Join us for a no-spend February!

Join us for a no-spend February!
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#1

If you’re still paying off the holidays, want to start saving for summer vacation or just need a little more wiggle room in your budget, we might have a solution for you: a no-spend month.

What’s that? A month where you try to avoid all non-essential spending — and you get to define what that is. February’s a great month to do this, since it’s the shortest one!

You don’t have to do this perfectly. Some spending may be unavoidable. But those of us who have done this before know it’s kind of magical:

  • Not only do we save money, but we get creative finding no-spend workarounds when unexpected situations pop up.
  • We get clearer what’s a necessity and what isn’t, which can really help us get a grip on our spending going forward.
  • We appreciate that having any discretionary spending is a blessing. For many, every month is a no-spend month because they don’t have any extra money beyond what it takes to survive (and sometimes not even that).

I’ll go first. Here’s what I think my no-spend month will look like:

I’m planning to spend on perishables, gas and parking (if needed) and a couple of already-scheduled medical appointments.

I’m committing to cooking out of our pantry as much as possible, and buying only stuff like milk, fruit and vegetables. (That may finally encourage me to thaw out some of the mystery meat/other foods lurking in the freezer.)

I’m attending a two-day conference with a friend that includes most meals, so I’ll pack lunches, snacks and a water bottle. I shouldn’t need to buy gas, since it’s within the electric range of my Volt, but we’re carpooling anyway to be more ecological.

I already agreed to join another friend for lunch on another day, so I’ll probably use a prepaid card that still has ~$20 left on it.

My husband and I don’t make a big deal about Valentine’s Day, but my daughter and I will make a heart-shaped cake and cookies (which we’ll also share with friends). Everything we need should already be in our pantry and fridge.

I’ve taken Amazon, DealNews and other shopping apps off my phone and tablet (gulp) and unsubscribed from a bunch of deal-oriented newsletters.

But I’m making a stuff-I-want-to-buy-when-this-is-over list as well!

How about you? Are you in? Tell us what you plan to spend on, and what you don’t, and then keep us updated!


QOTW: What are your best tips for planning winter vacations on a budget? :flight_departure:
#2

I’m in, @lweston! My version: Nothing goes on the credit card. Effectively this means no online shopping of any kind, which tends to be where the surprises come from.


#3

Awesome! Welcome aboard, @des!


#4

I am all in! This is so timely for me; I particularly need a boost getting creative with finding no-spend workarounds when unexpected situations pop up. It seems like that’s what always tanks my best intentions.

I’ve followed Liz’s lead and removed all shopping apps from my phone. Valentine’s Day is not a big deal since we have a long-standing tradition of handcrafted gifts only. However, my daughter’s birthday is in February and she really wants to go out to dinner at a swanky Italian place. I have some holiday cash I received from relatives that I can use for this, but that’s technically still spending!


#5

I’m in! I’m challenging myself to NOT take an Uber/Lyft/Car2Go when I can walk or take public transportation (I can walk or take the bus almost anywhere I need to go).

Other mindless, non-essential spending triggers that will be off limits: Makeup and skincare (time to use up all my Sephora samples!), clothing, happy hours and dinners out.

I am making exceptions for three pre-planned dinners out — one with my husband, since it’s our valentines day gift to one another, and two with friends who are visiting from out of state.

Excited for a no-spend February!


#6

At some point along the way I think I confused the ability to pay off credit card charges every month — something that was a challenge for many years — with sound financial decision-making.

My credit card company provides a year end statement that breaks down all spending during the year. 2018 was eye opening.


#7

I am in. Also exception for a lunch I’ve already RSVP’d to. I am good at staying out of shopping centers for mindless shopping, less good at staying away from dangerous websites. I’ve done some unsubscribing as well.

Anyone else having some trouble deciding what’s a necessity and what’s not? Are KIND bars necessities? Chocolate? Um, hair color?


#8

I think you could definitely argue chocolate is a necessity, @Bev!

And seconding what @des said about credit cards. Just because I can pay them off every month doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of mindless/impulse spending there.


#9

Agree @lweston and @des. I have been known to receive packages and wonder what it was I ordered. :flushed:. Not February. And I like the creativity aspect. That always makes me feel smarter. Like winning a game.


#10

Oh great idea, @Kelsey! I’m adding this one also.


#11

We wouldn’t know about that, would we, @des? :rofl:


#12

#13

Agreed! The sheer number of packages sent to old or auto populated addresses has to be staggering. Last year I had to chase down an iPad at a previous address. And sent an aunt flowers for her 100th birthday that were delivered to my doorstep.


