by Susan McCarthy
Everyday practice - Have one no-spend day a week.
You want to save money, but you don't know where the cash goes? Tracking your spending answers that question, but it doesn't solve the immediate problem of saving money. A no-spend month may be your solution.
Okay, a no-spend month (or year) is a bit of a misnomer; because, of course, you have to pay the rent or mortgage, the phone and electric bill, gas and insurance for the car, food, shampoo, and other sundry items.
You could become a total freeloader and wonder why, at the end of the month, you have no friends (because you’ve been eating all their food) and even your mom wants you to stop sleeping on her sofa.
Nope, not going to work. A no-spend month (or year) is really about becoming more aware of how you spend your money.
Benefits of a No-Spend Month
Shop Your Home During a No-Spend Challenge
When you heard about a no-spend month, the first thing you probably thought of was the money you’d save. Chances are, you weren’t thinking of decluttering your home. However, this is another big benefit of a no-spend month, and just why you might push it into a no-spend season or year.
One of the easiest ways to save money is to use the stuff you already have.
Use the Food in Your Pantry, Refrigerator, and Freezer
I’m not suggesting that you end up with empty pantry shelves and a bare refrigerator. However, this no-spend month is the perfect time to minimize your shopping list to dairy, bread, eggs, fruits and veggies and other stuff that you eat each week. Shop your pantry and freezer for the components of meals. Do you have three open boxes of cereal. Eat them before buying more cereal. Consider how many jars of sauce you need to keep on your shelf to make a quick supper. Chances are, it isn’t six.
If you go shopping every week, you are just days away from replenishing anything that you run out of during the week. Bonus – you save time that you used to spend stopping at the grocery store for an ingredient to round out your dinner’s menu. You might need to be a bit more creative and plan your menu for the week. Almost any combination of ingredients can be turned into a soup, stew, stir-fry, casserole, or tucked into a sub roll or fajita wrapper.
Yes, at some point, you’ll realize that you need to buy a bag of frozen peas or a box of orzo. That’s fine. You’ll work down you stock of food to a manageable level.
While using the food you already have, you may discover food that’s two years’ past its expiration date or chicken breast with a serious case of freezer burn. Now that you are using the food you’ve bought, you’ll eliminate that issue in the future.
Use the Grooming and Beauty Supplies You Own
Use the stuff you’ve bought on sale. Go back and use the items you stopped using because you wanted to try out your newest purchase. Unless something looks off or smells strange, use it. If it is disgusting, toss it.
When you notice you’re running out of a product, shop through your cabinets and cubbies to see if you have more. Yes, after a few months, you can replace the mascara you’ve been using. Replacing any item is fine. Buying more of what you already have in another color or fragrance is not okay on your no-spend season.
I know, you don’t want to deny yourself that great new nail polish color; however, buying it won’t help you reach the goals you’ve given yourself for going no-spend. Go home and pamper yourself with a mani-pedi using the nail polishes you already have.
You may start to realize that you have a lip balm and tube of hand cream in each of the five purses, totes, and gym bags you regularly carry. Do you really use the products stored in each bag? Or, was this a useful way to handle excessive purchase. Use up supplies and then replace them.
Wear the Clothing You Own
Want something new? Look through your own closet and you may discover something that you bought but haven’t worn (or rarely worn). Pull out the jewelry and purses and scarves and shoes that you haven’t used as often as your favorites. If you find something that doesn’t fit, is stained, or is uncomfortable, put it in a bag for donation.
If you can’t wear something, already it’s not a part of your wardrobe and you can get rid of it. Unlike a bottle of shampoo, you do not have to replace the pair of pumps that pinch your toes or the tee shirt with the coffee stain. Chances are, you have another pair of pumps and another tee shirt that you can wear instead. Again, if you can’t wear something, it isn’t part of your wardrobe, so you don’t need to replace it. If you own one white button-down and you wear it all the time, then you can replace it when your sister’s toddler gives you a spaghetti sauce-laden hug.
Keep Playing the "Shop in Your Own Home Game"
Once you start looking, you’ll realize that you have a lot of stuff that you normally would have shopped for.
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The Organized Squirrel, Susan, shows you how acorns (small habits) can grow into oak trees (a better life).