The No Spend Month Wrap-Up

After many nights of looking into the pantry for something to create a meal, I really appreciate fresh food right now.

This is the wrap-up to my family’s No Spend Month when we cut back our spending to the basic essentials for the month. We started with a $400 budget and we finished with about $21 remaining. We could have gone out to lunch with that money, but we didn’t feel like spending that much for one meal so soon. We made a $4 cake instead.

A No Spend Month is beneficial when it’s by choice because you’re tired of buying things or because you want the discipline to help you reframe your expectations, and cutting back spending is one way to take better care of yourself and your family.

Like how January’s salads taste appealing and fresh after December’s generous helpings.

This month I often thought about my friend who lives like this every day, but not by her choice. Who won’t be able to go stock up her pantry when the month is over, and yet she remains cheerful.

I felt foolish as I missed my comfort items, and I thought about people who struggle every single day because everything is made so much harder. I noted how anxiety can well up from wondering, “Will there be enough to cover this?” at the occasions when other people are celebrating. I tried to memorize how it felt, since those words are not spoken and are often overlooked.

Sometimes when a person asks me, “I am already doing everything I know to do, and it’s not enough. What more can I do?” I don’t know what to say. It’s a question with no easy answer.

The No Spend Month was meant to be an exercise to make us aware of places where we can tighten up our spending habits and stop taking things for granted. If you are in a place of being stretched out thin, this is not meant to be added to the burden you already carry. This wasn’t intended for you. Keep your pace. You don’t start sprinting when you’re running a marathon.

If you however feel rather suffocated by things that won’t satisfy you, try using a No Spend Month to step back and refocus.


(a link to recent posts about No Spend Month and how to start your own)

About Rachel

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

Comments

  1. You are kind to share your focus. A no spend month is definitely not for everyone but it would be an exercise good for me.

  2. We had a great No-Spend Month, but not gonna lie, there have been quite a few splurges since the month ended! Just little things that felt so awesome: going out to eat, grabbing craft supplies at the dollar store, ordering pizza with friends. Like you, I’m very thankful that I don’t have to live a No-Spend lifestyle all the time.

    But it was good for us I think, and hopefully it will help us be more strict about little expenditures so we can save up for our big schemes and dreams!
    Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm´s last post…Book Review: Her Highness, The Traitor

    • I am so glad it was good! Sometimes when it turned hard for me I wondered why I would encourage people to do it in the first place. It was eye-opening for us in a few ways, and we’re definitely going through a lot of appreciation right now.

  3. Very well put. I am thinking about trying this in September. I feel like we need a little reminder of needs vs. wants. Also to be thankful for what we have.

  4. I am forever grateful to you for introducing us to the No Spend Month. When we tried it for the first time last year we were living comfortably on two incomes. I was amazed how much we could “not” spend when we were focused. Fast forward to this summer and we have decided to live on one income. I know we can do it and it won’t even be as uncomfortable as a no spend month.
    Tracey´s last post…For the Love of Carrots

    • That’s such good news! Our early attempts at a No Spend Month helped us know that we could live on less, which gave us the courage to start a new business.

  5. I appreciate your summary of the intangible things such an exercise teaches — or at least reminds us of.
    Lori @ In My Kitchen, In My Life´s last post…{pretty, happy, funny, real}: Ordinary-Extraordinary

  6. I know far too many folks who live like this daily, as well, not by ohoice. I was one of them, years ago, and if life turns another path – could go there again. So I do love the exercise of it – to stay reminded, and focused, and grateful for all that I do have, these days. Good health, mostly, and folks in the world that care about me. Back-to-basics. Always good to get back there. Thanks for the whole idea!

