Frontwave Blog

No-Spend Month: What It Is and How to Succeed

Out with the old spending habits, in with the new— or perhaps, the absence of spending altogether? We know of physical challenges – à la IRONMAN, marathons, and more – but what about a mental and financial challenge that’ll have you saying, “Dang right, I did that!” Allow us to introduce to you a “No-Spend Month.”

A no-spend month, huh? What is that?

A no-spend month is a 30-day (or 31-day) challenge in which you refrain from spending money on anything considered “non-essential.” Essential spending includes rent, utilities, transportation costs, insurance (health, auto, home, etc.), childcare, groceries, and other bills (phone, credit card minimum payments, etc.). Non-essential covers anything else considered a “want” versus a “need,” meaning restaurant outings, clothing, coffee runs, impulse buying, and social events.

With the so-called “trimming of the fat” that you are doing during a no-spend month, you are building habits that will ultimately pave the way toward financial freedom. Centering around a needs vs wants mindset requires much self-control that will require patience, grace, and a true vision of what you are trying to accomplish during your no-spend month.

Alright, cool. Love the idea, but it sounds tricky. Any tips on navigating this challenge?

Absolutely. It is indeed tricky, but it can be so worth it. Let’s start with the most important piece of counsel first.

Set an attainable goal – and give yourself grace if you slip up.

Before moving forward with the how, you must first understand your what and your why. Are you wanting to prove to yourself that you can master self-control and tighten up your spending habits? Or are you looking to save the $1,000 you have left of your car payment so you can officially become debt-free? Depending on your why, you can understand what your what looks like at the end of the challenge. An emotional feeling of accomplishment (“That was hard, but I persevered, so I’m proud of myself!”) is different from the tangible $1,000 you have saved up in your pocket now. When you’ve nailed down what your idea of success looks like by the end of your challenge, you can shift your focus onto how you are going to get there.

And, most importantly, remember that this challenge is meant to be just that – a challenge. You’ll have to overcome a few mental hurdles and muscle-memory reactions to get there. If at any point you slip up, don’t be so hard on yourself. Life happens. You pick yourself back up and try again, just as you do any other obstacle you face. You’re a fighter; we know this. Dust yourself off and keep fighting.

Choose the right month for yourself.

Tying into the idea that you set a goal you feel good about, you also want to set yourself up for success in choosing the right month. If you know you have a best friend’s birthday or wedding coming up in March, let’s hold off. But if May looks to be open and relaxed, why not reset yourself financially before summer begins and spending ramps up? Select a month that is flexible for you and doesn’t automatically pose any barriers that you’ll have to plan for.

If you can, find a buddy. Hold each other accountable.

As the adage goes, “Two heads are better than one.” A big roadblock many face during their no-spend month is limiting the amount of social spending they do – going out for drinks, catching up over dinner, catching the newest movie release at the theater. Having a companion in your challenge can help make the process a little smoother. Engage in free activities together, share tips and tricks for what you’ve noticed has been working well for you, and cheer on each other’s small and big wins.

Find fun, free activities to fill your days.

This is a great time to engage with your inner child and develop a new hobby that you may have let fall to the wayside or never even got off the ground in the first place. Before your no-spend month, think about the hobbies you’d like to invest in – perhaps a one-time purchase will provide you with long-term benefits (i.e., purchasing a bike for daily bike rides). If you’re active, head down to your nearest courts and fire up a game of tennis or pickleball; if it’s raining outside, maybe this is the best time for a cozy movie night or finally pick up your crocheting kit you’re let sit idle for months. Other free activities include picnicking at the park, posting up for a sweet tan at the beach, hitting the library for a few books, volunteering for a local organization, going for a walk and enjoying the fresh air we often take for granted, and more. Free activities do exist – take the time to slow down and enjoy them.

Map out your meal planning and don’t stray from your grocery list.

A tried-and-true case of impulse buying can be seen when you shop for groceries while hungry. Everything under the sun sounds delicious so before you know it, you’re knocking everything straight from the shelves down into your cart. During your no-spend month, it’s pertinent to write your grocery needs before hitting the store. If your eyes start to wander, tear them away from the snacks and back to your list. Make sure you appropriately plan to cook all your meals at home since we’re cracking down on our eating-out spending. Meal prepping will become your best friend; search for recipes that will keep you excited – and add cooking to your list of free activities! You can role-play as Gordon Ramsey; we won’t tell.

Track progress and celebrate your wins.

Seeing that your efforts are paying off will motivate you to continue forward. Whether it’s a custom financial spreadsheet you designed, a budget-tracking app, or a classic piggy bank at home you’re throwing your pennies and dollars into, keeping an eye on the cash you’re stacking up will remind you why you’re doing what you’re doing. At the end of the month, celebrate in a way that feels most fitting for you, but don’t go too crazy. Just because you crushed a no-spend month doesn’t mean the following month becomes full-and-even-some-extra-spend. Pat yourself on the back, treat yourself to a little coffee, and remember the self-control and discipline you practiced so you can continue refining the habits that steer you toward financial freedom.

At Frontwave Credit Union, we're committed to helping our members achieve their financial goals and dreams. We're here to support you every step of the way, with personalized guidance, competitive rates, and a strong sense of community. So, dream big and take control of your financial future. With a little mindful money management and a lot of determination, anything is possible.