With the gift-giving behind you, you might be a little worried about those bills rolling in next month. Why not try to ease the blow with a no spend month?
January is a time for resolutions and big changes. As a stay-at-home mom with my husband going back to college, last January I decided that it was a good time to do a month of no spending. Gasp. Now to be fair, none of us have birthdays in this month. Seeing as we were all showered with gifts from Christmas only several days ago, January seemed totally doable. Daunting, yes. But doable. We would of course pay our regular monthly bills and for groceries/toiletries, but nothing else. However, to make an even bigger impact we slashed our regular grocery bill in half. Aside from one much needed vehicle repair, we completed our goal!
Perhaps the biggest reason for our success was a strong motivation to complete this goal. Given our limited income at the time, this would benefit us greatly. It was also something that both my husband and I were on board with 100%. Had we not supported each other it would have been a major fail.
Here were some of the things that we took advantage of that helped us thrive during our no spend month!
This granted us unlimited access to books and movies. This was a fun and free source of entertainment for us. I also borrowed books about money to help us stay motivated.
I love being able to bunker down in my cozy warm house and turn to my natural hermit state in the winter. I didn’t have any desire to drive on snowy roads, or be anywhere but home. Huge gas savings. In fact, I don’t think I even went to town for the entire 31 days! Another great thing about snow is that the kids have so much fun playing in it and sledding, so it was another free source of entertainment for our family.
We’d always used our gas reward cards when filling up, but never redeemed them. So, for that entire month we used up those reward cards and paid nothing for gas. NOTHING. Granted, I didn’t really drive anywhere. But, my husband had to drive to town for college 5 times a week!
This was definitely the key to our slashed grocery budget. I thought we would be eating like paupers, but we ate like kings! I didn’t truly realize all the food we had in our pantry, food storage, and deep freezer. I always tried to figure out supper late in the day and opted for quick meals that we’d quickly run out of and need to buy more. But, when I planned ahead, knowing what we had and what I needed to prep, magic happened. And. It. Was. Yummy. Not only were our suppers tasty having put more effort into preparing them, but my days were so much more peaceful! I didn’t realize that the what-are-we-gonna-eat-for-supper-stress played such a role with my mental health.
Buying groceries once a week
I always have such high hopes of efficiency when I grocery shop. But once my baby starts the ‘I want out of this cart’ game and my small-bladdered children start needing to go the bathroom multiple times in the same store… I’m done. We’re done. I start throwing in bulk things and not-on-the-list items to hopefully ensure we don’t have to come back for 3 weeks. But, I always have to come back sooner because of well, milk, mostly. My husband picked up the groceries and we budgeted X amount per week. It actually proved easier this way because when we ran out of stuff we asked, “Can we survive a few days until it’s grocery day again?” The answer was always, “Yes!” We knew the prices of things and made a list to suit our budget that week.
Not going down the retail aisles
It was easy for me not to buy that adorable jammie set for my 2 year old and those cute shoes my daughter would love. It was easy for my husband not to buy that tool or gadget. Why? Because they weren’t tangible. They weren’t physically in front of our eyes. Sure we saw them in screens and flyers, but it was easier to put off those purchases somehow.
Making a list of what we wanted to buy
Obviously, during that month there were things we wanted to buy, so it felt good to write them down and be given the hope of purchasing after this month was done. But at the end of the month many of those things, seemingly important at the time, now felt unnecessary to buy. However, the ones that stuck in our heads and hopes over the month were well worth the wait. And because we waited a whole month for these items, it felt gratifying to purchase them. Plus, because we’d already waited this long, we could wait a little longer for a sale price.
Give away your excess (especially kids items!)
This seems like a backwards things to do on a no spend month. Afterall, shouldn’t you hoard your items just in case you need them? From what I’ve experienced, absolutely not. We went through the kids stuff both old and new and gave away those things that the kids didn’t truly play with, wear, or love. And because of this, our home stayed neater making it more of a place we, I, wanted to stay in. Less gas spent, less store roaming. We used more of what we had in our home and appreciated it. Also, taking an inventory of what is actually inside our home makes me so NOT want another item to enter unless we absolutely need or love it. Plus, giving is good and important to teach my children.
We loved our no spend month, and so did our bank accounts! If you are considering a change for the better I’d highly suggest this money fast. Pick a month that works for you and get the whole family on board. Set boundaries and explore free experiences your community has to offer. Good Luck!
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.