No Spend Month: Why Do It, How It Works, Tips and Typical Results

What is a no spend month and why we would recommend January for this spending freeze? It is nearly a new year! With a new year, a frequent attitude of new changes, new rules, new goals, and new life focuses are on the minds of many families.

Well, instead of making resolutions, why not break down life into bite-sized pieces and do some real action to get life underway for the new year?

“Instead of making resolutions, why not break down life into bite-sized pieces and do some real action to get life underway for the new year?

Not only does a new year create a new mindset, but many are also coming out of that expensive Christmas season. After loading our lives with a bunch of stuff, it means the new year is a great time for a financial and stuff purge.

With that… why don’t you join us in having a No Spend Month in January?

What is a no spend month and why we would recommend January for this spending freeze? It is a new year! With a new year, a frequent attitude of new changes, new rules, new goals, and new life focuses are on the minds of many families. Take bite-sized steps to change your financial future with this cool idea!

Here’s what we are going to be talking about. Click on any of these subtopics to be taken to that part of the article:

What is no spend month?

So the first question you may be asking is…What is no spend month, or in other words..a spending freeze?

Immediately, anxiety might be welling up inside of you when you hear that phrase to think about “zeroing” your life for one month. But we want to give you assurance that it might not be exactly what you think. It is a healthy way to start off the new year. A healthy way to set the rules with your money this new year.

We are the couple that encourages gradual financial change to set habits, but we also like these temporary boosts to help you get on track with your financial goals.

The answer is a no spend month!

A no spend month simply means that you do not do any unnecessary spending the whole month.

“A no spend month simply means that you do not do any unnecessary spending the whole month.”

All families have basic needs such as shelter, food, utilities, regular bills. You keep buying these. But you are going to be creative with your living to avoid all unnecessary spending for the entire month.

Why should you have a no spend month?

This is the jaw-dropping, eye-opening, new lease on a financial life experience that a no-spend month can do! Freezing spending for a short time actually gives you a new financial lease on life!

“This is the jaw-dropping, eye-opening, new lease on a financial life experience that a no-spend month can do!”

When we talk to people, we have come across many that believe they have a pretty frugal lifestyle and are in control of every penny of their money. Many are in denial that they do any frivolous spending. It’s very easy at any given moment to decide to spend $2 here, $4 there, etc. It can add up to several hundred in “oh yeah, I forgot about that” purchases.

When you can compare your average monthly spending with a no spend month, it can be a stark difference. It can really wake you up to your spending habits.

And then coming out of that, it changes your mindset as you approach each day’s spending opportunities. Many people, after a no spend month tend to be more mindful and intentional about their spending all of the other months of the year. This creates a healthier relationship with money and spending overall.

If you really care about something, you really learn about it to develop a deep and healthy relationship. Money is actually not an exception.

You have a relationship with money. It’s either healthy or not. Just like people. You need to understand your relationship with money. And this mindful break helps you to understand how you view money. You need to know this.

Now don’t think that we are some experts and getting on anyone’s case. We too are just as guilty of entering into unhealthy time periods with money. In fact, this past year was a year in which money was less intentional and less mindful. We were busy with life as our excuse. Primarily we started new businesses that we allowed small things to creep into our spending. Some examples are more convenience foods, frequent eating out, less intention with shopping around, non planned large purchases, etc. We need a cleansing time period just as much as anyone!

But there is also a valuable monetary gain to add to the valuable mindset change you will experience = legit EXTRA MONEY to apply to something responsibly….

How a no spend month works

Ok – so you maybe are at a point where you want to give this no-spend month a legit effort and see what happens with both your mindset and your budget.

So how do you start? There are two parts: the things to NOT do and the things TO DO.

“PURGE! And make some extra cash!”

Here’s how:

