Minimalist Mama

Amp up your minimalism with a no-spend challenge

I’ve heard a lot about having a “no-spend month” as a way to save money and I kept finding excuses to put it off.

Then I realized that the excuses were holding me back — after all, what did I have to lose by trying it?

No-spend months are a way to drastically reduce your spending during a 30-day timeframe. It’s a way to examine your budget in greater detail and focus on the necessities. There are several ways to do a “no-spend month,” but the easiest is to set a goal for all food, household and other expenses. This does not include regular fixed bills, like rent/mortgage, utilities or healthcare expenses. Obviously, it’s not advisable to risk anyone’s health by not purchasing necessary prescriptions or going to the doctor; those should be considered in your budget but not part of the no-spend challenge.

No matter how you decide to do a no-spend month, it’s up to you and your family to set the “rules.” You can keep it simple by not dining out or abstaining from buying coffee and clothing for a month, or you can challenge yourself to limit your groceries to only the necessary perishables and eat through your pantry and freezer.

Or, your family may decide to try the challenge for a week rather than month. I have done a no-spend work week where I do not eat out for lunch or buy any extras for the office and halt the trips to the grocery store on the way home from work. It’s a quick way to see immediate results.

One “rule” to consider is allowing a budget for charity and gifts so that your challenge does not negatively impact others.

An easy way to decide if something should be allowed in the challenge is by asking yourself, “is this a want or a need?” Meet your needs but hold off on the wants so you can be more mindful of your spending habits.

A no-spend month or challenge is a great way to jumpstart saving for your emergency fund or for a family vacation. It also will help you and your family get creative when it comes to money-saving ideas — try new recipes with the items in your pantry or borrow a cookbook from the library for inspiration. Use your stockpile of toiletries. If something is broken, try to fix it yourself rather than throwing it out — there often are YouTube videos that can help. However, if it’s a plumbing or electrical emergency, leave that to the professionals! There also are helpful videos online about making minor clothing repairs.

Once your “no-spend” time is up, figure out what you are doing with the money you saved and do it — pay off debt, put the money in your savings or book that trip. Try not to resume your negative spending habits.

If you need some help or tips on starting a no-spend challenge, there are many online resources. Helpful printables can be found on Pinterest for inspiration and to stay on track. A great website to explore is Living Well, Spending Less (https://www.livingwellspendingless.com/) — or check out the book of the same name — where Ruth Soukup shares tips for successful spending and saving.

Some people do a no-spend challenge several times a year as a way to use up extras and get back on track — January and September are good times for these challenges. If you encourage people to purchase gift cards for experiences as gifts, this can be a great time to use up those movie passes or restaurant certificates, so you don’t feel like you’re missing out. It also is a good time to curb some habits, like smoking or drinking. If you can go 30 days without something, maybe try 60!

Since this is my final column, you can check out previous tips and more at https://minimalistmamainpa.wordpress.com/. I wish you all success in your minimalism journey!

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