No Spend Month: Start Here

No Spend Month is a chance to take a break from buying stuff. It’s like boot camp for your budget, but it’s not actually about the money. Personally, I like the opportunity to practice self discipline and to really appreciate what we have.

What’s amazing is how much free time you discover when you stop looking for the next thing you can buy that might improve your home, appearance, and productivity.

No Spend Month is short for “No Spending Except for Basic Essentials This Month.”

Since it’s more fun to do it as a group, I’ll be blogging about our No Spend Month, and you’re welcome to follow along and even join in. You’ll save money on what you might normally spend on dining out and impulse buys, but what you’ll really gain is a renewed perspective on how much you have and what you can do with it. You’ll get to be resourceful and creative when you can’t run out to the store to buy something.

There will be awkward times when we notice how much of our thoughts are consumed by stuff. This is not going to be easy, but it will be worth doing.

The Tradition

The first time my family did a No Spend Month was in 2007 after I realized how much time I was spending looking on Craigslist for vintage furniture that probably wouldn’t fit in our apartment. I didn’t want to use shopping as entertainment, even though I rarely bought anything. I needed to refocus. For the first No Spend Month, we made it through the month on a $200 budget with just pennies to spare.

No Spend Month in July became a tradition for our family. This will be our fourth time.

The Plan

To stay accountable, we set a tight budget. Our family of four will get a total budget of $400 to spend on anything we will buy for ourselves: food, gas, clothes, household items, and fun.

Because we still need to pay the bills, the following are not included: rent and bills, insurance, health care, business expenses, and gifts for others.

For the best chance of success, we try to spend as little as possible during the first week so there will be more money later in the month. I plan to spend our budget like this:

  • 1st Week:  15%
  • 2nd Week: 20%
  • 3rd Week: 40%
  • 4th Week: 20%
  • Last 3 days: 5%

Deciding on an amount to limit yourself to is not easy, and I receive a lot of questions about choosing a budget. There is no single answer, so choose an amount that seems challenging but still achievable. We settled on a $400 budget this year for our growing family and also the higher price of food due to food allergies.

Start with a full tank of gas, and try to resist stocking up the pantry in advance. Use cash and a list to keep track of every expense.

(If you have planned a special event in July, you can make an exception for it. You can still gain a lot from No Spend Month even if you don’t do it for all 31 days.)

This month I plan to take advantage of fun things to do for free. I’ll also work on existing projects that I bought supplies for a long time ago but didn’t finish.

I’ll share updates on our spending and thoughts about it at the end of each week. You can also go back and read about previous No Spend Months that I’ve written about. (We decided not to do it in 2010, and in 2011 we bought a house which is the exact opposite of a No Spend Month. Now we’re back.)

No Spend Month July 2008 with weekly updates

No Spend Month July 2009 with weekly updates

In past years we’ve found ways to save money that have impacted us ever since. I look forward to seeing what we’ll learn this year.

Updates!

Are you up for this? You can always feel free to share your own thoughts and updates in the comments after each post.
About Rachel

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

Comments

  1. Leeanne says:

    I am totally up for this, but am already stressed about purchases I know I need to make :(

  2. Okay, I’m in, but I will not be starting until July 6th. (Hubby’s birthday is the 5th!) I really like the idea of a percentage to shoot for for each week. It seems doable. I need to save some money, and enjoy the summer without going to stores…This will be good.

  3. I’ll be following along. Our budget is pretty precise so I’ll probably figure out a modified version of no spend month for our family.

  4. Yay!!
    I started July’s No Spend Month without even realising it was the first of the month of no spending for my family :)
    Good luck everyone for their July challenges!
    Meegan´s last post…Comment on Pizza Scrolls by Carla Rogers

  5. Oops! Wish I had read this sooner- bought a new ukulele last night. But outside of that hiccup I think I can do the whole month on $100ish. I’ll give it a go.

    Several years ago my husband and I had a ‘ buy nothing new’ year. Underwear, sox, toiletries & food excluded but everything else had to be used. Also a useful exercise for learning to be creative, do without many non-necessities and saving a LOT of money. It was really fun and you realize what you do and do not need in order to be happy.

  6. Any suggestions for doing a no-spend month with a hubby who would not be cooperative or supportive in keeping to a set, small budget? Even if he doesn’t mind me doing it, it’s hard if he still wants to do a lot of driving (fuel), not take time to make from-scratch meals, and the like. Is it still possible for me to do a no-spend month?

    • Perhaps instead of trying to keep to a set budget amount, you try a personal challenge to avoid non-grocery shopping online or in stores.

