What Is A No-Spend Month?
I’ve done my first ever no-spend month and I have to say I was really excited to try this budgeting hack. Doing a no-spend month helps get you back on track, channel extra money into savings or debt, and learn about your spending habits. Many experienced budgeters recommend only doing a no-spend week for the first time, but I went all in for the entire month because I was ambitious to try it and get better control of my spending. Some people think it’s too extreme – but keep in mind it is only meant to be done for a short period of time.
Many people give themselves an allowance per week to spend on extras that can come up. My allowance was $20/week.
Why Did I Do A No-Spend Month?
I admit I’m pretty good with my finances. A few years ago I was making $13/hour and still had money left over before next pay cheque – and my coworkers thought that was pretty amazing. I’ve always opted for cheaper rent (I’m a pro at finding affordable housing), and while I love fashion & beauty, I don’t blow $200 every pay cheque on frivolous items (Even if I’d love to).
My most financially stable time was from 2017 to early 2019 where I had a beautiful micro condo for only $400/month (I regret giving that up – my one regret). I didn’t have a credit card or debt at the time so my bills were low. However, I was hit hard from 2019-2021 with low job hours, adjusting to higher rent, and catching up on bills that had accrued. I’ve found a great micro condo that’s affordable for its location, but it’s the highest amount of rent I’ve ever paid. I also have an extra bill due to credit card debt (I’m being candid so I can give people hope that they can be in control of their finances). My bills are $650 higher than they were back in that golden 2017-2019 phase, so the fact that I can pay all my bills and still have money left over is amazing to me. Like, I can actually do life! I’d also like to save extra money and have a little more cushioning so I’m not living pay cheque to pay cheque.
What I’ve Learned
Originally, I tried buying up a month’s worth of groceries before my no-spend month started, but it only lasted me about 2 weeks. I have a healthy appetite and certain items like bread, meat, fruit, etc. need to be replenished every week. So, groceries aren’t part of that $20/week allowance as they’re essential.
I also noticed I can’t eat leftovers for more than one day. I made chili to last me 3 days, but by the 3rd day I couldn’t stomach it anymore. I need variety so I’m allowing myself to buy groceries for 5-6 days at a time and not force myself to eat the same thing all week.
Having a set allowance helps control that spending. Even if you go over, at least you didn’t spend $150 unnecessarily.
What I Found Most Challenging
I’m used to treating myself to Skip The Dishes on pay day and my stomach was grumbling for it – it’s a nice habit to have, but I was determined to not break my budget, so I didn’t partake in that tradition this time.
I have a taste for eating out – I’m not a big fan of cooking and sometimes you just want to go out and grab tacos, sushi, nachos, etc. Nothing wrong with that, but for this month I wanted to really meet my goals. At the end of the day, it’s my money going down the drain if I spend it on things that don’t last.
What Helps You Stick With A No-Spend Month
Keeping track of your extra spending in a notebook helps you stay within the budget. I also had a few gift cards from my parents which was helpful. I recommend saving up those gift cards before a no-spend month so you can treat yourself a little without dipping into your own money. Use up any points you have stored up from loyalty programs at stores. It helps the month go by a little nicer.
Also, when my pay cheques came, it was nice putting a little extra money on my debt. The closer you get to eliminating debt, the faster those payments go back to YOU rather than to companies.
I have a goal of saving $50/month right now. It hurts to think of depriving the future me of savings by living too much for now. It’s okay to enjoy treats, but it’s important to think more of the future. There could come a time that you’ll need an extra hundred dollars for something – or you could go do something really fun with that saved up cash.
How I Did
Here’s how much I spent of my allowance every week (Besides groceries and transit which are essentials). My weekly allowance was $20/week.
Week 1 – $17
Week 2 – $23
Week 3 – $45
Week 4 – $75
I’m pleased with how I did for the first two weeks – I was on point, give or take. I suppose that’s why budgeters recommend starting with a 1 or 2 week no-spend challenge first, because it got a lot harder throughout the last half of the month.
My # of no spend days: 13/28 days – Not too bad!
I was able to save $50 and channel a bit more money into debt. While the last two weeks were a fail, I was also mindful of what I was spending – when I caved and bought sushi on the 27th, I already knew I’d be eating homecooked meals for the next few days after that. Had I not been paying attention to my spending, all those weeks would have been higher. Often when I’m out running errands, it’s easier to grab takeout or cave in for a latte. It’s definitely a challenge to stick with a weekly allowance of $20/week. I think for my next no-spend challenge, I’ll set it to a more realistic $40/week. If you restrict yourself too much, it can backfire.
A no-spend month can help you get back on track with your savings and budgeting goals. It shows you where your big spending areas are, what you can cut down on, and it can set you up to be more mindful with your spending. With spring coming up, there will be some new clothing items I want to buy, day trips I’ll want to take, outings with people, etc., but I’ll be mindful not to eat out every day, enjoy cooking at home, and thinking before I spend.
If anything, it’s cooking at home that saves you the most money. $100 can get you just about a week’s worth of groceries or it can get you 3 days worth of eating out. You can save more than you think by shopping wisely at the grocery store.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post today! Have you ever done a no-spend month before? Will you try one?