Can A No Spend Month Actually Help You?

Have you ever taken part in a no spend month? If you’re looking to learn how to save money, especially lowering your monthly spending budget, a no spend month can be a great way to do so! Many people are in debt. In fact, the average person has some sort of debt, whether that be…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: August 21, 2023

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Can A No Spend Month Actually Help You?Have you ever taken part in a no spend month?

If you’re looking to learn how to save money, especially lowering your monthly spending budget, a no spend month can be a great way to do so!

Many people are in debt. In fact, the average person has some sort of debt, whether that be credit card debt, a mortgage, student loans, or something else.

We all have things we have to spend money on, and there is even some debt we knowingly take on, like student loans or a home, but many people make unnecessary purchases on a regular basis, sometimes every single day. These unnecessary purchases can lead to not being able to save money or even adding to your debt. This can negatively impact you for years, even decades, and sadly for some, your entire life.

And, this is why a no spend month can help!

A no spend month or a no spend challenge is where you don’t spend money in a certain category or categories for a designated amount of time. It’s a way to significantly cut back overspending in certain areas, which has many benefits, such as just saving money.

Now, a no spend month doesn’t mean that you are literally spending $0. After all, you most likely have bills, such as a mortgage, you need to eat, you probably need electricity (unless you are self-sufficient), and so on.

Instead, a no spend month is where you decide to spend $0 outside of all normal necessities, like the ones I just listed above. This could mean not spending any money on clothing, on junk food or going out to eat, on going to Target or some other store and randomly buying items, and so on.

I find no spend challenges extremely beneficial. Some naysayers of no spend challenges think that they don’t work because the person will just push off the purchase until after the challenge is over. While that may be true for some people, I don’t think that’s the norm.

There are so many positives of a no spend month, which I will detail below.

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A no spend month can help you change your bad habits.

One big positive of a no spend challenge is that it can help you to change your normal shopping habits. A no spend challenge can help you see areas in which you are overspending, because you will have to think and wait until the challenge is over before you actually buy something.

If you make a conscious effort to remember all of the things you had to say no to, you can start to see what types of unnecessary spending you do. This might be clothes shopping, going out to lunch, or grabbing coffee.

Or, if you know where your problem area is, you can put a no spend challenge in place for that specific spending area.

This can then help you change your spending habits well into the future, for the better!

Related: How To Get Free Clothes Online

No spend challenges can stop impulse spending.

We’ve all gone to Target and spent way more money than we originally planned. Going into a store and only needing one item yet coming out with ten other things is even a norm for some.

By taking part in a no spend challenge, you can prevent yourself from cluttering your life with items you don’t need.

I think this is one of the top reasons for why no spend challenges work. If you aren’t going shopping in the first place, you are preventing yourself from impulse purchases, and you have to think more about the items you do want to buy, which means you are likely to understand whether or not you should purchase them at all.

For me, whenever I think twice about a purchase, I almost 100% end up not purchasing the item. If I go home and think about an item to purchase, I almost always decide not to get it.

You can finally use some of the items you already have.

If you are like me, you probably have tons of food in your pantry and freezer that you are not eating. Plus, you may have clothing in your closet that you haven’t worn in forever. This can be applied to many other items in your life.

By taking part in a no spend challenge, you may find use for the items you already have, instead of letting them spoil or completely forgetting about them. You will also realize what items you probably shouldn’t buy anymore of because they are a waste of money.

Related: How To Live On One Income

A no spend challenge can motivate you.

A good challenge can help anyone and everyone become more motivated.

If it helps you, you can think of a no spend challenge like a game. Maybe you even give yourself a reward at the end, but make sure it doesn’t wreck the savings you have just earned.

If you are cutting back on going out to eat, think how good a dinner out will be after a month of dinners at home.

Or, maybe, the amount you were able to save by taking part in a no spend month will be the type of reward and motivation you need to make positive financial decisions well into the future. That is a reward in itself!

It can make you aware of your spending problems.

Challenging yourself and analyzing your spending can help you be more aware of where your money is going.

You will see how many times each month you almost spent money and think about the ways you can improve your spending behaviors.

