no-spend november 31 day savings challenge

The success I've had and continue to have with my 30 week money challenge (now 40 weeks) inspired me to get a little creative this month with an additional savings challenge: No-spend November. For 31 days, I will only swipe my debit card for the absolute necessary - the things that will keep our heat on, our cats and ourselves fed, and my credit score from plummeting (so, in other words, your bills). Despite what my budget may allow, I will not fund the non-essential categories such as "spending money" or "clothes" or "eating out" and instead track purchases I would have otherwise made to see how much money I have saved for the month. In turn, I'll transfer the money I almost spent into my 40 week money challenge to apply to my car loan.

Interested in joining in on the fun? Here's how I'll be setting up and tracking my No-spend November.

1. Start with your budget 

To figure out what's labeled as "essential" and "non-essential," take a look at your monthly budget. While it would be a dream to spend exactly $0.00 for the entire month of November, it isn't possible if you live on your own or have any sort of bills to pay, so these are an exception to the 31 day challenge. List out these bills and essentials and their payments (or estimated costs if it varies every month) and keep it handy at all times so you can reference it while you find yourself browsing the gaming section of Walmart and considering Dragon Age II to be an essential category.

Here's a screenshot from the software I use, You Need A Budget, with my non-essential categories marked with a red dot. Since I'm currently in the "scorched earth" phase of my life while I'm aggressively trying to pay off my student loans, your budget may be much more red-dot-decorated than mine since I've cut nearly everything except for what happen to be essentials, but that just means you'll have a lot more savings in the end, which is great!

Clothes and crafts (what I categorize as spending money) happen to be my weakness, but are also the things that make me happy, which is why they weren't cut from the list when I was scorching my earth so-to-speak. Since I splurged on clothes last month, but have yet to complete my fall/winter wardrobe, it will be interesting to see how I much I find myself saving this month every time I say "no."

2. Track your almost-purchases and move the money into a savings account

Now that you've determined your essentials and non-essentials, it's time to stop spending and start saving. While you might be finding it easy to just say "no" to your morning Dunkin Donuts coffee, or turning down an invite to see the newest movie, what if you tracked all the money you're saving and put it into it's own savings account?

For every morning you would have bought that coffee, or gone out to eat on your lunch break, throw those dollars into a separate savings account with your bank. If you find yourself adding some items to your Amazon account, add up the total and instead of purchasing it, put it in the savings account. It will be interesting to see what you WOULD have spent during the month of November, but put away instead.

3. Discover free things

If you're the type of person that goes out for a drink with friends every weekend or goes out to eat with your significant other, start getting creative! A home made meal and an already-owned movie snuggled up on the couch, a walk in the park instead of hitting the gym, indulge yourself in a good book, etc. There's plenty of alternative forms of entertainment that don't involve spending money.

4. Have your mind blown at the amount you saved

When November is over, evaluate your little savings account with the accumulated money you WOULD have spent, but didn't. Use it towards your emergency fund, purchase some Christmas gifts for friends and family without having to tighten the belt on your budget in December, or treat yourself to something special.

In addition to the extra cash flow, remind yourself of those habits you were able to break during No-spend November. That morning coffee and salad at lunch every day adds up - were you able to live without it while you were on your spending protest? Consider stopping these things completely and getting yourself into the new routine of bagged lunch you established for the month. You might find yourself savings hundreds of dollars per year.

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So who's with me? Since almost every month is a "no-spend" month for me, I don't expect to see amazing results for myself, but would love to see the savings from other participants. Be sure to post your results if you decide to join in :)