have in the fridge and cabinets. Since we live in an apartment, we don’t have a big pantry or an extra freezer to store more food. We’ll be getting creative with some of the leftovers in the back of the cabinets, but primarily using this month’s budget for our food expenses.

For answers to frequently asked questions about what we’ll be eating this month, see How to Cut the Food Budget and Keep the Food.

What’s the point?

What’s the point of depriving ourselves? Shouldn’t we be able to enjoy life?

Yes, and that’s exactly why we do it. When we take a break from spending, we learn to appreciate what we have. The convenient restaurant dinners become a special treat, our favorite foods are savored, and every time I put gas in my car I am thankful to have the money to do so. We stop taking things for granted. (And let’s not forget all the money saved from not eating out or making impulse buys.)

Advice for getting started:

  1. Leave your debit card at home and use cash, budgeting a certain amount for each week.
  2. Spend as little as possible at the beginning while you’re motivated, so you’ll have more to spare later in the month.
  3. Don’t eat out. One restaurant dinner could be your entire week’s grocery budget.

Every family has a different situation, so adapt this plan to best fit what your family needs. Make your budget amount challenging, but still realistic. If you have a special event planned, just make an exception for that day. Maybe focus on one area of spending, such as not eating out or buying new things for the house. You’ll find plenty of things to keep yourself busy this month, without spending more.

Updates!

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What fun things can we do for free? I think I’ll go to the library and pick up a novel. What would you do?
About Rachel

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

Comments

  1. I love this challenge, and I’ve been thinking about how we can incorporate it into our life, Rachel. It’s beyond cool to me. Because Martin is teaching me how to fly this summer, I realized we can’t actually do it with airplane fuel costs. We try to live day-to-day without spending on stuff, though this challenge really seems like a dream. I really look forward to following you, and minus airplane-related expenses, I’m going to see what we can do, too.
    Katie

    Katie at makingthishome.com´s last blog post..How to Sound Smart: Hardwood Floors & Table Saws Edition

  2. Okay, girl, we are so in! We are actually starting tomorrow which is payday for us. Kyle is stoked that I am on board with this as he is MUCH better about not spending than I am. This will be a huge challenge for me.

    Fun things for free – play outdoors (so much involved there), get a whole stack of books from the library, dig in the dirt, take a nap (oh, does that ever sound fun to me today!), dance, Hulu date, invite friends over – you provide drinks, they bring snacks (is that bad?), play card games or board games. There is just SO MUCH once you start thinking about it.

    THANK YOU for the challenge. Really making a difference in our lives this month.

    Megan at Simple Kids´s last blog post..Our Backyard Campout (that wasn’t)

  3. Good luck, Rachel. I’ll be cheering you from the sidelines on this one. It is such a worthwhile project to let people know that it can be done–reasonably, without pain. We don’t have to spend so much.

    Cathy´s last blog post..The Way We Garden Now

  4. I have always enjoyed reading about your no spend month. We are on one income now by choice. We have lots of no spend days ahead of us.

  5. I’ll be watching and learning how this is actually done! Good luck! :)

    Sharon´s last blog post..A set back, a rebound, a meltdown?

  6. Christy says:

    Good luck to you!

    I could never do ‘no spend’ in July, as that’s when school supplies go on sale in anticipation of their extra stock in August. Got my both kids school supplies (minus shoes) this morning for $57. Plus we travel to my parent’s cottage (free) but it involves extra gas.

    But I’ll be watching and cheering you on!

  7. This is a fantastic idea! July doesn’t work for us as a family no-spend month because our anniversary and vacation always fall on this month, and we nearly always go out of town. However, I think we’re going to do a no-spend month in September after all the major family holidays are over.

    I’m motivated to do a little now, though, so July is going to be my “no buying things online” month. Sounds silly, I know, but working from home makes it oh-so-easy to pick up an inexpensive item on Etsy here or obsess over an eBay auction there. This is an area where I have felt a little too free and could really use some discipline.

