I did not do a no-spend January.
I was perfectly upfront about that. I started the year knowing exactly one thing: I would spend money in January.
I did, however, commit to tracking my spending even more
diligently neurotically than I normally do.
A month passed. I reviewed my notebook. And what to my wondering eyes should appear? Not a reindeer or a fat dude with presents, but seventeen no spend days. SEVENTEEN.
Seventeen days where no money left my wallet or my bank account. Not for groceries, not for gas, not even to repair the bathroom sink that peed all over my basement. Not even to buy wine or chocolate to make up for the aforementioned sink piddle.
NO MONEY MOVED.
So much to my surprise, maybe I did do a no spend January. Kind of. But did it make a difference to my money?
Why I Thought No Spend Days Weren’t For Me
Let’s back up, so I can make a confession. I honestly sat down at my keyboard when I penned that January blog post and thought, No spend days don’t work.
Of course, I know they work for some people. A lot of people. But I really was convinced that no spend days wouldn’t work for me.
Granted, I absolutely wish former me had heard of no-spend days. Because five years ago, every day was a spend day. Every single day. Something went right? Celebrate and shop. Something went wrong? Grieve and shop. Bored? Buy something.
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Basically, everyday was a reason to shop, and shop I did. I shopped myself into heaps and mounds of stuff. Shoes, bags, clothes. But I wasted so many dollars on different treats and snacks, things I had coupons for and things I didn’t. Needs, wants, and contact solution that no one in my family or circle of friends could use.
So yeah. In a past life, I needed no-spend days. But I honestly thought I was past that with my current spending, tracking, and budgeting habits. I’m not focused on stemming the outflow of cash or stymieing the credit card swipes. Instead, my goal is to spend purposefully on intentionally, on things that matter. So I wasn’t interested in doing a no-spend January. Moving along. Or so I thought.
No Spend Days Don’t Work…Until They Do
At first, I looked at my no-spend notes and thought, AH HA! I have concrete indisputable evidence that no spend days don’t work. It’s right here.
(Because you know one person’s experiences for a single month can and should be immediately transferred to all of humankind indefinitely. That’s how this works, right?)
And on the surface, it seems that no spend days actually don’t work for me. Here’s what I initially observed:
- Our total spending for the month was largely the same.
- We spent in every category of our budget, like usual.
- I am not suddenly FIRE.
- I did not receive any new frugality awards.
- I do not have a cave of gold coins that I can dive into and swim around gleefully.
But then I realized that there are some subtleties that actually probably speak to the real power of no spend days and frugality in general.
- January is a l o n g month, and not just because it’s in the dead of winter. There are 31 days.
- I was on winter break (otherwise known as vacation!) for the first week.
- I had to go back to work, and my stress level about leaving HP again was through the roof.
- I was busy, busy, busy.
Despite all of these things, my spending was right on track. That is hugely significant. As someone who is prone to tossing things in my virtual shopping cart to mend a broken parent heart or drowning my stress and fatigue in Diet Coke, I did neither of things.
There was ample opportunity to spend outside of our regular budget. There was even reason to spend. And yet, the sheer fact of manually logging each amount every day into a notebook seemed to be deterrent enough. While it may have felt like these no spend days weren’t amounting to much, the fact that our numbers look exactly how we wanted them to look at the end of a whirlwind thirty-one days suggests there might be real power in paying attention to no-spend days.
What I’m Doing Moving Forward
I am not doing a shopping ban.
I am not doing a no-spend February.
I am going to spend money in February and again in March. I’ll do it all throughout the year, and every year as long as I live.
But I am going to keep tracking my spending. While I don’t know that there’s a need to commit to a notebook each month on top of my manual spending tracker app, I’m going to try it out again for February. And I’m also going to make a note of how many no spend days I have in an attempt to see if no spend days really can work for me.
So Tell Me…Do you track your spending? Do you try spending bans?