I find that when I really need a nice budget reset that engaging in a “no-spend week” really helps me reevaluate my financial goals. What’s a no-spend week? Well, that’s up for debate. Some people view no-spend weeks as not buying anything at all. No morning coffees, no gas in the car, and no paying bills. I take a less rigid approach and consider “no-spend” weeks as not purchasing anything other than the essentials. This means I can pay any bills that come in and buy groceries. I argue for the purchase of essential items during “no-spend weeks” because otherwise you would be doing it directly the day before your challenge begins, and you’d probably be less mindful about your purchases and therefore overspend your money. Taking the all-or-nothing approach and not buying even your essentials could set you up for failure, and the whole purpose of no spend weeks is to set yourself up for success. Here are some tips for a successful no spend week.
- Find your motivation. What’s driving you to engage in a no-spend week? Write down your goals; maybe it’s to be a more mindful spender, or to quickly establish your emergency fund, or to pay down some credit card debt, or maybe even to take a weekend trip next month. Whatever your goals, write them down and take a look at them before you begin each morning. If you really want to motivate yourself, take a picture of your goals and set it as your wallpaper on your lock screen for the week.
- Choose your no-spend week wisely. If you know you have a work dinner you can’t get out of (or maybe you would like to get out of it…lol), or it’s someone’s birthday in your crew—it may not be the best week to decide to stop spending money. Choose a week where you don’t anticipate many opportunities where you’ll be tempted to spend extra money.
- Take note of the free things to do in your community. Embarking in a no spend week doesn’t mean you can’t be social—you just need to be creative about finding free activities to do where you live. For instance, you can invite a friend to go for a walk in the park, invite your friends over for movies at your house, visit your local museum, or check out some books or DVDs at the library. There’s plenty of things you can do without spending your money.
- Let others know what you’re up to. Not telling others was my biggest mistake the first time I did a no-spend week. When you let your coworkers and friends know what you’re up to, this adds accountability to what you’re trying to achieve. And that way you won’t even have to resist the urge to say “no” to the call for “Does anyone want to get some carryout?” around lunchtime from your coworkers.
- Unsubscribe from emails. Spending money mindlessly is all too easy when those temptations run right across our inbox. These distractions enter our inbox when we’re trying to do our jobs, and we often enjoy taking a mental break from our workdays to browse through the newest sales. This tip will not only help you not spend money during your no-spend week, but it will also remove temptation for future spending. Yeah, your favorite store may have a 40% off everything sale, but you’re still spending 60% more of your money than had you not known a sale was happening in the first place. Remove those emails from your inbox and you’ll go from mindless spending to mindful saving.
- Plan your meals and stick to them. This is why I’m of the mindset that buying groceries is okay on a no spend week. Once you plan what you’re going to eat, you can only buy those items on your list—nothing more and nothing less for your no spend week. For more money-saving during your no-spend week, try planning your meals around what you already have in your pantry and then building a list of required ingredients from there.
The whole point of a no-spend week is to save as much as you can—but it’s also to learn to be more intentional with your money and your purchases. If you buy something that isn’t an essential on your no-spend week, don’t beat yourself up about it. Acknowledge that you did it and try to do better for the rest of your week. Being mindful about your spending and eliminating those impulse purchases is what helps create those long-lasting money habits, and those habits you learn during your no-spend week will be able to go with you during the other 51 weeks of the year.