Are you looking for a financial challenge that could really boost your savings? Do you feel like your spending has gotten a bit out of control and you want to take back control? Do you need a way to radically change your financial lifestyle and put you on a better road?
Go a whole month without spending any money. It might sound like an impossible challenge, but it is possible. It will stretch your ingenuity, your resources, and require some planning, but you can do it. By going a month not spending a dime, you could really open your eyes to the waste and opportunities for saving money in your day to day life.
Set Some Ground Rules
Before you just agree and stop spending money, you need to set up some rules and understandings. There are some expenses you just cannot avoid. Rent/mortgage, loan payments, gas, and other required expenses will still happen, and you’ll still be on the hook for them. You could try to pay them before the month, or agree to pay them during the month, whatever you want to do.
You also need to set up conditions to protect yourself. Don't starve yourself to save on food or put yourself in a dangerous situation to save a few bucks. Your health needs to be a top priority during this time.
Finally, give yourself an incentive to succeed. Going a month without spending is hard, and at times of temptation, you need something to push you forward. If the idea of saving money isn’t enough, have an incentive to keep you going. Nothing too lavish or expensive as that would void the reason for the challenge, but something still valuable to you.
Do the Necessary Prep Work
Before you start your month free of spending, you need to prepare. Any important purchases you need to make before the month begins should be made ahead of time. The biggest purchase is food. To help cut down on needless and impulse spending, plan out your month’s meals and buy in bulk. It might be a bigger cost than normal at the grocery store, but ultimately you’ll save money buying in bulk and not going out to eat.
You should analyze your life and see what other normal expenses might lead to your downfall. Do you need coffee to get your day started? It may be time to invest in a coffee maker at home and become your own barista. Are your kids in school and in need of supplies for a project? Cover your bases with some common supplies for their homework.
By preparing ahead, you give yourself the necessary tools and means to succeed at the challenge. It’s an important step not to be ignored.
Cut Frivolous Spending Ahead of Time
Now that you know what essentials you have, it’s time to cut all of the unnecessary spending. A great way to do this is by going through your debit/credit card transactions and seeing everything you are regularly paying for. This can include one time monthly payments like subscription services, to regular purchases you make.
Now, cut those expenses out of your life. Got multiple streaming services? If you need to watch TV to help stay sane, pick one service and cut the rest out! Remove your Doordash app from your phone so you aren’t tempted. Take steps to avoid spending money you don’t have to.
Beginning the Month and Changing Your Lifestyle
As your no-spending month begins, you will have to fight hard to avoid slipping up. Habits are hard to break and you might find yourself reaching for your money without even realizing it. It could be a spur of the moment online purchase, a deal you feel like you can’t miss out on, or just a daily routine of buying breakfast on your way to work. You’ll need to work on breaking these habits quickly to avoid slipping up.
Changing can be very hard and it might feel easier just to give up. That’s why having an incentive is so important. During those times where you just want to spend money on fast food rather than cooking or treat yourself, remind yourself of why you are doing this.
During this early time, you need to try and fall into a routine that doesn’t involve spending money. If you feel like you are most tempted to shop online in the evening, put your phone in a different room and occupy your time with something productive. Find those times and activities that trigger wanting to spend money and avoid them.
If you are a Pioneer member, you can even put your debit and credit card on pause using myPioneer Online and Mobile Banking. That will act as another barrier, an extra step, to spending money. That way, you have to actively acknowledge you are spending money rather than just swiping a card.
Get Creative at the End of the Month
As you move through the month, you’ll slip into a routine that works. You’ll adapt to your new lifestyle and watch your savings account stay strong. You might notice though as the month progresses you likely favored certain resources more than ever. If you bought meals in bulk, you might see certain ingredients getting used up quicker than others. Maybe you made a lot of chicken based meals and now you are out of chicken.
A new temptation will arise, to replenish your home resources. This too needs to be resisted and you might need to get creative. Adapt, adjust, and keep going forward. If necessary, use the internet to find new meals you could make with the supplies and ingredients you have at home. Whatever your barrier is, try to piece together solutions rather than turning back to spending money.
Learned Lessons and Saved Money
As the month finishes, it’s important to take time and analyze what lessons you learned. Returning to the world of commerce might feel a bit overwhelming, so be sure to not slip back into old habits. Instead, apply lessons you learned during your no-spend month to your normal life.
For example, if buying groceries in bulk helped with meal planning, keep doing that. Plan your month and buy all the necessary ingredients ahead of time. But if you found that certain foods would spoil before you ate them, don’t buy that in bulk and instead make that a more regular and smaller purchase you make. If keeping your debit or credit card turned off most of time helped you avoid spending, keep doing that.
Be sure to reward yourself with your incentive and enjoy your saved money. If it’s a decent amount of money, consider putting it to work for you. Clearly you don’t need it immediately since you went a month without spending it, so consider investing it. Pioneer offers Term Certificates that pay you a higher interest rate than normal saving accounts do. Not only are you saving money, but getting a bigger return for it!
Learn more about Term Certificates