This month, I have challenged myself to go at least 10 days in March without spending a single penny.
No Spend Days are common among the personal finance community. A lot of us try to have at least one or two each week, and for me personally, it has helped me curb my impulse shopping. I see the benefits (which is why this is one of my March goals), but to someone who isn’t a PF blogger, doesn’t read PF blogs, or doesn’t care about tracking every dollar they spend, this idea might seem silly. But this challenge is guaranteed to reveal just how frequently we let money slip through our fingers every day, without even realizing it. Whether it’s plugging the parking metre, grabbing a coffee from Tim Horton’s, or buying an app for our iPhone – it’s no surprise so many of us have no idea how we end up over-budget by the end of every month. Small purchases add up quickly if you’re not careful!
Now, with this challenge, I’m not talking about putting off paying your bills, or not paying your rent/mortgage – those are regular fixed expenses that need to be dealt with when they come up. But that’s even more of an incentive to challenge yourself not to spend money just a few days a month. Fixed expenses cannot be controlled – but discretionary spending can.
Going 10 days this month without spending a single penny will encourage you to plan ahead. When you can’t spend any money, it’s going to require a different way of thinking. If you don’t already own a monthly transit pass, how will you get to work every day? What do you have in your kitchen that you can bring for snacks and lunch? What can you do to entertain yourself during the evenings?
Knowing that you can’t buy breakfast or coffee on your way to work will force you to get up 20 minutes earlier to make food at home. Not being able to buy a Kindle book for your bus rides home might make you consider heading to the library to take a book out for free. By not planning ahead, you will almost always spend more money than necessary.
This is not about deprivation – it’s about empowerment. As soon as that idea clicks in your head, everything instantly becomes easier. Instead of “I can’t spend money on X because I’m in debt,” it becomes “I’m choosing not to spend money on X because I want to better my life.”
Making a conscious decision not to spend money just one day a week will help you become more aware of how you spend your money during the rest of the week. Not only that, but with the extra money you are now keeping in your wallet, you might have more money to pay down your debt, invest in your future, or save for your dream vacation.
Take it one step further: If you feel like really challenging yourself, impose a transaction fee on every purchase you make during the week. Every time you buy something, log into your online bank account put an amount equal to what you spent into your savings account or onto your debt. Not only will you think twice about every discretionary purchase (because it’s now costing you double the money to buy that latte!), but your wallet will thank you too. :) I found this to be an extremely effective way to get myself out of debt. It curbed my impulse shopping, I was able to get a grasp on my wants vs. needs, and it also helped me get out of debt that much faster.