    • You could try to find one new, inexpensive thing you like to do together each week. Maybe try an art walk for the first time (our city has tons of neighborhood-centric art walks), go to an outdoor concert or movie, work on your yard, go wine tasting, host a potluck at your house (we like to host one where everyone brings food from a certain country- Italy, France, Ethiopia, once we did Lebanon) etc. Then you’ll have fun things to do together that cost little or nothing in the future! My husband and I recently started having campfires in our back yard and now he wants to have one every night. $1 every few weeks for a bag of marshmallows is a steal compared to going out for dessert, a drink, or even a movie from Redbox.

  7. I am ready! This year has been one of change for me. I decluttered my home, gave up cable and began teaching myself to cook. I am going to set a budget of $300 for myself. Since my birthday is this month, I can rely on at least a couple dinners out that I will not be paying for ;)

  8. haha, in from the 4th. sister’s birthday too. thanks for running this again. i’ve not tried it yet!

  9. I am not up for No Spend Month, but I do like No Spend Days :) I love getting to the end of a day, and realising I’ve spent nothing. It’s also satisfying to string as many of these together as I can.

    All the best with your No Spend Months, everyone!
    Kim @ Extra Organised´s last post…Ten ways to control clutter

  10. I think I’ll be having a ‘spend less’ kind of month after spending my way out of a funk of epic proportions in May/June! Ok, it was all necessary, and all on sale but still… Completely updating my work wardrobe was a bit of a finanical hit! Still looking for a grey flannel pair of trousers or a skirt; so that will be the limit for me (hopefully) and I will be taking the kids shopping for shoes – which is about all the winter clothes they currently need.

    My funk spending coupled with two lots of insurance last week mean the slush fund is a little depleted at the moment. I might do this a bit differently and see if I can increase the slush fund balance by $500 by the end of July (by increase I mean balance at least $500 more than it will be after I take out the insurances and child care that regularly come out of that account; and not including the child care rebate that automatically goes *in* to that account!)
    Harriet Archer´s last post…Sunday night (doo dit doo dit doo doo)

  11. Jessica says:

    I’ve been spending a lot of nervous money. I just quit my job to move to the west coast where I don’t know a soul. I’m not ready to give up the crutch. Shopping gives me a few minutes of respite from wondering if I’ve completely lost my mind. I AM super impressed, though.

  12. Yes! I am so ready for this. Can’t wait for all of your updates! We’ll be doing it around here, as well, so I’ll be linking up with you at The Color of Souls.

    We really need it this month to, since we’ll be spending all of our previously budgeted money on a trip. So it’s pasta and leftovers the rest of the month. I probably shouldn’t be excited about that, but I can’t wait to see if I can do it!
    Jennie´s last post…The Ability to Say No (Especially to Yourself)

  13. I have done a no spend month in the past and it has been good to break the habit of spending – sometimes I just need this. Instead of not spending this month, I am going to make a goal to adhere to my normal budget. Trust me, I never do this, so it will be hard enough. If the money isn’t there for something, I don’t buy it. Easy to say, but hard to do. On another note, I have noticed that reading blogs lately has made me ‘want’ stuff. I don’t receive junk mail or watch tv so I don’t get tempted to want things I don’t need. But if I read in a blog about a comfy reading chair (smile) I obsess over needing one. I have read blogs about being thrifty and buying bargain second hand clothes, and then splashed out $100 on ebay bargains in one hit. And then I want books that bloggers are reading. I buy essential oils and soap nuts when I am inspired to make my own cleaning products and be green. The list goes on and on and on! Am I the only one who does this?!

  14. I am super excited about this. I am taking up the challenge!
    The summer is such a great time to do stuff like this because there is so much free fun to be had outside.
    Jessica Ann´s last post…Growing

  15. Hmm..count me in too.. But I have few problems. My and my baby’s birthday fall in July along with 2 family visits and few Hindu Festivals in August. (I am Hindu by faith). So, I need to shop. Please guide me how to follow ‘No spend’ with these challenges…
    Hetal@Real World´s last post…Kitchen decluttering on sunday, so much work !! — Updated

    • You don’t have to necesarily do it in July. You could pick a different month. I personally do now spend in Feb or March. I have enough going on that now spend won’t be practical for me this month but I’m going to limit going out to eat to once a week rather than the 3-4 that I’ve been doing.

  16. I have never participated in a no-spend period of time, but I find it intriguing. I always wonder if there might be a boomerang effect after the time is up, but you sound like you have found lasting positive effects. Good for you!
    Lori @ In My Kitchen, In My Life´s last post…Cerebral Homemaking: Wrapping My Mind Around My Work

  17. This is such a great idea! I think that I would like to try it, but I think I will have to wait until the fall to attempt. We have anniversaries and birthdays this month and next that we can’t get around (our own, and our children :-)) But perhaps September would be a good month for us! I look forward to following along!
    Heather´s last post…i’m growing weeds for a living…

  18. For folks who are questioning how much to budget–in the past when we’ve done this we haven’t set a budget, we’ve just tried to cut out non-essentials and looked at the balance at the end. Once we cut our expenses by 1/3 (Considering we did nothing to cut essentials & fixed costs like rent, bills, transportation, etc, that was something!) That also gave us a realistic picture of what we could live on if we ran into an emergency expense or a lost job–and there’s some security in knowing what we need vs. what we want. Can’t play along this summer–we’re in the middle of a move, but I’m hoping to do a month later this fall after the craziness of relocating is over.

