It was the end of April, and I decided on a whim to attempt a “no spend” month for the month of May.
Looking back now, I realize that was my first mistake–not preparing for something so drastic farther in advance.
I’ll admit, I thought it was going to be a lot easier than it was. I already consider myself pretty thrifty, so I didn’t think going from “watching my spending” to “not spending any money at all” would be all that hard.
Boy, was I wrong!
Even though I blew my no spend month by week two, there were a few high points for me to take out of it:
I didn’t spend any money for a week.
When I decided to go for the no spend month, I was determined in the beginning. I made it through the entire first week of packing my lunch for work, not stopping for (even cheap) coffee in the mornings, and even denying myself tacos on Cinco de Mayo.
I got to practice problem solving.
For the week that I actually didn’t spend any money, there were some days I had to get a little creative. My biggest budget-buster has always been food–I love going out to eat, and grabbing Chick Fil A on my lunch break has always felt easier than packing a lunch in the mornings, especially when I am running late.
But on those days I looked in my pantry and didn’t know what to bring for lunch, instead of just deciding to go out to eat that day, I dug a little deeper. One day I brought a can of soup and a bowl and spoon from home. Other days I stuck to a simple sandwich and chips.
Although they may not be the most exciting meals, I saved at least $7 a day by eating what I had at home instead of going out to eat.
I learned to say “no.”
The last day of my successful no spend week at work just happened to fall on a holiday (Cinco de Mayo) which also happened to fall on a Friday. So of course my coworkers wanted to have a little party at lunch and order in tacos.
It wouldn’t have even cost that much money–I think if we all pitched in, it’d be less than $5 each. But after debating with myself, I had to turn the offer down. I planned to just stick to my sandwich and chips that day while everyone else chowed down on some delicious tacos.
Thankfully, I have awesome coworkers, and one of them paid for the whole thing. They let me join in on the fun for free!
The point of the story is, my willpower grew, and it was easier for me to turn down things that I knew would sabotage my success. While $5 here and there wouldn’t really matter, it would get me back in the habit of spending money, which is exactly the thing I was trying to break.
While I did experience a few high points from my no-spending challenge, I definitely had my failures and learned a few lessons along the way.
I learned the importance of preparation.
While I knew I needed to have some sort of plan if I didn’t want to spend any money for an entire month, I didn’t actually take the time to properly research and implement said plan.
I’d been excited to read 31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero to get some great tips and ideas for going on a spending freeze, but I didn’t give myself enough time to read it and actually implement the steps. The next time I plan to do a spending freeze, I will actually read the book and plan in advance!
I learned my weaknesses.
Have I already mentioned how much I love to eat out? The first purchase that broke my no-spend month was eating out at a fast food restaurant for lunch on that second Monday of the month.
I didn’t exactly set myself up for success–I didn’t make it to the grocery store on Sunday like I usually do, and so I really didn’t feel like I had anything I could pack for lunch. But I know that if my willpower and commitment had been stronger, I could have found something to pack for lunch that day.
Are you considering a “no spend” month?
If you like the idea of spending your freezing and seeing just how much you could save in a month, I highly encourage you to go on a no-spend month. Even if you fail like I did, you will learn some things about yourself. And each time you fail, you practice a little more and more at getting it right the next time.
Here are some tips to set yourself up for success on your spending freeze:
- Plan ahead. Know some quick, go-to meals you can make especially on those days you don’t feel like cooking.
- Know your weaknesses and be prepared for them. Avoid your spending triggers.
- Make the commitment that you won’t spend money, and you may be surprised at how resourceful you can get.
- Remember that the month will pass; you’ll be able to enjoy those small pleasures soon again.
- If you’re married, get your spouse on board. If you’re not married, find an accountability partner. They can help you make the tough calls and stick to your decision!
Even though I failed at this no spend month, I learned some great lessons along the way and am excited to try again in the future. With a little preparation, and a lot of willpower, I know I can have a successful no spend month one day soon.
Have you ever gone on a spending freeze? Was it harder or easier than you imagined? Is there one tip you can share that led to your success? Let us know down in the comments!