What I Learned From Not Spending Money for a Month

Not spending money for a month was tougher than I imagined. You know when you pull at a yarn on a sweater and other things start to unravel? Yeah…the February no spend challenge was like that.  It was equal parts difficult and eye-opening, and I learned quite a few things I'd like to share as we say goodbye to one of the odder 30-day challenges.  Here's what I learned and my tips for making it easier if you'd like to attempt your own.

3 Things Learned from a Month of Not Spending Money.

Planning and Preparation are Key

It feels a little strange to say that you have to plan to not spend money, but when being on the go and paying for things out of convenience is the norm, it can be very difficult to break that pattern.

I think in preparing for this challenge I way underestimated how much planning I needed to do in order to be successful.

Some things I couldn't foresee, like getting the flu and having to go to the doctor. But admittedly, there were other times when I was out running around and I purchased (in spite of the challenge) because it was convenient and I didn't want to think about it.

Like the day I was prepping for a shower and I bought dinner out because it was “on the way” while running errands.

And those kinds of circumstances and decisions do not amount to a successful “no spend challenge.”

My Spending Often Isn't in Line with Values

When you completely shake up your routine or stop doing something for 30 days, it puts a spotlight on those areas. (Like the time I stopped watching TV for 30 days…)

It wasn't until I stopped spending money that I was able to clearly process and look at how I've been spending it for the last year or so since I've become my own boss. 

And it's very easy to see that I've been spending, sure, but that most of it isn't in line with my values or what would make me happiest. 

In looking over my budget over the last few years, I've put a lot of money into my house. Partially because it's an investment that I hope bears fruit one day, but also because it's a house and it just needs maintenance and care.

My House…

But the fact that my house isn't a source of joy for me is well-tread territory on this blog. 

I'm not saying I should let my home fall into ruin or anything, but merely that I could scale back and allocate funds for the house into other categories where I derive more enjoyment. I also tend to save up for “big things” and forsake small, smile worthy indulgences in my efforts to cut back or be more frugal.

It wasn't until this month that I realized how big an impact small, simple pleasures- like a great candle or lotion that makes you smile every day when you put it on — can have.

Sometimes these mini indulgences can make an even bigger difference in your mood and stress level than having that awesome new piece of furniture, or TV, or whatever.

Not Spending Money isn't Sustainable for Long Term (at least for me)

While the “No Spend Challenge” brought into focus that I wasn't spending in line with my values, it also affirmed a lot of my other beliefs about money.

Primarily that skipping the daily latte isn't going to make a huge difference long term in your financial goals.

It can, however, make you really cranky when your caffeine supply dries up.

Like any other diet or cleanse they can be a good reset for the system, but they aren't sustainable long terms. It's fun to have a string of no spend days, it's not so fun to have to pare down to the bare bones and sustain it for a very long period of time.

Money is for enjoying. Mama works hard. She wants to enjoy the things.

And having to try and muster up excitement for the No Spend challenge when it isn't in line with how I feel about money or what I try to do with it, made this an even harder challenge to take on for 29 days.

Some people don't have a choice. They don't spend money because they simply don't have it.

While the challenge was effective (I saved ~$500 last month), I spent a lot of energy on not spending money.

What if I had allocated that energy and planning into making more money instead of conserving it.

What would've happened then?

You're Only As Successful as Your Goals

Even though I finished the challenge — I lost a lot of steam after the Flu because I didn't really have a concrete goal in mind.

What was my “reward” for doing the challenge and saving all that money? Not that I need a treat for saving money, but I didn't even have a goal or idea in mind of what I was going to allocate that money toward.

Talk about no plan or lack of excitement. Rookie mistake.

I think any big lifestyle shift needs to have clear, distinct, highly visual goals and rewards attached. Otherwise, it's just too easy to slip back into old patterns.

Challenges are Better When Done Together

After tackling a handful of 30 day challenges (which are some of my most popular posts), this was the first time I opened up a challenge to the readership. Over 100 people signed up to take the challenge with me and weighed in along the way. This kept me going when I wanted to give up.

