Approximately 28 percent of adults in the United States have no emergency savings at all. They are vulnerable to an unexpected financial emergency and often get stuck turning to debt when disaster strikes. Having even a little bit saved can help mitigate potential issues. If you need to jumpstart your savings, a no-spend month can be a great way to do it. It encourages you to substantially cut back on your spending and set aside the cash you save for a rainy day.
How No-Spend February Works
Technically, any month can be a no-spend month. However, February is the shortest month of the year, even in leap years like 2020. Since it doesn’t have as many days as other months, it can be easier to handle.
No-spend February relies on a simple premise. For that entire month, you only purchase genuine necessities. That means you can pay all of your bills, fill up your car with gas, and replace perishable food items.
Now, some people try to make the entire month spending-free. This relies on a lot of planning. Not only do they have to prepay their bills, but they also have to stock up on food and household items. Plus, they may need to look at alternative forms of transportation for work unless they can get by on a single tank.
However, you don’t have to go that far to participate. Cutting all unnecessary spending can be sufficient.
What qualifies as unnecessary may vary from one household to the next. However, some good places to start include:
- Dining out
- Clothing, Shoes, and Accessories
- Cosmetics and Beauty Products or Services
- Pet Toys
The point is to question all of your spending habits and determine what really is (and isn’t) essential. By doing so, you may look at your spending with a more critical eye, correct issues that often derail your budget, and find opportunities to stash away money in savings even if you didn’t originally think it was possible.
Tips to Succeed During No Spending February
If you want your no-spend February to go forward without a hitch, then it’s going to take some effort. You can’t control every aspect of the situation, as an unexpected expense can always arise.
However, there are things you can do to increase your odds of success. First, you need to prepare. Try to purchase as many of the genuine necessities you’ll need in advance. Make a meal plan and shop for it all at once. Buy household items like toilet paper in bulk. That way, you won’t have to go to the store often (if at all), making it easier to resist temptation.
Second, look for entertainment options that don’t require additional spending. Can you take advantage of community events? What about hosting a game night at home? Just because you aren’t spending on entertainment doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for some fun. If you don’t, you’ll only be miserable for 29 days, and you might end up splurging just to relieve the boredom.
Alternatively, you can use the time to overhaul your financial life and home. For example, you could scour through your budget to find areas where cutting back makes sense. Additionally, you could give every room in your house a pre-spring cleaning, identify items you don’t need, and sell them to increase your saving account balance even more.
Freelancing to JumpStart Your Savings
It’s possible no-spend February is a perfect time to explore freelancing as well. You can use your extra time to see if you can launch a successful side hustle, allowing you to boost your income while you’re saving.
Finally, have a financial goal in mind before you start a no-spend February. Are you having a no spending month to boost your emergency fund? Or are you sending that money to a different financial goal?
By knowing what your objective is, you can use it to stay motivated. It’s normal to feel a bit deprived when you try to get through a no spending month, and some people need something to concentrate on to help them get through those feelings. If you think you’re going to waver, you can remind yourself why you are taking part in no-spend February. That may give you the boost you need to keep pressing forward.
What to Do After No-Spend February
Once you reach the end of the month, you should notice that your bank balance looks a bit healthier. If that’s the case, the first thing you need to do is resist the urge to splurge. Seeing that you have “extra” money can make it hard to resist temptation. But giving in won’t help you achieve your goals.
Instead, you need to transfer that cash into a savings or investment account. Which one you choose depends on your current financial situation and larger objectives. If you have nothing in liquid savings, then boosting your emergency fund is typically best. However, if your emergency fund is healthy, then you might want to see if sending it to an IRA, 529, or investment account makes more sense.
Alternatively, you could also explore using the money to pay down debt. If your emergency fund is in good shape, that can be a smart place to send that cash. Just make sure you focus on high-interest debts. That way, you are getting the most financial benefit from that decision.
Alternatives to No Spending February
If the idea of not spending on any non-essentials for an entire month is too daunting to you, then consider trying an alternative approach. For example, you can start with a no-spend work week. That way, you only have to dedicate yourself to five days of not spending.
After that, you can push it up to a full week. This gets a little more challenging because not only are you adding two more days, but it includes a weekend.
From that point, you can adjust accordingly. Maybe move up to a two-week no-spend period and then make it three weeks long. This lets you try it on and off slowly. You’ll get used to the planning involved and bolster your confidence, both of which may help you succeed with a full no-spend month in the future.
Have you tried a no-spend month? Did it help you jumpstart your savings or obtain another goal? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
- 3 Practical Budget Guidelines to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck
- Lasting Resolutions for a Great 2020
- Here Are Some Money Management Strategies to Help You Budget Your Money Better
Tamila McDonald has worked as a Financial Advisor for the military for past 13 years. She has taught Personal Financial classes on every subject from credit, to life insurance, as well as all other aspects of financial management. Mrs. McDonald is an AFCPE Accredited Financial Counselor and has helped her clients to meet their short-term and long-term financial goals.