My Thoughts on No-Spend Days

Nada en los bolsillos 174/365 (Explored!)
“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.

My Rules

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.


9 thoughts on “My Thoughts on No-Spend Days

  1. To be clear– we don’t think they’re silly games! For us, no spend-days wouldn’t work so well because most days are no spend-days (possibly because it takes a long time to get to shops so we have to plan to shop in advance) and we’d just end up shifting spending to the days we do spend.

    Month-long challenges are a different animal than counting no-spend days since it’s not as easy to inter-temporally shift over the course of a month. So they’ll fit different circumstances than a no-spend day.

    I think Linda at windy city was right that the no spend days are really about breaking a daily spending habit. That makes a lot of sense.

    • Oh I know you don’t, but I do 🙂

      You make a great point about access. That definitely would impact spending. For me, everything is a five ten minute drive away not to mention at work all the eateries in walking distance.

      Yes. Linda’s got it right. It’s definitely good for that as well. I think it has several purposes and really they all just end up doing the same thing– make you look at your habits and then leaving it to you to decide if those habits are in line with your goals or not. And then change at will.

  2. Though I don’t do “No Spend Days”, I approach the issue similarly to you. For me, it’s a question of packing lunch instead of buying it at work, resist the urge to buy coffee or buying sodas at the grocery store instead of at the vending machine (I know, I should do without them, but I already quit smoking). Those are little things that accumulate throughout the month.

    It probably also helps with impulse buyers. Since I am lazy above all, I’ve never gone to the shopping mall just for the sake of it (20 minutes drive). But when I do go, I end up buying more than I need. So I guess it’s like getting rid of an addictive behavior for some people.

  3. As I said on N&M`s blog, I think the no spend concept is great for people who are trying to break the habit (if it`s at a financially detrimental level) of shopping or eating out regularly. But it`s probably best to do it in conjunction with a `total month spending` reduction if possible like I did for that month.

    Like N&M and Spanish Prof, I just don`t shop much anymore. And for years, I never had the time to do it either (hence the tendency to stockpile). Plus I really hate shopping with kids in tow since I used to tend to just like looking at things but now wander around aimlessly, overwhelmed at all the possible choices – enough so that I have to leave the store without buying anything because my brain might explode. So it`s become an annoyance and not a pleasure like it used to be. I kind of miss that feeling of liking it. 😦

    • I still enjoy shopping very much– when I don’t have the kids in tow. I love it, I really do. But that’s why I stay home most of the time. Now as the income starts to grow, I have to slowly start budgeting for more spending because I really need it. My work wardrobe is extremely shabby right now and I can’t fall into that rut too long. I have a huge conference at the end of October and I really need to look great because I’m the face of the conference. Not to mention, I just feel better when I look put together. So, I’m excited about heading back to the stores but wary too. I shop very differently now than I used to do in that I am way more focused when I go into a store to look for something. That usually leads to not finding what I want and some frustration but I just keep at it. My best shopping is with Friend who is the best shopping partner in the world despite his total maleness. Go figure!

  4. I’ve tried a few no-buying-clothes experiments a few years ago, and I’d do well for a few months, but then I’d break my ban and go back to buying stuff! I’ve realized that there’s really no difference in spending $100 a month on clothes for a year vs. not spending any $ on clothes for 6 months and then blowing $1,200 for the next 6 months. But I think no-spend days are really good for just slowing down and thinking more carefully about purchases.

    • Yeah I think in that case, the best thing to do is an overall reduction in amount maybe not frequency. I don’t tend to do a backlash after my No-Spend days. God I’d love to spend $100 a month on clothes. *fantasizes*

      Yes! Midnfulness is key!

  5. What I miss more than anything is the days when EVERYthing I tried on looked great. Now that I’ve put on weight since those days, I’m looking at how styles hide certain… errr… attributes. That’s a big mood killer. LOL And my feet can’t handle excessively pointy or heeled styles anymore, but they’re sooooo cute! Comfort before beauty now though, I’m sad to say. It takes the fun all out of it though. And jewelry – I LOVE jewelry – but I go on binges with that too – I think my last splurge / purchases were in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach and Orlando areas 3 years ago. (I have peacock tendencies). Shopping on holiday is what I usually do, but sometimes what I come home with doesn’t exactly fit into my every day lifestyle so it gets wasted.

    IMO FWIW, take the opportunity while you’re in your 20’s and 30’s to look as scrumptious as you can (within reason). You’re only that age once. It starts looking weird to dress and wear your hair too flamboyantly when you’re older and you have to start moving to classic (boring) styles.

    Quite a difference from when I was in my 20’s and had purple spiked hair with silver iridescent leggings and earrings down past my shoulders.. It took more than one time of someone pulling me aside to tell me that I was dressing inappropriately. But it was fun – except for the street job opportunities that were presented on the walk home from work, sometimes even TO work. That was kind of scary.


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