How to Successfully Do a 'No Spend Month'

A Drop in the Ocean Blog: How to do a No Spend Month
Listen to the audio of this post here:

This post first appeared in our weekly Make Waves Mondays email series on January 16, 2023.

HELLO, friend
, and happy [official] first blog post of the new year!

Today’s post is a topic I’ve been meaning to write for a couple of years now but for some reason never have - how to do a No Spend Month. It’s something I’ve done in the past that has had a hugely positive impact on my life and I know it’s done the same for others, too.

But before we get into that, I am SO FREAKING EXCITED to share with you a new project that was literally in the works for 13 WHOLE MONTHS that is gosh-dang-finally live for you!

We’ve launched a brand-new, Buzzfeed-style quiz that’s built to help you discover what’s most important to YOU in your sustainability journey.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of trying to do “all the things,” but not all eco-things are the best fit for all eco-people.

Your results from this quiz are designed to help you create your sustainable path forward, without overwhelm, guilt, or shame. And at the end of it, you’ll get actionable tips for your specific EcoWarrior personality type, alongside a curated collection of blog posts and products that are the best fit for you, friend.

“I totally teared up reading my results - and that only happens to me when I feel validated and seen.” - Izzy

“That was a great experience! Amazing job, and I’m inspired by my results!” - Misty

This quiz has been a labor of love for the last year and I would loveeeeee for you to go take two minutes, take the quiz, check out your results, and lemme know what you think! 

(And if you’re so inspired, share the quiz with your eco-friends, too! Help us spread the word!)

OKAY. Now that you’ve got your EcoWarrior Archetype in your arsenal, let’s do the dang thing and dive on into today’s post!

Schitt's creek excited gif

First of all, I’d be super curious if you’ve ever heard of a No Spend Month? I don’t remember how I first heard about them, but I’m intrigued to see how commonly known they are in this community. So let me know!

If you’re not yet familiar with a No Spend Month, allow me to introduce you 💁‍♀️

What is a No Spend Month?

Pretty much just as it sounds, a No Spend Month is a one-month challenge to not spend any money. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, which we’ll dive into, but that’s really the ultimate, and most simplified, goal.

What does a No Spend Month have to do with sustainability?

Overconsumption is a huge problem when it comes to sustainability for our planet. The more we consume, the more resources we’re using - whether those resources are physical resources like wood, water, crops, etc., or things like electricity, fuel, and time.

I’ve been adamant in the past that plastic is not the villain in our sustainability story. It’s not the protagonist by any means, but it’s not the villain. It’s our consumption habits and our relationship with “stuff” that needs to be evaluated first before we can truly start to see sustainable change.

So by buying less, we’re creating less waste, less emissions, and building a foundation for broader change outside of ourselves.

Remember - we cannot consume our way into a sustainable future for all living things.

Plus, by going through the exercise of a No Spend Month, we can shift our awareness to be more conscious of the things we do buy and where we choose to spend our money in the long-term.

How is a No Spend Month beneficial for you?

Omgosh friend there are so many benefits to a No Spend Month, and not just short-term benefits but real impacts that will last you so much longer than one month.

For starters, a No Spend Month is like a detox. It’ll help you break any bad spending habits you may or may not already be aware of.

And in that same vein, it’ll make you aware of your spending habits that you may not even notice. Maybe you think you cook at home all the time but after a No Spend Month realize that you’re actually ordering takeout way more than you realized. It’s an absolutely fantastic exercise in awareness.

And, of course, a No Spend Month will help boost your financial goals. If you’re not spending excess money on things you don’t need, you’ll have more freedom to pay off debt, fund your emergency savings, or save for a vacation.

gif of Leah Michelle on a beach wearing sunglasses saying "I'm definitely a relax-on-the-beach kind of girl"

So what are the rules of a No Spend Month?

Okay friend, this is where you get to make your rules!

Of course, there are a few basic rules that all No Spend Months gotta follow:

  1. Ya gotta pay those bills! Rent, mortgage payments, utilities, car payments - as much as we’d all loooove a break from those, they gotta get paid. So those don’t apply in the “no spending.”
  2. Ya gotta eat! Groceries can stay, but we’ll chat more about them in the next section.
  3. Ya gotta shower! I mean, unless you already don’t shower, but imma guess you’re at least showering semi-regularly. So the basic toiletries like shampoo, toothpaste, and body wash can stay.

