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How a No-Spend Month Can Reset Your Spending Habits

No-spend months are a popular subject in the personal finance and frugal living sections of the Internet. Maybe you’ve seen references to No-Spend January or No-Spend Sunday? These online no-spend challenges range from a day to a month and are designed to help you save money and learn how to budget your money better. A day or a week isn’t long enough for a real reset of your spending habits, which is why no-spend months are so popular.

What Is a No-Spend Month?

During a no-spend month, you are going to spend money: Housing, utilities, insurance, your phone plan, medications, student loans, et cetera, will all still need to be paid for, just like every other month. Instead, look at your expenditures and start thinking about how much unnecessary money you spend each month. Do you have a daily coffee habit? End up ordering takeout every night? Relieve stress with late-night online shopping binges? Buy a lot of groceries but also have a lot of food waste? Challenging yourself to not spend on these purchases during the month will help you reset these habits. Think about what’s important to you, and design your no-spend month accordingly. You can either choose only to eliminate certain areas of spending, or you can try to eliminate all non-necessary purchases.

How Can You Prepare?

First, decide on the areas of your life where you won’t be spending money. Be realistic! You will need to get to work, eat, and fulfill all other basic needs. Even if you’ve decided to do a pantry challenge, make sure you have some money set aside to restock perishables. Next, start meal-planning. Decide what you are going to eat throughout the month that takes advantage of the food you already have. Fill in with missing basics. Also, check your stock of storage containers: Storing leftovers and packing lunches is a lot easier with the proper equipment.

Next, go through your basic household supplies. Garbage bags, shampoo, body wash, dish soap, and other cleaning products are super-important, and you’ll want to make sure you have enough to last. This is also the time to check pet supplies and any gardening supplies you’ll need over the month.

Finally, plan for fun. If you use online shopping as your primary source of stress relief, how will you fill that void? Consider downloading e-books from the library to pass your online time. Also, look for free events and schedule them in your calendar. Remember that you may need to pack food and drinks to take with you so you don’t end up spending money while you’re out. A no-spend month can also be the time to tackle things on your to-do list. Have you purchased yarn to make a blanket? This is the month to make it. Or maybe you bought painting supplies but have yet to paint the hallway. You’ll have the time to get on that.

Now, let’s talk about money. You aren’t planning on spending money, but you’ll want to have a separate emergency fund available in case something comes up and you have to spend some unbudgeted money. If a real emergency crops up, you may even consider a title loan. And when the month is over, you are probably going to have to hit the grocery store hard. Set aside funds for a larger-than-usual grocery trip. Also, decide what you will do with the money you save over the course of the month and immediately transfer that money out of your primary banking account.

How Will it Help?

There are benefits to a no-spend month beyond the money you will save during that one month. Here’s a list of the long-term benefits of a no-spend month:

  • It can change your shopping habits.
  • It can change your eating habits by helping you form money-saving habits like eating at home and packing your lunch.
  • Curbing small everyday indulgences, like a daily coffee, is difficult. Once you know you won’t be getting it for a month, it’s much easier to reevaluate how much enjoyment you get out it anyway.
  • It can help curb impulse shopping. If you aren’t spending money on clothes this month, will you even still want the item when the month is over? If you do, it’s probably a purchase that will provide long-term enjoyment and use. If not, it was an impulse purchase your wallet and your closet are better off without.
  • Most people have food in their cupboard, fridge, and freezer they aren’t eating. A no-spend month will help you use items you’ve already purchased.
  • It can motivate you to keep increasing your rate of savings.
  • You will learn strategies for finding cheap or free fun, like using libraries not only as a source of free books and movies but also as a place to get park and museum passes.
  • Shopping will stop being a hobby, and you will learn other ways to enjoy your downtime.
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