What are the benefits of a no spend month?

We ask a financial expert how useful no spend months really are

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photo: Sex Education / Eleven
Hero image in post
photo: Sex Education / Eleven

We ask a financial expert how useful no spend months really are

By Sophie Lou Wilson14 Nov 2023
5 mins read time
5 mins read time

We all know that cancelling your Netflix subscription and cutting back on oat lattes won't save enough money to buy a house. Plus, a life without streaming services or overpriced coffees sounds pretty miserable. Winter's bleak, but getting a fancy hot drink or ordering a takeaway can spark joy within. In most cases, these small purchases are unlikely to lead to financial ruin, but with the ongoing cozzie livs crisis, we’re all looking for ways to cut back our spending without living a joyless existence.

Enter no spend challenges. #nospendmonths have taken over TikTok, with the hashtag accumulating 87.3 million views. A no spend month involves cutting back spending on all or most non-essentials for an entire month. Creators espouse the benefits of one month with no takeaway coffees, no new clothes and no meals out. Limiting the challenge to one month makes it feel less depressing and more manageable. Rules can include making no new plans that cost money, no impulse spending, no coffees, no clothes, no takeways, selling clothes you don't wear and making a food shopping list that you don't stray from.

How you choose to do a no spend month is personal to you. If going out for Friday night cocktails or getting a coffee on the way to the office on a Monday is what gets you through the week, perhaps you keep that, but cut back on takeaways or do a budget food shop. A month of no spending isn’t going to make you rich, but it can change your habits and mindset around money. “No spend months can be a fun way to become more money savvy and help you gain more financial awareness, save money and learn to mindfully manage your spending,” says personal finance expert and co-founder of Choosewisely.co.uk, Tara Flynn. “If you owe money, a no-spend month can also be an effective way to repay your debts quicker.” Below, we outline Tara's expert advice on getting the most out of a no-spend challenge.

It can break old habits

A no spend month is more about changing your financial habits than it is about ending the month with a lot more than usual in the bank. It's about spending more mindfully and reflecting on what you really want and need and what you could do without. "A no spend month can lay the groundwork for long-term financial improvement," says Tara. "It will help you become more financially aware, disrupt any impulsive spending patterns you've unconsciously created and encourage thoughtful decision making." Even if you go back to your usual spending habits immediately once the month is over, you can still feel the benefits of "immediate savings, enhanced financial awareness, mindful spending and financial discipline."

It can make frugality fun

Hear us out! There's always an element of fun in setting yourself a challenge and saving money doesn't have to be boring. Just like a sober month can help you discover new hobbies and interests, a no spend month can help you appreciate all the free and low cost activities there are to try. "Making a no-spend month enjoyable instead of restrictive is all about finding a balance," says Tara. "Prioritise experiences over things. Set yourself a realistic spending limit for non-essentials and find some low-cost or free activities to book in your diary to look forward to, such as meeting a friend for a walk, going to a free-entry museum, baking at home or organising a game of football with your mates."

Free things to do during your no-spend month

For a really long list of free things to do, check out the list below for seasonless ideas to try during your no-spend month.

  • Meet a friend for a walk
  • Have a cosy movie night
  • Read a book
  • Take a bath
  • Take a free online course
  • Go to a free museum
  • Bake at home
  • Organise a game of football with your mates
  • Experiment with cooking
  • Do workout classes on YouTube
  • Socialise with friends through video chats
  • Try volunteering
  • Listen to music or podcasts
  • Declutter your home
  • Get creative

It can set the foundations for a more financially savvy future

Whether you manage to save a lot of money or not, a no spend month will make you more aware of your finances going forward. If you end the month with more savings than usual, it can motivate you to save more. “A month of not spending is a stepping stone to creating a routine of responsible money management and sets a foundation for lasting change,” says Tara, “all while providing a sense of accomplishment and motivation to continue making better financial choices.”

It's not the only way to take control of your spending

If you’ve completed a no spend month and want to continue feeling in control of your spending, but you’re not sure about continuing with the same rules long term, there are other ways to stay on top of your finances. “The best way to help yourself financially is to set yourself a monthly budget,” says Tara. “Once you’ve done this, track your spending and set yourself financial goals. Having specific objectives can motivate you to spend more mindfully. Finally, delay non-essential purchases for 24 hours to determine whether you genuinely need or want an item.”