  1. If you are married, discuss this with your spouse and tell why you want to give this a real effort this month. It will take both of you to make this truly happen and to avoid bitterness.
  2. The next step is to understand the necessary vs. the unnecessary spending. Out the gate, everyone needs food, shelter, clothing, and utilities. Additionally, if you have bills (like car payments, cc payments, etc.) you need to keep making those payments.
  3. Although food and clothing are necessities, we would encourage you to take a spending freeze from additional clothing. Unless it is a legit need like your child gets a hole in their shoes or needs a uniform for a school/sports event, etc. A typical household has that line between the necessary clothing items and the, “this looks cool, I want to add it to my wardrobe,” clothing spending. Make that distinction and avoid the unnecessary.
  4. Same for food. This is going to be a month where we are going to encourage the food basics and necessities. But see if for one month you can eat out of your cupboards, freezers, fridge and pantry. Then primarily purchase just fresh foods for the month.
  5. It also means finding free entertainment, avoid eating out (or use a gift card), avoid shopping online, avoid entering any non-grocery stores to avoid temptation, etc.
  6. Once you have drawn those lines and had this discussion with your spouse, if you have children, you need to sit them down and tell them the family goals for the month. It will be good for them too. It will teach them to temper the “I wants” (especially after Christmas) and healthy for them to witness the parents taking spending seriously.
  7. Tell your close friends and extended family what you are doing (encourage them to join you). Let them know that dates/activities and get togethers need to be home grown this month.
  8. Grab the freebies we are providing and hang out with us online in our email newsletter, Facebook and Instagram to see how we are doing too!
  9. PURGE! Use this month to clean out cupboards, pantries, freezers, fridges, under bathroom sinks, shelves, drawers, closets, etc. This will do a few things:
    1. help you find the foods, toiletries, cleaners you need to use up. We tend to have a few mostly used bottles of cleaner or shampoos that probably have at least a week’s worth of use, but got tossed in the back of shelf. Same goes for food!
    2. Cleans out and simplifies your life! You just added a bunch of stuff to your house from Christmas, so it’s a great time to get rid of stuff!
    3. Make some extra $$ from the items you found that may have value and can be sold online in classifieds. Donate the rest and get a tax write-off at the end of the year.

How often should you do a no spend month?

Having a no spend month will be hard. We do not believe in doing this long term because it puts strain on your life, your relationships with your spouse and children (and quite frankly extended family and friends too!).

It is not intended to be a long term project or even done frequently. It will not be achievable or realistic and cause a lot of undue stress that is not worth it. We want you to have an overall healthy relationship and the super tight restraints will not create a healthy environment.

“It is not intended to be a long term project or even done frequently.”

But you can do something hard for a short time.

That’s why once a year at least is a good plan. But if you want to do it again, we would probably recommend not more than two months out of the year. Another good month is September. Your “back to school” and “summer vacation” spending is over and there are no major holidays. It’s also a good month to give your Christmas savings a big boost, etc.

But if you want to have more “no spend” challenges than twice a year, perhaps consider a penniless week instead. This is even stricter than a no-spend month, but it’s only for one week. You can do this several times per year.

Learn how to do a week long spending freeze with the penniless week!

Rules for no-spend month

We covered this partially in the “how it works” but let’s make a list of the “rules”:

  1. Hide credit and debit cards and take them out of your wallet.
  2. Stay out of stores.
  3. Don’t shop online either!
  4. Pay your bills!
  5. Take care of necessities to live life. But be very clear about an absolute necessity for a one month time period, vs. a lenient necessity in life in general.
  6. Make a menu based on what you have on hand already.
  7. Make a very specific shopping list of the fresh necessities you need to supplement the menu to eat this month.
  8. When shopping for food necessities, don’t get side tracked and stick to your list!
  9. Attempt to use up all those odd bottles of shampoo/conditioner/soaps, etc. you are finding during your purging process. Don’t buy anything until you use all of these up!
  10. Have some family game and movie nights and spend some good time together!
  11. Go sledding or enjoy the nature for entertainment.
  12. Learn to live without for a time. It’s a temporary pain for a lifelong gain. 🙂

What spending is included?

To help give clear direction, this is what you CAN spend on during a no-spend month:

  • Necessary fresh food to supplement the foods you have on hand.
  • Any food staples that you may not have to eat this month.
  • Clothing NEEDS like replacing hole-y shoes or underwear. Or winter boots/gloves, etc.
  • Standing bills from your mortgage/rent, utilities, gasoline, etc.
  • Debt bills like credit card/loan payments, etc.
  • Emergencies

What spending is excluded?

After sharing the list of what you CAN spend on, let’s chat about what you shouldn’t spend money on this month:

  • Eating out
  • Entertainment
  • Shopping for anything outside of necessary
  • Subscription services. If you can pause/skip for a month, that would also help you know which of these services you really need/care about.
  • No extra road trips or unnecessary driving to reduce gas expenses down to just necessary.
  • Take a quick glance at your budget and you will probably be able to come up with other areas too.

Tips to guarantee success for no spend month

Let’s be honest. Although there are going to be some GREAT results that come from a no spend month, it is not going to be the easiest task for many either.

It’s hard to say “no” to many things that you may say “yes” to on occasion or even frequently. Either way, a “no” month is going to be challenging as it may cause you to stretch in other ways.

And as my daughter says in regards to her marathon training…

“anything hard is worth doing!”

So let us give you tips along the way and throughout the month, but at least some survival tips!

