True story: I didn’t spend any money for a whole month

Young woman window shops.

Why I chose to do a no-spend month and what I learned about the value of a dollar.

After receiving my last paycheck of 2016 and going over budget for the umpteenth time, I made a New Year’s resolution to take more control over my finances. I decided to challenge myself to do a “no-spend month.” What is that and why would anyone commit to such a thing, you ask? A no-spend month is when you pick any month of the year and decide to freeze your spending of anything frivolous beyond necessities such as gas, groceries, and rent. For me, this meant not buying my lunch everyday, no impulse spending, and no online shopping.

Why I committed

I chose to do a no-spend challenge because I noticed how I wasn’t able to pay down my credit card bills as fast as I wanted and I was always going over my budget. I wanted to feel like I was in control of my money. I have a list of financial goals but I’ll never be able to reach them if I don’t give my money a job to do — down to the last cent.

During those 31 days, my self-discipline was challenged and I had to change my lifestyle habits. Instead of going to grab lunch at my favorite restaurant, I cooked my meals at home and packed the leftovers. If I saw something I wanted to buy online, I bookmarked it. Once the month was over, I would go back to that bookmark to decide if I still wanted the item. Most times, I didn’t even want it anymore!

What I learned

There was one moment in particular when thinking before spending just clicked for me. It was around the middle of the month and I had just started chiropractic sessions. Until my insurance would start to chip in on the payments, I had to pay a certain amount for each visit out of pocket. After I paid for the first session, I sat in my car and thought about how I was able to afford the care I had just received. If it wasn’t for the no-spend challenge, I wouldn’t have been able to start my treatments. This is a perfect example of why it’s good to be cognizant of your money habits and really evaluate each purchase. You never know when you may need that extra cash for something you actually need versus impulsively spending it.

“I wanted to feel like I was in control of my money.”

I even kept track of how I would’ve spent my money if I weren’t doing the challenge. I saved $245 that month. Here’s my basic frivolous-expense breakdown:

  No-spend month Typical month
Groceries and eating out $65 $135
Clothing $0 $80
Online shopping $5 $65
Miscellaneous purchases $20 $55
Total spent $90 $335


Not buying new clothes forced me to create more combinations with what I already had in my closet. And I was really proud when I noticed how much I saved from not buying miscellaneous things, like home gadgets and makeup during a trip to the pharmacy. It showed me that I am able to control my impulse spending.

I used that extra $245 to pay more on my credit card bills, and I also put some in my savings account. I’m already planning for another no-spend month in the near future. If you’re struggling to save or pay off your credit card, consider trying a no-spend month — the habits you develop may influence you to adopt a constant “less-spend” lifestyle.

Want to read more about building a spending plan after graduation?

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