Why a No-Spending Period IS Doable for YOU

posted by Andrea | 05/8/2015

no spending period

Two years ago, I shared 3 different posts about a “no-spending challenge” Dave and I were doing for the month of May. (You can read the posts here –> post 1, post 2, and post 3)

We’ve done things like this periodically throughout our married life as I think they are a great way to take a closer look at our spending and saving habits — and to “pull in the reigns” a bit if we notice we’re getting a little careless with our spending!

I got lots of positive feedback from those posts, and I know for a fact that MANY of you tried out a similar no-spending month after reading my posts!

However, what I didn’t necessarily expect to come from those posts were the massive amount of emails, blog comments, and Facebook messages from people telling me (in extravagant detail) why a no-spending challenge would NEVER work for them.

These are just a handful of the many excuses I’ve heard:

  • We do too much garage sale shopping in the spring
  • We travel a lot in the summer
  • I shop for the holiday seasons all year long
  • I get my hair cut at least once a month — otherwise it gets too long
  • We have some relative’s birthday in every month of the year and we always buy gifts for everyone
  • We ALWAYS go out to eat on Fridays for “date night” and it’s the only time we have just us
  • My coworkers and I always go out for lunch as we can’t eat lunch at our job
  • We’re in the middle of a house or yard project
  • Our kids always need lunch money
  • We could never stock up on groceries for the whole month
  • We drive a lot for our jobs so we need to buy gas every week
  • We do monthly investing
  • We give every week at church
  • We have a vacation that month
  • We still need to pay our utility bills and our mortgage
  • My spouse would never go for this

You know what I have to say to ALL of those excuses — and pretty much any other excuse you have for me?

That’s fine – work around it!

As far as I’m concerned, there is no right or wrong way to do a no-spending challenge. There are no “rules”.

There’s nothing that says it has to be for a month — or even a full week.

There’s nothing that says you can’t pay your bills, or give to charity, or invest, or even go out on a date.

There’s nothing that says you must go without groceries or gas.

There’s nothing that says you can’t go on vacation or renovate your home or fix up your car or plant flowers in your yard.

There’s nothing that says you can’t do anything fun or that you need to sit home and never go out for fear of spending.

For me, a no-spending period means whatever I want it to mean!

YOU get to create your OWN rules — and of course, for the purpose of the exercise, you will want to create rules… but they can literally be whatever rules you want and whatever rules fit relatively well with your phase of life.

For example…

When I blogged about our no-spending challenge, we set up a bunch of spending areas that did NOT count towards our no-spending. Things like investments, paying our utility bills, gas and groceries, and the current landscaping project we were working on at the time. We also agreed that if we already had a gift card for something, we could use that gift card to buy something during the month (although we didn’t end up doing this much at all).

We also decided that we would NOT spend anything on clothing, restaurants, fast food, gifts, home decor, Craigslist, Ebay, etc. for that month.

Yes, it was difficult (especially at the beginning), but after all, the point of a no-spending CHALLENGE is that it IS somewhat challenging. It’s supposed to stretch you and make you a little uncomfortable. It’s supposed to make you feel like you’re doing without for a bit so that you can hopefully step back and better evaluate your current spending habits.

That said, YOUR no-spending challenge doesn’t have to look anything like ours.

You could have a no-spending month that only included clothing or going out to eat (if that’s where you want to cut back).

You could have a no-spending week that consisted of only spending money on groceries and gas.

You could have a no-spending day in which you literally didn’t spend one single penny… just to see if you could do it (for the record, I do these daily challenges all the time and it’s actually pretty amusing how easy it is to spend $1 or $5 here and there!)

You could do a no-spending challenge and only include the time away from work (or the time you’re at work).

You could do a no-spending challenge on the weekend for a few weeks — or no spending during the week, but take the weekends off.

You could do a no-spending challenge for JUST YOU and not worry about your spouse or children or anyone else.

When you’re planning your no-spending challenge, you can literally pick ANY time period and set any rules you want. Keep in mind that YOU and your family are the only ones who will benefit from this challenge so the stricter you are, the more benefits you’ll most likely see after the challenge is over.

However, I’m convinced that even the shortest, least strict no-spending challenge is beneficial to some degree — because it’s getting you to consciously think about and talk about your finances.

Have you ever done any type of no-spending challenge?

If not, I’d encourage you to try it some time!

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16 comments

  1. Tara

    05/11/2015

    I’ve been so thankful for your previous posts about no-spending periods. They’ve really inspired me. And, just like you’ve mentioned here, it really doesn’t have to be so difficult. I do customized little spending freezes all the time.

    Sometimes I realize we have an unexpected expense that we could dip into savings for…or I could just do no eating out, no unplanned shopping and meal plan meals that require me to buy little-to-no new groceries for the next week or two. It’s one of my easiest ways to subsidize unexpected expenses.

