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 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.
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.)
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.
- How to Reduce Your Budget in the Beginning (Advice for anyone who wants to save money, plus an update for the first week of No Spend Month.)
- No Spend Month: the Halfway Point
- No Spend Month: The 3rd Week
- No Spend Month: The 4th Week
- Wrap Up: Should You Try it Yourself? Thoughts