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How To Have A Successful No-Spend Month

In today’s economy, we’re always looking for ways to stretch every dollar. However, the allure of new gadgets, trendy clothes, and the latest dining spots can often lead to impulsive spending. An iced latte here and an Uber Eats delivery there, topped off by a spontaneous online order can add up over time.

For those seeking to curb frivolous expenses and adopt a more mindful approach to their finances, participating in a no-spend month could be the solution to gaining control over their spending.

What is the No-Spend Challenge?

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The no-spend challenge is a personal finance exercise where individuals commit to not spending money on non-essential items for a specific period. This could mean cutting off a subscription service, limiting your nights out for drinks, pulling back on online shopping, and holding off on big, spontaneous purchases to see how much you’d save over the month. The challenge encourages participants to evaluate their spending habits, identify areas of unnecessary expenditure, and redirect their financial focus toward savings and debt reduction.

This spending requires one to differentiate between needs and wants, with the base necessities being food, transportation, housing, essential bills, and medical/mental health expenses.

Preparing for a No-Spend Challenge

When embarking on a no-spend month, proper preparation is key to ensure you make the most out of the experience.

Financial expert and founder of The Frugal Feminista, Kara Stephens, says that having a compelling “why” can serve as a motivator to endure the ups and downs of the challenge, especially if it’s your first time. “Have a clear idea of what your goals and outcomes are for the challenge. Do you want to be grateful for what you have? Do you want to save a certain amount of money?” she tells xoNecole. “Know what’s going to be your ‘after-no-spend challenge’ sustainability plan because we’re hoping that your habits and your perspective on spending are changing and that you find a way to make that a part of your life after the challenge.”

One of the initial catalysts for the recent popularity of the no-spend challenge is to combat “revenge spending.” This spending habit, triggered by the “life is short” reality of the pandemic, has caused many of us to want to make up for lost time or missed experiences, which can lead to reckless financial decisions and jeopardize future stability.

Because of this, Stephen advises us to reframe our thinking around revenge spending to avoid putting our financial future at risk.

“Try and shift your perspective on revenge spending and say, yes, I want to live my best life, but how can I spend it responsibly?” she says. “How can I revenge spend on a budget? How can I remove the idea of revenge spending from my lexicon and just live well and plan systematically so it doesn’t take away from my future financial goals?”

Benefits of A No-Spend Month

Taking part in a no-spend month has a number of benefits, one of which is the self-awareness and gratitude you gain by cutting out non-essential purchases. “You’re more financially self-aware because you’re only thinking about what you deem as essentials,” Stephens says. “It can also make you more resourceful because you have to use what you have in your home, rather than going out and shopping.”

Those who take part in the challenge often find they become more intentional with their purchases, distinguishing between what they truly need and what they can do without. The money saved over this course of time can then be redirected towards paying off debt, building an emergency fund, or being put into a sinking fund.

Due to the rigid nature of the challenge, Stephens says that it’s important to have a sustainable framework to follow the no-spend challenge to avoid reverting to old habits. “It can be like “yo-yo dieting,” she explains. “If you were very strict for a certain period, but didn’t create any type of habit or change of mind to continue with it, you could resort back to revenge spending, ironically.”

Things to Keep In Mind

While it may seem like just another financial trend, taking part in a no-spend month can provide precious data about not just how much money you spend but also your mindset and relationship around money. You can observe how your feelings about money change and highlight areas of improvement. Alternatively, you can even start a sinking fund that allows you to put money aside for large purchases or personal experiences.

Ultimately, it’s not that spending money is bad, it’s about how you approach spending in a responsible way that ensures your financial security and success in the long run.

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Featured image by Evgeniia Siiankovskaia/Getty Images

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