Why you Should try a No Spend January Challenge

Have you ever considered a no buy month?   What if I told  you that you can save money with no spend January, especially after the holiday season when your bank account might be hurting a bit.  You may even have Christmas debts you need to pay off.

No Spend Month

My family and I have participated in a no spend month many times over the year (but it full disclosure, we’ve never done it more than once a year.) 

What does that look like?

Basically, it means that we are going to take one month of the year and not spend money on any extras for 30 days. Yes, that means the entire month.  We will still buy the necessities like gas for our vehicle, and food for our table.  But we won’t buy anything beyond that.  No clothes.  No thrift store finds.  No late night junk food runs when a craving hits.  No restaurants, and no drive thrus.  It means we are making our coffee at home. 

And even though we allow ourselves to grocery shop during this time (’cause, a girl’s still gotta eat), we make the extra effort to eat out the food in our pantry that has been sitting at the back for way too long (I’m looking at you, can of lentils.)  This helps lessen our grocery bill for our no spend month, especially because we are taking less trips to the grocery store.

The first year I did it I didn’t know what I was getting into.  I didn’t expect it to make much difference.  After all, it wasn’t like we were avid shoppers, and we definitely weren’t living a life of luxury.  Would it really make a big difference?

Well, I can tell you, when I got to the end of the month I was shocked to realize we had saved hundreds of dollars.  At the time we had quite a bit of debt and I was able to put that money directly to paying some of that down.  There’s few things that feel as good as watching the debt number drop lower and lower.

I was hooked.  And most years it became an annual activity we took part in from then on to help us reach our financial goals.



When is the Best time to do a No Spend Month?

I like to do a no spend January challenge myself.  There’s a few reasons for this.  Christmas has just ended so the kids have new things to keep them occupied.  Also, the Christmas season is the costliest one so my bank account needs a break. It’s the perfect time for our family.

January is also the month where we are the least busiest.  We often have a break from extra curriculars, and it’s cold and dark so we spend our evenings huddled at home, with no desire to go out into the -20 Celsius weather.  

We are happy building puzzles, watching movies, and drinking tea at home.  The best way to save money in my opinion is to spend more time at home, cooking your own food and taking part in activities that you already own.

It’s the month that we have the chance to be the most successful at a no spend challenge.  A no spend December just wouldn’t work in our house. There’s too many Christmas expenses.  While we can attempt to spend less in December, it’s going to be very difficult to do a complete no buy December.  So that’s why we do a spending freeze in January.

While I think the month of January is a great time for most people, if you feel there’s a different month that would work better for you, by all means do a no spend month during that time.  Set yourself up to be as successful as possible to form good habits when it comes to your finances.

how to not spend money for a month

When you first think about it, you might think that not spending money for a month doesn’t sound like a big deal.  But it’s amazing how it’s the little things that add up and we realize how few no spend days are actually happening in our life.  

So, how do you do it?  How do you not spend money for a month?  

Tell your friends and family what you are doing

Accountability is a really good motivator.  Tell those in your inner circle what you are doing.  This can prevent them from asking you to go out and spend money with them for a set amount of time, and depending on who your people are, they might be a great cheerleading section as you complete this challenge.  Who knows, you might be able to convince some others to do it with you as well!

Do up a meal plan do some food prep

I think many people would say that they easily spend on fast food or coffee.  When you are super busy and tired it’s easier to justify having someone else make your food for you and you just pay for it. But this will increase your food costs very fast.

To avoid this happening, whip up a meal plan, and do some food prep.  You can pick a day of the week, like Sunday evening for example, and pre-make some food to grab for quick lunches such as rice to add to dishes, cut up some fresh veggies to snack on, and bake some banana bread for snacking on in the week.

Plan some free activities

No spend month doesn’t have to mean no fun month.  Write down some things you can do during your month.  Reading books from the library, hiking, playing board games, finally using those craft supplies that you bought ages ago, inviting friends over to your home for coffee,  are all great ideas.  Keep that list where you can see it so that when you get tempted to go out and spend money you can be reminded of all the free things you can do.

Don’t go to the stores aimlessly

Avoid the stores as much as possible during this month.  Besides grocery shopping (which, make sure you have a list with you so you don’t overspend) you’ll want to avoid being surrounded by temptations to spend.  You can even do your grocery shopping online if that helps. The easiest way to stop shopping is to not walk in the stores in the first place.  

Check the days off on a calendar 

Give yourself a visual about how far you are in the no spend challenge.  Use a calendar and check off every day you are successful at not spending.  Put that calendar somewhere you will see it every day so you can focus on your big goals.  Print out an encouraging quote about not giving up.  

Consider Dave Ramsey’s quote to “live like no one else so you can live like no one else” and keep reminding yourself about why are doing what you are doing and what you want to achieve with the extra money you will end up saving throughout this challenge.

Don’t quit after a setback

So you gave in and spent some money.  Don’t use that as an excuse to throw away the whole month.  No spending for most of the month is still better than spending constantly during the month.  Give yourself some grace and be determined to finish through what you started, no matter what.  One set back doesn’t mean you won’t hit your savings goals.  Keep going.

Cancel some subscriptions

A great addition to no spend January is going over your budget and cutting out anything you can.  We live in a time of constant subscriptions, and before you know it we have subscriptions being billed to us that we aren’t really using. 

Check your bill, and see if there are any subscriptions for ANYTHING that may not be getting very much use.  If it’s video streaming, consider just streaming for ONE service as opposed to two or three (I can’t be the only one who at one time had three streaming services, can I?)

What if there is an unexpected expense?

Look, life happens.  You can have the best intentions to do a no spend January, and then your furnace could break, or you become ill and have some medical expenses. 

Don’t beat yourself up about it because more than likely it’s out of your control anyways.  You can either keep going with the no spend month after you’ve had to pay the large expense, or defer no spend month to the following month when you can start over with a clean slate. 

Of course, just keep in mind that it isn’t an excuse to spend whatever you want for the rest of that current month.  But sometimes in the midst of crisis it’s too difficult to focus on trying to complete a fresh new challenge such as no spend January and that’s okay.  Just remember to come back to it as soon as you are able.

What about a No Spend Week?

Maybe a no spend January just seems too hard.  While I believe you can do it, it’s okay to start with a smaller challenge too.  Why not try a no spend week?  At the end of the week you might feel really good about how the week went that you will want to continue going.  

But even if you don’t, a no spend week is a great place to start the first time you ever do a no buy challenge.  Put in the hard work no matter the period of time you do it for, and you most likely will see some kind of results.

When it comes down to it, breaking a habit of shopping for fun, or spending too much money, whether it be on the little things or the big things, is the point of this challenge, and the plus side is that it’ll put more money in your pocket.

 It’ll help you live within your means.  It doesn’t matter how much money we have or don’t have, we can very easily overspend if we aren’t careful.

A no spend January can reset your spending habits and give you more financial peace.  It can help you pay off your credit card balance, save up for a large ticket item, or build up a healthy emergency fund.  It’s a great way to put you in a better spot financially.


2 thoughts on “Why you Should try a No Spend January Challenge”

  1. My husband and I have agreed to try this next month. We spend way too much money during the Christmas season and need to replenish our bank account. With only one income and ten grandchildren to buy for, you can imagine how much of a hit the account takes.
    We have food in the freezer, pantry, and I canned quite a bit this past summer.
    Your article has truly inspired me to go ahead and do it!
    Thank you!!

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