Try A "No-Spend" Month to Reduce Debt
February 25, 2016 / Sara Davis / Personal Finance Mistakes and Bad Habits to Avoid
Take the No-Spend Month Challenge
Paying off debt often means making lifestyle changes and taking a close look at your spending habits.
Oftentimes, you can make some shortcuts here and there to improve your monthly payments. However, becoming debt-free takes time and patience.
Sometimes, the slow rate of progress can be discouraging. If you have ever felt like paying off old credit card bills and auto loans was taking too long, consider amplifying your payment plan by planning a no-spend month.
A no-spend month means that you will go on a fiscal fast for 30 days as a way to save more money and potentially boost your monthly payments.
Going one month without spending on unnecessary purchases can contribute to emergency funds or retirement plans as well.
There are 2 different approaches to a no-spend month.
The first means you will only pay for necessities, like food, utilities and gas for your car.
Another, as highlighted by the blog, Six Figures Under, cuts it down even more, eliminating grocery expenditures with help from an already-stocked pantry and a bountiful garden.
A no-spend month is a challenging 30 days, but some preparation can make it easier.
Pick The Right Month
There are some months that inevitably encourage spending more so than others.
For example, it might be difficult to stay away from spending during December, especially if you have family or close friends you want to buy gifts for. Because of this, Bankrate suggested choosing your 30 days wisely.
"I usually choose to do a fiscal fast before or right after a major purchase," said Andrea Karim, the Wise Bread blogger who has successfully completed no-spend months. "It helps to remind me what I can accomplish if I stop throwing money out the window on small, dumb purchases."
Don't Stock Up
According to Frugal Beautiful, the point of a no-spend month is not only to save up funds for a major contribution to debt or for a large purchase, but also to learn how to use what you already have available.
This means that, while it's tempting to stock up on extra food and other regular purchases before day one, it would defeat the point.
This doesn't mean you should prematurely begin your spending cleanse. Buy the food you would regularly purchase at the end of the month before you begin. Six Figures Under's author explained she and her family have a predetermined budget for grocery and household needs. Before they began their no-spend month, they used up the remainder of their budget for the month, but did not go over.
However, there are some staples you should double-check your reserves on before embarking on a shopping-free month, such as:
- Frozen Vegetables
- Nonperishable Food
- Meat, bread and milk, which can be kept in the freezer to eat later in the month
- Toilet Paper
- Cleaning Supplies
"While it's tempting to stock up on extra food and other regular purchases ... it would defeat the point (of a no-spend month)"
The beginning of the month might seem easy enough because your pantry is likely freshly stocked and you haven't missed many of the normal grocery store trips. However, after a week or two, it can become difficult. It's important to stay motivated during this time.
Bankrate suggested putting a reminder of why you are doing this in a place you will see regularly.
If you are saving up for a big purchase, tape a photo of that item to your fridge. If you are going to take a chunk out of your debt load by the end of the month, make yourself a sign of encouragement to place next to your mirror. You'll see these reminders every day, and it'll remind you of the importance of sticking to your goal.
Going 30 days without spending money on anything except the most crucial items might not sound like a lot of fun, but turning the month into a game can make the challenge seem more enjoyable.
"I think that creativity helps to keep you motivated," Jeff Yeager, an author of four books focused on living frugally, told Bankrate. "It becomes a little bit of a challenge; it's kind of a game. And that's why, if you do it as a family, it can be a lot of fun."
Getting competitive can help motivate you and your family, if they are participating in the no-spend month, too. Recognize the people who come up with clever solutions to a problem you normally would have spent money on.
To some 30 days may seem like an eternity, but we promise that it will be worth it in the end. Spending little to no money for an entire month is certainly a lifestyle change for many people. It's a shocking one that, for most, isn't sustainable beyond that month.
However, sticking to the challenge can result in some great financial rewards down the road. Think of the massive amount of stress that will be taken of your shoulders when you finally get to pay off your debt!