No Spend January


Welcome 2017! I intend to have a good year and to hell with the naysayers.

Every once in a while we have a “No Spend” month. For us, they generally occur in the summer, but I thought we’d start the year out right, and have a No Spend January.

I’m doing this for several reasons.

  1. We spent a lot of money in 2016. We paid off a house, bought new cabinets, and went on a mini vacation.
  2. Putting a halt to spending after the holidays feels like a natural pause in this cycle we call consumerism.
  3. January is cold in Texas. That makes it easy for us to use that month to cocoon and curtail spending.

The rules are simple. You buy nothing unless it’s necessary. Basically, this limits you to your regular monthly bills, groceries, and fuel for the car.

This means no expenses for clothing, eating out, cocktails, (coffeehouse) coffees, movies, manicures, massages, or impromptu getaways.

It’s a shock at first, but it goes by faster than you think. Once you’ve done it, it’s ridiculously easier the next time.

You come to realize that you didn’t miss that fancy coffee all that much, and your friends could just as easily bring a bottle to your house while you watch a dvd, or talk about that book you both got for Christmas.

Eating out is a major obstacle for us. It helps now that we have a menu to follow every week, but if we’re caught far from home at mealtime, we still eat out. This January that becomes verboten. I will catch some serious grief from Greg because he REALLY likes to eat out, but it’s only one month. How bad can it be? I guess we’ll find out. 🙂

Doing a “No Spend” month will do a couple of things for you. Aside from saving money–and who doesn’t need that after hemorrhaging all that moola for Christmas–you learn where your spending leaks lie.

It’s a sobering report card on how you’re doing financially.

The first time we did this, I was shocked at all the “little” money I spent on things that were otherwise ignored. If Greg buys a coffee, I had to buy a cranberry muffin. If we went to the movies, add another ten bucks for popcorn and drinks, or dinner afterward.

There’s a dollar for a can of Coke. Five bucks for that dvd in the clearance bin. Ten dollars for that new wine Greg found. Fifteen dollars for that book that caught my fancy. It all adds up.

That’s the irony. I thought it was the big things that hurt our savings and that’s totally not true. It’s the little things that we never ever notice because it’s just a few bucks. What will it hurt? Right?

For one month, thirty whole days, we stop.

From experience, I know that there will be a LOT more in my bank account. We simply don’t realize how much we spend on the little things, or how fast they add up. I also know it might feel like sacrifice (in the beginning) but that only proves how spoiled we are at getting what we want when we want it.

Try it once (without cheating) and compare your results with a normal month. Even when you think you’re on a strict budget, a No Spend Month will show you how many things are really hidden luxuries in your life.

Could you do a spending freeze for thirty days? Have you ever done it?

What’s on tap for 2017? We have a few not-so-nice things we need to get done this year, but the sooner they’re done, the sooner we can go do the things we want to do. More on that in the next post.

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  1. The budget’s pretty tight already, so I could probably do without luxuries for a month. It’s not like we ever go out anywhere – no restaurants, bars, movies, etc. I’ve already stopped hitting the convenience store for a beverage (cappuccino at $1.47 or Mtn Dew at $1.79) on my way grocery shopping. My biggest ‘luxuries’ are on the grocery list – chips, chocolates, donuts, ice cream. If I cut that stuff out of the budget, there might be a revolt.

    • BE: Once the holidays are over I rarely keep any sweets in the house. I’ll bake a cake or cookies if he wants it, but any other sweets are usually smuggled in by him.

      Hours before the clock struck 2017, we treated ourselves to a handmade malt at a little dive down the road. It was so good!

      I might have to learn how to make my own ice cream malts. 🙂

    • Gwen:
      re: dead broke
      That’s exactly where I got the idea! When we were dead broke, we’d go cold turkey. If there was no money for something, we did without.

      Meals were spartan, but we had enough to keep body and soul together.

    • Stacy: I don’t see it as a hardship though. Back when we were broke it was the thing you did if you didn’t want to go into debt, but now we do it to stay in the black.

      None of us knows how long we’ll live. I want to make sure our retirement money lasts until we’re 120. 🙂

  2. That is a great idea. We don’t eat out much and took it easy for Christmas but now I’m thinking of that ‘little’ money. I do like those fancy coffees now and then. And I usually rent movies rather than go out. I believe my husband spends more than I do for ‘stuff.’ Oh, you gave me lots to think about.

  3. My family are big spenders, but I’m not. Last year I started to put my foot down about us eating out so much, and I also stopped buying baked goods at the market (most of it has gotten way too expensive) and started making everything myself except bread (which is next.) Cooking and baking at home are better for us anyway. I also had a stern talk with my guy about giving up sweets and fried foods for good. I did it, so can he. 🙂

    I like your idea of a no-spend month; I think that would really wake up everyone to how much money goes to all the little luxuries. Now just to convince everyone to try it!

  4. We had no spend months when hubby quit his job to move closer to his parents to help them and I was the “sole” provider (though we did have savings we had to use at times). Every purchase was scrutinized and discussed to make sure it was absolutely necessary. Gone were the dinners out (which we so enjoyed) and we went back to the way I was raised in looking at what was on sale at the grocery store and planning our meals around it. It is a good thing to do every once in awhile. We probably should do so for the next month or so, but not sure I want to give up those Friday night dinners out (what keeps me sane most weeks 🙂


    • Betty: Whenever we felt insecure about the future, we would do a no-spend month.

      Dinners out are the budget killers for us, but it’s all the petty purchases too that sabotage a normally healthy budget. We get careless and that’s a slippery road.

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