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Money & Finance
Articles: Money

The No-Spend Experiment

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Our family will be going on a little adventure this month and have made a commitment to have a month of no spending. The technique of giving yourself a break from spending, whether it is a weekend or a year, is a popular technique among personal finance writers and financial advisors to aid in getting your budget back on track.

Money-free weekends are nothing new to our family. We often make commitments verbally that we will forgo spending for a weekend, but no spending for an entire month? This will be a new one for us.
To make a commitment to our no-spend month, we have budgeted exactly what we need for gas and groceries. We will, of course, pay all of our monthly bills, but will go without any incidental spending that usually occurs during the week. That means no trips to Hobby Lobby for me, no dinners out when I am too tired to cook, no drinks out with the girls. As you can see, it will be quite the commitment to not spend carelessly.
What can be gained though from a no-spend month can prove to be of great value for families. When you are not able to spend, you suddenly see how plentiful your life already is. The richness of what is around you and how little you truly do need to be happy quickly comes into focus.

As a consumer, we become conditioned to spend so those initial first weeks can prove challenging, but the rewards are great for families who can overcome that hump and break the cycle of spending. A no-spend month does come with challenges, but it also comes with the gratification of knowing that you have let your bank account grow and have become aware of where your money is going.

Would you like to take a no-spend adventure with me? Just think of all of the free time you will have if you are not out shopping and spending for a month. 

Here are a few ideas for how you could spend all of that free time!

  1. Get your finances back on track by trying out a free program like Mint.com and get in better touch with your past spending.
  2. Dust off those old board games and spend an evening playing them together.
  3. Watch free movies on Hulu.com or take out the DVD collection and watch your favorite movies again. If you are really craving a new release, sign up on Redbox.com to get a free movie code every Monday and use that to get your movie fix for the month.
  4. Break out that really old game system and relive those games again with your kids.
  5. Dig through your old cookbooks and try out recipes using some of the ingredients in your pantry. 
  6. Play a game of Iron Chef with your spouse and let your children be the judge of the best dish by having your very own cooking contest. You might be surprised that even dad’s  toasted Pop-Tart might be the judge’s favorite in this contest.
  7. Actually use the craft supplies that you have bought and start tackling some of your crafty ideas for the holidays.
  8. Find the floor in your laundry room.
  9. Look for free community activities that you could do as a family.
  10. Volunteer or find things in your home that you could donate to those less fortunate.
  11. Visit the library and actually read the books.
  12. Clip coupons and plan your grocery shopping in advance for next month.
  13. Take a wonderful and delicious nap.
  14. Learn a new skill set or check out books on self-improvement to help make your life better or easier.
  15. Get free museum passes from the library or check the local museum’s websites for information on their free admittance days. Don’t forget to pack a lunch!
  16. Have a potluck-style swap night with your friends and exchange three of your things for three of theirs.
  17. Read that pile of magazines or newspapers that never gets read.
  18. Exercise.
  19. Listen to free music on Last.fm and make a fun mix of songs you listened to when you were dating your spouse.
  20. Take a bubble bath.
  21. Play on the floor with your children.
  22. Organize your closet and take inventory of your wardrobe.
  23. Put batteries in the children’s toys to make them “new” again.
  24. Tackle a home improvement project that you bought supplies for, but still haven’t finished.
However you decide to spend your no-spend day, weekend, week, month, or year, I hope that it brings into focus how great it can truly be to not spend and that it gives you the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with those around you.