How to Plan a No-Spend Month

Have you heard of a no-spend month? Participants may have varying opinions of the ideal length and degree of financial restraint required, but the idea is basically the same across the board. A no-spend month is essentially a month in which you spend no more than absolutely necessary.

“No-spend month” is, perhaps, a misnomer, because there is really spending taking place. After all, your mortgage or rent can’t go unpaid. You’ve still got to eat. And what about the regular expenses of gas, heat, electric, etc?

It is for these reasons that I say a no-spend month is one in which you spend no more than absolutely necessary. You kick into penny-pinching mode, and you know you can do it because it’s only for a short time period.


Join our No-Spend Together community on Facebook for accountability this month! 

Why do a no-spend month?

There are many reasons to participate in such a goal. Some may include:

  • To pay off debt faster (an extra mortgage or car payment, pay off a credit card, etc.)
  • To save up for a big goal (house project, new clothes, a down payment, a flock of sheep- whoops, did I type that?)
  • To start an emergency fund
  • To replenish a scant bank account
  • To save up money for the purpose of giving or blessing someone in need

You’ll notice that all the motivations for doing a no-spend month boil down to one main goal: to spend less and save more.

How exactly do I accomplish a no-spend month? 

  1. Calculate your potential savings. If you don’t yet have a monthly budget, now is the time to create one. Determine which of your expenses are non-negotiable (monthly payments), which are somewhat flexible (groceries and gas), and which can be eliminated for the month entirely (fun activities, eating out, etc.). Calculate how much you could save by reducing your flexible budget costs and completely cutting the unnecessary expenses. Seeing your potential savings on paper can be highly motivating!
  2. Gather your assets. Check your pantry and freezer for food that should be used up in meals this month. See if you have any gift cards that could be used to help cover an expense this month. Make sure you’ve put your holiday bonuses in the bank. You get the idea. Now is the time to gather up and use those resources that you might have been ignoring up til this point.
  3. Plan how to save in specific areas. This is perhaps the most painful and the most important part of a no-spend month. Start with the easy stuff- the unnecessary purchases. Then, move on to flexible budget categories to minimize your spending.
    • Decide not to buy any new “toys” this month, neither for yourself nor your kids. Explain to your family that by refraining from purchasing the newest gadget, or cute jeans, or phone case, or whatever, you will be meeting financial goals that will allow you more freedom in the future.
    • Eliminate expensive activities whenever possible. These could include nights at the theater, your golf day with the guys, a monthly yoga class, or other classes and events. Remember it’s only for a month. You can do this. (Don’t worry, we’ll talk about other free ways to have fun soon.)
    • Cut unnecessary items from your grocery budget, such as unhealthy snack foods or expensive meats and seafood. Plan for a money-saving month of meals. Check out my month of frugal meals, my $25 grocery challenge, or this Pinterest board full of meal planning ideas. I would suggest planning your whole month out in advance to help you stay on track.
    • Cut your gas budget by carpooling one day a week, combining errands with a regular commute, or choosing to stay in when you are able.
    • Slash your “eat out” budget by packing your lunch, making your own coffee, and avoiding vending machines this month.
    • Save on your utilities by turning down the heat a few degrees, turning off the lights when you’re not in the room, and unplugging energy-draining cords when not in use.
    • For each purchase you must make this month, ask yourself: is this necessary? If it is, is there any way I could save on it?
  4. Plan for pleasures. This could turn out to be a pretty dreary month if you didn’t plan for some fun too. At least once a week, carve out some time for a fun free activity. Make an event out of these frugal endeavors, and take pleasure in the fact that you don’t have to pay for them. It makes it all so much more enjoyable! Here are some ideas:
    • Instead of going to the movies, borrow a free DVD from the library to bring home.
    • Instead of a gym membership this month, plan a weekly hike outdoors or free online exercise videos.
    • Throw an in-home party. Instead of ordering pizza or purchasing pricey snacks, try making your own homemade pizza, crackers, potato chips, dips, etc. Homemade versions of party food are almost always cheaper and healthier, and you can have fun as a family in the process of making them.
    • Plan a visit to local places you can enjoy without cost: a free museum, a walk in the local park, an afternoon reading at the library, an historic walking tour, or other cost-efficient area attractions.
    • Start a hobby:  journaling, sewing, woodworking, drawing, scrapbooking, foraging, etc. Pick one for which you don’t have to buy anything new.
  5. Stay accountable to someone. Get a friend to join you in your no-spend month so you can check in with each other each week to see how your spending is going. Or, join my new Facebook group for the month of January: No-Spend Together!

If trying a complete no-spend month seems too overwhelming to you, consider cutting expenses in just one area. Remember that everyone’s no-spend month will look different. The point is not to win some intangible frugal competition, but rather, to meet your own individual savings goals!

Have you ever tried a no-spend month? Would you consider it?

Remember to join our new Facebook community to help save you money this month.

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