A no spend month can help you declutter.

Depending on what type of challenge you are doing, you will still be able to buy certain things, but, for the most part, you are trying to use up what you already have. This can help you declutter, clean out your pantry, and more.

I’ve done a no spend challenge for pantry and freezer items before, which really helped me save money on food and clear out things that were about to go bad.

It doesn’t have to be hard.

There are many ways to take part in a no spend challenge and still have a great time.

Below are some examples:

  • Look for free days. There are many days where businesses will offer items for free. There’s National Coffee Day, Donut Day, Ice Cream Day, and more.
  • Look for coupons for free stuff. Similar to the above, you may be able to find free treats, free movie rentals, and more.
  • Play board games with friends and/or family.
  • Finally complete a DIY project that you’ve been pushing off.
  • Have a potluck.
  • Get your friends to join in so that it is more competitive. Plus, everyone can help each other out!
  • Visit your local library. The libraries in Colorado are even giving away free state park passes! Besides books, you can also borrow movies, magazines, and more.
  • Go to free events around your town.
  • Go to a national park, when they are free. There are a few days each year when they’re free!
  • Take part in mystery shopping so that you can get items and meals for free.
  • Explore your town and the outdoors.
  • Avoid stores which may tempt you to shop, such as Target or the mall.

How to start your next no spend month.

No spend months are fairly simple. Here’s a quick guide to get you going in the right direction:

  1. Think about what you want to cut out and not spend money on. Some categories that people try to work on include: restaurants, grocery shopping, clothing, cosmetics/nails, and entertainment.
  2. Realize why you want to take part in a no spend challenge. To stay motivated, you will want to think about this. Are you trying to save more money? Do you think you have a spending problem? Are you trying to save more money for a different goal, such as a vacation?
  3. Set a timeframe. Will you do a no spend week, month, year? Designate a time frame so you have a way to see your progress.
  4. Decide on rules for yourself. Lastly, you’ll want to set some rules for yourself and whoever else may be taking part in the no spend challenge with you, such as your spouse or a friend. You may want to set rules about what items you can buy (such as if your no spend challenge is not to buy groceries, perhaps you still want to purchase fresh items such as fruit and vegetables), how you will keep track of your spending (perhaps Personal Capital or Mint can help you with this), if you can still use gift cards that you may already have to purchase things, if you can “get ready” for a no spend challenge, and so on.

Do you think no spend months work? Have you ever taken part in a no spend challenge?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Jimmy Aki

    I needed this. I’ve been spending a lot more than I should of recent and I plan to get married in 10 months.
    Thanks for this post, Michelle.

  2. The Curious Frugal

    I haven’t done a no-spend month challenge before but I naturally don’t spend much beyond the necessities (I do have my splurge area…coffee…!!!) I have tried a no-sugar challenge though and having a set time span of a month was so important for the first point you wrote about – changing your habits. You need that much time because the first week or so can feel terrible if you’re missing what you’re used to (spending, sugar)!!

    1. I need to do a no sugar challenge!

  3. Vonda

    I’m all for a no spend month. We need to do a no spend month for eating out. With a family of five eating out just one time can easily cost us $35 (that’s only if it’s fastfood). June was a busy spending month for us, so I’m definitely reeling things back in this month.

    1. Eating out is so expensive!

  4. Wondwossen

    I think I should do this. I mostly drink beer at night. It is a lot of money that I am spending every month. I am not alcoholic. I have tried this not for a month or more but for a week or so. So it won’t be hard for me to try this.

    Thanks

  5. Jan

    This is exactly what I need. 1)a no Facebook month(i am a sucker for the shoe and makeup ads)
    2) a no Amazon month(how about a no-online purchases month?)
    Count me in!

  6. We do a no-spend month every January after Christmas. it’s the best time of year for us to do it because we are tired of going out and spending money anyways! πŸ™‚ We always find it beneficial.

  7. Great post Michelle! I think it definitely depends on the person, some people are just savers and some are just spenders but that doesn’t mean people cant change it just means it will be much harder for some then others. For me it will be pretty easy to do no spend month but I know people who will think this is impossible. I feel everyone can do a no spend month but it may take some time to work up to this point for some people.