  19. Hooray! We’re in. We started on June 26th, and we’re going to July 26th, because our anniversary weekend starts on July 27th.

    We set a budget of $350. So far so good!
    Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm´s last post…Books That Make Me Cry

  20. Yes, I’m doing ‘No Spend Month’ too. My budget is 110,00 Euros (single person).

    Instead of cash though, I’ll be using my debit card and I’ll only be shopping in two selected supermarkets.

    I know from experience, the minute I have cash in my purse, I go out for coffee . . . and that’s exactly the (daily) habit that I want to break. My grocery shopping will be confined to real, whole foods, and nothing packaged, every meal cooked at home.

    As Rachel says, it’s not so much about the money and spending the least possible amount, but rather, it’s about mindfulness. For me personally, that means long-term health gains by removing non-nutritional treats.

  21. Angiey Y. says:

    I’m going to try really hard to do this, this month. We do have a birthday the 24th, but I have already written it into the budget so we should be all good with that. I wish I had known yesterday that this was starting. I wouldn’t have wasted $7.00 on sodas for the house. That is going to be a bad habit we are desperately going to try and kick this month.

  22. I just did No Spend Month last month, and I can not tell you how much more real work I got done. It’s sort of amazing. And I’m not even a big shopper; I think just the planning of meals, etc. saved me a ton of time. This is only slightly related, but if anyone wants to win a bunch of cute Fleur de Lis shaped sugar cubes, my business is having a drawing based on blog comments…and only one person has entered so far! :( So, you’ve got a good chance to win them (and they are free…no spending…ha!) http://www.austinsugarworks.com/2012/07/bastille-day-fleur-de-lis-sugars-giveaway/

  23. I did this along with you in 2009. I had a small budget for my crafting supplies and ended up only spending $50 (on crafts) the whole month. That had been my biggest downfall. I haven’t decided if I will do No Spend this month but for sure I will cut WAY back on my spending. Thanks for the inspiration.
    Donna´s last post…Felted Handbag… Mom Would Be Proud

  24. Denise C. says:

    I need to do something like this. I recently looked over bank statements and saw way too many frivolous transactions (the two biggest culprits were Target and Starbucks). I have squandered way too much money over the last few months and need to refocus and get back on track. I actually went though the “money archives” here on Small Notebook and found several helpful and inspiring posts. Thanks! :)

    • Denise C. says:

      One other thing to add, I see the negative affect the squandering has not only had on me and my husband, but our 2 kids ( 6, and 4) as well.

  25. Im in, but with a twist. I’m going to put our regular budget for food and entertainment in a cash envelope, we already do a pretty strict budget.

    Anything left at the end of the month gets split between something luxurious and savings!

    What does everyone else do with the money they would usually spend?

  26. It’s hard to do this with four family birthdays and guests staying with us this month! But we’ll definitely be trying to go more lean than normal!
    Kait Palmer´s last post…Many Happy Returns

  27. Hey Rachel!
    I’m so excited to do this. I read about your no spend month back in 2009 but never actually committed to it. This year, I chose $300 but can already see that we’re not going to make it (we’re a family of 6 with a commuting daddy). But, I’m going to track all that we spend and see how close we can come. So thankful to take this journey with you this month. Thank you for the challenge.

    Also, Stephanie at Keeper of the Home did a great post on feeding her family on just $250 for a month on whole and real foods. I’m using that as my base.

  28. I’m joining you in this too! I’m going to have a fairly strict budget of only a 100 euros, but it’s me only and in summer all the fruits and veggies are cheap(er) and I have lots more spare time to cook myself etc. so I’m really hoping I can do it. I’ve already noticed in these three days how much I think about all the things I’d like to buy! Just shows you how useful this experiment is. :D

  29. Today I walked through our shopping area on my way to work and saw something I would like, cheap, really just a small thing, nothing I really needed but wanted. And realized, even if I said I wanted to try the no spend month, I would have bought this unthinkingly and spontaneously. But – I had no money with me. Of course I had my banking card, but you don’t use it for 1 €! And I tend to think before I use it, but if I have cash, it’s obviously fair game for me.
    Of course, 1 € isn’t really something that will seriously threaten my budget, but it accumulates. This was an eye-opener for me just how much I buy on the spur of the moment.

