As we went through our budget last month, it became clear that we need something drastic to really get us moving on debt repayment. We have our household expenses down to the bare minimum, we do a pretty good job with groceries and we’ve worked hard to eliminate unnecessary expenses. Still, we end up with little things throughout the month—$2.99 here, $5 there—that impact our budget.
It’s not a lot—don’t get me wrong—but if we really want to make progress this year, we’ll have to take a hard look at all of our spending. With a No Spend Month challenge, we will have nothing going out that isn’t a bill to be paid or a necessary expense. I’m not as ambitious as the Girl with the Red Balloon, who has embarked on a No Spend Year—wow!
For a quick kick start to our budget, February will be a No Spend Month for our family. It seemed to work well for my friend Joanna a couple years ago, and I think this process will help us be more aware of the money we do spend. If we have to say no all month long, we’ll get a better picture of what needs to be officially added to the budget or where we need to continue to control spending.
So, for the month of February (and, yes, we totally picked this month because it’s the shortest!), we will not spend any unnecessary money.
There will be no purchases. No clothes. No movies. No toys. No frivolous spending at all. Family fun will be free. Girls Night will have to be in, with groceries already in the budget for this month. Putting purchases off to next month isn’t the goal either—it doesn’t save money so much as it delays spending. (i.e. Letting someone else pay this month, with the expectation that we will pay next time.)
No Spend Exceptions:
- Groceries: Even if I had the stockpile to last through the month, I would still grocery shop as usual. It’s just part of my system—if I use up what we have, I would only spend more next month trying to replenish our stock. However, there will be no fast food, pizza or dinners out.
- Fuel: Obviously, we can’t control much about this expense. I will, however, focus on reducing our travel. This should be easy, since we aren’t going anywhere to spend money all month.
- Date Night: We don’t get many opportunities to go out, but it’s a top priority for us to keep our marriage strong. If a free babysitter comes along this month, we’ll have to take it! Although, we will try to keep to gift cards or free events.
- My niece’s 1st birthday: We have a pre-established budget for birthday gifts that I will stick to. We will also keep our travel costs to a minimum, but our budget exercise will not affect her special day in the least.
I’ll be tracking my progress each week—if all goes well, a simple spend update would be pretty boring. (Here’s where we didn’t spend money this week.) So, I’ll focus on what we had to do to stick with our No Spend Challenge. A look at how we avoid spending will be more beneficial in the long term. Paying attention to things that are the hardest to pass up will shed some light on areas we may need to modify for next month’s budget.
What do you think—have you ever attempted a No Spend challenge before?