No Spend Days

Spending on lockdown! (Photo: galleryhip.com)

Spending on lockdown! (Photo: galleryhip.com)

I track the money I spend. However, I have never tracked “not spending.” Lots of Personal Finance Bloggers make note of how many days a month they spend nothing. I didn’t think that would be a useful tool for me. I thought, “My personal spending is low anyway, so what difference does it make?”

I reviewed my daily spending over the past year and I have changed my mind. I was able to see patterns I never noticed before. It’s not just the money I spend that counts, it’s the distribution!

When I paid regular monthly bills such as power and property taxes, I counted it as a No Spend Day. When I made irregular payments such as home repairs, groceries and gas for the car, I didn’t, because they have a discretionary component. I didn’t include transfers between accounts, such as a “payment” from a chequing to a savings account. I did say it was a No Spending Day if my only costs were work expenses for which I was reimbursed.

I had 113 No Spend Days in 2014, with highs of 14 and 16 in January and August, and lows of 5 and 6 in May, September and November. It averaged about 9 days a month.

I laughed at myself because I had 11 stat holidays, on which most stores and services are closed, and I still spent money on 5 of them! On one of them I even bought something online, so I must have been really shopping-deprived?

When I commuted to work by car, I stopped at the grocery store a couple of times a week to “top up.” In 2014, I walked to work most of the time, which should have prevented drive-by shopping. Once a week, I made the rounds of grocery stores and tried to shop for a whole week at a time. Nevertheless, I made 84 grocery transactions that weren’t on grocery days. 84! That folly may come to an end. Now that Rom is doing the grocery shopping, he is going out twice a week, and buying nothing in between. So If I want a snack or an ingredient on other days, I am s—t out of luck 🙂

Another pattern was work expenses. Every time I go to a meeting at another location, I pay out-of-pocket for take-out coffee and snacks. At my “home” work location, I bring my own. I am not sure if I can bring myself to drink water when I am off-site (bleah, water!) but I can at least take some healthy munchies.

On the last two days of every month, I rarely spend a cent. Clearly I am looking towards my month-end totals and trying to rein them in! I should try to extend that attitude beyond two days a month. Similarly, I always have a low-spend month in January, and there’s no reason I can’t apply the same diligence mid-year.

My best month was a nose-to-the-grindstone month at work. Was I miserable? No, I was very focused, and either had no desire to buy things, or no energy left over! That is not a bad thing. Work doesn’t always consume me like that, though!

When I travelled for vacation, my spending was high before, during and after, but at least it was budgeted.

My longest no-spend streaks were 5 and 6 days. Now I have to challenge myself to do a No Spend Week!

Thanks to Laura, Carla and Krystal who introduced me to No Spend Days!

34 comments

  1. That’s fascinating! I have never thought about tracking the days I don’t spend money. I think I’ll have to try this.

  2. Wow I had never even considered that. I think I might have to start tracking now myself.

  3. My spending eases off towards the end of the month too! Having No Spend Days really helped me when I was paying off debt – the challenge element was motivating. Now I have them because my spending has reduced (most of the time anyway ;))
    Because of how my weeks are set up now (I’m back at work part time), I’m trying to limit spending to Fridays (errand and grocery day) and Saturday/Sundays (activities with family). We shall see if it works.

    • Hi Laura, Congrats on the new job – I hope you are liking it! There was a stretch last year when I bought a muffin from the concession stand at work every day. All it would have taken to break the habit would have been saying, “This is a no spend day!” Why not take advantage of techniques that work? Otherwise I spend very little on weekdays because it means taking the car out specifically to drive to a store. So I would just like to calm down on my snacks whenever I go to a work meeting elsewhere.

  4. Excellent idea. Not spending or spending very little are joys to me, as we do not need much at my age. My wife likes to say it was only $45 when she brings something home. So, this is my way of counterbalancing those $45 spends. Have a great weekend.

    • It is interesting that within families, we try to balance each other’s spending out. Like you, I am happy to scrimp a little if it means an extra treat for someone else.