  7. We’re definitely in the “marathon” stage–thanks for the encouragement!
    Tiffany´s last post…Winnie-the-Pooh Love

  8. Congrats on a strong finish! I really appreciated your words about how plenty of people live month after month. A good perspective for any of us.
    Erica {let why lead}´s last post…When Creativity Dries Up

  9. Your post brought tears to my eyes. Ever since I found your inspiring and calming blog the only thing that has brought me anxiety is this no spend month. We are one of the families that lives on one tiny teacher’s income and cheerfully (I like to think;) stretch every penny, every month. The Lord never fails us for a single moment, often blessing us with an abundance of desires fulfilled beyond the needs met. I have wanted so badly to participate in No Spend Month but the thought of cutting back even more was just.. depressing.. and painful. So I have watched with eager eyes as you walk through it and document. Still wasn’t able to shake the feeling that I was a coward or just not smart enough to try it for our family. Thank you. Thank you for letting me feel that I am doing a good job with what we have. I not even sure if I am making sense but your last statement in this post just lifted my spirits and made me feel absolved of the guilt I had been heaping on my own head. Your posts almost always leave me with a smile on my face and a bright and sunny new way to approach the way I do my job here in our home, or a feeling of appreciation for the way we already do things. Today that feeling was just magnified :)
    Sarah´s last post…To Florida and back

    • Thank you, I don’t want you to feel guilty.

      • I hope my comment was not taken in the wrong context. Any guilt I felt came completely from me and not at all from you or anything you said or have ever said :) I just loved that what you said in this post because it jarred me back into right thinking. Sometimes it just takes a single statement from someone else to bring clarity and you were that someone yesterday :) Just did not in any way want to sound like you or your blog has made me feel guilty – that was all me! :) Thanks again!
        Sarah´s last post…Zip

    • I echo Sarah’s comment… Yes, we also have more than we “need,” but we live on a very tight one-income budget. I have few, if any, friends who really understand and often hear suggestions like, “If you just set aside a little a month you could….” when there is really not a little to set aside. Those comments leave me feeling, as Sarah said, that I must just not be smart enough or determined enough to do the same things they are able to do with their much more expansive finances. Thank you for the affirmation that we don’t all have to do it the same to be doing it best.

      • I agree! When you talk about buying Kettle Chips, it makes me realize how poor we live–I think chips are exorbitantly expensive! And they’re…um…$4? To cut our spending, we’d have to give up the very rare treats that are in there. So thanks for acknowledging what the “frugal by necessity” friends go through.
        MightyMighty @ Letters´s last post…How I Turned a Corner In My Parenting

        • I understand, I think Kettle Chips are expensive too, and we don’t buy them anymore since we started a new business this year. Before we bought them for morale to help us cope with not getting to eat basics like bread and milk, but they were definitely a treat.

  10. This is beautifully put. Thank you for such thoughtful reflection.
    Margo, Thrift at Home´s last post…July Thursday

  11. Thank you for the lovely wrap up post…I am so intrigued to try this with my family but I can’t imagine the backlash from everyone during a “no spend month”! No way I would get buy-in from everyone, including my spouse!

    How do you handle things like big events? ie. we have a 50th anniversary party for my in-laws, 2 weddings, and a bar mitzvah…these will include dog boarding, hotels for people and new clothing appropriate for the occassions, not to mention the gifts!…can’t imagine how that would work for a no spend month!

    Thanks for a lovely blog, I always appreciate coming here!!
    SueTR´s last post…Happy August!

    • I wouldn’t do a no spend month during an unusually expensive month, or I would set aside enough for those specific events and “otherwise” do a no spend month.
      MightyMighty @ Letters´s last post…How I Turned a Corner In My Parenting

    • July happens to be a slow month for us for big events, but I guess we would make an exception. Otherwise, we don’t need to travel far to see family, we’d wear the clothes we already have, we don’t have pets, and gifts for others are typically excluded from the restrictions because we want to be disciplined with ourselves and generous for others.

  12. Your second-last paragraph is a wise and kind observation. Thank you for sharing your no-spend month freely and honestly with us.

  13. I love that you mentioned memorizing that feeling of anxiety that comes from not being able to afford something that other people make look so easy. That is such an overwhelming feeling.

    It’s also the same feeling that comes from debt. An in-over-your-head-how-will-I-ever-get-out-of-this feeling that takes away joy from all your other purchases, necessary or not, because they carry the weight of your debt around.

