How to do a no-spend January without making yourself cry every day

Hi! Hello, almost in 2021. Gosh, aren’t some of us glad to see 2020 go? We can probably agree that it has not been the best year for most, in many aspects. And with so many of us trying to sweeten it over a slightly excessive Christmas, maybe designating the four months that January feels like to a no-spend challenge will help us get back into a better place.

In this article I am covering some of the tactics for a no-spend month which will help you not just survive it, but also not feel like you are missing out or need to stock up before and after.

Know your ‘why’

So why are you doing a no-spend month? My ‘why’ are multiple:

  • I’ve spent more than I should have during Christmas and would like to repare the damage in January
  • I have large expenses coming up in February and restraint ahead of time is needed to ensure I can cover them easily
  • I am starting a new job and stability of my income is a question mark for the next 3 months, so I’d rather have emergency funds available
  • I’ve developed some bad habits and I am using no-spend January to break them
  • I can and I want to have a no spend month
  • I like having money in my pocket
  • I need a break from getting things to rethink what things I truly want to bring into my home

Your why could be one of the above, or it could be that your income has made it a necessity to cut down spending, or maybe you’re trying on life on a budget before deciding how to rework your whole financial status. Whatever it might be, note your goals down and have them on display for yourself.

If you are doing a no-spend month with a partner and/or children, agree their goals too so that they have an incentive to help in keeping you all on track.

Make a plan that goes along your choices

You can know why you want to do something, but this doesn’t mean that a plan to make it happen and an execution of said plan will just happen for you out of the blue. You will need to actively decide on how to do things in order for your goals to be fulfilled. As example, if you are looking to save £300, you’ll need to figure out where that money needs to come from (usually, groceries and fun money are the categories which get slashed) and take steps for this goal to happen (devise a more affordable meal plan and stick to it, cut out takeaways and coffee dates for the month).

I’m the sort of a person who will obsess over my plan and how I work within it. So to avoid going absolutely crazy, I also make sure that I give myself a whole bunch of activities to help me focus on the present and obsess just a tad less:

Get outside

The ‘good’ thing about January, in UK at least, is that we will likely be in a lockdown with no access to non-essential shops in person. However, if you are not locked up in your home and the economy you are in is open, you might want to find activities which take you away from your shopping habits.

Identify parks, nature walks and green spaces that you have not been to yet or have not been to in a while. Make a list of enough of these to fill up your weekends and tire you and your family out. And I mean it – especially if you have kids, bundle yourself and them up properly for the weather and get out to burn that energy and get a laugh out of it.

If you are lucky enough to have a garden, plan to use that too. Light a small bonfire and make smores, do the yard work in preparation for spring, or even spend some time observing the wildlife that rummages through your green space. If you have kids, make it into an adventure for them and have them either note down or draw the animals they see. If you’re under 2ft of snow, damn, get out and build an igloo and an army of snowmen.

Sort out inside

One of the great things about a no-spend month is that you get to stay in a bit more than usual – because coffee dates are off the menu. So use that time up by completing some satisfying tasks, from deep-cleaning to a complete house declutter. And while you are decluttering, keep an eye on items which you might want to sell on instead of donating.

If you are not into taking care of your house, or you’ve already done the big things recently, pick up a book or a series you can watch for free/with existing service you have. I personally like getting lost in somebody else’s adventures once in a while and I’ll find myself coming back to the story happily instead of doing much else, including shopping.

Failing interest in media, you can also focus on personal care. Have an unscented bath. Put some cucumber slices on your face. Just take your time breathing… whatever else might keep you away from wanting to hand your money over while taking care of your body while you’re at it.

Try side hustles which are free to start

Once you’re all out of breath from running in the woods, your house sparkles and so does your skin, consider making some money on top of your usual income. Simply designate the time you would otherwise spend shopping, going out or browsing social media to focusing on bringing money in. This can be done through online surveys, using your skills in content creation, translation etc via upwork or similar sites or even delivering takeaways.

Acknowledge the wins

Once you are done distracting yourself and possibly building new habits and income streams, there is just one last thing to do. Right throughout the no-spend month continue to acknowledge the things which you and those around you are getting right.

Went to a park with your bestie for free instead of sitting down in Starbucks? You did good. Made homemade popcorn and watched a movie with the kids instead of spending an hour online shopping? Winner. Cleaned your wardrobe instead of filling your wardrobe? Smashing it. And even if you are not quite smashing it, appreciate yourself and whoever might be in this with you for getting things right, even if they’re not all the things.

Being able to acknowledge your progress makes the whole experience just a little less daunting and a lot more doable, especially that as humans we do respond to praise better than we do to criticism.

If you chose to go ahead with the no spend month in 2021, share your goals in the comments!

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