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Mouthy Money blogger, Shoestring Jane, explains how she’s doing a no-spend month this January, and how you can set yourself up to save serious money by not spending for a month too.
At least one of my resolutions is the same almost every year; I have a no-spend January!
January is the perfect month to rein in your spending. Many of us don’t save for Christmas, which can put a lot of strain on our finances. Even if we have set money aside, sometimes we get carried away and bust the budget anyway.
Apart from the sales (and let’s face it, they are no longer a once or twice a year occasion these days), it’s a cold, dark month and there is generally less temptation to go out and spend.
Kickstarting the new year with a no-spend January can help you take control of your finances, especially if you have a pile of post-Christmas credit card debt.
But it can work in any month of the year where you may need to go that extra mile to cut your costs or save up more.
So, I spend nothing?
Well, you make the rules about your no-spend month. Clearly you need to pay your mortgage or rent and any bills.
Even if you have a cupboard full of groceries you didn’t use at Christmas, you are also likely to need to buy some fresh produce, milk and bread. Unless you have stocked up in advance, you may need nappies and toilet paper too.
My hard and fast rule for any no spend period is to buy nothing that isn’t essential. So, no new clothing, make up, hair cuts, trips to a cinema, pub or the theatre, no takeaway food or meals in restaurants, no buying the latest gizmo or gadget – you get the picture.
There is always one exception to my no spend rule and that is my youngest daughter’s birthday. Even then, I frequently buy her gifts before the new year begins, but traditionally when she is home we will treat her to a takeout Indian meal or Chinese food. As I said, you make the rules!
We also continue to buy groceries, but aim to use up any store cupboard ingredients that have been there a while – as well as any Christmas leftovers – by incorporating them into our weekly meal plan.
Why not just spend less?
The thing about having a hard and fast rule about your spending is that it is actually quite liberating. I have found that the idea of spending less is too vague and wishy washy.
If you were massively over spending before and now you are only marginally over spending, you are still spending too much.
Doing a no-spend January also gives you an out if you get external pressure to spend. If friends ask you out to the pub, you can politely refuse, saying I am on a no-spend month (because I am saving for X,Y or Z).
You are likely to find most people not only accept this explanation, but they are actually interested and some may even decide to join you.
When your children demand a new game to go with the Playstation Santa gave them, you can tell them the rule for January is to spend no money at all. In my experience, if you say it confidently enough, kids will accept rules. They are used to them at school!
What to do instead of spending?
A no-spend month is the perfect time to explore all of the free activities in your locality. Explore your local library, for starters. Your children will probably be able to borrow computer games from them, as well as books, DVDs and CDs.
They also have e-books and audiobooks available for members, as well as magazines that would normally cost you at least a fiver to purchase each month.
In addition, many libraries host free book and craft groups and run toddler reading sessions.
Most towns have museums and galleries that offer free entry, and sometimes run activities for kids in the school holidays too.
A no-spend month is also the perfect time for a declutter – of clothing, toys, books, etc. This exercise will allow you to find and appreciate the belongings you already have. You could even sell the stuff you no longer need and earn a bit of extra cash.
Get out to the park, go for a walk in the woods, play football or rounders to keep warm. Have an indoor picnic, get out the board games the children got for Christmas, read some of the books on your shelf – there are so many ways to keep yourself and your family entertained that don’t involve spending money.
You may start off with the best of intentions and lots of enthusiasm at the beginning of the month, but how do you retain your motivation? When you are used to buying what you want, when you want it, uncontrolled spending can be a tough habit to break.
The best way to stay motivated is to set yourself some goals. What do you want to achieve by doing a no-spend month?
If your goal is to pay off some of your debt, work out how much you want to pay and the amount you are likely to be able to save. Make a plan. And if you feel your debts are overwhelming and out of control, get help. Money Helper is a good place to start.
Itt may be that you want to start saving for a holiday, a new car, some home renovations or for an emergency fund. Having a goal to aim for is a great motivator.
As well as helping to readjust your finances, another positive outcome from a no-spend January is that it literally gets you out of the spending habit.
You will find that your new discipline extends into February and beyond. As you begin to realise some of the benefits of keeping your money in your purse rather than spending it on impulse, it will become much easier to rein your spending in.
Maybe 2022 is the year you finally take charge of your finances! A no-spend January is the best place to start the journey.
Shoestring Jane is a full-time self-employed mum of three daughters. Her frugal partner in crime is handyman extraordinaire, Mr Shoestring. They are constantly on the look out for ways to save and make extra money. Read more on her blog, Shoestring Cottage.