How to Do a One-Month Spending Freeze
Making a big financial change is like getting in a cold swimming pool. You can oh-so-slowly walk from the shallow end to the deep end, shivering all the way — or you can hold your nose and just jump in. It might not be pleasant, but it sure is faster — and you might be surprised at how quickly you acclimate to the water.
Similarly, if you’re looking to overhaul your finances — whether you want to pay down debt, save more, or just spend your money wisely — you can develop little habits bit-by-bit, or you can jump into the pool with a spending freeze. By cutting out all unnecessary spending, you can jump-start your financial goals — and discover lots of fun, free things to do that you might have never thought of.
You can do a spending freeze for any amount of time — a week, two weeks, even a year — but one month is a nice. It’s enough time that you can save what feels like a significant amount of money, but not so long that it feels like it’s going to go on forever. (For longer time periods, check out our article on How to Do a Spending Fast in 16 (Easy!) Steps.)
Here’s what to do.
Look at Your Budget
Actually, there’s a step before this — start a budget if you don’t already have one. The only way you can take control of your finances is to understand where your money is going.
Now, look at what you spend money on every month, and separate the needs from the wants. Common “want” categories include clothing, entertainment, and dining out — but there are other, sneakier wants too. For example, how much of your weekly grocery bill is wants, and how much of it is needs? Also look at regular subscription services — such as newspapers or Netflix. Many will allow you to put your subscription on hold without actually cancelling it.
After you’ve done this, make a revised version of your budget where you spend nothing on these want categories.
Figure Out What You’re Doing With Your Savings
Now that you’ve established where you won’t be spending money, you have to decide what you will be doing with those funds. Whether it’s a large debt payment, creating your first emergency fund, or even saving for a vacation, having a goal you’re working towards will make the spending freeze easier.
Anybody who’s ever had a gym buddy knows that doing something you don’t want to do gets easier when you do it with someone you like. In this case, it might be your significant other, your parents, or a friend. This step isn’t necessary, but if you do the spending freeze with someone else, you’ll be able to support each other along the way.
Clean Out Your Pantry, and Plan Your Meals
Now that your plans are in place, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty. While food is a need, there are several ways that you can cut down on food costs over the next month.
Cleaning and reorganizing your pantry will remind you what foods you have hiding in your cupboards. After you’ve made a list of what you have, use these foods as the basis to plan your meals for the next month — not only will you use up ingredients that have been sitting around, but you’ll slash your grocery bill.
Schedule Free Fun
One of the most difficult things about being on a spending freeze is the “I can’t” feeling. Instead of moping around feeling annoyed that you can’t go out for drinks with your friends, be proactive! Invite people over for a potluck, schedule a hike for next weekend, or set up a weekly board game night with some friends. If you need to get some ideas, check out 50+ Ways to Have Free Outdoor Fun and 7 Free Ways to Get Out of the House.
Remix Your Wardrobe
Don’t think you can go 30 days without a fashion infusion? Then try the 30 for 30 Remix, which challenges you to take just 30 pieces of clothing you own and make them into 30 different outfits in 30 days.
Track Your Progress
It’s important to track your progress — seeing that you’re on the right track can make you charged up to keep going. Consider putting up a chart on the fridge where you can track your savings.
Adopt Permanent Changes
At the end of the month, take some time to consider what worked for you. Maybe you discovered that packing your lunch for work wasn’t so bad, and you didn’t miss eating out. Or that there’s more versatility in your wardrobe than you thought. Or you didn’t miss cable. Whatever it is, see if there are some frugal changes that you can adopt as long-term habits instead of just going back to your old ways.
Need Motivation? How About $10,000 in Prizes?
Almost inspired to start a spending freeze but need a little extra motivation? We're here to help! Wise Bread has teamed up with SaveUp to give away $10,000 worth of cash prizes to reward you for not using your credit card. Check out our contest post for full details.
Have you done a spending freeze? Or are you thinking about trying one? Share your experiences in the comments!