Are you trying a “No Spend” month so you can retire early, reduce your debt or get a handle on your budget?
Chances are, you’ll fail at your budget.
Sorry to tell you this but it’s true.
Nothing personal. But if anyone attempts to make a drastic change in their spending in one month, human nature is to revert back to a regular routine either from habit, unforeseen challenges or setting expectations way too high.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Just use two easy tools to prepare yourself for success in changing your money habits and budget.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy for details.
Make a No Spend Month budget successful with a money tracker and a money meeting:
A Money Tracker Budget tool
Once you decide which spending categories to trim you have to know where you are at any given moment. The easiest way to track your spending is automatically. Check with your bank to see if they have an aggregator such as Hello Wallet. Or sign up for a service like Mint or Personal Capital.
With an aggregator, purchases from your debit and credit cards should automatically be categorized so it’s easy to see where your money is going. Of course, you’ll need to use a debit or credit card for purchases. (Please tell me you aren’t writing checks.)
Just review your transactions to make sure your system is categorizing them correctly. You can also split transactions into more than one category. For example, if you shop at Target and half of your purchase is food and half clothing, note it in your aggregator! The more accurate you are, the better.
If you use cash, write down what you spend in a Notebook or 3X5 card you carry with you. This way your cash won’t just slip through your fingers.
The Money Meeting
A weekly money meeting is a simple system to get on track to retire earlier — and stay on track. The time set aside is an appointment you keep with yourself or with your partner, to focus on your money every week.
The regular and predictable time set aside for your money meeting also allows you to NOT focus on your money at other times. This way you can enjoy your life and let go of money stress. Knowing you have an appointment to handle your money issues, you can table any money topics for your next meeting.
For your “no-spend-month,” during your money meeting make a spending plan for the categories you plan to cut and plan your spending for the upcoming week. For example, you have to spend some money on groceries even if you are eating from your freezer and cupboard. We don’t advocate starving yourself!
Review how you are doing each week with your budget to see what worked and what didn’t.
Review your successes and reset your goals. In our case, we each bought clothes during the first week of our No-Spend-Month even though we’d planned on spending zero on our clothing budget.
My husband bought some shorts for a beach trip we are taking this weekend and I unexpectantly went shopping with a friend who was visiting (while the guys watched NASCAR.) I found a perfect piece — a lacy cardigan that goes with everything I own so I went ahead bought it.
Although we didn’t hit the zero shopping goal for the first week, we also didn’t spend a lot on our upcoming trip – a pair of shorts and one cardigan sweater for fall. We gave ourselves the grade of a B for the week on clothing.
In the category of groceries and transportation, we killed it. We ate meals from our freezer every day and I brought leftovers for lunch. We only spent money on fruits and veggies. My husband who detests leftovers, ate the same thing two nights in a row with no complaints — pork roast one night and then pork tacos the next.
The past week, I commuted via bus 4/5 days to save on transportation costs. This was a solid win and saved us $60 on fuel and parking by taking the bus. A couple of bus rides were free since their card swiper machine was faulty — hey, I won’t turn down a free bus ride!
Celebrate your small wins and breakthroughs every week so you keep going instead of just giving up or losing interest. Note your lessons learned.
Don’t stop there. Your budget is ongoing.
Once your no-spend-month is over, keep the Money Meeting going! Don’t cancel it! Use that time wisely.
Check out this article on my Forbes blog – 10 Questions To Ask About Your Money If You Want To Retire Earlier. Then download this printable 10 Question Checklist (and enroll to get my regular updates and retire earlier tips.)
With these two tools, your No-Spend-Month can be a turning point in your financial life.
Let us know what is working for you in the comments below.