Should You Try A No-Spend Month To Take Control Of Your Finances?

As a famous saying by Will Smith goes, "We spend money that we do not have, on things we do not need, to impress people who do not care." We've all been there, splurging on non-essentials that we barely use only to find ourselves struggling to make ends meet before paydays. While we can all agree that some non-essential goods have emotional resonance far beyond their monetary value, we shouldn't allow ourselves to constantly be stretched for money and borrow from others. Surviving from one financial bailout to another can take a big toll on not only our physical well-being but also our self-esteem and mental health.

If you don't want to feel beaten down by financial anxieties any longer, you should consider changing your money mindset, which is your attitude towards saving, spending, and borrowing. One way to do that is to take on a no-spend challenge for about a month. A no-spend challenge, per Simplii, is when you don't allow yourself to spend money on any goods or services that are not absolute essentials. For instance, set a goal of spending $0 for what's not edible for about a month. If you are successful, this exercise will put you on the fast track to wiser money management and substantial savings. Up for the challenge? Let's see what extra mileage you can get out of this no-spend month exercise.

Benefits of a no-spend month

The first and most visible benefit of going 30 days without spending a dime on what's not bare essentials is that you'll save a lot of money, Wealthtender points out. For instance, picture how much money you can save for an emergency fund or a business-class flight ticket to Paris if you give your daily boba a pass for at least 30 days. Then, you'll see how much of your monthly spending is unnecessary, and discover the need to reset your financial priorities. Furthermore, a no-spend month also opens your eyes to the profound impact of emotional spending and helps you put your finger on your impulsivity issues, explains Rinkydoo Finance. When you realize how much you could have saved had you not succumbed to a moment's weakness, you'll be motivated to spend with discretion. Being short of money never fails to put things into perspective.

A no-spend month exercise also challenges you to find ways to have fun while living on a shoestring. For instance, instead of hitting a club for trance-inducing tunes, you can go to a park or the city center to enjoy music from buskers. Home cooking and meal planning, even with beginner-friendly recipes, are fun and cost-efficient. Rather than rushing to a deli to feed yourself, you can use what's available in your kitchen to whip up a sandwich or get yourself a caffeine fix. This whole DIY concept takes patience, but patience will keep your paycheck intact. 

How to survive and thrive after a no-spend month

Albeit daunting, this no-spend mission can be accomplished provided you know the appropriate tactics. First, prepare a list of the non-negotiable expenses for the month in advance, such as rent, mortgages, utilities, medications, and insurance. Then put aside money for essential commodities such as groceries and transportation. And try not to hoard essentials ahead of time, advises financial planner Ilene Davis (via GEICO), because comfortability defeats the purpose of the challenge. 

When you must spend, try to use cash always. Numerous studies have suggested that ready accessibility to credit cards encourages people to spend more, while those using cash tend to spend less, per MIT Sloan. The reason being swiping a card delivers immediate satisfaction, whereas the "pain of paying" only begins to hit weeks later when a bill is issued to the credit card user. To keep track of your purchases, make a list of the essentials you need to buy, and snatch only the items written on the list. Once you've got what you came for, get out of the shopping venue at once to flee spending temptations. If you don't know what you need, you'll spend more time wandering around and start snatching things you don't need.

A no-spend month is like a detox that slowly rids your mind of impulse buying triggers. By completing this challenge, you'll increase your financial knowledge, have greater control over your spending, and save a sizable dollar amount.