[Update] I Tried a No Spend Month and Here’s What Happened

You’ve heard me share my decision to do a no spend month on my blog, in my email newsletter and on social media. As we approach the end of the month, I thought it would be helpful to dive a little deeper into why I did this in the first place, how I saved my money and what I learned from this experience.

How It Started

Before I share how I executed my no spend month, let’s talk about how I got to this point in the first place. 

In August of last year I endured an unexpected layoff at my full-time job. (Sidebar: Of course, hindsight is 20/20 so I should have paid more attention to the red flags but we’ll save this conversation for another time). 

Anyways, I was with the company for less than a year so I received very little severance pay. So for the months of September and October I was living off unemployment benefits. If you have never been laid off before or have never claimed unemployment benefits, it’s very little pay. Granted, I needed anything I could get because I had rent and a slew of other bills. I am very lucky to have a partner to lean on but trying to find a new job while unemployed was extremely difficult and stressful. 

Eventually I was able to secure a job that I started at the end of October and then bam—it was the holiday shopping season! Like every holiday season, I do my best to budget appropriately but like always, I ended up exceeding my budget. 

I knew by the end of December that I desperately needed a no spend month. 

How I Did It 

First and foremost, keeping track of your spending habits and finances is key. I purchased a huge daily planner right before my no spend month began and I basically kept a diary of all my expenses. I know there are apps that do this for you these days but call me old fashioned! 

I swore off any and all shopping—no new clothes, beauty products, purses, etc. I only budgeted for groceries and gas. It was basically full-on hibernation mode. 

One of the easiest things I started doing was bringing my lunch every day to work, which included making the most of dinner leftovers and meal prepping at the beginning of the week. Also, no trips to Starbucks or Smoothie King!

Usually when I filled up on gas, I would just spend whatever was needed to fill my tank but I found it much more efficient to set a limit. I’m so thankful for a short commute to work. I only spent $50 on gas this month! It’s the little things, I tell ya.

Oh, and a snow storm helped. It’s like mother nature knew I would be tempted on the weekend, so she used her powers to prevent me from leaving the house.

Lastly, I spent some time selling items from my closet on the Poshmark app. Although it’s not a very large amount, I secured $142 in sales, so that was helpful. 

 I Tried a no spend month and here's what happened

What I Learned

I’m extremely proud of myself for not having the urge to splurge this month. My goal was to save at least $1,000. So did I meet my goal? Yes, but only because I secured a quarterly bonus at my new job. 

What I realized is my first no spend month was more like a break-even period. I had credit card debt from December Christmas shopping that I wanted to pay off in full and that’s really the biggest thing that set me back. Then, tack on monthly rent, utilities, my cell phone bill, and groceries… and there goes the rest of my monthly income.

By keeping track of my spending habits I also learned that I spent close to $500 on groceries for the month of January. Am I crazy or is that the norm? I have a husband and a small furry cat at home.

After some self-reflecting, I also came to the conclusion that I use shopping as a coping mechanism for loneliness. I did my best to avoid looking at shopping blogs and websites and instead focused on creating content for my own blog, cleaning and organizing my apartment, cooking, and binge watching shows on Netflix. All great distractions and heck, even productive. 

If you think my no spend month starts and ends here, think again. That’s right, I’m carrying this into February! If January was my break-even month then I really and truly need the month of February to save. Luckily, my credit card statement is much more reasonable this time. In February, I’ve set the same goal to save $1,000. 

February Update

If doing a no spend month in January was a chance my month to pay off all credit card debt, then February was the opportunity to hit the reset button and actually save. 

I made the decision to carry my no spend challenge into February because I really want to be in a position where I’m not living paycheck to paycheck. Also, it was a short month so it’s seemed like it would be easier than January.

There were a couple spend exceptions I made for myself (and plus, everyone needs a little incentive). The first exception was a gift for my husband for Valentine’s Day. We’re not big on gift giving but I wanted to show my appreciation. I kept things very simple—I got him a little bag of Lindt chocolates and his favorite body wash. I purchased it off Sephora and to meet the free shipping limit I decided to treat myself too (the second spend exception). I treated myself to this gorgeous YSL lipstick, which has proven to be super moisturizing and the nude/pink color payoff is gorgeous.

Other than my two exceptions/incentives, I’ve only been spending my money on groceries and gas. With groceries I’ve been relying on coupons and discounts to save too. I notice I can save more money when I shop at Target for pantry items (soups, bread, crackers, chips, bottled water) and only purchase produce, dairy, and meats at my local grocery store. Needless to say I think I’ve become an expert at grocery shopping.

Final Thoughts

Kicking off this year doing a no spend challenge was the financial reprieve I desperately needed. I think I had unrealistic expectations with how much money I wanted to save; however, I was still able to position myself where I’m not living paycheck to paycheck.

Last year, I was the girl that splurged on a whim and dealt with some buyer’s remorse (especially when the credit card bill came). This year, I’ve become more responsible and thoughtful about how I spend my hard earned money.

While I have accumulated a little wish list of beauty and fashion items I would love to purchase, I’m going to be a little more cautious before I swipe my credit card this time.

If you have any questions about my no spend challenge or need some words of encouragement, let me know.

Have you done a no spend month? Do you have any additional tips for saving money in a short period of time? I’d love to learn about your experience in the comments!

First two photos by STIL on Unsplash and
Third photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash