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One thing that has helped me tremendously with paying off $15,000 on a $30,000 income was No Spend Months! They may seem a little crazy, but you can accomplish anything in 30 days if you set your mind to it! No Spend Months are great for resetting your finances after a splurge or really just focusing in on what you already have.
I wrote a whole post covering “What is a No Spend Months”, but basically I only spend money on gas, groceries, and pre-budgeted items. Every month is going to have a reason why you can’t do a no spend month. Every month is going to have a holiday, a birthday, a baby shower, or an excuse not to try to stick to your budget. I always sit down at the beginning of the month to decide what items are budgeted for throughout the month.
Whether your goal is to not spend for one week, a month, or even a whole year, you have to be realistic about your goals. Everyone has to set their own rules for a no spend month. The best thing you can do for your goals is to prepare for obstacles that might come up throughout your no spend time.
Here are 5 things to do to prepare for a No Spend Challenge:
1. Set your goal.
When setting your goal, really think about why you want to do this challenge. Is it because you know you have been spending too much? Or maybe you have too much stuff in the house already and you are going to focus on getting rid of stuff and not bringing more in. Another great goal is to pay off the rest of a debt. If you are super close on one of your snowball accounts, maybe the whole point is to really focus on getting that student loan/credit card/car loan gone! When preparing for your no spend month, make a list of the things that you hope to get out of this month.
I don’t recommend your goal being much more than half of your take home income for the month. My average take home income is $3,000 depending on the month, I try not to set my goals too much over $1,500 because then they become unrealistic.
If you need some help setting realistic goals, check out this blog post about creating goals!
2. Prepare your budget before you start.
Write down all of the things that you have to pay. Do NOT take a No Spend Month literally. Still pay your bills! I always set a grocery and a gas budget because those are two things that absolutely can not be skipped. I am on the go too much to not have good food and a full gas tank. Some people try to live off what they have for food and gas during a No Spend Challenge. If you work from home, try to set your fuel budget lower than normal. Try to challenge yourself, but I don’t make it impossible to live.
I always try to set my grocery budget a little higher for a no spend month though because I need to account for all of the meals that I am normally eating at restaurants. You might not think you are eating out that much, but you might be surprised at how much your grocery budget changes from always eating at home.
When you prepare your budget, figure out your estimated income for the month. Try to assign every dollar to a category. If you are making $4,000 a month and your bills are $2000, write down that you are going to put $2000 towards whatever debt or money goal you are working on. When you write it down, it makes it more real.
If you don’t have a budget, check out this blog post on setting up your budget!
It is okay for you to give yourself permission to spend during the month.
If you have something special during the month, include this in your budget. Plan for those birthdays and special events, but make a plan and set a budget! Give yourself a little allowance or wiggle room in your budget for your slip ups.
When I did my October No Spend Month, I had set aside $75 for “fall festivities.” Because I had written it into my budget before the month began, I didn’t consider it a no spend fail. I also knew that I had a baby shower to attend that month. Before the month started, I knew that $50 was going to a baby shower gift. A budget is specifically designed to give you permission to spend where you need to. If you are following your budget, you are okay.
Things I don’t budget for during a no spend month: Coffee stops, eating at restaurants, clothes or shoes, books. If you plan on using already purchased (or gifted) gift cards to fight off the splurges, make sure your gift card covers your meal. You don’t want to go to a steak house with a $25 gift card and spend $100. Be careful with gift card spending if you are going to do it!
If you have never set up a budget before, start with things 5 Simple steps to creating a budget.
3. Home Inventory
To prepare for a no spend month, it is best to know what hiccups you might have for things you need in the home. Go through your cabinets and take an inventory of what you have. Look at the things that you might have to purchase this month. If you have a Sam’s Club or Costco membership, consider getting a few things there to last you a little bit longer. I buy toilet paper and laundry soap there for sure and it lasts me FOREVER!
Make a list of food items that you have in your cabinets, fridge, and freezer that could make meals for a little while. If you have to get a few items, figure out what you will need to make complete meals. Whatever you do, don’t go overboard. I use my spend month to clean out my cabinets a little bit from foods that have been there a while. I never get to the point where they are empty, but challenge yourself to use that can of tuna that has been there for a month or two.
This month, I started with a marker board on my fridge with a list of all the meals that I can make from what I already have and a list of “almost” meals with a small grocery list next to it. If I buy the things on the grocery list, I will have everything I need for my “almost” meals.
4. Set a reward for yourself
Planning a reward for the 1st of the next month is so important in keeping you from completely derailing your budget the next month. Usually, I plan for a small purchase of either a clothing item or a dinner out with friends for the first few days after my no spend month. I know of people who have gone a full year of no spending, but beginners should be very realistic with themselves.
Reward ideas include dinner out with friends, a day at Starbucks with coffee, buying yourself a clothing item that you need/want, a new item for the home, or other small item. Creating a reward for yourself can give you something to look forward to after the month is over. It can also prevent a total spending spree after not spending money for a few weeks!
5. Create a list of things to do instead of spending money!
There are a ton of things to do instead of spending money. Here is a list of 37 Free Things to Do. Some of them might now be weather appropriate depending on where you live this time of year, but give it a shot to create some of your own ideas as well. I plan on spending some time reading and writing, undoing my Christmas decor in my apartment, purging my closet, and working a ton! I would challenge you to create a list of all the projects that you want to get done. You might be surprised at the things that you can get done around the house without spending any money!
Have fun with it, but challenge yourself!
Taking time to prepare to make this a successful no spend challenge is one of the best ways to ensure you won’t fall off the wagon! Join me on the rest of the challenge. My group is full of mini challenges, encouragement, and motivation to get through 1 month of no spending. I host super focused no spend challenges once a quarter to help get back on track! It isn’t realistic to do it every single month. Every once in a while is great to help reset and really focus in on your budget. Print off the tracker and see how many days you can go without spending any money! I bet you can get a lot farther than you thing!
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