  30. Count me in… I just started a no spend month July 1… My goal will be to refrain from anything but the mortgage, bills and groceries. I have half a tank of gas so I know I will need to put at least one tank in… but other than that, this ties in perfectly to the post I posted this morning!
    Rebecca´s last post…The Spending Fast

  31. This is so inspiring. I mentioned the idea of a No Spend month to my husband after finding your blog a few weeks ago and he’s on board! We will be starting July 10, the day after our first anniversary. We already stick to a pretty strict budget but there are definitely things we can (and need to) cut out. I’m excited to see how this goes!!
    Kristin´s last post…The last day of June: 2011 v. 2012

  32. Our budget is pretty precise too, but I’m so there about not wanting shopping to be entertainment. Even if we don’t buy anything! I’m all for it, but I think I’ll just keep the challenge to myself and share with hubby what I’m doing. We’ll see if he goes along, or if he does his own thing.

  33. This is a wonderful challenge. I won’t be able to do it this month, but, had planned on doing it in August. I haven’t been spending a lot and had stopped shopping online and for clothes ( a month ago). The big issue during the no spend month…is Starbucks. I want to wean myself from paying for the bean and focus on making it at home. Starbucks is my nemesis!

  34. i just discovered your blog. i am in love. thank u.

  35. My husband is fighting cancer and two weeks ago he relapsed. He will be starting a 3 month treatment on Monday the 9th and we will have no income for that time. We immediately put a complete brake on ALL spending (necessary or not). Once we figured out that we had enough in savings to pay all the bills only (not full budget, just bills) we knew we’d be ok. Frankly, we could probably eat from the pantry and freezer for three months if we had to. It might not always be what we wanted, but still… I’ve tried no spend months before because of you, Rachel and have had modest success. Honestly I’m grateful we had the practice before because now we absolutely have to and we’re not as terrified at the thought as we imagined we’d be. So truly amazing when you are literally FORCED to stop spending to realize how much you consume. Instead of picking up a magazine, I’ve asked friends for their old ones. Instead of meeting friends for dinner, we’ve had them over to eat. I was excited to see you were going to try this again this year because the timing was perfect to inspire us! Our situation is a tad different to be sure, but it’s still getting us to be creative in similar ways. We are reaching out to our support system for extra help, but we’re also finding creative answers to our problems. For example, I’m letting my friend and neighbor borrow one of our cars in the mornings (since we won’t need two during treatment) and she’s putting extra gas in it, which will cover some of that expense for us. Good luck to everyone and I will enjoy being inspired by the creative ways you all stretch those dollars!

  36. P.S. we even had a birthday party for my son that was quite sweet and required NO spending (already had waffle mix and fruit, made paper cutouts for decorations… Whallah… Waffle house themed birthday party for a three year old.)
    Rachel hill´s last post…Plan B

  37. I’m soooo up for this. My no spend month will go from July 18th to August 17th. 7/18 marks my last day as a work-out-of-th-house mom. It seems fitting to begin my new adventure with a no spend month. I’m excited to use up the stuff we have in our freezer and pantry and brainstorm ways to reduce our spending in general. I’m excited to read your past experiences!
    Mel@TheDizzyMom´s last post…4th of July Treat

  38. Really want to do this with my family, any points on how to set a reason budget for a family of 4?

  39. Colleen P. says:

    First and foremost I want to tell Rachel Hill who posted earlier that I will be thinking of her and her husband and wishing them the very best. You’ve got such a fantastic attitude about this!

    This challenge is very timely! I usually set aside money for all bills and such, and my husband, who is quite frankly irresistable but terrible with money, would talk me into “borrowing” from what I had set aside to do something more fun. As a result, this last payday I discovered that we’d borrowed against ourselves into a situation where I couldn’t afford to do a “real” grocery shop! I discovered that I didn’t really need to, much to my surprise. I have a LOAD of food in the house. I’m not necessarily spending zero dollars, but I’m making the best of every dollar that goes out. I need to get a few fresh vegetables and some cheese, but that’ll do me for the next 9 days, I have EVERYTHING else I will need.

    This has really made me rethink my grocery shopping habits. I need to get better with menu planning and shopping with a list, and with a LIMIT. It’s okay to stock up when something is a good price but I don’t need to do it every single time I grocery shop.

  40. Colleen P. says:

    OH! I also dug through my sewing supplies and picked out a few projects to do that don’t require any expenditure. I get new clothes without spending ANY money, which is pretty darn exciting in my book!

  41. I have been reading the archived money posts and have some great ideas! I think I am going to start small with the $10 a week “allowance” And then work up to a no spend month. My husband is horrible at buying sodas at Sheetz even though we have soda at home. I am going to have a hard time with him but I think it’s necessary to budget, I want to be debt free. I am almost 30 and figure that we really need to stop spending so much when it’s really unnecessary! Thank you so much for your inspiration :)