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How to Crush a No-Spend Month

We’ve all been there . . . you’ve been spending money like you’re a drunk congressman (or a sober one for that matter). Your savings account is running low, and your credit card balance is running high. It’s a wake-up call for you to get your financial house in order—fast!

So what can you do to give your newfound fiscal responsibility a jump start? Try doing a no-spend challenge for a whole month.

A no-spend month could be just what you need to get your finances on track while starting some new, more intentional money habits.

Are you up to the challenge? If the answer is “heck yeah,” then let’s walk through what “no-spend” means and how to do it.

What Is a No-Spend Month?

The name pretty much explains itself. A no-spend month is a challenge where you don’t spend money on anything for a month except the essentials. That means covering what we call your Four Walls (food, utilities, shelter and transportation) and basically nothing else. No eating out, no spending on entertainment, no new unnecessary gadgets—zip, zilch, nada.

A no-spend challenge is like hitting the reset button on your finances so you can get a handle on where you are and focus on your financial goals with zero distractions.

If you take a minute to think back, you’ve probably already been through a version of a no-spend month. During the COVID shutdown of 2020, practically everything was closed, jobs were uncertain, and lots of people went into no-spend mode just to survive. And it really opened people’s eyes to how much they spent on stuff they didn’t need.

But don’t worry—you can get the positive benefits of a no-spend month without the global pandemic!

Rules of a No-Spend Month

Every challenge has rules—even internet challenges (anyone remember the ice bucket challenge or the mannequin challenge?). There aren’t really any hard-and-fast no-spend rules, but here are a few basic guidelines:

  • DO spend money only on things you absolutely need. This includes stuff like the Four Walls, as well as medical expenses, regular essential bills, debt payments, etc.
  • DON’T spend money on anything you just want. Sorry, you’ll have to put all that discretionary spending on hold. If you don’t absolutely need a new pair of shoes, don’t get them during your no-spend month!
  • DO stop the challenge if you have any emergencies. It’s life. Unexpected expenses might come up—like a car repair or a medical emergency. It’s okay to stop the challenge and start again next month.

Benefits of a No-Spend Month

A no-spend month has tons of benefits. Sometimes our budgets get a little bloated, so it can act like a financial detox and help you get your financial diet back on the right track. Take a look at these other great benefits of no-spend months:

You’ll get a good, hard look at your spending.

First, no-spend months make you take a good, hard look at how much you spend willy-nilly. Get ready to second-guess a lot of your “normal” spending. While that may sound stressful, eventually you’ll build better spending habits because of it.

You’ll stop emotional spending.

The way you spend money is often driven by emotion. You want something because you think it’ll make you feel better or more fulfilled. When you’re on a no-spend challenge, you have to think more practically so you can separate your emotions from your money.

You’ll develop gratitude.

Since you can’t get anything new, a no-spend month will help you appreciate what you already own. You know . . . all that stuff in your house you haven’t used in a long time. And since you’re focusing on using what you already have, you’ll get all the use you can out of everything before you throw it away—down to the last bit of shampoo, the last frozen chicken tender, and the last bit of cereal at the bottom of the box. Nothing goes to waste!

You’ll declutter your house.

All that closet raiding will help you declutter your house. There’s no new stuff coming in, after all. So anything you eat or use up means less stuff lying around. You won’t have five bottles of shampoo because you’re not supposed to buy something unless you truly need it (and it’s in the budget).

You’ll take back control.

All this wise spending and decluttering from your no-spend month will give you a powerful new sense of control in your life. You’ll be actively calling the shots of how you spend (or don’t spend) your money. Doesn’t that sound cool? So many people have no idea where their money goes, but you can! And that’s something that could potentially last after your month-long challenge has ended.

13 Tips for a Successful No-Spend Month

We know . . . a whole month of no spending can be hard. But you can do it. It’ll be worth it, trust us! Try these tips to make your no-spend month really count.