  • Schedule planned game nights at home when you start! This will be a fun encouragement for all and perhaps a well needed family night!
  • Invite friends over for dinner instead of going out!
  • Plan a date night in with your spouse! We love our date nights in!
  • Take the credit/debit cards out of your purse/wallet. Instead, carry a certain amount of cash for the month to cover gasoline while out.
  • Stay out of stores. Seriously! It will make your life easier by avoiding temptation.
  • Visit the free local attractions. Check your city or county websites for community events happening near you.
  • Get the family involved with making meals together! Make memories while getting creative in the kitchen as you use up the food!

Freebies for joining us during our official no-spend months

We want to make this as rewarding and as positive of an experience as possible!

First we’d love to give you a copy of our No Food Waste Menu Planner and our Budget Planner as a reward for jumping on board with the no spend month!

Enter your email address below and we will send them to you!

Get freebies when you join the no spend month challenge in January for the official spending freeze month!

Typical results of a no-spend month

Ok…this is the really cool part!! What the results of a no-spend month can be!

Valuable Non-Monetary Result

First, don’t forget the priceless value that a new perspective and attitude about money can create. Think about how that will propel and help you in your future money endeavors in a positive way. It means your bank account will naturally move in a more positive direction each and every month after!

Valuable Monetary Result

But second is the immediate reward of the monetary value that is left after you end this month!

Let us start off by saying that your results will be very different than anyone else’s because it’s based on many factors! If you have let spending slip and are not great at tracking, you could come up with a surprising 4-figure amount!

And if you are pretty good and frugal, you will probably still end up with a 3-figure amount!

When doing a no spend month, we have had families that have saved a couple of thousand dollars from what they typically spend! Even we have been known to save several hundred during this “reset and refocus” month!

And while the “couple thousand dollars” results aren’t typical, let us tell you what the average is…. on average, we find that our readers have saved an extra $450!

“On average, we find that our readers have saved an extra $450!”

Most of that is actually found in the purchases that are under $5

From the coffees, to quick bites, to snacks, to the miscellaneous goodies in the stores’ aisles while at checkout, etc.! It’s not necessarily in a larger purchase or that big meal out! It’s the little things that add up over time that are forgotten in a few minutes.

What to do with the excess funds saved from no spend month

So if you had an extra $450 at the end of January, what would you do with it?

Here’s what we would recommend with the first two being in that order. After that, any order of priority is good!

  1. Seed your emergency fund! We will recommend 1-2% of your income. You can read this article to find out why and the details of how much of an emergency fund do I need.
  2. Once your emergency fund is nice and cushioned based on the percentage of your income, then it’s time to apply some to debts! $450 towards a high interest account will save you quite a bit more. Plus start that snowball with a nice burst! In fact, if you haven’t yet, you should fill out the Debt Payoff Goal Sheet so you know which debt is next on your list to maximize your payoff timeframe!
  3. After the first two goals, we would recommend putting this in a high yield savings account for that next big purchase.
  4. OR putting it as an extra payment towards your mortgage as every penny counts!
  5. OR investing in your next side hustle or small business need! In our day and age, it’s very common for many households to have side hustles, or other work at home opportunity. Is there a piece of equipment, a software, resource, or tool that will make your job easier or help take it to the next level? Perhaps even put a bit in marketing! Regardless, money invested in this outlet has a high probability of a good ROI!
  6. OR invest it!
  7. OR put it towards your vacation fund! This is my personal favorite as a travel blogger at MousekeMoms.com. 🙂

How to ease back into a normal budget after a no spend month is over?

This is the funny, crazy, interesting, confusing part about the end of this month!

HOW do you get back to normal life after living like a pauper?

Well, we can for sure say don’t start living like a prince! But instead, evaluate what your mindset was, the difficulties, the things that were easier than you thought. After that, hone in on what the truly important and necessary spending is.

“Evaluate what your mindset was, the difficulties, the things that were easier than you thought. After that, hone in on what the truly important and necessary spending is.”

Then, take an average spending from the previous three months and compare it to this month. What was the difference in spending?

What habits can you adopt moving forward?

How will you think about your spending in the future?

Can you scale your budget back in certain areas as a norm?

Remember don’t make up for the lack of spending by going beyond your normal habits as that just defeats the purpose. But instead, start back by being very intentional about the spending you do moving forward.

Most importantly, consider starting the 2% rule as you probably have an idea of where the first few months of spending cuts could now come from. 🙂

Will you join us this month for a spending freeze?

Now the ball is in your court! Will you join us this month for a spending freeze and work towards reaping all of the benefits we have mentioned above?

It never hurts to try!

Do hard things for great results! We can’t wait to hear from you on your progress!!

Alex and Cassie - The Thrifty Couple 

No Spend Month: Why Do It, How It Works, Tips and Typical Results