For the past few years I have greeted the New Year with a no spend January. It is the perfect antidote to the excesses of the festive season and always on my list of resolutions. Indeed, it is often the one New Year’s resolution I manage to achieve…
The benefits of a no spend January
When your bank account is feeling empty, a no spend January gives you the opportunity to regroup, to refill the coffers and to take control of your finances. If you are in debt, a no spend January will give you extra resources to pay off some of what you owe.
Beginning the year feeling anxious and out of control can set the pattern for the months ahead, whereas a no spend month can help you break free of some of the negative behaviours that made you over spend in the first place. A period of limited spending gets you out of bad financial habits. It makes you more creative and appreciative of what you already own.
A no spend January means not buying anything that isn’t essential. So, you pay your rent or mortgage, your household bills, transportation costs and buy groceries. However, you ignore the sales, you don’t buy any new clothes, furniture, books, music, films, makeup or treats. You don’t go out to dinner, to the pub or to the cinema. Having said that, my daughter’s birthday is in January. This year it is her 21st, so we will go out for a meal, but this will be planned and budgeted for in advance. Her presents are already purchased!
I always find it amazingly liberating to have a no spend January, or any no spend period I happen to set myself. It is easier than telling myself I will spend as little as possible. If someone asks me to do something or go anywhere that costs money I will simply explain that I am doing a no spend January. They are usually really interested and some even join in!
Generally I find I get out of the spending habit and this spills over into February too.
Hints and tips to help you stop spending
If you are somebody who enjoys shopping for fun, a no spend January is the ideal time to rethink your hobbies and interests. What can you do instead by yourself, with friends and family instead of shopping? Could you go for a nature walk or cycle, host a pot luck supper, find the films you always wanted to see on Netflix or watch your old DVDs? Do you have a shelf full of books you have never got round to reading or a half completed craft or knitting project to finish? How about starting a daily journal?
I find a no spend period is a good time to cook some thrifty recipes. Baking is something I enjoy, so rather than spending money I can devote more time to creating delicious cakes. Let’s face it, most of us have a cupboard full of flour and items like cocoa and dried fruit that probably need using up!
Shop your wardrobe. This is a great time to reorganise your wardrobe and dig out little worn clothes, rather than spending money on new items that you don’t need. You could even sell items that you know you will never wear on eBay to make a bit of extra money.
Set yourself some savings goals to inspire you and make you more determined not to spend any money. If your money isn’t going towards paying off debt, could you put some away in an emergency fund? Would you like a family holiday? Do you need to kick off your teenager’s university fund or are you likely to need a new car in the near future?
For me, redecorating our tatty hallway is a priority so I will be saving towards that. I also need to start a car fund as my old banger isn’t going to go on forever.
Low spend grocery month
Getting into no spend mode tends to focus my mind on keeping our grocery spend as low as possible too. This is the time to do an audit of your cupboards, fridge and freezer and see what needs using up. Plan your meals to incorporate what you have. If you have sausages in the freezer but no potatoes, use your stores of pasta instead to make a sausage ragu. Think of a recipe to make to use the couscous that has been sitting there for a year. Use more pulses and beans instead of meat and eat vegetarian a couple of times a week.
I always make sure our larder is stocked with the essentials to make quick, easy and frugal meals. Having items like eggs, rice, pasta, tinned tomatoes, tinned tuna and sardines, cans of chick peas and frozen vegetables helps to keep our grocery spending low as I can always throw something tasty together with those.
Who is in for a no spend January? Let me know what you think and give your advice on achieving a no spend month in the comments. You can also come and find me on Instagram where I will be posting regular tips and updates on my no spend month! I am @shoestringcottage.
Good luck everyone!