Have you ever done a “no-spend” week? I have. Like the name implies, you literally don’t spend money for an entire week on anything. It’s a great way to save money for a week, but it also help you understand your financial habits and where you can make cuts.
Some people make the exception for bills–mortgage/rent, car insurance, student loans, and the like. Obviously, you don’t want to be late on those! Other people pay those bills ahead of time. Either way, there’s no buying gasoline or groceries, going shopping, or anything else. I actually did a no-spend month, which is the same concept, except I was able to buy groceries & gas (because I can’t go a month without eating or driving!), and to be honest I caved a bit by the end of the month. Thankfully, I learned some lessons that will help you on your own no-spend week.
Instead of doing an entire month like I did, break it down into a week or two, at least for your first time. The key to change is to take small baby steps. You know how if you go on a crash diet and stop eating sweets suddenly, you’ll eventually cave? That’s exactly what you’ll want to avoid in this case.
Here are some other tips to follow that will add some structure to your week and help you get through it.
1. Look at your calendar and see what is going on in the week. You want to pick a week that isn’t going to be too stressful. If you already have a lot of things going on, especially things that will cost money, then don’t pick that week. Doing so would be setting an unrealistic expectation that may leave you disappointed. Pick a week where you have no major plans and can just lie low at home.
2. Decide what you want your “extra” money to go toward. The concept behind a no-spend week is to save money that you normally would have spent in order to achieve some other goal. Be sure you have a plan on what to do with that extra money because it makes it much easier to not spend when you have the extra motivation. For me, my no-spend month was so I could have extra money to pay off debt. A friend of mine did a no-spend month so she could have extra money for her emergency fund.
3. Purchase any groceries and necessities you will need for the week. After you have picked which week you want to do, plan what you’ll need to last through the week. Take stock on anything you are running extremely low on, such as toilet paper or shampoo or various groceries. I highly recommend meal planning especially during this week so you aren’t tempted by fast food. Also, fill your car up with gas before the week begins as well.
4. Stay home or find free entertainment. And I mean FREE, not just cheap. I usually pick a week that I just want to relax at home as my no-spend week, because it’s much harder to resist shopping if you’re driving through town. However, if you can find truly free entertainment, that’s okay too. One of my friends went to a free local outdoor concert during her own no-spend week, and instead of buying sodas and food, she ate lunch before she went and packed her own soda.
5. Track your progress. As a military significant other, I’m used to counting down to things, specifically counting down the days to when my boyfriend returns from training. I love looking on my phone each morning (I use the app “Doing Time”) and visually seeing how much time has already passed and how much closer I am to my goal. If using a smartphone app isn’t your style, try marking it on your calendar or hanging a sign on the fridge. You could even go old-school and make one of those paper chains that you tear a link off at the end of each day!
6. Tell others. One of the biggest keys for me during my debt free journey is to share my experience with others. Not only do they keep me accountable, but it also helps them understand why sometimes I can’t attend parties and such. The same idea works for a no-spend week.
7. Be prepared for things to come up. Inevitably, during your no spend week, someone will invite you to dinner. Know ahead of time what you will say (such as “How about we eat dinner and play board games at my house instead?”) will help prevent the panic when you’re put on the spot.
8. Once the spending freeze is over, re-evaluate your budget. A no-spend week will open your eyes to how much you are spending on non-necessities. You may discover that you spend quite a bit of money at the coffee shop each morning. What about only going for special occasions and making your own coffee at home instead? Do you stop at the gas station for a snack on your way home? Why not pack some granola bars in your car? You’ll likely uncover many opportunities like this to cut back. And your no-spend week will be proof that you can make the cuts without too much difficulty.
Have you ever done a no-spend week? If so, how did it go? If not, are you willing to try it?