    I think that’s why these types of exercises are so necessary. It allows you to view money as a tool, not as a burden or as a never-ending supply. And if you are in debt, for just one month, you can put a little extra money to it to lighten the weight on the rest of your purchases afterward.

    I feel bad now that I let the ball drop this month. We really would have benefited from it. Thanks so much for being such an inspiration. You make me want to try harder.
    Jennie´s last post…The Future and I Are Fighting

  14. I really enjoyed your reflection. I love following your no-spend month each time you do it. We are in the group that would love to have $400/mo for our family of 4 to use for the items you’ve listed. It’s just not in the cards for us right now.
    Ashlee´s last post…A new page – Putting Purpose into Pinterest

  15. A no spend month (or a week or two) is a great way to reframe expectations. And I love your insightful reflections on your experience and on how others might be feeling.
    KIm @ Extra Organised´s last post…Organise your mobile reading

    • I agree Kim. People often get into spending habits and never leave them even if their life changes/they no longer enjoy it. Case in point, I go to night school once a week. I used go out to eat before class. At one point I really enjoyed it but then it became routine. I stopped during a no spend month and realized I didn’t miss it. Now I got out to eat before class once a month or so but the rest of the time bring some cereal or eat a really late lunch at work.

  16. Also, I now use the term “pantry clutter” that you used last year or the year before. Such an accurate term!
    MightyMighty @ Letters´s last post…How I Turned a Corner In My Parenting

  17. Rachel, I’m a big fan of the computer solution for when something’s not working: unplug it, and then plug it back in. Those two simple steps are often enough to fix any kind of problem.

    That’s what no-spend month feels like to me. Thanks for sharing your family’s journey, and offering sweet encouragement without the guilt!
    Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy´s last post…What I Learned About Saying Yes, from a Week of Saying No.

  18. “If you are in a place of being stretched out thin, this is not meant to be added to the burden you already carry.”

    This is so important. During seminary we were on the “spend as little as humanly possible” plan. We are still on a tight budget but we do have room for some little treats here and there to keep us motivated.
    Steph´s last post…A Food Binder

  19. Thank you for reminding us that there are many people who
    live like this all the time. I truly appreciate your consideration of that. This was my first no spend month
    and a great experience.

  20. What a great reflection of your No Spend Month. You are right that some are fortunate to be able to squeeze a little more than usual in order to have a NSM, while others must live like that all the time. It’s something I struggle to keep in perspective…I am prone to worrying about money (we pretty much live on one income right now), but my husband is always reminding me that we will be okay and many people are truly struggling to make ends meet.

    We have 6 days left of our No Spend experiment, and it has been an eye-opener in so many ways. Like – why do I have so much Crystal Light in my pantry?? Ha! But also, it has taken so much of the day-to-day stress I felt about spending off my shoulders, mainly because I knew I had cash in my pocket for my purchases – money that was already accounted for. I didn’t have to whip out my debit or credit card to make a purchase. And I’ve found that I am not as eager to get my next paycheck, because there’s a little extra left in there from the last one. So refreshing.

    Thank you for the idea and for your inspiring posts. I’m a fairly new reader and I’m hooked.
    Kristin´s last post…The Magnificent Seven & the Fab Five

  21. I almost didn’t post this because it has already been said more eloquently but then I thought, I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to hear appreciation from another reader! We’re doing fine and haven’t done a no spend month but could certainly use it and I’m looking into it. However, I always appreciate when authors remember their audience. What is good advice for some is crazy for others. Thank you for being a thoughtful supportive voice on the internet. This is no small thing!!

  22. Due to as job/life change for our family we have been considering living on a sailboat – with four children! I have myself indulging in not accumulating stuff for the house or the family, inthe knowledge we may live aboard in a year. It is so relieving to me to be able to remove myself from the race if consumption. Learning to be content with all the Lord has blessed our family with is a wonderful lesson to teach and live for your children. Thank you for your example and simple wisdom.
    Esther´s last post…The Great Minimizer

    • Ohhhh, this is my ultimate dream, except we don’t have any young kids at home. When I’m working on releasing “stuff” to the universe, I’ll often ask “would it fit, or would I use it, on a sailboat?” And if the answer is no – helps me set priorities about the stuff that I really “need.” Prayers sent your way for this vision to happen for you!

