Almost a year ago, Matt & I tried to do a #nospendNovember.
It sounded like a good idea, cutting back before the holidays, banking some cash for presents, and simplifying right before a very busy season. And we stuck with it….for 11 days.
11 horrible, stressful, measly days.
If that’s not the worst no-spend record, I don’t know what is.
But rather than taking an “all or nothing” approach and starting over each time we failed, we did something radically different. I’ll explain in a minute.
I’m going to bet that some of you are like our family when it comes to no-spend months. So today I’m going to break down our experience, what we learned from it, and give you practical action steps to take after a failure of a no-spend month.
What Our Family Did Wrong:
Hindsight is 20/20, and when I look back on our month, I can see a few very obvious things we did wrong:
We Didn’t Plan Enough: Before a no-spend month, you’re supposed to check your stores of essentials such as toilet paper, milk, eggs, etc to minimize the number of trips you take to the store. Yes, you can absolutely purchase things you NEED, but the fewer trips you take to the store, the less opportunity there is to purchase things no allowed during a no-spend month.
–>What To Do Instead: Did you do what we did? Don’t sweat it. Take the week before the no-spend month to make a list of your house’s “essentials” and then, the day before the challenge starts, make a quick store run to stock up on those items that you’re getting low on. Then, if you DO run out during the month either order it off of Amazon, or just go to the store when you’re the strongest. Better yet, take your spouse and keep yourselves accountable!
We Had Too High of Expectations: During the month, we knew that we were trying to break a several-months habit of overspending, and were excited to save more than $1,000 during the month, too! This is all great, but we took it too far and as a result were stressed out every single day. We felt like we couldn’t even open the Amazon App, drive by a coffee shop, or browse clothing online. We felt a bit trapped, even after doing several free activities as a family.
–> What To Do Instead: To not make our mistake if your family suffers from the same overspending problem we did, it’s important to plan ahead and stay busy. Make some cold brew coffee to head off a coffee run. Organize your closet to give you fresh outfit options. And make a list of fun and free activities you can do, then schedule them to keep yourselves busy!
Why No-Spend Months Don’t Work For Our Family
Ok, so in order to understand why no-spend months don’t work for our family – and possibly for yours! – I have to confess something: we LOVE to shop.
When Matt & I were dating, we shopped all the time. Early in our marriage, we shopped. And even after our daughter was born, we shopped.
Granted, we got better about using coupons, discounts, and gift cards to save tremendous amounts of money, but we were still essentially buying the some amount of stuff. We were just spending less money doing so.
Realizing this fact was a turning point for us.
Finding out that we were happier when we purged all that stuff, when we stayed out of the stores that drove our desires to consume, and made us unhappy with everything we had completely changed how we address our budget, our home, and even doing radical things like no-spend month.
Knowing this about ourselves helped us to change out perspective into one of goal-setting: challenging ourselves to completely a reachable goal that took the focus off of not buying and consuming, into on OF CONSUMING.
How does this work?
A traditional no-spend months focuses on saving money by not buying things, eating from the pantry, and simplifying.
Our no-spend months are now called CHALLENGE MONTHS, which focus on a specific goal such as:
- Eating all the old food in the freezer
- Spring cleaning – then selling the stuff we don’t want
- Remodeling or renovating on a budget.
- Slow-cooking for a month
We aren’t banned from buying things, but instead are trying to be creative.
For example, the month we tried to use up all the old food in the freezer, I got to flex my creativity (and Pinterest skills) to purchase as few items as possible to make the food that’s been in the bottom of our freezer taste good.
The goal isn’t to stop buying.
It’s to be creative.
It’s to hit a goal.
And by doing these things, we ultimately save money.
After we failed at a no-spend month, it took us a couple of months to recover.
Seriously, we were so down about it, we thought we would never attempt something like that again.
But, by changing our perspective, we were able to turn a bad situation into something good for our family. We enjoy it more, we save tons of money, and we have fun doing it!
So, if your family is rejecting the idea of a no-spend month, or you’ve failed (like we did!) at one before, don’t sweat it!
While the idea of a no-spend month is a great one, it’s OK if it doesn’t work for you! Change the focus, embrace your creativity, and take on a Challenge Month mentality.
The change in perspective can not only radically change your perspective, it can literally save you thousands.
What about you – have you ever failed at a no-spend month? How did you recover?
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