    Dee Wilcox´s last blog post..Home Office Update – Part 2

  8. I look forward to following your journey and hopefully gaining some tips to use in our family daily life. Best of luck!

    Jenny´s last blog post..To The U.S. Embassy in Manilla & Beyond

  9. I started our no-spend month on Monday. If it works, I’d like to do one again in February.

    Holly´s last blog post..So to sum up, here’s June

  10. We’re in for the second month! But since we did it last month, as well, we’re taking today and tomorrow for hair cuts and a bit of restocking.

    Sally Parrott Ashbrook´s last blog post..Deliciously Stale Bread (& a BLT Salad)

  11. Ok, just got done talking to DH about this and we are totally taking it on!!! I am so excited.. we’ve been talking about needing SOMETHING to give us a kick in the pants to overhaul our spending habits.

    Can’t wait to follow and play along!

    Lisa´s last blog post..our beach

  12. This is great, something I have been thinking of for a while. We did a week without buying more groceries and it was eye opening to what we have and how we use things around here. We will start monday so I can restock with regular grocery items this weekend. And with the exception of buying supplies for my summer camps, I am really thinking this is something we can do.

    sarah´s last blog post..100 Free things to do with your kids +a few more.

  13. Christina Jones says:

    It’s funny, because the first time I read about this challenge I didn’t really have the gumption to attempt it. But it just so happens that a day or two ago, I was wrapping up our June budget, and I noted that for the past 5/6 months of our marriage our expenses have exceeded our income by hundreds of dollars. There’s always been a good excuse (unexpected car repairs, an oscillating fan to cut down on A/C costs) and some mildly understandable excuses (a movie to bond with our best friends, a date night at a medium-quality restaurant…), and God has always provided the extra unexpected income, so that our savings account is actually still growing. BUT, at the beginning of every month, in theory our income should always cover our expenses.

    So I decided, this July is it! Let’s see if we can stick to our guns and stop adding extra expenses to an already tight budget. Time to live simple (as in, food, gas, bills, tithe, and…that’s it!), and it just so happens that I can reassure myself through your site that this month I’m not the only one! Thanks for reminding us to get our financial priorities in perspective :)

  14. Esperanza says:

    Just started reading your blog thanks to the mention from livingsimple http://simplelivingdiva.blogspot.com/

    Great Post!!! I am going to try this for the month of July as well.

  15. We are in the process of buying a home, so this ‘no-spend’ month isn’t by choice for us-we just have to hold on to every penny until it is pried from our fingers. My sister and I have decided to do a stash-busting month with our craft habits, though, eliminating our craft budgets and using only the materials we have on hand. We’re featuring it on my blog this month.

    Rae´s last blog post..July Projects

  16. I’m fairly new to this blog but have been excited to dig into the content. As far as the No-Spend Month goes, we’re in. My husband was just as stoked as I was so that’s making it a lot easier. We have big freezer that we stock as things go on sale so we already have a good base. I’m just looking forward to seeing exactly how much money is freed up without the multiple stops at Starbucks or lunches out.

  17. I am so cheering you on this month. I am a little too chicken to join in with you this month, and since we have some entertaining to do…but I am thinking that next month I might try this with my family. I am so interested to read more! Abbie

    abbie´s last blog post..A Word on Procastination

  18. I’ll be trying it right along with you!

  19. We won’t be joining in this month, but we’ve done this before and it was fantastic! I will definitely be following along to see how it’s going. And don’t worry about the baby supplies… you’ve got lots of time! :)

  20. We’ve spent the last two months not going over our variable expenses budget (which includes groceries, household supplies but not gas) without stealing from other catagories. So thats how we intend to do the challenge this month as we have both our birthdays this month (of course that $$ has already been set aside). It will be interesting to see if we can do it again as its been getting harder as the kids get older and gain appetites.

  21. I will try this with my 2 sons. I sort of have no choice, since I just looked at my account and well we need to slow down summer festivities just a tad. :-)

    We have always enjoyed fun inexpensive things to do, except I have been eating out with family and friends too much, since I went back to school. Family dinners cooked together, movies at the beach with bags of popcorn pre-made, and bike rides around the neighborhood.

    I am going to meet with the boyz tonight and start officially tomorrow.

  22. This is so exciting! Still trying to talk DH into doing this!

    Val

  23. We did something very similar in January and it was extremely freeing. We ate like kings off of things we had in the freezer, etc. that were forgotten about. We made up new recipes and my husband made our own corn tortilla chips one day. We had SO much more time! Running around spending money takes up so much time. I enjoyed things I already owned more. I was more creative and it felt really good. I appreciated things.
    Do you know about the website supercook.com You can put in all the ingredients you have and it will tell you recipes you can make with them. It helped me to make sense of what to do with some of the random things I had. :) Have a GREAT month! Kelly

    Kelly´s last blog post..Happy Fourth of July!

    • It is amazing how much time it frees up. Sometimes I feel like the majority of my time is gathering and taking care of our stuff. I like how this month gives me permission to take a break from buying more.

  24. We recently did a similar challenge and learned so much! I must say, our grocery budget was the standard $400, so I’m impressed with $250! Good luck!
    Check out our no-spend month:
    http://flowerpatchfarmgirl.blogspot.com/2009/05/our-april-experiment-full-disclosure.html

    Flower Patch Farmgirl´s last blog post..We’re More Than Buggies and Bonnets

  25. I must say this looks like something I’d like to try. We had an interesting month in May with the failure of our refrigerator, router, and printer. What do you do with necessities like that? Yes, the router was more a “want” so I could stay connected to the internet, but also a “need” for communication, school, information, etc. A refrigerator is definitely a “need,” but could have I survived a month with a non-working freezer since I have a deep freeze in the garage?

    My husband and I will be driving 7 hours together on Tuesday, so this will definitely be a topic of discussion…How would we revise the amount for our slightly larger family? What would our parameters be? Would we just finish out July or go from the 10th to the 10th of August?

    Thanks for the challenge; I really enjoyed reading your last year plan and updates.

    Rebecca in Colorado´s last blog post..Two hundred thirty three years ago today…

    • I tend to focus this month on the parts of the budget that are personal and that I can control. There are usually no surprises when it comes to food, clothes, gas, and entertainment. We’ve never had a big emergency during our past no spend months, but I can imagine that if we had a fridge failure or car repair, we would probably make an exception for it. Our main goal is self discipline, so I don’t see a reason to delay something like a car or appliance repair if it was needed.

  26. This is a great challenge. I need to show my husband this and try to get on board with this.

    Katie´s last blog post..Lazy Day

  27. we do a similar thing for Lent; the last two years we gave up debit cards (except for gas cause thats too hard with the baby) and it has really changed my thinking about paying with cash and made us think twice about purchases we don’t need.

  28. We joined a week late but my husband and I are challending ourselves to do this too! We just started on Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps and this will hopefull jumpstart our emergency savings! So far have only spent $40–woo hoo! Thanks for the idea!

    Kait Palmer´s last blog post..Martin Luther and Roy

  29. Gosh I LUV this idea! We need to do this BAD!

    FranticMommy´s last post…Spotlight on Sweet Irie

  30. I’m not even sure how I stumbled upon your blog last night but I’m already hooked! I even told my husband about your No Spend Challenge this morning and we are starting today to see how much (or little) we can spend over the next 4 weeks. I want to read everything on your blog now…but I have 2 little girls (ages 2 and almost 4) that are requiring my attention at the time! I’ll be back for sure!! Thanks!!

  31. As I have been following your blog, I have been inspired by this challenge and think that I would like to do a “NO Spend Month” in either Aug or Sept. I gasp at the thought, since Sept. ushers in Fall and we usually spend more once Fall gets here, but I think we are up for the challenge!!

    Cherry Tree Lane´s last post…mid-day observation.

