I have been posting a lot on my Instagram page regarding our No Spend Quarter. Another name for this is a “spending freeze”. I realize that the connotation of a no spend period is zero spending. Unfortunately, that isn’t really a possible feat. I guess a better name would be “No Spend on Anything other than Mortgage, Utilities, Retirement, Groceries, and Gas Quarter”. But that is a mouthful. So below is what a no spend period means to us. I should note, that this isn’t the same for everyone. Maybe you want to try a no spend period, but under different terms. Maybe you want to have no sending outside of your budget. Maybe you want to have no spending on clothing. Maybe you want to have no spend on eating outside of the house. Whatever a no spend period means to you, I think you should go for it. Read more about our no spend below.
What our No Spend Excludes:
Yes, we are spending money during our no spend quarter. So what are we spending money on guilt free? See the full list below:
- Cell phone bills
- Homeowner’s Association Fees
- MoviePass ($9.95 month per person)
- Gym membership ($10 month per person)
- Retirement contributions
- Health Insurance premiums
- HSA contributions
- Gas and Car Maintenance
- Groceries ($100 a week budget)
Pretty long list for a no spend, right? These are the regular monthly expenses and the areas that we are willing to keep in the budget during our no spend. To comment on a few things. I know that we should cut cable, actually we went over a year without cable at our old house. When we moved the sign up bonus allows us to pay $106 a month for cable/internet/phone with DVR. We actually don’t even have a land line linked up, but that was the cheapest bundle. Internet alone is about $80 in our area. By the time you add in Hulu and Netflix, it was about a wash. For now, we don’t pay for those other subscriptions. Once our one year is up in April, we will be canceling cable and phone services and going back to using our antenna. Also, I know MoviePass is a splurge, but that is the one way that we can get out of the house during these three months without spending money (other than the gym). We have been going to 2-3 movies a month as our main source of entertainment.
In regards to retirement and HSA contributions, we think it is important to continue to save in these areas. Best case scenario, it will take us two and a half years to get through this debt free journey. We want to use these tax advantage accounts while also paying down debt.
What our No Spend includes:
Alright, so what are you even sacrificing, right? Basically, everything else. That could be a very long list, but I’ll hit the high notes:
- Eating in a restaurant
- Take out
- Lunches out
- Going to bars
- Shopping for clothes
- Shopping for household items
- Shopping for electronics
- Shopping for gifts
- Basically, shopping.
- Starbucks/Coffee Shops
- Buying Books
- Renting movies from online services
- Car washes
- Vending machines snacks
- Amazon prime
- Subscriptions boxes
- Hair cuts (doing these at home)
- Spa/Nail services
In case you can’t tell, food and shopping are the two most challenging areas. Sometimes you just want to order a pizza or grab take out on the way home. Or you are too tired to pack your lunch in the morning. Household shopping is a challenge as well. We still get paper towels, toiletries, etc, but those are included in our $100 a week grocery budget.
Why a no spend quarter:
I have seen everything from a no spend week to no spend month to a full no spend year. Why did we decide on a no spend quarter (three months)? For us, we really wanted to commit to an extended period to see how much we could pay towards debt if we limited all spending. A month felt a little short. A year was way too long for us. We started looking at when family birthdays and get together seemed to fall, and the first three months of the year were the most open. It is colder out, so there is less of the desire to get out and spend money. You are also coming off the holidays, when finances tend to be more strained. Basically, this just seemed like the best amount of time to see a real difference, but short enough that we could stick to it and reach our goals.
What we have learned:
We are one month into our No Spend Quarter (1/3rd….woohoo!). So what have we learned? Well first, it gets easier. This is part of the reason that I would stray away from a no spend week. The first couple of weeks were the hardest. We had to real work on our grocery budget to make $100 last a full week with all organic groceries. But it has already become second nature. Friday nights we make a meal plan for the following week. We make a grocery list to make sure we have everything we need, and first thing Saturday morning we head to Aldi. It is about a 20 minute drive, but it is our one grocery trip of the week. It has become a fun challenge to make sure we stay under budget.
One of the biggest benefits of the no spend period for us, is that we are so much more cognizant of our purchases and the real cost of money. I think it is very easy to let under $20 purchases add up overtime. Cute sweater at Target…what’s $19. Vudu movie purchase on Friday nights… it’s only $6.50. Lunches at Chick-Fil-A… but it is only $8. Vending machine afternoon snack… $2 well worth it. Dominoes two for $5.99 special…give me all of the cheese for $12. Drinks on Friday night… $20 is nothing for an evening out. Those smaller purchases can make a significant dent in your budget.
And finally, it is OK to make a mistake. We have made a few: $10 to watch a friend compete in a local cross-fit competition, $33 for a lunch with a co-worker who was grieving, and $210 for vacations for anniversary/birthday. The last one was a big one, but I should note that we had a sinking fund that we have stored money away in for travel. But still, it goes against our no spend goals. Also, our groceries have come in pretty regularly at $100 to $105. That includes household items/toiletries. We are working next month to make sure that we stay under $100 per week. We didn’t let these fails stop our progress. We will continue to work towards our goals with the hope that we will do even better in February.
Hope that this gave you some insight into what a no spend quarter means for us! Let me know if you have any questions.