How to Pull off a Zero-Spend Month Without Starving

A month without spending? That can’t be possible, can it? Actually, it is. The rules of a zero-spend month aren’t quite as extreme as they might appear at first glance. And the benefits can be astonishing both financially and emotionally.

During a spending freeze, the goal isn’t to stop spending altogether. Instead, the goal is to cut back on or eliminate unnecessary spending. Here’s how to pull it off without starving or letting your family down.

Get the Rules Straight

If the point of a zero-spend isn’t to actually spend zero dollars, what are the rules? What's allowed and what isn't? We highly recommend writing this down so it's clear and can be referred to during the month when anyone has questions. The goal isn't to cause arguments, after all.

For most people, a no-spend budget includes paying all of the bills, feeding the family and covering transportation expenses, such as gas or bus fare. Some might opt to walk or carpool to work to reduce costs. Some work to reduce the grocery budget and try to reduce spending in all areas. Eliminating eating out, latte runs and fast food are usually the first to go. Others may take it a step further by cutting back on extravagant recipes requiring specialty and costly ingredients, or by reducing their meat consumption for the good of their health and their wallet.

Others will eliminate in other less obvious ways, too. Can we go without lights before 5 p.m.? Can we wash fewer loads of laundry? What if we mowed our own lawn this month?

The most important part of getting the rules straight is that the participants all make a real commitment. This means writing out the guidelines on paper and avoiding making adjustments to the rules throughout the month.

Don’t Let Your Family Down

If you’re in charge of the household budget, there are probably other people affected by the choice to commit to a zero-spend month so get them on board before you commit. The best way to avoid letting family and friends down is to get others involved in the fun. Children and significant others may be more excited about cutting back on spending if they understand the end goal. Is the point to save for a new house? Pay off a debt to have more flexibility for fun in the future?

Make sure you keep some expenses in place (or replace them with more frugal versions) that give everyone pleasure and fun. The idea isn't to make everyone miserable. And keeping them on board may hinge on how much they're still able to have. 

As for people outside the home, try to plan a no-spend month far enough in advance to avoid canceling plans already made for meeting friends for scheduled fun at the bar. If this isn’t possible, let them in on the secret and suggest something fun and free — a hike at a local park, snacks on your deck or a Netflix movie instead.

The hope of cutting back is to save a little extra money over the course of a month. But some people implement no-spend months on a regular basis to help them curb the way that expenses can get out of hand. This means that, even if you don’t pull it off perfectly, every little bit of cash stashed away during a no-spend month is a reason to celebrate, and you can try again in a couple of months, getting better every time.

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9/24/2019 7:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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Posted by Bobbie Sena

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