I have now been using Mint for budgeting and keeping track of my personal finances for over a year. There is no doubt it has utterly changed how I spend money. We can – and should! – dedicate an entire blog post to discussing that topic.
When I realized I had been using Mint for over a year, I started fiddling around with the “Trends” tab and learning about what my spending looked like for 12 calendar months – not what I WANTED it to look like with budgeting, but how it actually shook out. In many ways, it was what I expected…. in others, not so much. For example, my car expenses were actually much lower than I thought! Because once or twice a year I get hit with a $1000 repair, it feels like a huge amount. But when you add up those mechanic bills to gas and insurance, it was actually very reasonable.
Unfortunately, the opposite was true of my clothing expenses. I always knew that impulse clothing shopping was my Achilles heel, but to see that enormous, 4 digit number on the screen… well, it was a wake-up call. At a friend’s house later that week, we were discussing budgeting and my sticker shock, and I proposed a friendly competition over who could go longer without spending any money on clothing, jewelry, and makeup. Two weeks later and a few supportive text messages back and forth, and we decided to extend the challenge through all of April. And that’s how “No Spend April” was born.
I am definitely not an expert on spending freezes. I actually hit up an old high school friend who had attempted one on clothing for an ENTIRE YEAR to get her advice (can you imagine??). I’m starting smaller and more bite-sized, but I think my strategy is a good one. I’d like to share it in case you’re interested in joining us or setting up your own spending freeze challenge with a friend.
1. Outline the Rules
Everyone has different weaknesses when it comes to “wasting” money. Mine was undoubtedly clothing, whereas my friend had a big problem with makeup and skincare as well. So I took a hardline on one type of indulgence and she took a hardline on another. But we both agreed that the month would include eliminating all extraneous purchases, from tech to kitchen gadgets, to the best of our ability.
2. Create a “Want” List
As things that I want/NEED have popped into my head during the freeze, I add them to a list on my phone. The new Cravings book by Chrissy Teigen? Check. A Dyson cordless vacuum (only $375)? Check. A black purse to match my black shoes? Check. A black belt to match my black purse and black shoes? Check and check. In many ways, just adding them to the list fulfills that desire to BUY BUY BUY. Plus, once they’re on the list for a while, you might realize you don’t need them nearly as much as you thought.
3. Set Yourself Up For Success with the Occasional Treat
Some people are strong enough to buy 100% nothing special for 31 days. I am not one of those people. So the one indulgent thing I left on my “okay” list was the occasional visit to a restaurant with my boyfriend for date night or a meal out with friends – key word there being “occasional.” I’ve defined that as being less than twice a week AND at a more casual restaurant than the $13 cocktail places we sometimes go for. Think about what small-ish thing you will still treat yourself to (a weekly Starbucks coffee? a $20 trip to Lush?) and stick to just that.
4. Promise Yourself a Reward at the End
In theory, if I manage to pull this off, I’ll have been able to pay a couple of hefty bills (hello, cavity filling at the dentist), put $500+ into my savings, and still have a couple of hundred dollars at the end of the month to #TreatMyself. I’ve been eyeing the Apple Watch 2 for a few weeks since I returned my FitBit Alta to REI (after not using it for 10 months…) and got $200 back. If I use that money, plus the $200 I’ll have saved up with this spending freeze, it’s a totally luxurious expense I can feel guilt-free about purchasing.
Have you ever done a spending freeze or considered doing one? What tips would you add to my list?