“Nada en los bolsillos” by Esperantista on Flickr
Nicole and Maggie asked about No-Spend Days this weekend. I figured I’d give them my answer in post form.
Like everything else in personal finance, I suspect the key to No-Spend Days is that they’re personal and this is definitely not the type of thing where One Size Fits All. I know N&M are always amazed by the frequency with which people who do the challenges spend money. I’ve noticed the ones that spend very frequently either have school-age children and/or are stay at home parents. School-age children are really expensive and full of those tiny little expenses no one ever seems to grasp the immensity and frequency of. I’d imagine stay at home parents simply have more time to spend on a daily basis. If you’re the type of person who already has spending on a schedule of sorts, these are probably not for you unless, perhaps, you feel spending is too much of your schedule.
Why I Do Them
I really underestimated the frequency with which I spent money. I honestly didn’t think I was spending money very often, but I was. And I found it was on little things that may have been justified but not really. Also, because of my hectic schedule and lack of ease to go out and run errands consistently (like grocery shopping every Saturday for instance), I tend to usually find myself out of things and instantly go for instant gratification and convenience. Not to mention, I just didn’t want to be updating my ledger daily.
I don’t have any exceptions. For me, it’s simple—if I spend money, I lose that day. The only exception I can think of is when bills post to my account. I count the day I pay them all off, or schedule them, but the day they actually post to my account is out of my control and I’m not that anal. Oh and I never ask someone else to pick up my tab because I’m trying to get a No-Spend Day. If someone does pick up the tab for me on a day that happens to turn into a No-Spend Day, I don’t disqualify myself because chances are I’ve either already done that very thing for them this month or I’ll be doing it before the month is over so it’s all even-steven in the long run and again, I’m just not that anal.
How I Do Them
I’ve done Spending Challenges and some people classify those as No-Spend challenges. I don’t. Spending Challenges are just challenges to reduce spending across the board or in a specific category. So for No-Spend Days, I just say I’d like to have x number of no-spend days in x number of days.
Why They Work For Me
Because I’m not putting my spending on total ice for seven straight days or anything like that, I don’t fall victim to Stock-Up Syndrome. However, let’s say I don’t feel like making lunch for the kids tomorrow. Well, I can either make the lunches or lose my chance at a No-Spend Day. Granted, this isn’t as effective as a day where I’m already planning on spending money, but it’s been very effective on the days I don’t really have a good reason for spending anything the rest of the day.
About the days I’m already planning on spending money—the spending on these days hasn’t been any more amped up than usual. I don’t do the opposite and plan spending binges for days when I know I have to spend money. That just hasn’t occurred to me and it really doesn’t appeal to me either. I’m trying to be conscious of my spending and make good choices with my money—planning spending binges runs counter-intuitive to this mindset. Not to mention, my schedule is so tight that I really don’t have too much room to add too much extra spending on days I have to do it anyways. I might be able to manage filling the tank and some quick groceries but not the tank, full-blown groceries, and a quick trip to Target.
This also encourages me to think about my purchases. I might really want to make a particular purchase but if I know I have no other spending to do that day and it’ll put a dent into my No-Spend count, I’ll hold off on it. I might get it the next day when I do have necessary spending to do, or I might not because I’m over it or have come up with a suitable replacement.
Who I Think They Work For
I think No-Spend challenges are great for people who have problems with impulse purchases and by impulse purchases, I don’t mean whether or not it’s a want or need. If you’re prone to seeing something and suddenly realizing you “need” it, that’s an Impulse Buy whether or not you can justify it fifty million times over.
This would also probably be suitable for people who don’t really understand how their money vanishes so quickly. Combine a No-Spend challenge with tracking your expenses and you instantly gain quite a bit of control (or at least a sense of it) over your finances you didn’t have before.
I also think they’re good for people who feel they live very hectic lives and want to slow down. Participating in a No-Spend challenge can help you analyze how your time is spent and encourages planning even if, like me, it’s on the tiniest of levels.
So there you go. Some people don’t really need silly games, challenges, or anything to get them to make changes in their spending habits or money management. Some of us do. No-Spend days can work for some, and they can destroy others who can easily fall prey to Stock Up Syndrome or who just get way to stressed under those circumstances. But, it is a creative way to take a look at what you’re putting out and how often. And there’s nothing wrong with learning something new about yourself.