  23. Joyfulmomof6 says:

    We lived like this for many years, but it was a great testimony to the Lord’s Faithfulness in supplying our true needs and He has never let us down as our family has grown.
    Even though it has only been in the last year or two that we have some “breathing” room in our finances, all those years living frugally have truly “paid off” because it disciplined us. Now we don’t make frivolous purchases and we always wait before big purchases.
    It is amazing to me that on one income with 6 children, we have no debt except our house payment. The Lord truly provides!

    Blessings,
    Nanci

  24. I had a wonderful NSM with ups and downs just like probably everyone else. I was SO happy to be finally splurge on a new book after a month of using all the money only on necessities like groceries, because I really needed all the money I had for just to cover those basics. I think the best thing about my NSM is the fact that i really had time and space to stop and think about what buying means to me and what I really want to spend my money on. And just like Kristin said, it’s a marvelous thing to actually see some money “left over” on your bank account by the time the next pay day rolls around. That’s such a rarity in this household. Even though my budget hasn’t really increased by that much for this month, at least now I know I can survive on less (and not go hungry). That’s a valuable lesson indeed.

    Thanks Rachel (and all the others too) for sharing your stories about NSM, I’ve really learned a lot from you!
    Alarwyn´s last post…Where did all that time and money go? – No Spend Month

  25. Love your encouragement to spend mindfully. We are in a season where we essentially have a “no-spend” month year round. It’s okay, though, and when we do have an occasional treat, we are super excited! I think whatever your income, it is important just to focus on what we have and not on what we are missing!
    Johanna @ My Home Tableau´s last post…On My Nightstand: July Reading

  26. What an inspiration you are. August and September are our worst months of the year. So as much as I’d like to do a no spend this month, I know it’s not possible. Back-to-school and two birthdays just about kill us :) But I do look forward to perhaps giving it a go in October. Thanks for all the inspiration!
    Mel @ Trailing After God´s last post…I’m Just Plain Worn Out

  27. Rachel, I so enjoy your blog. I fell in love with it when I read your “small wardrobe”posts. I love your simple-approach =) I admire you for mentioning all of those who cannot do a “no-spend-month” because I definitely know what that is like. This year we’re trying it (though in August, because I didn’t read about it till the July 31) and now I am thankful that I have enough room in my finances to play them around for the better (because it isn’t always possible on a low income). Thanks for lots of inspiring reading!!

  28. I liked this so much I posted it to my FB timeline. “Fasting” spending is a great way to refresh. Thank you for sharing your experience and reflections.

  29. I ran my own small business for quite a few lean years. My mantra during that time was ‘my financial position does not determine my state of mind’. It helped me so much to remember this. Now things are a bit easier and the pantry could be thought of as overstocked but those years changed me fundamentally. I’m very grateful for that. NSM is a brilliant reminder to keep our perspective on need vs want.
    Rose´s last post…What To Expect When You Are Not Expecting

  30. I’ve found that I spend only what I need when it comes to money. However it never seems to go far enough. This month has ended on a very expensive venture: computer hunting. Yes, my desktop computer has finally died after around 7 years in the family and it’s now time to get it replaced. Dad said it may be a small thing – like the battery in the hard drive, but when we replaced that, we found the modem card had fallen out of the computer. So, once that was put back in and he put it all together again, we gave her a go and found that it wasn’t the battery… nothing worked, not even my screen!
    So, I’m at my folks’ place using Mum’s computer. Over the last week or so, I’ve been shopping around for quotes to get a new computer (and there’s some good prices out there – one where the computer is delivered to my door, installed and all my stuff that was on the last one is installed on the old one including my old files put across… sweet! All for $799! I’m looking in to getting that one).
    But I’ve been good on one count though, I cancelled a layby I couldn’t afford. It was for a hair-curler and it was $180 but I had only paid off $20 of it. So I went to the store and asked to cancel it because I couldn’t afford it. The ladies there understood, but the boss of the place didn’t like it. I hate that. But I got my money back and that’s a good thing.
    Mozette´s last post…Bad Week

  31. Congrats, Rachel and family, for having money left over. I didn’t do NSM this time but I did control my spending. Three months in a row I have made fewer purchases. I am really proud of my self control.