    After awhile, it just becomes habit. My grocery bills have really dropped and we’re still eating great, just rarely eating out, and I’ve gotten a lot better at planning meals that use staples like beans, lentils and rice. I rarely have to throw out veggies or groceries that have gone bad in the back of the fridge anymore either. That feels so good!

    When I do this, I don’t have to worry about buying gifts for birthdays etc. I have a monthly budget for those things. When I get creative and give homemade gifts, I can use that money for savings or unexpected events too. Another spending freeze opportunity. 🙂

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  2. Meghan

    05/10/2015

    I loved this post because it took me back to when my husband and I did what we called spending freezes! We did one in 2005 to pay off debt before getting pregnant, one in 2007 when I took a year of maternity leave and another in 2009 when we were building our current home. I would say they each lasted about 3 months. It was probably a challenge, but now I just have fond memories!
    Maybe we’ll plan a month-long one. I get tired of spending money!

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  3. Beck

    05/09/2015

    I make January a no spending month. I’m just so tired after all the shopping and spending during the holidays.

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I love that “I’m just tired of spending” — that’s how I feel all the time!

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  4. Tonya G

    05/08/2015

    Great post! My husband and I do something like this.
    Very recently we actually decided to only live off of my paychecks only.
    So everything from bills, groceries, rent (were saving for our first home) etc would come from my paycheck and his we put directly into our savings.

    We allow 1 of his paychecks every 2 months for extra things like video games, clothes etc and the rest we save.

    Were hoping this will help us to save for our first home, we’re planning to move and make the big purchase in June/July 2018 if we stick to this plan. Its not easy but it will be SO worth it in the end 🙂

    [Reply]

    Luba Rokpelnis Reply:

    Hi, Tonya! You are an inspiration and a living testimony of “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” All the best to you in saving up for your new home. 🙂

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    Andrea Reply:

    yay for saving up for your first home — totally worth a little sacrifice now!

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  5. sue

    05/08/2015

    REALLY ? you gotemails that said stuff like that??? Please.. Who are these people, are they like a certain movie star that could not give up her fancy foods for a week to feel like it is for a person to live on SNAP??/( sorry- I just cannot imagine)
    People just try i for a week or a day.. just give up like one thing.. like that coffee that you buy in the mornig on the way to work.. or pack your lunch for a week and she just how that small amount yoiu end up at the end of the week..

    it is really not that hard…

    Sue in NJ

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  6. Lindsey T

    05/08/2015

    We try to do a spending freeze every February. We choose February for a few reasons:

    1. It’s the shortest month so it takes away some of the pain!

    2. It’s right after the holidays when our bank account could use a breather.

    3. In our area there are many free events in the month of February because it’s cold and snowy and many business are trying to get you out of the house and through their door! So we’re able to still get out of the house and visit museums, botanical gardens and more at no cost to us.

    And sometimes, when we have the urge to go out to eat or not cook for ourselves we would walk through Costco and sample all the food their promoting or convince our friends to invite us for dinner and we’ll bring the wine from our wine rack (already have it in the house) and we return the favor the next month.

    It can take creativity but I’m a huge supporter of a spending freeze — as long as you don’t double the amount the next month. Thanks for a great post, Andrea!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Good idea — I never thought about February being the shortest month to make it a bit easier!

    And yes, a spending freeze is great as long as you don’t go crazy spending the next month!

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  7. Erin

    05/08/2015

    Wait–I’m not the only one who feels excited when I finish a day without spending a penny? My favorite days are the ones when we leave the car in the driveway (no gas being spent there!) and walk to our local park or just around the neighborhood to “get out.”

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — nope, not the only one!

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  8. The Busy Brunette

    05/08/2015

    Oh, Andrea! The “no spending” challenge will definitely be difficult for me. I am in awe of people who can do this. I may try it in one area of my spending first.
    Wanted to ask you… how is your pregnancy going? Hope you are feeling okay!
    Happy Friday!
    “The Busy Brunette”
    http://thebusybrunette.blogspot.com/

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for asking — things are going well!

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  9. lydia @ frugaldebtfreelife

    05/08/2015

    I was one of those excuse makers. Then we did this for the first time in February 2014 and it was a huge eye-opener. We ended up saving several hundred dollars and that was the month we finally paid off all of my husband’s student loans.

    And we were still able to give generously, we just had to get creative. My sister-in-law had a baby that month and I was able to put together a really great new mama care package for her using my stash and my CVS ExtraCare bucks and still spent no money out of pocket!

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — well, at least you’re honest 🙂

    glad you did a no-spending challenge just to see how it would go. And WOW — congrats on paying off the student loans. That was worth it right there!

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