The new year is a great time to set yourself a no spend challenge, although you can do it any time of year. Turning over a new leaf and starting afresh; the themes for a brand new year perfectly suit a no spend month.
Why do a no spend January?
‘Really? You spend NOTHING for a whole month?’, is a common response when I tell people my plans for a no spend month.
Some can manage a no spend day, weekend or even a no spend week. But a month is a whole new ball game.
A no spend January will help you recover from the Christmas spend-fest and save you loads of cash. However, a prolonged period of not spending will also increase your awareness of where your money goes and make you appreciate how little you can live on if you need to.
I find a no spend period truly liberating. There are no more of those internal conversations about whether you should buy that new item of clothing or have a night on the town. You know you won’t be doing either.
How to prepare for a no spend January
Tell family and friends
I always find it best to be upfront with friends and family when I do a no spend month. It is hard to keep making excuses for not meeting for coffee or going to the pub. If you tell people in advance you will get fewer invitations.
Don’t, however, let your loved ones spend all their money on you during your no spend month. Instead of letting them pay for dinner, how about cooking something together to share at home?
Stay away from the shops
It may sound obvious but looking around the shops or window shopping is a terrible idea when you are trying to save money. This includes charity shops! I can spend a small fortune in them if I am not careful.
Plan for fun
If you are usually a social butterfly, a month of no outings at all will be tough and lonely. Look for cheap or free things to do. Invite friends round with a bottle or get together and bring a dish each. Your rules for the month might allow for a weekly night out with an upper spending limit. You can be flexible and the rules are up to you.
This may be a good time to use up any vouchers you got for Christmas for the cinema. Otherwise, Netflix always has a good choice of films and dramas.
Plan what you will do with the money you save
This can be a great incentive to stick to the rules you make for your no spend January. Whether you want to pay off your credit card or put some money towards a summer holiday, a plan will keep you on track.
These are my own personal rules for my no spend January. Yours might be different, depending on your circumstances. Here is what is allowed:
Mortgage and bills
Obviously we will take care of these, as usual. No point in saving money and having to deal with the bailiffs….
Groceries and pet supplies
I can spend money on food. However, I will eat from the fridge, freezer and cupboards first and make sure I plan our menus around what is in there before buying anything else. I always pack a work lunch anyway as this saves a ton of money.
We don’t have masses of food left over from Christmas, but some of you will. Make sure you factor this into your planning to keep your grocery spend to a minimum. Personally, I intend to make lots of soup with the stack of home grown courgettes in the freezer, to make bread pudding with the bread ends and to use up some of our frozen plums for crumbles.
It is really important to go through your larder to see what you have stashed away. I did this today and found I had two jars of coffee and a pack of teabags pushed right to the back. Both were on my shopping list, so have been able to cross them off.
You might find some of my favourite frugal recipes helpful.
I stocked up yesterday on cat food, litter and biscuits. We will obviously buy more of these if we need to as we go through our no spend January.
I could save money by cycling to work, but I am no cyclist and it is 6 miles each way, so I think not! Petrol is therefore allowed. I will, however, walk or cycle short trips. We are trying to increase the amount of walking we do anyway so this will be a good incentive to keep our miles up.
Alcohol and treats
I am allowing some wine and a few treats during my no spend January. However, I won’t need to buy any sweets or crisps as we still have loads left over. As I won’t be going out to the pub this month, a couple of bottles of white wine will be on my shopping list.
It is my daughter’s birthday this month. I have already sorted her presents. However, we will be having some kind of takeaway as a celebration on Friday, the day before she travels back to university.
Free days out
We have our RHS card so might take a trip to Hyde Hall, our nearest garden. There are free museums and galleries here. We will take lots of long walks too. We are allowing our travel costs to these places where necessary.
What isn’t allowed
Make up and toiletries. I have enough of both to get me through the month.
Cleaning supplies. Again, we have plenty. I will buy toilet paper and washing up liquid during the month, as we are likely to run out. Essential items only!
Nights out. Unless they are free! If we get an invitation out to dinner we shall accept that and return the favour next month.
Items of clothing. I don’t need anything.
Books. I am terrible for impulse purchasing books. I have quite a few to read and some on my Kindle app, so there is no excuse to buy any more. If I am short of a read I will look on the internet or visit the library.
Snacks from the machine at work. These are ridiculous. 80p for a single chocolate bar. I will keep a stash of our Christmas food in my drawer for emergencies.
Coffees out. If I am going into town or if we are out for the day I will prepare a flask. We always take a picnic on excursions anyway, which saves a lot of money.
Takeaways. Apart from my daughter’s birthday, there will be no expensive take out food. We don’t spend money on these anyway as a rule.
Will you join me on a no spend January?
I will be checking in weekly to let you know how I am getting on and whether I have succumbed to any extra spending. It will be interesting to know if you are planning a no spend January and what your rules will be! How far can you stretch your money this month?