Break Bad Spending Habits:

Do A No Spend Month

Owen Winkelmolen

Financial planner, personal finance geek and founder of PlanEasy.

Habits. They’re both good and bad.

Habits are tough because for the most part they occur subconsciously. You’re not really in control. You may not even realize it’s a habit. You think you’re making the decision but really it’s just habit driving your actions.

When you have a habit, good or bad, you’ve been wired through repetition and rewards to make the same actions over and over. Truthfully you have very little control.

Habits form when a behaviour is repeated often enough to become automatic. There are typically three phases to creating a habit, the cue, the routine, and the reward.

For example, a regular exercise routine is an extremely beneficial habit. Regular exercise can greatly improve your overall health and wellbeing. Getting 75 minutes of exercise each week can extend your lifespan by as much as 4.5 years! (Not to mention you feel so much better!)

Unfortunately, habits can work against you too. Bad habits can form just as easily as good habits.

Bad habits usually form during stressful times, during big life changes, and when you’re bored.

Bad spending habits are super easy to form because there is an immediate reward for spending money. Bad spending habits are also easily formed because there are spending cues all over the place in the form of advertisements.

Bad spending habits can be really detrimental to your financial health. Even a few bad spending habits can cost you $50-$100 per week. Over the course of your lifetime those habits can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If you think you may have some bad spending habits I’ve got a challenge for you!

Try doing a “no spend challenge” this month. For the next 30 days you shouldn’t spend any money at all. NOTHING!

Doing a no spend month is a great way to reset your spending habits.

What Is A No Spend Challenge?

A no spend month means going 30+ days without spending money.

There are variations on this concept. Most no spend challenges are somewhat flexible and allow for essential items like food from grocery stores and personal stuff from the drug store.

Even with these allowances it’s a tough challenge. Many people don’t think about how many purchases they make each month, but it can easily hit 100-200+.

Doing a no spend month means no take out, no coffees, no restaurants, NO impulse purchases, NOTHING but essentials. NOTHING!

Why Do A No Spend Challenge?

Think of a no spend month like a detox for your spending habits. One month is a perfect amount of time to break your spending habits. A spending challenge is a great way to “level set” your spending.

As you go through the challenge you won’t even miss some stuff. These are quick budgeting wins. You can cut this stuff from your budget without much pain.

You’ll also save a TON of money over the next 30 days. You’ll be amazed at how all those little purchases add up. Spending nothing for a month will leave your wallet very healthy!

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“A no spend month is a great way to reset your spending habits.”

Why Is A No Spend Month So Effective?

No spend months are effective because we’re creatures of habit. We make purchases based on our habits and our past behaviour.

We like to think we’re in control and that we make each decision rationally but there are many psychological studies that show how irrational we are when we evaluate spending decisions.

A no spend month is just the right amount of time to break some of those irrational habits. It gives you time to create new spending habits (like not spending anything at all!)

It also forces you to get creative about how you spend your time.

There are lots of fun things to do without spending money but you’ve probably never searched them out. By doing a no spend challenge you’re forced to find no spend alternatives.

Some Things To Do Without Money

  • Free museum nights. Many major museums do this. They offer one free night per week or per month for people to enjoy the museum at no cost.
  • Potlucks! Have everyone bring over their favourite food. Even better if it’s themed.
  • Networking events. Not only is this a great way to get out, increase your network and possibly land a new job, but often there is free food and drinks.
  • Visit a dog park. Chat with the dog owners and play with the dogs (even better, volunteer at an animal shelter).
  • Brewery Tour. Many are free and may have free samples at the end.
  • Relax at the park. Take a blanket and some homemade treats to the park and just relax.
  • Visit the library. Go grab a book from your local library. Borrow a DVD. They also have magazines. Head to the library and enjoy a few magazines.
  • Movie night. Invite your friends over and have a movie night.
  • Cook! Find one crazy recipe each week and invite your friends over to try it.
  • Find a new podcast.
  • Learn a new skill. Bake bread. Learn to knit. Start a blog. Etc, etc.
  • Go for a walk. Bring some snacks. See where you end up.

Good luck with your no spend month. Don’t forget to report back with the results!

“Doing a no spend month is a great way to reset your spending habits.”

Owen Winkelmolen

Financial planner, personal finance geek and founder of PlanEasy.

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