  8. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    This is so fun! I do think no-spend challenges are great for all the reasons you listed here. Some people (like me!) need an all-or-nothing, extreme approach to cleanse bad habits. I’ve always had difficulty with moderation, and no-spend months really help. I will say they’re much more challenging when you have joint finances with a partner; Mr. Picky Pincher likes buying things. πŸ˜‰

    1. Haha one spouse is usually the spender!

  9. I have to admit I love impulse spending. I might see some fragrances I like online and order almost a dozen at once. Or order some shoes. I am a shoe and fragrance fan and love to keep those stocked up virtually to the ceiling…lol

  10. Kari

    I love no spend months! My husband and I do one maybe 2 x a year. It’s a great way to clear out the pantry. Usually we do it in October to help save $ for the upcoming holidays, and then in spring to help save for a summer vacation.

  11. Hi Michelle, I really feel this post!

    I’ve been on a shopping ban for about 8 months now, where I don’t buy unnecessary stuff like clothes, DVDs, magazines, etc. (I used to shop a lot!) It was a little difficult initially, but what I’ve realised over the months is that I feel a lot more free, and a lot less guilt. I’ve identified my crappy shopping habits and stopped impulse shopping altogether.

    Having a no-spend week/month/year feels super motivating, and I save 75% of my monthly income, despite my not-quite-incredible pay. It’s amazing how much excess we accumulate when we have almost everything we need, right at home. Thanks for the awesome post and motivation! πŸ™‚

  12. Jake Jones

    Not a bad idea! My wife and I essentially did this when we started our budget because we really limited ourselves. However, it might be a fun idea to try to problem solve for a month and save on several hundred dollars of expenses. Thanks for posting this!

  13. Janita

    I’ve never tried a no spend month, but my husband and I did recently go on a budget and it’s helped us a lot. We’ve managed to save almost $1000 each month!

  14. These great tips saved me in college.

    I remember taking it to the extreme then though. I almost declared a no water month.

    But, I still got this great tip to thank for really cutting my spendings then.

  15. This is a great idea and helps prioritize what really matters in day to day living. Giving up something for a month is long enough to make you realize if you really need it or not when the month is over.

    When I started my debt snowball and the first debts started getting paid off so I could concentrate on the remaining ones, I got a much greater sense of satisfaction than any material purchase could. The debt snowball was only possible because I made conscious effort to cut costs elsewhere (though I didn’t do or even know about the no month spending challenge which would have certainly turbocharged it).

  16. A lot of my clients (retirees) do this as well. They say it gets harder to save as you get older, especially when you prioritized saving your entire life. However, a no spend month keeps everything in perspective. Great write up!

  17. David

    I’ve been spending significantly more than I ought to of later and I intend to get hitched in 10 months. Much obliged for this post, Michelle.

  18. DNN

    Hey Michelle,

    Just stopping by to check up on you. Everything good my friend? I was patiently waiting for your next blog post and sitting here trying to figure out what I’m going to write in the positive affirmation blog for a post encouraging people to take the side hustle seriously enough to start an online business. Hope to see a post from you this week. πŸ™‚

  19. Brian

    I love no spend months. I do 2 or 3 a year, typically sometime after Christmas, and then over the summer before taking vacations to help “get ahead” of the inevitable vacation expenses. It works wonders and a month doesn’t seem like an unnecessarily long time. The key is not to do it at times when you’ll only set yourself up for failure, such as during a vacation, Christmas, kids birthdays, etc.

  20. After reading Cait Flanders’ book The Year of Less, I was thinking of doing a one month challenge. But I haven’t done it yet. Maybe now’s the time!

  21. I found this post while searching for a guide to link to in my writing. I did a few no-spend months last year and they were so eye-opening and helped me start to be more mindful of my spending. You touched on the criticism that people might simply start spending again when the month was over. For me I would write down anything “extra” I wanted to purchase during that time and if I still wanted it when the month was over, I would buy it – but the thing is that usually after the 30 days were over, I didn’t even want it anymore.

    Excellent guide to no-spend months, thanks!!