How to Survive a Month of No Spending

Many people try this, and many people fail.  I am talking about months long no spends, shopping bans, or spending fasts.  (Many names for the same thing!) For the months of January and February I decided to cut all unnecessary spending.  I chose to do this because I did not want to be Christmas poor while going into Chinese New Year.  My online teaching job, is very dependent on the ebb and flow of holiday schedules in China.  I was able to alleviate some financial stress by focusing on my bills and savings goals. 

I have completed two no spends in the past by necessity.  The first fast occurred when my husband changed careers in 2016.  When this happened we had to reassess our financial future.  The second was when I changed careers and returned from teaching in Vietnam.  By 2018, I decided to become an independent contractor.  It took about three months to build my student base to where I needed it.  This time, I wanted to consider my actual thoughts behind making purchases. 

The book The Year of Less by Cait Flanders inspired this challenge.  She takes an honest look at why she spends and treats it like an addiction.  She was able to change careers and pay off all of her debt by the end of the year.  Due to her advice during this book and honest perspective, I decided to model my own rules based on her.  Below is my list of original rules that I shared on my Facebook list. 

January and February Rules for No Spend!

How I Did

Based on my self-created rules, I did very well my first six weeks.  I lapsed towards the end on the rules of eating out entering forbidden stores.  (Although I didn’t actually buy anything!)  I lasted the full two months without buying anything unnecessary.  The only unexpected purchase was a new pair of tennis shoes.  I deemed this as a much needed purchase since my other shoes had holes in them by this point. 

I feel like I met my general goal of thinking about my purchases carefully.  The No Spend Challenge helped me show some self-control when it comes to stopping for coffee.  I can say that I missed this the most.  I enjoy stopping by a coffee shop on my way between two jobs.  This breaks up my day and the coffee tastes way better than the staff room Keurig. 

One unexpected discovery about myself during the challenge.  I realized I am more of an extrovert than I realized.  I enjoy having a night where I go to the movies, browse shops with a friend, or even go to a restaurant I enjoy.  It did cause me to appreciate the times we went out for birthdays and trivia.  Some free things like taking a long walk or sitting on the back porch. 

Now that I am out on the other side, I would like to give some practical tips in successfully completing a no spend longer than a month.

Be Realistic

I said this recently, life is happening to us every day.  Situations come up and unexpected problems arise.  Also, some things may not be practical for your family.  For example, you may need to buy some shoes if you have young children growing like weeds.  Take note of possible situations and your family’s needs before even writing your rules. 

Have Accountability

Since I was trying to break a bad habit, I took a page from my friends completing fitness challenges.  I posted my first five weeks of progress on my Facebook group. It enabled me to have open conversation from friends and family about spending habits.  I was honest about my feelings and my failures.  Sometimes, when I was tempted to pull into the Starbucks drive-thru, I would think about having to confess it on Facebook later.

Know Your Triggers

How do you feel when you buy something new?  Do you try to put salve on a bad day by going clothes shopping?  Can’t resist a deal?  These are some of the questions you should ask yourself when creating your spending rules.  Knowing why you spend and considering your buying urges may be uncomfortable at first.  However, I did not realize how much I liked to go to Target when I am stressed. 

No Spend

Plan Ahead

The key to avoiding impulse buying is to plan days, weeks, and even months ahead.  In order to avoid buying lunches out, I would pack my lunch the night before at home.  I made sure to have plenty of coffee pods so I would not need to find caffeine elsewhere.  We went to a concert for Ed’s Christmas gift out of town.  I booked a reasonable AirBnb close to the concert venue before No Spend began.  Think of upcoming birthdays, events, trips, and daily habits when making plans for No Spend.

Clean Our Your E-mail List

Don’t forget temptation can come while you are sleeping at night!  Take time to remove yourself from e-newsletters.  Unsubscribe from shops that are tempting or offer flash sells.  I found out I had so many e-mails that I had to unsubscribe in three different sessions. 

Track What You Save

Reward yourself at the end by seeing how much you have saved!  It was very encouraging to see the amount of cash in my checking that I could transfer to savings at the end of each no spend month.  Bonus:  Take a moment to look at your bank statements from the months before the No Spend in order to see how much frivolous spending you cut out. 

No Spend Tip

Final Thoughts and Where I Will Go From Here…

I officially ended my No Spend the last week of February when my friend flew in from Scotland.  I must admit that it was nice to go into shops and head as I pleased to the coffee shop.  Over the two months, I felt guilty telling my friends no about spur of the moment plans or sales.  However, now I think twice about purchases. 

For the future, I hope to continue to implement some of my No Spend habits in the long run.  Beginning in April, I will make a fun budget to spend on coffee, eating out, and entertainment for the month.  Once the budget is reached I am finished for the month. 

I am also implementing a buying delay.  The higher priced the item, the longer I will wait to purchase it.  This way I can take advantage of the good habit I created over January and February of avoiding impulse buying.  How long do you think I should wait for an item under $25 dollars?

How to Survive a Month of No Spending

Will you try a No Spend?  Have you completed one before?  If so, what helped you be successful? 

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