What do you think about no-spend days?

A lot of PF bloggers do “no spend days,” or weekly or monthly no-spend challenges.

I’m always surprised at how frequently some (definitely not all!) of the folks who are doing the no-spend challenges actually spend during their challenge months.

Most of our days are no spend days, especially during the busy parts of the school year.  Though I’m going to track spending one of these months to see if that’s actually a true statement or if I’m just making that up via selective memory.

I think it’s true though.  I have scheduled all our bills to come at the beginning of the month.  We do grocery shopping about once a week (generally Saturday).  Some Saturdays we hit the city and spend a lot of money.  Sometimes we’ll go a week or two without any purchases if we haven’t had time to get to the grocery store.  We eat out once or twice a week, usually Saturday lunch or pizza on Friday or both.  Then we just don’t have time to go out and buy things and we don’t surf the internet for purchases much.  So we do spend quite a lot of money, but only over a few days each month.

I also hate shopping and put it off longer than I should.  I have a list of things that I need but haven’t gotten around to buying (new printer, black shoes, black sandals etc.)  I need more time (or to prefer shopping to blogging or reading Georgette Heyer novels).  When I do go out shopping for these kinds of items, I tend to spend literally hundreds of dollars in a single day just because a lot of purchases have been put off for days or weeks or months (or, embarrassingly, years).

Do you think limiting frequency of purchasing days helps?  Is it better to limit frequency, amount, both, neither?  Should one go all out and have a budget?

Or is this one of those things that different things work for different people?

What works for you?  How do you spend “the right amount”?

43 Responses to “What do you think about no-spend days?”

  1. Sandy @ Journey To Our Home Says:

    I find I have a lot of ‘no spend’ days by accident. I’m too busy to stop anywhere on my way to get the kids, don’t want to stop with two kids at the end of the day, etc. I also usually take my lunch to work so I don’t have to spend money on lunch. I do have to stop and get gas about once a week- I usually do this without the kids so I don’t have to go inside and get treats.
    Hubby does a lot of driving for work and has a weekly cash budget. He spends money on lunch daily. I think once combining our days- we probably have very few ‘no spend’ days.

  2. eemusings Says:

    They’re really not for me – I don’t spend any money on a typical weekday (http://eemusings.wordpress.com/2010/09/02/a-week-of-it-or-why-no-spend-days-arent-for-me/), and spending is generally confined to weekends (when we grocery shop, fill the car, go out to eat, etc).

    I also hate shopping and tend to do my wardrobe purchases in bursts and spurts! Definitely agree with you too about not having time on some days to spend at all (I work in the burbs, now, not the city, and often don’t have time to leave the building for lunch.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      When I have cash, it does tend to flow from me like water, but fortunately our vending machine doesn’t take credit card. So I guess that’s one way to limit unnecessary (and fattening) purchases.

  3. bardiac Says:

    I’m not that into pf stuff, but I have a lot of days where I don’t spend money. It seems like for most people who don’t eat out a lot, any given day could fairly easily be a no spend day, but the bigger issue would be what happens over the course of a week or a month, etc.

    It’s like eating. I can eat sensibly one day, but if I stuff myself with twinkies every other day of the month, my nutrition isn’t going to be good overall, and that one day won’t much matter.

  4. Kellen Says:

    I haven’t tried no-spend days really, because I really just need to spend less total, but I see how it could help with impulse buys. I decided Saturday that I didn’t need to go to the grocery store this weekend, or til the end of August, really, because I have so much stuff at home. But then on Sunday my boyfriend and I went to starbucks, the art store, almost to borders again, and to whole foods to pick up something that he would want to eat for dinner. So if I had decided to have a no spend day yesterday, I might have avoided that stop at the art store that wasn’t necessary.

    Also, I find that I do spend something most days – gas, groceries (I go to a couple of stores and tend to be disorganized about when I go), lunch…. there’s always something…

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We would be severely limiting our regular spending if we decided Saturday should be a no-spend day, but I worry we’d end up eating out a lot more to make up for the lack of groceries! Or Sunday would become the new Saturday.

  5. Sarah Says Read Says:

    I don’t do no spend days – I think you’re right, you just end up spending the same amount but in fewer days. I honestly don’t think I could go a whole week without spending – just between food, gas, and other necessaries it would be impossible for me!

    Every now and then though I do try to limit how much I spend in a day – for example, I try to get something for lunch for less than $4 or $5, instead of the potential almost $10 it could cost.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      They probably do work for some people. I wonder when they do work though.

      • Debbie M Says:

        It probably works for people who buy things daily (like something from the snack machine) who have to learn to do without for a day or to find something else to substitute. It probably works for people who go shopping when they’re bored–they have to find something else to do that day. And people who sometimes do mindless shopping–it might help you realize a situation where you do that.

  6. bloggerclarissa Says:

    We live according to the same regimen as you do. Most days are no-spending days. Except that I buy coffee at work about twice a week. Does that count?

