How We Survived a No Spend Week (And How You Can, Too!)

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Saving money is important. You know this, I know this, pretty much everyone old enough to know what money even is knows this. So then why are so many people still struggling with this concept? While it’s widely known that saving money is extremely beneficial for countless reasons, this doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily an easy task to accomplish. When it comes to saving, there’s one question that people often ask themselves: what actually works?

In being a stay at home mom with another one on the way, this question has crossed my mind many, many times. Michael being the only one employed full-time can make things extremely tight at times, so it’s not exactly like there’s a ton of money left at the end of the month to throw directly into our savings. Through the use of coupons, budget tracking, and meal planning, I’ve been able to cut back significantly on our monthly spending, but sometimes it still doesn’t feel like enough.

So out of the blue, I decided to take the leap and attempt a money saving method that we hadn’t tried before: a no spend week. 

How We Survived a No Spend Week (And How You Can, Too!)

Now, I’ve tried doing this in the past, but have never actually made it the full week. I would just suddenly have bouts of “no extra spending” that would eventually die out as I added ridiculous amounts of unnecessary items to my cart on Amazon. What made this time different, though, was that I had a plan and was determined to stick to it. 

First, I categorized all of our spending into two categories: “necessary” and “unnecessary”. While the majority of it fell into the “unnecessary” category, there were a few expenses that I deemed to be unavoidable that wouldn’t count toward our no spending goal:

  • Bills
  • Credit cards
  • Gas
  • Pet food
  • Milk

Let’s be honest, you can’t just go an entire week not paying your bills. Not only is this not going to save you anything, it’s possible that you’ll end up having to pay more in the long run due to late fees. Since Michael drives a lot for his job, I knew I couldn’t exclude gas, but I was sure to limit my driving for the week to help cut back as much as possible. I included milk on the list because it’s something I use several times a day. (Plus I have a toddler who drinks a ton of it!) Other than these five things, everything else, including all other food and household items, was off-limits. 

So how did we do? To be honest, the first few days went by pretty smoothly. I already had dinners planned out for the week, so this eliminated any urges to go out. Since we started on a Wednesday, though, by the time the weekend rolled around, I was starting to get a little antsy. We just so happened to have some of the hottest weather we had gotten in awhile, so an ice-cold freezie sounded reeeeaaaally good. After partially getting through the question “what if we–” and then quickly stopping myself, though, I told Michael that we had some huckleberry ice cream left in the freezer that would make for a nice treat. 

In the end, I think we did a really good job not spending money. Here’s a summary of how the week went:

What did we actually spend on?

For the entire seven days, our expenses came to:

  • Bills: $342.22
  • Credit cards: $162.00
  • Gas: $35.51
  • Pet food: $0.00
  • Milk: $2.89

Total: $542.62

What did we save on?

Below are rough estimates of the things we normally would’ve spent money on:

  • Groceries: $80.00
  • Gas: $25.00
  • Couponing: $20.00
  • Eating out: $40.00
  • Misc (household, personal, clothing): $30.00

Total: $195.00

What we learned:

It was actually incredible how much our minds had shifted after just a week of not spending money. It was almost like a switch had been flipped, as our mentalities went from “spend, spend, SPEND” mode to “live on what what we have” mode. I was extremely proud of how we utilized the food that we had, which resulted in a bunch of fresh produce getting used up that probably would have gone to waste otherwise. 

In conclusion, I definitely think that the no spend week was a success and we most likely will be doing another one in the near future (and may even make it a regular thing)! I encourage anyone out there trying to save money to give this method a try and see if helps you. 

Getting started:

  • Determine your necessary expenses- they can be as broad or specific as you’d like. Everything else goes bye-bye for the next seven days.
  • Make a menu for the week. Go through your cabinets, fridge, and freezer and see what you have to work with. Pinterest is a great resource for finding simple and yummy recipes!
  • Communicate. Before you start, make sure your spouse or anyone else involved is informed of all the rules and restrictions.

 Tips:

  • Don’t splurge. I can’t stress this enough! After your no spend week comes to end, the first thing on your mind may be to go out and celebrate or just spend for the sake of spending. DON’T DO IT! Instead, try to ease your way back into it; I’d recommend starting with maybe a grocery or light couponing trip.
  • Eliminate temptation. If you find yourself itching to spend, leave your credit cards at home if you’re going out. If you’re not comfortable doing this, take out an emergency $20 in cash and leave the rest!
  • Keep track of your savings. If you normally buy a coffee every morning, calculate out how much you’re saving every day from cutting that out from your spending. You’re likely to stay more motivated if you know exactly what you’re saving!
  • Stay busy. Lounging around the house is the gateway activity that leads to unnecessary and irresponsible spending. If the weather’s nice, go for a walk or just get outside and play with the kiddos!
  • Pick a week that works for you. I chose to do our no spend week in the middle of the month. Although we still had some bills and credit cards that were due, it was actually better than the beginning or end of the month when rent and a bunch of other bills are due.
  • Start small. If a week without spending seems absolutely impossible for you to achieve, start a bit smaller and go for a weekend if you can, then slowly work your way up to the full seven days.

Have you ever attempted a no spend challenge? Tell me about it in the comments below! 

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