1. Know your why.

All great journeys start out with a why. You’ve got to be intentional and disciplined, and you need a reason—a goal—for your no-spend month. Maybe you want to put more money toward your debt. Maybe you want to save up to make a big purchase.


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Whatever it is, make sure you’re shooting for something specific as a result of all your sacrifice. Otherwise, why are you doing it?

2. Timing is everything.

When you start your no-spend month is just as important as how. Lots of people take on a no-spend January because of the reasons mentioned above. But maybe January isn’t a good month for you because you have an upcoming expense. That’s okay. Just plan things out, and when you actually start, commit to it.

3. Plan your meals.

It’s time to get creative with your food. We’re talking preplanning every meal so your grocery budget is as lean and mean as possible. It also means cleaning out your pantry of all the food you’ve been ignoring or completely forgot about (and throw the expired stuff out . . . ewww). See what recipes you can find online, and make some interesting dishes with all the stuff you have.

You don’t need to buy a bunch of food to have a fun meal. Be resourceful! Popcorn with salad? Why not.

4. Stay out of money holes.

Make it a point to avoid places where you’ll be tempted to needlessly spend money. We’re talking about money holes like retail stores (Target, anyone?), restaurants (dessert is not essential), and casinos (the house always wins)—anywhere designed to separate you from your cash. If you usually walk around the mall at lunchtime, consider a nice local park instead. Get the temptation out of your life, at least temporarily.

5. Shop-proof your phone.

Even more tempting than spending in a real-life store is spending on your phone. So make sure your phone can’t tempt you either. Remove your debit card info from retailer apps or websites. Or delete all those retailer apps completely (Amazon, Target, Best Buy, etc.). Unsubscribe from email lists and ads (let’s be honest . . . you probably wanted to do that anyway). Make it as hard as possible to buy something you want. The extra hurdles might make you think twice.

6. Make a wish list.

So, you’re crushing your no-spend month, but then you see something you think you absolutely, positively have to have. What do you do?

Well, first—don’t buy it! It’s a no-spend month, remember? But here’s what you can do: Make a list. Write down all the stuff you come across that you think you can’t live without. Then wait until your no-spend month challenge is over and come back to that list. With time comes perspective, and your perspective on those “must-have” items may change.

P.S. Waiting at least a day for an unplanned “must-have” purchase is a good habit to start even when you’re not in the middle of a no-spend month.

7. Use old gift cards.

Got some gift cards in a shoebox, dresser drawer or pants pocket that still haven’t been used? Don’t let them go to waste. Go out and spend them! It’s free money. But remember . . . spend no more than the amount on the card. So if that card only gets you a slice of banana bread at Starbucks, then that’s it. Appreciate your treat and move on.

8. Look at your subscriptions.

Okay, some people think Netflix is a monthly utility they can’t live without. But the truth is, it isn’t—and you can live without it . . . at least for your no-spend month. Paid streaming services are a definite want, no matter how much of a fan of The Crown or The Mandalorian you think you are. And if you have multiple streaming services to get all your favorite shows, that’s hundreds of dollars a year (or worse—a month!) you’re throwing away. And do you really watch all of them all the time?

This no-spend rule of thumb goes for any type of noncontractual monthly subscription service, by the way—gym memberships, meal services and even those fancy subscription boxes with all the goodies in them. They’re all wants and nice-to-haves. So save yourself even more money, dump the subs for now, and find other more cost-effective ways to stay in shape.

9. Get free entertainment for days.

Look, just because you’re skipping paid entertainment options for your no-spend month doesn’t mean you have to sit at home and stare at the wall. You can find tons of free ways keep yourself entertained out there. Borrow books and movies from the library. Find some free streaming services that have tons of movies and TV shows to watch. Look for free community events in your area. There are lots of possibilities, but it might take some digging on your part.