    During the work week, I go to work and then straight back home on the days I teach. And don’t go anywhere at all on the days when I don’t.

    I don’t drive which really helps because getting to the stores is complicated.

    Maybe I should do a no-spending week as a challenge just to see if it’s doable.

  7. Alyssa Says:

    We don’t do no spend days/weeks/months. We have a general spending amount in our budget. We have a list of bigger things we need to buy, and pick and choose from those each month depending on our wants/needs. DH is bad about clothes shopping and does it once a year, so it’s usually a big bill. I’ll buy a couple things here and there, so it spread it out a bit.

  8. bogart Says:

    Hunh. Most of my days are spend days. Mind you, I’m going through a phase where I run to the grocery store virtually every day (Really. Today’s shopping list — milk, half & half, lettuce, possibly some cheese). I just don’t have the patience (at the moment) to do big shopping trips. I have to force myself to shop for clothes, but I will buy convenience foods with little provocation unless I discipline myself, and lunches out are one of my few activities with friends.

    I’ve recently instituted a running average $25/day spend limit which basically means that (including groceries and gas but not other, fixed bills) I am trying not to spend over $25/day on, well, anything. That just got totally — and I do mean totally, like, by a factor of 300 — blown out of the water when my horse needed emergency surgery. Obviously the decision to pay for that was a luxury, albeit a nutty one, but the $25 limit (which is a ballpark/rule of thumb/reminder that if I bought some great cheeses yesterday I need to brownbag today) is one of many small steps I’ll be taking to get the e-fund rebuilt.

  9. First Gen American Says:

    I also thought the same thing…that I didn’t spend money during the week, but when I reviewed my credit card, it was actually untrue. There are little things like putting gas into the car, etc that happen almost every day. I’m almost out of milk so that will be an item today..my kid has a fever, so I may need to do a CVS run. Yeah, I don’t recreation shop,and in my head I didn’t shop during the week, but in reality the credit card statement says otherwise.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My car needs gas once every two weeks (I can actually go 4 weeks, but I like to fill it up at the half tank), we get milk on Saturday, we keep drugs stocked (if we are about to run out, we buy new ones on Saturday).

  10. Frugal Forties Says:

    Well you know I’ve blogged about this myself. I personally just don’t get the concept of “no spend” days as I’ve seen them on various PF blogs. What I’ve noticed is that the bloggers who do them either have this huge list of acceptable exclusions (which means they’re still spending, but justifying it), or they wind up stocking up prior to their no-spend (which sort of invalidates the concept), or they wind up getting friends/family members to cover their expenses (either directly or through the purchase of gift cards which goes back to the acceptable exclusions list).

    Overall I think most people who are doing a no-spend are just shifting numbers around and fooling themselves – whether consciously or unconsciously.

    And above and beyond that, I don’t get the idea of putting that kind of extreme restriction on yourself. I remember reading one blogger who went out in the dead of winter in flip flops because she wouldn’t allow herself to purchase another pair of shoes, and another who refused to go out to lunch with her family because that would violate her no-spend rule. So those who aren’t fudging the numbers seem to be obsessed to the point of alienating friends and family.

    On the other hand, if someone does have a problem with mindless or impulse spending, I can see how setting limits or banning yourself from a certain kind of shopping for a period of time might help break that habit – or at least bring more awareness of it. For a while I was tweeting my spending and I will admit that it helped me to see where I spent little bits of money that I really didn’t need to or where I spent thoughtlessly just because I was out. (Do I really need to spend $1.50 on a bottle of water and a peanut butter cup just because I’m at the gas station? No, not for my budget, nor my waistline!)

    Mostly, though, in the context of the PF world, I think it’s kind of a fad thing. Oh, so-and-so is doing a no spend week/month/year. I’ll do one, too. Let me stock up on groceries and magazines and e-books and stuff first … and then I won’t spend ANYTHING for a month.

    Uh-huh. :)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I used to love reading blogs about people On The Compact. That’s where (other than personal toiletries, food, etc.) they can only buy things used. It was an environmental thing rather than a PF thing. I really liked reading what they got out of the experience. Usually they got nothing out of it if they did it a week, but 1-3 months they learned a lot about their habits and what things to make-do with and what you really can’t, and when they came out they were much more mindful about purchases. (And, as a by-product, they often saved money, though some things were more expensive to fix than to buy new.)

  11. Spanish Prof Says:

    I don’t exactly have “no spend days”, but I do save a lot of money if I manage to pack my lunch to work and avoid buying coffee. It doesn’t mean that I will not spend any money during the day, but I will save money throughout the month if I manage to accomplish it. So this is my version of the “no-spend days”, not spending on “superfluous” things.

  12. Jacq Says:

    I did a little challenge last year with a few PF bloggers last year. It wasn’t a no-spend for me and I didn’t intend for it to be. More of a pantry hoarding issue which I’ve (almost) stopped doing since.

