Planning a No-Spend Month

One major benefit to minimalism is that it helps break bad spending habits. Financial budgeting seems to coincide with or closely follow the switch to a minimalist lifestyle. A particularly interesting budgeting trend in recent years has been to challenge oneself to no-spend weeks, no-spend months, or even no-spend years.

The concept is fairly simple. For the duration of the "no-spend" challenge, participants can only spend money on basic necessities like utilities, groceries, and other regular bills like credit card or loan payments. Expenditures like ordering takeout, dining out, and shopping for clothes are some examples of things you'd bar yourself from spending money on during the no-spend period.

I have challenged my husband to join me in a no-spend month for March 2020. Here are the usual "fun money" categories that we won't be spending money on for a month:
  • Beverages including loose leaf tea, soda, alcohol, bottled mineral water. My husband doesn't consume alcohol, and I want to downsize my bar. I'll be drinking only what I have on-hand. We have plenty of loose leaf tea already, so even the most tempting new additions to our tea bar will have to wait a month (if they're still enticing after a month of thinking on it).
  • Dining out including takeout. This is a fairly major category, as we're used to going out once every week or two for a fancy dinner. Instead, we'll make dinner at home every night.
  • Game subscriptions/transactions. We have plenty of board games as well as video games that are free to play. Although game subscriptions and games with paid items don't cost us much month-over-month, we've just been gravitating more toward board games lately anyway.
  • Movie rentals. We'll be keeping our streaming subscriptions active because we already track them in our monthly budget sheets, but we won't be spending extra money on renting movies that cost extra on top of the subscription fees. 
  • Weekend shopping trips. Normally when the weather is decent, we'll drive an hour to a bigger city and go shopping. We analyzed our purchases and realized too many of them fell into the impulse/useless/expensive consumable categories. This will probably be the biggest point of savings in our challenge.
A no-spend month might feel like a pointless challenge if there is no end goal for the money saved during the month. So where will the money we won't be spending in March go? Here are a few plans we have for that cash:

  • Get rid of my credit card debt
  • Make a larger payment on the husband's car
  • Start investing again
  • Put away into savings for our kitchen renovation
  • Put away into personal savings for emergency funds
Both the husband and I are looking forward to our no-spend month. If it goes well, we intend to make every other month or so a no-spend month just to see how quickly we can tackle any remaining debts and reach our savings goals... and hopefully these plans inspire others to try no-spend challenges as well!