How and why we’re doing a no-spend month.

I’ve casually mentioned the fact that we are doing a no-spend month on Instagram and gotten some questions about it. I planned to write a recap before the end of the year but thought I could tackle some of the FAQ’s here before the end of the month, while I’m still in the thick of it.

So, What exactly is a no-spend month?

To be overly simple, it’s a month with no extra spending. Keeping the lights on and food in our bellies isn’t part of the “No-November” for us. If we have a bill, we pay it. If we need groceries, we pick them up. If there was a pre-planned event, we attend. It’s not saying no to having fun or being social, it’s just taking a month to recalibrate and evaluate where the funds are going by stopping the flow of all the extra’s.

No coffee’s from Starbucks, no lunch dates or dinners out, no last minute “I’m bored” spending on the weekends. Just, not this month. Not right now. No.

I’ve read about something similar before, doing a spending-ban for a period of time and then Young House Love did a shopping ban for a month on home-related stuff and talked about it on their podcast this summer (or within the last year, I maybe just finally listened to them in the last few months). And that was definitely in the back of my head when coming up with the how’s and why’s for us, too.

Why November? Why now?

For us, it’s when we needed it. We had a couple home updates happen quicker than we anticipated them coming due, even though we were planning ahead for them and we knew the next few months there would be higher-than-normal spending in a few different areas. So, it was basically “can we do this” and “now seems like a good time to try.”

How are you getting your kids on-board with the idea? Are they participating?

The first couple weeks there was a lot of reminding them that this was No-November. As in, they would have ideas for things to do as a family (or even with a friend) and we would have to offer up alternatives because this month, we would remind them, we weren’t spending money on those kinds of things (We wouldn’t be paying for the trampoline park, bowling, going to movies, family dinner out or snacks from the gas station …). Which didn’t mean we couldn’t have any fun or go out or have a social life. It just meant we had to be a little more creative with how we did those things.

With our kids at ages 13 and 10, they get to decide whether or not their personal finances are something they’re limiting this month, as well. So, no, we aren’t making them do it. If they want to get fro-yo with a friend, they absolutely can … if they have the money to pay for it themselves.

This weekend we ventured out to a winter market downtown where we live – most of us just looked and enjoyed being out without buying anything or spending money, but our daughter wanted to purchase some small items, and she did. She was very pleased with her purchases and it was fun to watch her make those decisions with her money.

What are you doing, instead of what you normally would, to save money?

We are having so much fun! Instead of grabbing coffee at a coffee shop (save for Aaron, more on that soon) I’m inviting friends over or meeting up at a park with coffee from home and it’s been SO RICH. Instead of an annual shopping trip with my mom, this year, we did a game-day and baking-day at her house, with my daughter in tow. Instead of restaurant meals we hosted a game night with family & friends. Instead of buying holiday-themed items to decorate, I’m making what I can with what we have, like this wreath. I made it out of what we had laying around in the yard. All of it.

Wreath made from what we have laying around in the yard

Our daughter did a “Chopped Challenge” with a friend one weekend with items we had in our pantry or freezer that needed to be used instead of renting a movie. We are definitely going out on the weekends – we just go to look, if it’s a market or craft show, we go for hikes, we go for drives.

I mentioned earlier that Aaron is still getting his coffee at the coffee shop, here’s why: Monday-Friday this is a business expense but the weekends he still makes his daily stop at the coffee shop and I will never not let him do this. It’s one of the small joys that just doesn’t cost enough to say “we need to do without this” and the whole “No-November” isn’t really a challenge for him. He says no to himself and his wants almost exclusively.

How do you think you’ve done so far? Have you noticed a difference?

Honestly, it’s been fun and not that hard. Now – with that said, I think we probably will end the month spending more in groceries than normal because every. single. meal. is being made at home (maybe the hardest part for me). My kids eat hot lunch at school about 50% of the time between the two of them.

We’ve “messed up” a couple times, too. The very first day of November I went to lunch with a friend and the morning of our son’s 5K this month was a cold and blustery morning and we stopped for to-go coffees for my daughter and I to stay warm. The “whoopsies” totaled less than $30 all together.

I definitely think about what I’m buying, or about to buy, every time I’m standing in a check out lane. Grocery stores sell more than just groceries, which has been a weird loop-hole I keep finding myself in. Somehow I think I can justify extra’s if they end up on the grocery bill … but I think I’ve talked myself out of every one so far. Except for the special trips for the ingredients to queso. I don’t know what to tell you there. It’s probably filling the need I have for a trip through a drive-through or convenient food-grab.

What do you miss the most?

Clearly, I miss convenience. About once a week I would run through Jimmy Johns for an un-wich for lunch, and now I stare into my fridge hoping an arm will just extend with a ready-made option for me. I’m tired of making everything. And it’s been interesting to realize how often we would spend money before we’d think about other, possibly free, options.

However, I’m glad Aaron is usually up for my hair-brained ideas and there wasn’t any arm-twisting involved in setting this month up for success. If a month is too long for you to consider, try one weekend, one week or even something like Monday-Thursday of no spending at all.

If you try it, let me know how it goes for you! I’ll update this post at the end of the month with my final thoughts (and conclusion).

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