Need a New Year Reset? Try a No Spend Month

Budgeting Need a New Year Reset? Try a No Spend Month

A few months back I logged into Mint and got a real shock. A $700 grocery spend for the month for my two-person, two-cat household. I needed a major money reset.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve moved from needing a strict budget to make ends meet, to being able to spend more freely. The extra income has been awesome, but the lifestyle inflation that goes with it is more of a mixed bag.

It’s lovely to be able to save more easily, go on vacations, and to have the freedom to live how I want (within reason). But buying what I wanted when I wanted it wasn’t making me happier. Not only that, it’s just not in line with my values. I’m gunning for that FIRE life, but I know I’ll never make it there if I let lifestyle creep take over.

For me, a No Spend Month was the answer. I hoped it would be like a financial reset button. It’s time to take a hard look at why I make my spending decisions and find ways to improve.

The Rules

My No Spend Month rules were pretty simple.

  1. No spending on anything, except for necessities (gas, food, medical bills, household essentials).
  2. Evaluate what’s really a necessity.
  3. Find ways to optimize.

The goal? Use what I’ve saved to make an extra car payment, and carry forward some good habits into the future.

The Wins

I spent the first couple of weeks focused on getting my grocery budget under control. I got my boyfriend on board with meal planning and shopping on a budget. I took the time to go through what’s in my fridge so that I could cook more efficiently. I shopped only for produce I knew I could consume, and our household food waste went way down.

This was a big win, we slashed our food spending by around $300, and ate pretty darn well.

The “no spending” rule also helped me realize how often I had been shopping online. $30 here, $10 there on little things I don’t really need. It was quickly adding up. I returned to Mr. Money Mustache’s wisdom on respecting $10.

Here was my trick—when I caught myself shopping, I’d shut my browser window before I could complete my purchase. The stuff in my shopping cart would (of course) still be there later, but I’d invariably forget about it. Surprise! I didn’t need it anyway.

The Losses

Let’s be real. I made a couple of exceptions to “no spending”.

I didn’t cancel every subscription in anticipation of my project (I need my Netflix, after all). Instead, I took a good hard look at those small monthly expenses that add up. I canceled subscriptions that weren’t adding value to my life, saving me a couple hundred bucks over the course of a year.

Holiday travel meant a couple of (relatively inexpensive) airport meals. I could have done extra work to pack enough food, but time and luggage limitations got in my way.

I also spent a little money on gifts for the holidays. I try to work gifts into my budget slowly on a year-round basis, but I found myself pulling out my credit card for friends and family, despite my No Spend Month.

The Takeaway

Ultimately, my No Spend Month was a successful reminder of the joys of living simply.

I got back in touch with creative, frugal home cooking.
I felt happier and more in control.
And I made more than an extra car payment… I made three.

I saw the power that a few changes can make on my savings levels, and I’m hooked. One No Spend Month has transitioned smoothly into the next. I’m making a few more exceptions from day-to-day, but I feel back in control of my finances, and so excited for the next year of saving.


Comments (5) Leave your comment

    1. Hi Victoria! We did it a couple of ways. First, we tried to do most of our shopping at discount grocery stores, like Aldi and Grocery Outlet. While they won’t have everything we need, we can get most of our basics there at a discount.

      We also utilized Imperfect Produce, which is a produce delivery service that sends you food that has been rejected from grocery stores because of surpluses or cosmetic imperfections. It all tastes great, and is cheap and convenient.

      Finally, we just invested a little more energy in meal planning. When you sit down and think about what you have, you end up making better use of what’s already in your pantry, and buying less at the store. We shopped using a list, instead of just allowing ourselves to put whatever looks good in the cart.

      Good luck with your meal planning and budgeting!

Leave a Reply