  5. Since I moved into a motorhome full-time my no spend days have gone down. Due to limited space I have to shop little and often. The total amount I spend is less though.

  6. I like No Spend Days tracking. It doesn’t change what and when I buy… I just like knowing my shopping patterns.

    • I had been shopping at several grocery stores on a weekly grocery day, and tried to keep it to just one day (unsuccessfully). I think if I group other shopping and errands too, it will help – mainly because if I put off buying an item for a few days, I am more likely to decide I don’t really need it.

  7. I have never done a no spend week! I like some no spend days in summer as my daughter and I are off and we have to reign ourselves in from too much spendy fun!

  8. Do you know…if we tracked money we HAVEN’T spent more than the money we HAVE spent we would probably challenge ourselves to do better rather than look at how much we have to spend…does that make sense?

    • Too true! If we tracked day after day of no spending, it would reinforce not spending. Whereas if we spend a little every day and focus on not spending “even more,” we are still spending!

  9. Fiona

    I used to wonder if tracking ‘No Spend Days’ was worthwhile. Sometimes it seems to just defer spending till later. There’s an element of that but overall, I think it has really made me reduce incidental spending. It also often makes me ‘use it up, wear it out’ rather than consuming more.

    • That’s what I thought too – what’s the difference if I spend the same money now or later? That’s true for “definite spends” like gas for the car. But I think for all the completely discretionary things – like stopping for a latte or an Iced Capp – it could be motivating.

      • I do no spend days. For me it is not about postponing spending or paying bills, but about encouraging me to stay out of the shops. So, while I might put off filling the tank (yes, a postponement), I also don’t grab a few items, or break out the CC or back a note (and we all know once broken the cash disappears) and I don’t go online to buy.

        I don’t track as in I couldn’t tell you how many I had but some months I will have a goal to minimise non essential spending and record my no spends on a savings forum I belong to. Keeps me focused.

      • It’s never occurred to me to look for a savings forum. Good idea!

      • Simplesavings.com.au is mainly an Aussie and Kiwi forum and is the one I belong to. You do have to pay to access the forum but I don’t mind as there are no adds and it is quite user friendly with good forum moderation. No trolling or abuse. And great frugal and green ideas as well as brilliant, yummy recipes.

  10. I love your posts–they are so analytical! But you did go 1/3 of the year without spending so that is something. I really should track our food spending as we often shop on a whim and Im sure I would find that we are spending way more than necessary. There will definitely be a no spend week (or two) in our future!

  11. You are soo good at tracking everything, I love these posts! Once March hits and we’ve moved, paid all of our moving expenses etc.. I plan to start on a new budget and tracking again. I’ve had a good chunk of “no spends” lately as i’ve only been buying food & necessities.

  12. I certainly would have far more ‘no spend days’ than the other (I think) because I tend to buy up big when I do shop and carry little cash around with me. Bills are all budgeted for, some are direct debit and I tend to pay a lot online (gathering them together to do at the same time). Maybe I should keep a note of what goes out as well as what doesn’t each day as see what the result is
    Cathy

  13. What an awesome concept. I am going to try it myself and see how I do.

  14. Interesting info as always, Dar! I don’t think tracking no spend days would help me spend less but maybe I would be surprised like you were. Just looking at this month, if I don’t count bills or grocery shopping, I’d have 17 no spend days. Add in grocery shopping and it goes down to 13. Probably so low because I tend to do my shopping in clumps – I try to squeeze errands in after work or after yoga so I don’t waste a trip into town.

  15. I definitely like that you tracked this after the fact! I don’t like tracking No Spend days as you’re doing them because then it just comes down to distribution, as you said. I actually spend more money when I’m tracking No Spend days because if I start out the day with a bagel, then I’ll say to myself “Well, normally I would wait until I’m out of tissues to buy another box, but since I’ve already spent money today, I’ll just buy a bunch more stuff today, then the rest of the week can be No Spend”. And I end up buying a lot of things I don’t need at that moment just to have a “No Spend” day the next day….

  16. Pingback: The True Cost of a No Spend Day | An Exacting Life

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