Lessons From a No Spend Month


no spend monthWhen our family decided to adopt internationally the task of saving over $35,000 seemed daunting. In order to pay cash and not finance the adoption we knew would have to make some changes to our day to day spending. 

I consider our family frugal by nature, but we were always shocked at how much all those little expenses added up. We weren’t alone, the average American is carrying over $24,706 in non-mortgage debt, and 57% Americans have less than $1000 in savings.

Why did we choose a no spend month?

In August we saved $0. I could give you excuses like multiple birthdays, back to school purchases, and vacation, but the fact remained we needed to save money. 

We started by taking an inventory of our past month’s spending and categorizing every expense into basic categories. Our categories included automotive expenses, groceries, eating out, kids activities, bills, and miscellaneous expenses. 

The biggest offenders we had control over were eating out and miscellaneous expenses. So, it made sense for us to cut out all discretionary spending for a month. We could retrain our minds to make better choices and prove to ourselves we could survive without those things we “needed”.

Our No Spend Month Rules

The rules were simple. No discretionary spending outside of the necessities meaning no eating out. No spending money on entertainment, no new clothing or shoes, no new beauty products, no cute little pumpkin in the dollar spot. We could spend money on gifts for other people within reason and on bills and groceries. However, no slipping a fun little nail color into the grocery basket and counting it as groceries (who does that? wink, wink).  

What did we learn in the process?

We actually didn’t miss eating out as much as we thought we would. We often ate out on a busy evening or when I was tired and didn’t feel like cooking. I made a list of simple meal ideas and then stocked our pantry and freezer.  Our kids were excited about a frozen pizza for a quick meal and we didn’t shell out $50 to shovel down food in a hurry.

I realized my excuses of “needing” to go to Target or TJ Maxx gave me an excuse for all those extra purchases not on my list. When I needed a gift, I knew I couldn’t buy anything so it helped me to stay focused. While I had twinges of FOMO seeing all the cute finds on social media, I realized I would not die going without.

Being able to say no to everything was easier than saying no to some things. We included our kids in the project. I initially felt bad that I would say no to them. However, not only did we learn how to better manage our money but we also taught our kids the value of managing money well and that life is about choices. What do we want versus what we really need? We also shared with people what we were doing and why. Not only did they understand but they encouraged us! Money is a taboo topic but it’s a universal challenge.

We canceled subscriptions we didn’t use like Amazon Audible. We called and negotiated a lower rate with our internet company, and we changed our phone contract based on our needs. These things saved over $50 a month.  

After a no-spend month, I now know I CAN take control of our finances and save money. We were able to save over $1500. 

I now buy into the notion that long-term savings gain far outweighs the temporary pain. Numbers don’t lie and I saw how much money we were able to save.

How will we maintain our new habits going forward?

Going forward we want to maintain the momentum. We set a budget for items like eating out and miscellaneous expenses and will pay with cash. We also will continue to record expenses into a simple monthly budget so there are no surprises at the end of the month.  

When we said yes to adoption, we had no idea we would learn to manage our finances better. It has certainly been an unintended blessing. 

What do you want to save up for and how can a no spend month set you on a new path toward achieving that goal?


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