10. Limit social media.

Nothing says “buzzkill” to your no-spend goals like seeing a glitzy social media post about your friend’s exotic vacation, your sister-in-law’s new outfit, or your coworker’s brand-new car. Social media is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, but it can also put your FOMO into overdrive, making you think you’re missing out on all the fun your friends are having.

It's really hard not to compare yourself to others, especially on social media. As Rachel Cruze says, “Comparisons steal our joy, our paychecks and our sanity.” It’s a game you can’t win, and it will tempt you to break your no-spend challenge. So keep social media scrolling to a minimum during your no-spend month.

11. Let others know.

You don’t have to go through your no-spend month alone. In fact, it’s better if you don’t! As we said above, limit your social media time, but do post about your challenge online. Your friends and family can help keep you accountable, and they’ll know not to tempt you with a trip to the mall or a night out at a restaurant (unless they’re paying!). You may also inspire others online to take on the challenge and clean up their own finances. Spread the hope far and wide!

12. Track your savings.

The best way to stay motivated during a month of no spending is to track your progress throughout the month. Start by writing down your spending total from the month before. Keep that number in mind as you go through your no-spend month. Then at the end of your challenge, tally up all your spending and check out the difference. That’s how much money you saved during your no-spend month. It’s like magic! And hard work, of course.

A great way to keep track of your progress on a no-spend journey is to mark up a calendar. That way, you can physically check off each day and literally see your progress—and have a tangible reminder of your why. After all, if it’s not written down, it’s like it never happened. And we just happen to have a 100% free no-spend calendar for you right here. Just fill in the bubbles for each day. You’ll be able to literally see your progress!

Click to Download a Printable, Fillable No-Spend Calendar

no-spend month progress calendar13. Don’t Beat Yourself Up

A no-spend month takes a lot of grit and determination—especially if you’ve never done one before. And the rewards are worth the effort. But you may have moments where you stumble. Let’s say you just couldn’t resist that candy bar at the grocery store checkout (we understand—those Snickers bars are pretty irresistible). That’s okay. Sure, it was a slip-up, but you can keep moving forward and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Just don’t beat yourself up about it. That won’t help you. But moving toward your goal will. So shake it off and don’t dwell on it.

No-Spend Mistakes to Avoid

Aside from not spending “want” money and keeping the occasional slipups to a minimum, there are a couple more common mistakes to avoid during your no-spend month:

Don’t have cheat days.

So, you’re going on a spending diet nd you think planning a day where you can throw out the rules and raid the money fridge will help you stay in control of your spending? Of course not! Do you want this to work or don’t you? The only way your no-spend challenge is going to work is if you stick to the plan.

Don’t binge after the month.

In that same vein, once your no-spend month is over and you’ve accomplished your goal, don’t go out and spend money willy-nilly. Just like eating a ton of ice cream after you’ve lost a bunch of weight, a super spending splurge will drive you back into your old habits. Your no-spend month is an introduction to a complete lifestyle change. That means there’s no going back. You need to move forward with a new mentality. It’ll be worth it—we promise.

No-Spending the Ramsey Way

A no-spend month might be a new-to-you idea. But the truth is, we’ve been telling people how to do this kind of stuff for almost 30 years! Basically, what most people call a “no-spend month” we call “gazelle intensity.” It’s a no-holds-barred beans-and-rice kind of plan where you hunker down, spend the lowest amount possible (meaning only your Four Walls), and put every extra free dollar toward paying off debt or building an emergency fund. For the millions of people who have changed their lives with Financial Peace University, a long-term no-spend-month mentality helped them eventually build real wealth.

If you can get through a no-spend January, you can go even longer and get gazelle intense the whole year!

But for starters, we have an app that can help you during that no-spend month. It’s called EveryDollar—a budgeting tool that makes it easy to tell your money where to go so you don’t wonder where it went. You can preplan your no-spend month, mark budget categories for all of your needs (no wants), and add up just how much money you’ll end up saving.

Sound good? Then download the free version and try it out. And good luck on your no-spend month. You’ve got this!

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Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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