  32. Slackerjo says:

    Sometimes my dad would whip up a bunch of leftovers and add Minute Rice. He called these creations a “new taste sensation.” Growing up, “new taste sensation” became synonymous with “utterly disgusting.” So Rachel your stir fry medley could not be any worse that dad’s chicken, vegetables and Minute Rice with orange juice concoction.

    • I am totally going to steal this phrase. Oftentimes, when a family members asks whats for dinner and it’s something I’m just inventing, I just tell them it’s made up food (as in, I just made it up). I like “new taste sensation” so much more!

      Wendy´s last post…Chocolate Decorations

  33. Maritza says:

    I would definetly going to use that method in not using money for a month.

  34. Starting our own No-Spend Month tomorrow… Sept. 1st. Verrry excited to try this! I have to say, this is one of the most inspiring things i have read in a while, and i can’t wait to challenge myself in a new way. (And it will be a big challenge for me – i’m a spender!) Thanks for all the positive thoughts on No-Spend Month!

  35. I”m jumping on the bandwagon (albeit a little late!). Thanks for the inspiration:http://simplelifemusings.blogspot.com/2009/09/no-spend-month.html

    Adele´s last post…No Spend Month

  36. I used to have money but after 6 months of a 10 Roosters per day habit I am now broke

  37. Tomorrow we begin our NO SPEND month! I’m pretty excited about it but I know it will be hard. I’ll be posting weekly just like you did, I think it will help me to stay on track. Thanks for all of the ideas you’ve shared, I’ll let you know if we survive!

    Donna

    Donna S´s last post…31 days – $250 Our NO SPEND MONTH!

  38. I love this idea. We did two weeks of not buying any new groceries, so we actually went 3 weeks on one trip to the grocery story. I was getting really creative with what I made. It was fun though, and we saved a lot of money. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Michelle Traudt´s last post…I’m Thankful for Our Kids

  39. Wow! I just stumbled upon your blog and this entry really caught my eye. I love this idea–kind of like taking a Sabbath from spending. A month to rest from debts and receipts and consumerism. I’ll have to mention this one to my husband… :)

    Elizabeth Carmen´s last post…an introduction.

  40. Hi, Rachel! First of all: I’m a HUGE fan of your blog. I could go on ages and ages about how useful I’ve found many of your tips.

    Which brings me to this: I started the Single-Female-Jobless-Uni-Student version of No-Spend Month as one of the first posts of my blog. Shameless self promotion, I know … but, if you could drop by and wag your finger at me for ripping of your idea, or give a hint or two on how I could make it a better month, I’d be tickled silly.

    Cheers from North West England!
    Anna
    xx

    Anna´s last post…No-Spend Month, or: Ripoff, The Introduction

  41. I am really liking this idea! Need to make this a goal in our house! Thank you

  42. While you’re self-inducing hard times pray for those who don’t have a choice. Suffering helps us become more aware of the needs of others.

  43. Sarah P. says:

    We do this all the time. :) But as a necessity as my husband and I are BOTH full time college students, which as you know pays very little. ;)

  44. When I visited your site yesterday, I must have subconsciously noticed the ‘No Spend’ icon on the sidebar because I woke up this morning thinking that it would be a good month to give it a try. I also wanted to mention that I love that you put tithing and gifts outside of the budget. That was also another thought I’d had this morning. We donate monthly to Water for People and if anything, I’d like to be able to contribute more money to them. The idea of reducing what we consume in order to help others seems wonderful to me.

    Just wanted to say thanks!

    Wendy´s last post…Chocolate Decorations

  45. I know this was in July 2009 but I’ve only stumbled onto it now and I think this is very very cool. Your posts about your “no spend month” are a huge inspiration. I’m going to look for more recent ones and read them all. This is a GREAT idea.
    Anne-Marie @ Best Toys for Boys´s last post…Razor Dune Buggy Review

  46. I am glad I ran across your site on msn. Thanks for the sensible critique. My wife and i were just preparing to study concerning this. I’m thrilled to see this sort of terrific information getting shared freely out there.