    Yet look at my mistake in the post (I should know better) – here kid, you’re crying because mom cut your hair too short – let me buy you a DS game to make you stop crying. Maybe that’s how we turn people into emotional eaters and spenders, I don’t know.

    It was fun for me just to test ingenuity and looking for alternatives to have fun without just buying the fun. So there was more board games played together, more books read from the library or the TBR pile instead of buying a new one, more biking etc. together as a family instead of going to a local child torture palace. But I totally missed going out with friends for a bite + beers – that’s a need, not a want for me because that’s how we tend to socialize and that’s ok.

    My main goal was to reduce my pantry, that was the only thing I really cared about. So I didn’t stock up ahead of time (since I already had) and I didn’t buy more groceries afterwards. My grocery average monthly spending actually went down afterwards over the last year – by a whopping $30 or so a month I think. The savings came from being mindful of what I was throwing out. The lesson was learned – go and spend more often, buy what you need, don’t stock up because a sale will come along again and if it doesn’t, that’s okay. I still set a limit of $20-$30 per grocery store trip in cash (not including my bi-annual butcher visit and a ~ monthly Costco visit) because I still feel those urges to stockpile occasionally. Which is insane considering my local grocery store is like 4 blocks away but I was shopping like I still lived out on a farm 5 miles from the nearest store and feeding 10 people. If I set limits, it helps. No spending is just a tool for mindfulness and if it works, that’s great.

    I never felt prior to that that any of my spending was out of control and my grocery costs were not out of control either compared to others. It doesn’t help that I’m a fairly diverse cook and absolutely love to cook ethnic foods so keep a lot of things on hand that other people don’t so if I crave Pad Thai, I make it and don’t go buy the unhealthier version at the Asian restaurant 1/2 a block away. But I do think I was sort of compelled to save on groceries just as others could be compelled to go out to lunch and splurge every day or buy clothes when they feel anxious. When I was an emotional spender of books, clothes, eating out, kids toys… everything – I went semi-cold turkey for years to break myself of it. Maybe it’s hard to fathom the thinking if you’ve never been there.

  13. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I think I might do a post as a response to this because I do them but not in the way many others do them. And I think they work for me personally but not in the ways you’d expect. I was also pretty convinced I didn’t do much spending. Until I counted. And then I was pretty surprised.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My credit card receipts during the school year at least bear me out on this… It helps that there is nothing on my way to and from work, so it is difficult to just quickly stop some where. I have to be mindful and it involves 30 min of driving I wouldn’t have been doing otherwise.

      A benefit of living in the almost-rich people part of a small town, I guess. (The rich people live even further away from everything!)

  14. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    We bought a lot more random stuff back when we were getting diapers at Target. Perfect loss leader.

  15. Linda Says:

    I think people do these to break themselves of bad shopping habits. As difficult as this may be to believe for folks that are not into shopping (like me), there are people who just love to shop. They probably buy something every day through an online or bricks and mortar location: a coffee/beverage, a snack, a meal, a pair of shoes, a greeting card, a book, music, etc.

    I know I have days where I don’t spend anything at all, but they don’t happen every week. When I’ve got things humming along in balance between home and work, I carry my meals to the office and don’t go out to buy anything (often because I don’t have time to leave the office during the workday). Those are no spend days for me. If I hadn’t ordered fall gardening stock (garlic, onions, etc) online today I could call it a no spend day because I’m telecommuting and everything I need (coffee, water, snacks, etc.) is only steps away.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That makes sense– if you’re used to spending every day out of habit, deliberately breaking the habit could be what’s necessary.

      And it doesn’t seem to work for some folks for whom the habit is really ingrained… but that’s like trying to quit smoking, may take multiple repetitions.

      • Linda Says:

        Yes! I was thinking that’s it like quitting smoking, too. If your trying to learn/unlearn a habit, you often take baby steps. When quitting smoking it may be doing something like going longer between cigarette breaks or only smoking at certain milestones during the day. I think no spend days are like that for people who feel like they *must* spend money every day.

  16. Molly On Money Says:

    Spending every time I entered a store was a habit I decided needed to be broken. I just think it depends on the person. Some PF bloggers never spent that much in the first place where for some of us it’s an issue. My kids brought it to my attention that I would buy something (even if it was something small) anytime I went into a store.
    Once I saw the behavior I became more thoughtful about how I wanted to change.
    I like to do challenges to push myself into uncomfortable zones. Ya know, just when I think I’ve cut back all I could I push to do a bit more. I just came off of not spending any money on clothing…for a year! I got really into clothing swaps, using old gift certificates and trading at consignment shops. I’m spending money once again on clothes but its very little.

  17. notofgeneralinterest1 Says:

    This: “Most of our days are no spend days, especially during the busy parts of the school year.” I barely buy anything as it is, and life’s too short for more rules. I don’t enter a store unless I need to buy something (clothes maybe 1-2 times a year), so it would be hugely inefficient to have a “don’t spend” day on those days and pointless to have one on the rest.

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