#14

This thread is inspiring!
I’ve got to start small, though, or else this will end up looking like that pile of 2018 Christmas cards we printed, stamped and sealed but only mailed a few of because of address label troubles! (I hope my three sons don’t grow much this year so we can just use these this coming Christmas!)
A no-spend February for me will mean that I will sharply limit my family’s food spend:

  1. I will only buy perishable food: dairy and produce. (I love grocery shopping. A lot. This will be really hard.)
  2. I will get up close and personal with our deep freezer and all the unlabeled and undated baggies it contains.
  3. I will start seriously meal planning instead of thinking about what to make for dinner at 6 pm.
    I’m excited!
    And a little scared!

#15

So pleased to have you join us, @mmmflory! Love this:

(I hope my three sons don’t grow much this year so we can just use these this coming Christmas!)

I had something similar happen a few years ago and sent a bunch out in January with “Better late than never, right?” scrawled on the envelope.


#16

I love no-spend challenges! This month, I’m planning not to do any spending aside from my usual budget for groceries, bills and subscriptions ($200/week). A few exceptions: I’m already planning to go to a lunch (but paying with credit card rewards) and planning to finish earthquake-proofing/baby-proofing our apartment (but I’m using a Amazon gift card balance to cover it — my husband and I got $223 of credit from cashing in a jar of coins at Coinstar and $60 from selling back some textbooks a couple weeks ago!).

One thing I’m not going to spend money on this month is online classes. I’m still cringing at how much my husband and I spent on online classes last year (stuff like Skillshare, MasterClass, Codeacademy Pro, Coursera, etc.). Some of the classes were totally worth it! But with some, I realized partway through I wasn’t as interested in the subjects as I thought and didn’t finish some — and it’s really more ideal to figure that stuff out BEFORE you spend like $100 on a class, haha. Also, some things can be learned just as well through free classes, YouTube tutorials, library books, forums or talking to people who know about certain topics, so I’m looking forward to doing more of that this year!


#17

I’m excited to join my first no-spend challenge! I’m glad we’re doing this in a short month. :smile:

It’s funny, because I don’t like shopping for clothes or house stuff, and I hardly ever shop online, so I don’t have to cut back there. But I definitely manage to spend money without thinking, mainly on eating out/take-out food, and on groceries. So I’m going to join @mmmflory – I love her plan to buy only perishable food and to start meal planning (just cleaned out my freezer a week ago so I’m all set there).

Also, I have a trip planned to Portland to visit my daughter in February. There’s no doubt we’ll be going out to eat, so I’m going to let myself off the hook for two restaurant meals while there, and the rest of the time we’ll cook at home (luckily, my daughter loves cooking and is really good at it).

Let the challenge begin!


#18

There’s a neologism for that: “Primenesia.”


#19

The only thing that might derail the no-spend month for me is if my daughter gets her surgery date in February. That would entail buying a plane ticket down to Phoenix. But errands of mercy don’t count, right???

Other than that, I’m good. We have a very full pantry and freezer, and will need to buy just the perishables. Technically we don’t NEED to do that, even, since we have powdered milk and canned fruit and recently stocked up on eggs. But powdered milk is a beverage of last resort! My partner is hitting a big grocery sale later today and will include some apples, a big bag of those mandarin oranges and a giant hand of green bananas, so that plus the canned stuff should get us through the month just fine. Oh, and we have a ton of raspberries and rhubarb from our garden in the freezer, so we’ll be eating just fine.

As for entertainment: He and I truly enjoy reading in adjoining armchairs, like Carl and Ellie in “Up.” I have a prepaid movie card (bought at a discount on the secondary market) in case my best friend and I want to hit the flicks, and a prepaid salon card (also bought on the secondary market) for an already-scheduled appointment in mid-February.

And we don’t do a big Valentine’s Day blowout, either, but he’ll cook a nice meal and I’ll bake a big apple pie using the flour he buys by the 50-pound bag at Costco and apples from our trees (he cut up and sweetened/seasoned the flours and froze them in pie-sized amounts).

We’re good. Of course, it doesn’t hurt a bit that we live a low- or no-spend lifestyle pretty much all the time. It’s a game for us. And that, as you noted, might be the biggest benefit of one of the exercises: Learning that the workarounds and the substitutions and the creativity not only aren’t that hard, but can actually be quite gratifying. It teaches you that maybe you don’t need that whatever-it-is that is pleading to be purchased.

Corollary lesson: If you can say “not now” to a lot of things, you can say “yes please!” to the ones that really matter.


#20

I love that, @anewlife1114!! And welcome to the community. We’re glad to have you here!