No Spend Month Updates

Small glass jar with a cork lid and pennies inside with a label and the word budget affixed in the middle

I knew the lessons of this year’s No Spend February lessons were sinking in when I finally figured out what to add to a perpetually empty and dusty but very usable shelf and more importantly when our family conversations about want and need changed to what we are individually and together saving to buy later.

Only adding one item to the wish list was another indication we were starting to change our focus and reevaluate instant gratification.

Though we mostly avoided adding extra things to the grocery cart and maintained a decreased grocery budget for the last 20 days, we weren’t perfect.

I had a work trip and used a birthday gift certificate to a day spa while I was there but forgot to pack a bathing suit and had to purchase one from Target for $38. Though I could have not purchased the bathing suit, I would not have been able to enjoy all the wonderful amenities that went along with my gift.

While I was out of town, my family went out for an unplanned dinner and after a particularly hard day, we went out to dinner, but the total of both meals was less than another birthday gift, so this came out nearly even.

We needed to replace one of our humidifiers, which absolutely fell under the need category, but we also didn’t price compare and just picked one we knew would be in stock. We probably spent a bit more than we otherwise would have.

There were a few other unplanned purchases in the last 20 days:

  • Trail Race fee $35 (I’d forgotten to register in January as initially planned.)
  • Visit to a local indoor pool $10
  • A coffee meeting $8

    Added up our unplanned expenses came out to about $212, which is less than we would have typically spent at this point in the month.

How to Do a No Spend Month

Image showing a white piggy bank and a woman in a yellow shirt adding a coin to the piggy bank.

It’s No Spend February! Traditionally once a year our family takes a month to evaluate our spending patterns and consumer behaviors. Sometimes this takes place in January, other times in February.

We specifically choose the winter months because we are already spending more time at home. Taking a month’s break to purposely evaluate what we want, what we need and what we can wait to purchase gives us space to make use of what we have and save money for the things we want.

Over the years, we’ve learned as a family and as individuals that sometimes we think we really want or need something in the moment only to realize: we don’t really need it, we have something at home that can be repurposed to achieve the same result or help us decide what we really need, we can wait and we can and should price compare.

The following are the “rules” we used to give us structure for the month.

We can spend money on necessities, such as:

  • gasoline
  • groceries
  • rent or mortgage
  • utilities
  • insurance (car, home, etc.)
  • childcare
  • other fixed expenses (for us this is Netflix, Roku and iTunes)
  • presents for those outside of our family

We avoid spending money on:

  • dining out (lunches or dinner)
  • clothes shopping
  • trips to the movie theater, amusement park, museums, etc.
  • coffee shops (see dining out)
  • Amazon purchases (we do make heavy use of the save for later feature)

The rules have also evolved over the years to become dependent on the month and allow for oddities such as an unexpected car repair or celebration. As three important events occur for our family in February, we plan ahead or use gift certificates if the No Spend month will be in February.

For us, a no spend month boils down to: is this a want or a need.

If it is a need, then that’s the end of it. If it is a want, then we wait and if it is something we can live without for the month, we reevaluate if it is something that can wait longer.

One of the best things that happens this month is we get to really evaluate how we use our resources in both time and finances. We have conversations about our home and what our next big and small projects should be.

We also use the time to declutter and go through what we already have. We donate items, sell items and  enjoy the less cluttered space.

If you’ve never taken a break from spending and focused on what you spend, where and why, you should consider taking a break if not for a whole month for a few days or weeks.

I expect if you do, you will be as surprised as I always am at how much money you save and the clarity of what are wants and needs for us.