    Maybe next year I’ll join in.
    Donna´s last post…Ragged Edges Quilt and New Back Idea

  32. Thank you for your sensitivity to those of us who are struggling right now. We tried to have a “low spend” month, I was quite careful and ultimately came to the realization that most of our purchases are in the “need” category, and that it simply takes a fair amount of money to feed and care for our family of 7. At times I was/am quite disheartened, but I look back on the month and see that I did push myself to really make the most of what we have and made lots more things from scratch and let some things completely run out. And the Lord has provided.

    I think part of the challenge for us is that we are trying to eat better without increasing our budget. That is sort of working, but it is taking more of my time…always a trade-off.

    Your blog is such an encouragement!
    Rachel´s last post…A Month of Doing More with Less – Week 4

  33. Hmm, I like the idea of doing this myself. Thanks!
    MissVindicat´s last post…Those Who Wander

  34. Very sympathetically put!

    Congratulations on completing your No Spend Month & inspiring so many people to try the same.

    We try to be really sensible with our food shopping at least two weeks every month, but I’d be interested to do a whole month experiment again :)
    Fiona @ Everyday Spiritual Wisdom´s last post…Being Inspired

  35. Well done Rachel, on reaching the end of the month with money left over!
    Here in Australia, there is a book called “The $21 Challenge” by Fiona Lippey and Jackie Gower. Feed your family for the (occassional) week for $21 dollars. The main idea is that you set yourself an amount (it doesn’t have to be $21) and that is what you have to spend on groceries for that particular week. Then you go through your pantry, fridge and freezer and design your week’s menu (including snacks etc)from what you find. The $21 is used for bread, milk, fresh fruit etc. This is a fantastic way to make yourself use up “stuff” that might not otherwise see the light of day and end up being wasted. Very good for the budget too! The book has recipes for obscure items you might find in your pantry (lentils anyone?)and also DIY instructions (eg. yoghurt).
    The girls have a fabulous website (simplesavings.com.au) which is a collection of money saving ideas, hints and tips which is contributed to by their on line community. They have something like 17,000 money saving tips and do a free monthly email newsletter.

    I really feel for families who have to worry about where the money to pay the next bill is going to come from – I grew up in that situation and it has made me so determined that my 3 girls will not have to experience that.

    Love your blog!

  36. Hi Rachel, this is Amruta from India, I regularly read your blog but this is my first comment. I loved this post! And you are right, one needs to understand that ‘buying’ is not necessarily important all the time. Me and my husband have also shifted to a ‘no-spend’ lifestyle which means that though we earn good money we think carefully before spending every bit of it…and especially on things that we don’t actually need but lust after!
    As we are planning on buying a house in Mumbai which is super-duper expensive, I think this change of habit has really helped us to focus on better things in life which cannot be bought with money..thanks for your insides :-)

  37. Rebecca Slaughter says:

    We are joining in a month later. I like the idea of doing our No Spend Month in August, because it’s when we’re generally sick of summer and after our July birthdays and also helps us focus before we begin doing some (modest) Christmas shopping in September. I am aiming for $400, but I think we may go over–food in Durham, NC is PRICEY, and my husband is great about not spending unless he’s feeling unhappy with food at home. Then it’s just miserable. So, we may have to do $500 for food and gas and things like that. But that’s pretty good around here. We’re the South, but with New England prices.

  38. I am always looking for new ways to spend, and while I have read about this before, you have inspired me to give it a go! No spend October here we come!!
    Phoebe´s last post…Money and Your Marriage