No Spend Rules

We’ve agreed that in February, we’re going to teach your brain to be excited about saving rather than being excited about spending.

We’re going to do a spending cleanse as it were. We’re only spend on things we absolutely must.

In order to only spend on things we absolutely must, we need to come to an agreement on what is a must-spend.

Go grab your lists of what *you think* is a need and a want. If you did not do this already, take a few minutes to create those lists before reading on.

So what is a must-spend? It’s simple, a must-spend is anything you MUST spend money on during a no-spend month. And extreme example would be if you had a tire blow-out or your car engine failed. Obviously, you need transportation. It would be unreasonable to simply not go to work the rest of the month because your car is inoperable.

What wouldn’t be a must-spend is something like new car seat covers or paying for a car wash. One could rationalize these are needs but they aren’t. If you can’t wash your car yourself for a month because of some difficulty, your car needs to go unwashed for the month.

So in this car washing example, what happens if you have a subscription to a carwash like I do? You need to cancel that subscription immediately. After 30 days, you may find a free way to get your car washed that works for you or you may decide that crashing is a necessity for you.

Your must-spends may be slightly different than someone else’s but there are some serious parameters that need to be seriously pondered 

So what are examples of must-spends?

Household bills- mortgage/rent, car note, car insurance, electricity bill, water bill, etc

Basic groceries- food needed to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner (and reasonable snacks) at home. Snacks are especially important if you have to maintain a certain nutrition level each day. Snacks are also important if they will prevent you from impulse buying snacks.

Basic toiletries and pet items- toiletries needed to for your day to day activities. By all means- buy toilet paper and deodorant! if you usually buy expensive toiletries or pet brands because of glamour and not out of honest necessity, replace those brands with generic equivalents.

Gas- to drive to and from work. If you do not have a car and normally take public transportation or some other form of transportation, that expense will replace gas. Gas is a little tricky because you need to decide if you want to allow yourself a reasonable amount of gas expense for your free recreation or not. You may also choose to use the no-spend month to eliminate commuting expenses altogether by walking or biking.

Medical expenses- by that we mean necessary medical expenses. Obviously this does not mean choosing whether to get a broken arm treated or choosing between taking an ambulance to the hospital or not.

other bills that sneak into the “must-spends” are bills that have a contract agreement that would cost you a large sum to cancel early such as a cable bill that is under contract. 

Not allowed-

Excess household bills– membership fees for gyms, recurring music and video subscriptions of any kind

Excess food– buying 2 gallons of ice cream, 7 bags of chips and various candies is not in the spirit of no-spend. Buying expensive cuts of meat or premium brands of foods that have generic equivalents is not in the spirit of no-spend. If you need bags of chips for your work lunch and snack, this is a great time to try generics. Remember- you are doing this for yourself; don’t cheat yourself.

Unnecessary toiletries and pet items- I have heard of people using store-bought personal items to replace salon treatments during no-spend. Let’s be honest; boxed hair color and store-bought acrylic nails are about vanity for the vast majority of us. I have worked jobs that require a standard of appearance. Can you do your natural nails for a month and google alternatives to hair color with household items that you already have for one month? After your no-spend month, you may find that you can use at-home alternatives to your salon treatments. 

Excess gas- this would include deciding to take a 30 minute plus roadtrip to a free place for entertainment. This is not in the spirit of no-spend. Try closer things to do.

Unnecessary Medical expenses- This does mean choosing not to participate in any free recreation that might cause you to break an arm or leg. This is not the month to start ice skating for the first time or to go rock climbing. Unnecessary risks can lead to unnecessary expenses. This is also not the month to get a breast augmentation or even a new pair of prescription glasses; it can wait.

Dining out of any kind- this if you simple MUST choose the least expensive item(s) available to meet your nutrition needs. Definitely no dining out if you are able to prepare your food. Remember- you are doing this for yourself; don’t cheat yourself.

Coffee or any other beverages out 

Entertainment expenses– this include even a dollar movie. In the spirit of no-spend, don’t ask people to pay for you.

Clothes shopping

All salon expenses for yourself, your defendants and your pets

Prepare for the unexpected expenses.

The whole point of no-spend is to teach you that you can live with less so that you have money for unexpected expenses; emergency car and home repairs and even a cute blouse you want.

If you have an unexpected expense such as a flat tire, do you have the savings now? What will you do if you car breaks down during no-spend? Will you abandon the goal or will you find a way to make it work? Decide now.

What will you do if you break the heel on your favorite shoe or you mess up the manicure you planned on maintaining for your no-spend month? Decide now how you will handle these unexpected problems in a way that does not include spending. Broken nails and shoes are not emergencies. Roots growing out is not an emergency.

 Tell yourself, “Nothing sexier than saving.” No spend takes discipline. Not spending money is free.

If you do this for a month…if you really commit to changing your paradigm about spending money… if you alter what you believe is a need and what is a want for 28 days, you will find saving money gratifying.

All month while we aren’t spending, I’ll write about ways to spend less when you go back to spending.