Could you go a whole month without any discretionary spending?
The No Spend Month
by Chantal King
How a Full Pantry Saves Money
Meal Planning Made Simple
A Money-Free Day
Frugal families across the nation are taking their dollar stretching further. For the month of February, the plan is to spend nothing. There will be no discretionary spending at all. That means eating all meals at home or packing a lunch, finding free entertainment or going without, and no trips to the mall or late night online shopping sprees.
February is the perfect month for a spending freeze. With only 28 days, it will seem to fly by. By this time, the holiday bills are paid. Vacation days are months away. A one-month spending freeze is a good way to see just how frugal you can be. However, it is a big commitment and takes some planning. The whole family needs to be on board to make it work.
The first step in a spending freeze is to stock up your pantry and freezer. Another crucial step is meal planning. You don't want to make it halfway through the month and find out that you are out of flour or some other staple. Keep your costs low by buying on sale, using coupons, and stocking up when products are at their lowest price point.
Next, decide in advance what you do need to pay: monthly bills, weekly gas for transportation, sudden illnesses or trips to the doctor, and perhaps $10 or so for fresh milk and produce. You can rely on canned or frozen vegetables, but it is good to have some fresh fruit as well.
This goes way beyond being frugal. Instead of budgeting and spending less, you are spending nothing. You need a whole new mindset. If someone needs a gift, get creative. Anything handmade is appreciated far more than yet another scented candle, although it is easy and fun to make your own candles.
What if a pipe clogs or your water heater goes out? Check with the Chamber of Commerce if your city has a bartering system. Often, you can barter your skills for something you need. Even if there isn't an established system, you could ask your handy neighbor to help in return for babysitting his three kids or doing his taxes for free.
What if the weather outside is frightful, and you're stuck inside with nothing to do? Devise some old-fashioned ways of passing the time. Try board games, charades, eating s'mores around the fireplace, or a rousing game of cards. You could watch old home movies or dust off the family photo albums. Have a picnic in the living room or make a fort out of blankets in the dining room.
You could invite friends or family over for a cost-free potluck or just desserts. Curl up with a good book from the library, or watch a free movie. Libraries often have free guest speakers or presentations. You can also check out the local happenings for free music concerts or plays put on in your child's school.
Perhaps committing to a whole month of no spending is too daunting. Could your family do it for a week? How about two weeks? Or maybe you could do a pantry challenge and only eat what you have on hand. Another challenge would be to only pay cash, using no credit cards for a month.
When you successfully complete your challenge, you will discover exactly how much you can save in a few short weeks. Your home will be less cluttered, because you're not rushing out to buy something new. You will be more conscious of your spending and cut way down on impulse buys. If you don't need it, don't buy it.
You will find that it is easier to live on less. You'll get creative instead of always reaching for your wallet. A bonus is that you'll get control of your spending. Your mindset will change as well. You once asked, "What am I depriving myself of?" Now, you'll ask, "What can I use that I already have?"
So take the challenge, either this February or anytime you feel the need to go on a spending freeze. You'll be surprised at the unexpected bonuses. You'll have more time with your family, eating together, sending less to the landfill, and getting creative with what you already have. Even though I hate cold weather, I'm ready for a February freeze.
Take the Next Step
- For more information on budgets, visit The Dollar Stretcher Library
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