So maybe challenges and lifestyle shifts need three things: goals, rewards, and people to hold you accountable.

Sounds like hard work, doesn't it? But nothing worth having ever came easy.

So thank you to everyone who signed up for the challenge. If you filled out the form I sent with the link I'll pick a winner on Sunday and reach out about claiming your Starbucks gift card. (So you can enjoy that latte guilt free!)

Summing it up, the biggest takeaway from this challenge is that spending isn't the enemy….if we apply the same thoughtfulness to it that we do with other areas of our lives. It's when we mindlessly spend or do so without thought or care that we get into financial trouble, and end up being really unhappy along the way.

Starting from scratch or simply in need of a financial re-boot?Click here to enroll in Financial Best Life's FREE 7-Day Money Cleanse!

I just finished up a whole month of not spending money. Well, sort of. See what I've learned from my latest month-long "no-spend" challenge.

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  • Kady Smith
    March 13, 2016 at 9:47 pm

    I think prioritization is key when it comes to sticking to a budget. I could save a lot more more money if I cut out diet sodas completely. But it is a purchase I “value”. Buying clothes however, is not. So I don’t put my money towards it…even if the occasional impulse spasm hits. Prioritizing your discretionary income is key to making sustainable changes that make a big impact. Keep one spending habit to get rid of another. Somewhere down the line you may decide to cut that priority for yet another one. Or maybe you won’t. The longer your conscious about your spending priorities, the better your spending decisions become.

  • Britt and the B's
    March 8, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    I’ve always thought of budgeting as give and take – you spend less in one area (that you care little about) in order to spend more in another (that actually adds on to your happiness). Love that you touched on this in the article!

  • Sharon
    March 7, 2016 at 7:41 am

    For the first time, I committed to the no spend, and the benefits were numerous. I went 26 days without spending money, and the savings were very palpable. Loved your take on it.

    • Lauren Bee
      March 8, 2016 at 2:12 pm

      Glad it went well for you Sharon! I’m also so pleased it was something we could all do together <3

  • Giulia Lombardo
    March 5, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    loving this post, thanks for sharing it

  • BrokeMillennial
    March 4, 2016 at 11:39 am

    Amen to small pleasures! One of my favorite books about money is The Thin Green Line by Paul Sullivan. His researched showed wealthy spent money on the things that brought them happiness, which included that $5 latte for some. I enjoy this quote: “Financial plans, which people on the right side of the thin green line embrace, allow you to make choices and to spend on what matters to you, knowing that you will have to save in other areas to maintain the security of true wealth.”

    • Lauren Bee
      March 8, 2016 at 2:13 pm

      I will have to check that one out. Book swap?

  • Vanessa
    March 4, 2016 at 9:49 am

    Thanks for the update! I decided to wait it out to see how you did on your challenge. I’ve changed my focus of my challenge.

    For March, I’m doing the no spend challenge which is more so focused on staying on budget and not buying things I don’t really need. I did allocate myself $100 in for things that I really want to do, like going out with my friend for a drink and an app next Tuesday after work, but my goal is to be way more mindful of spending money. So, in order to facilitate going out for a drink, I need to make sure I bring lunch everyday to work, or else it cuts into my $100 fun budget. I do intend to try and have money left over in my fun account.

    • Lauren Bee
      March 8, 2016 at 2:12 pm

      Sounds good 🙂 Let me know how it goes.

  • William Joseph Phillips
    March 4, 2016 at 12:45 am

    Hey Lauren,
    It is hard not spending money. There are so many conveniences staring at us daily that if we are not careful can get sucked in. My wife and I have been consciously looking at what we spend and trying to be frugal in our choices. One thing we decided was that we were not going to purchase anything unless it is on sale.

    • Lauren Bee
      March 8, 2016 at 2:12 pm

      That’s a great rule! I don’t buy anything I use daily until it runs out (e.g. toothpaste, etc.)

  • Nadya from livingoffcloud.com
    March 3, 2016 at 10:29 am

    hi Lauren,
    just wanted to let you know that the post is empty 🙂 at least, I do not see anything

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