But other than those three things, the rest is kinda up to you! But remember - the goal is to not spend any money outside of those three categories. Basically, anything that you would classify as a “want” and not a “need” gotsta go.

Here are just a few ideas to get you started on your own rules:

(1) What are some “want” groceries you can cut out? Can you meal plan each week and only buy the groceries you need for those meals? What about snacks? Alcohol? If you don’t want to totally cut something out, set a small budget for it - and stick to it.

(Don’t forget to shop your own home first before heading to the grocery store! What do you already have on hand? What’s about to go bad? Use those things first before running to the store.)

(2) Do an audit of your subscriptions. Are you really using all of your streaming apps? What about Amazon Prime? Anything you can pause or cancel - do it.

(3) Is there anything else you know you spend more on than you should? Specifically call it out for yourself. It’ll help keep you on track.

Remember - things like clothes, eating out, Uber Eats, entertainment, they’re all part of your No Spend Month. 

Necessities only. 

How can you be successful in a No Spend Month?

Alright alright, there’s a lot of rules. And I’m allllll about “set a goal to go towards something, rather than away from something else.” So if you’re sitting here like, “What the heck, Krystina?? This is too much. Especially for a whole month!” - I gotchu 😎

Here’s a few tips to be uber-successful in your own No Spend Month:

Set Goals + Clarify Your “Why”

What’s the bigger “why” behind your no-spend month? Are you trying to reduce your unnecessary consumption? Pay off a credit card? Boost your savings account? Make this clear and keep it front-and-center so you stay motivated.

As a bonus, write it on a piece of paper and tape it to your credit card. Every time you reach for it, you’ll be reminded of why you’re embarking on this challenge in the first place.

Make it Hard to Buy

Oh, technology… How we love you and need you and freaking hate you sometimes.

Technology has made it so easy to buy. Just save your card number in your browser and even if you’ve left your credit card at your mom’s house you can still buy that new jumper from ThredUp in a matter of seconds.

So before you start your No Spend Month, remove all saved card info from your browser.

The extra few seconds of reaching for your wallet and seeing that little note taped to your card may be just enough to curb the spend appeal.

Share with Your Friends and Family

I won’t lie to you and tell you it’ll be easy. Sometimes it’s gonna be hard.

Having a support system or external accountability can be huge.

And if your go-to way to spend time with friends is meeting up at your favorite cidery for a pint or two (🙋‍♀️), you’re probably gonna want to let them know that things are gonna be switching up for a month!

Keep a List

If you come across things during the month that you want to buy, write them down!

One of my favorite zero waste bloggers, Kathryn Kellogg (Going Zero Waste) always waits at least 30 days before making a purchase and she swears by it.

At the end of the 30 days you’ll be much clearer on whether or not you actually want that thing and if you want to spend the money on it.

A Drop in the Ocean Sustainable Living Zero Waste Shop

What can you do during a No Spend Month?

You’ve got your rules down.
You know your “why.”
Your friends are all cheering you on.

Now what on EARTH are you gonna DO for the next 30 days??

Well, you could…

  1. Host game night
  2. Go for a walk/hike/bike
  3. Invite a friend for dinner and cook together
  4. Have a picnic in the park
  5. Join your local library - they’re great for way more than physical books. Audiobooks, movies, some even have community programs where you can get free tickets to local attractions like museums and zoos!
  6. Host a potluck brunch - everyone brings one dish to share. (One of these days I’m having a potato potluck. Everyone brings a different potato dish. That’s it. Just potatoes. Hit me up if you want an invite ✌️)
  7. Have a home spa day (check out my fave DIY body scrub made from used coffee grounds!)
  8. Check out r/nobuy on Reddit for more ideas, inspiration, and camaraderie.

SO. What do YOU think, friend?? Gonna give a No Spend Month a shot? Done one in the past and loved it? Hated it? Tell me all the tea. 👇

And if you do a No Spend Month after reading this, please do tell me how it goes! I’d really love to hear about it.


10 Ways to Reduce Your Waste Without Spending a Dime

1 comment

  • Kelly Latimer

    Ok, I’m so trying this! It’s in my intention prayer to stop unneeded spending, and then I see this blog post! I need this detox, and I can’t wait to reap all the benefits from this practice!

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