Is your budget suffering a holiday hangover? Were you caught in the government shutdown? Or are you just interested in getting control of your cash? A no-spend month could be the right first step to take, and NerdWallet is sponsoring one for February.
To be clear: That doesn’t mean no more fresh fruit until March, or having to shine on a prescription refill. A no-spend month is actually more like a “spend-super-intentionally month.”
On the NerdWallet “Community” message board, my former MSN Money colleague (and now NerdWallet columnist) Liz Weston describes the event as a month where you try to avoid any non-essential spending. Each participant gets to define what is and isn’t essential.
Having done a no-spend month before, Weston describes it as “kind of magical.” Specifically:
“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).”
Joining the no-spend challenge
You don’t have to become part of the NerdWallet community to do this, but I think it’s a good thing to try. Not only do you feel more a part of things, you might inspire others with your ideas, or gain inspiration from other people’s postings.
I’ve joined the community board on this, even though DF and I live a low- or no-spend lifestyle pretty much all the time. It’s a game for us. We egg each other with stirring tales of thrift.
In fact, as Weston noted, this could be one of the biggest benefits of the challenge: Finding out that the workarounds and the substitutions and the creativity not only aren’t that hard, but can actually be gratifying. We might learn that we don’t always need that whatever-it-is that we’re holding in our hands or staring at online.
The corollary, of course: If we learn to say “not now” to nonessentials, we can say “yes please!” to the ones that really matter. My personal mantra is, “I save where I can so I can spend where I want.” Maybe it could become yours, too.
A no-spend for non-joiners
Of course, you can do all this without joining the NerdWallet community. In that case, I hope you’ll share both your plans and your progress. You can do that in several ways:
- By leaving comments on this post, for starters
- By leaving comments on the Surviving And Thriving Facebook page
- By leaving comments on future posts on this topic, which I hope to remember to post every Friday this month (your comments on the FB page would certainly keep me on task)
For me, the biggest challenge is that I might need to go to Phoenix again. My daughter needs cataract surgery and obviously won’t be able to drive herself home that day, or to the next day’s follow-up appointment. It will be good to spend time with her, given that our last visit was so damned fraught. (The chance to walk around in shirtsleeves, on ice-free sidewalks, will be a nice break for me as well. It is darned slippery here right now.)
I would consider that essential spending and not sweat it overly. It might be a moot point anyway: Since referrals and pre-authorization are taking forever, her appointment might not be set until March.
My other issue would be the weekly meetups with my pal Linda B. Generally it starts with a movie and/or lunch out, unless it’s lunch out and then hanging out at her place working our way through her DVR queue. We take turns paying for lunch and each covers her own movie ticket.
Two possible fixes for the no-spend month:
- I ask Linda to pay for all the lunches in February and return the favor in March, or
- We meet up after lunch, either at her place (free entertainment) or at the same-price-all-day Tuesday movie (I have a discounted gift card).
Then again, there are those who say that movies, or Harley’s Old Thyme Café, are essential spending.
The self-disciplinary aspect of a no-spend month can be good even for those of us who think we already have a handle on our spending. It never hurts to take a closer look at what we do vs. what we think we do.
So who’s in? I look forward to hearing about your adventures in financial improvisation, and at the end of the month I’d love to hear what you’ll do with the money you didn’t spend.
The post Join us for a no-spend February. appeared first on Surviving and Thriving.