What if you went a whole month without spending money? Could you do it? Would it save you money in the long run?
My family and I are about to find out as we embark on our second journey through ‘No-Spend February’.
Want to join us?
What is No-Spend February?
My wife actually introduced me to ‘no-spend February’ last year as a way to work through back shelf grocery items. Taking one month off purchasing groceries forces us to dig deep into the freezer and cupboards to come up with meals, clearing out old stock and allowing us to ensure that no food goes to waste.
In my typical ‘all-in’ manner I latched onto the idea and insisted on taking it further.
We don’t actually spend $0 for the month.
We still have a mortgage and utilities to pay. We’ll still insure our cars and put gas in them and if we have a medical emergency we’ll go to the doctor or hospital. But taking a month off spending after the holidays is just what the doctor ordered.
Here’s our rules:
|Utilities/Phone/ Internet||Streaming services/subscriptions|
|Insurance/fuel for vehicles||Online shopping|
|Medical Insurance and emergency medical care||Going out|
|Donations/ ministry support||Anything not in the ‘spend’ category|
|Savings contributions/Life Insurance premiums|
What’s the Point of No-spend February?
The reason we do something like No-Spend February is the same reason we (should) fast. It’s the idea that we aren’t aware of what has its hold on us until it’s gone.
Do we take for granted our food choice? Are we aware of how much we spend on subscription services or online shopping? Can we live a happy life without some of the things we view as ‘necessities’?
The point is not that if we can live without these things we should. The point is cultivating gratefulness and mission-mindedness requires both feasting and fasting.
We feast to celebrate the people and provision God has given us.
We fast to realize our brokenness without him.
We feast in order to enjoy God’s blessings.
We fast to keep those blessings from becoming our idols.
We feast to honor our God of abundance.
We fast to remind ourselves that God himself is enough.
Christians are eager to feast, to celebrate and to enjoy God’s blessings, but cringe at the idea of fasting. Feasting without fasting is hedonism. It is putting our enjoyment and comfort at the center. Feasting with fasting is celebration. We need both.
No-spend February is a habit-adjuster and a heart-checker. It’s like calling the bluff of the addict that says he can quit “anytime he wants”. (Well, then why don’t you?)
If you’re truly content, things and spending habits don’t have a hold on you, and your money is positioned on mission, No-spend February should be a breeze.
If not, you’ll quickly become aware of the things that may have your heart more than they should. This will give you a category or two to lean towards adjusting over the next year.
Does No-spend February Save You Money?
One misconception about No-Spend February is that you’ll save gobs of money.
You probably won’t.
Lumping all purchases in January and March and avoiding them in February has a tendency to balance itself out. Although we may go deep into our cupboards to eat, we’ll refill them the next month. The things we aren’t buying for the house, we’ll likely eventually buy. Perhaps we’ll spend slightly less in the long-run on entertainment or dining out, but the amount is marginal.
No-spend February is not a legitimate way to build up savings, just like doing a one-month diet isn’t a way to lose weight. But a spending fast can reveal some important things about our habits.
Some Practical Tips
Be realistic. We have a big family and live in the country. We grocery shop twice a month. These trips are massive hauls that require us to maintain a second freezer in the garage. I know not everyone grocery shops like this, so maybe avoiding grocery spending altogether isn’t practical for you. Make rules that will ensure you’re only spending money on your ‘daily bread’.
Think ahead. Last year I didn’t stock up on chicken feed, softener salt, or pay attention to where my coffee levels were (you bet I broke the rules to make sure we had coffee in the house). Stock up on the items that you’ll need through February. If you have a birthday party to go to or a trip already planned, maybe you should pick a different month to fast, or remember to make those purchases ahead of time.
Don’t be silly. The point of a spending fast is heart, not austerity. If you get in a bind and need to spend the money on something, do it. Don’t put your family, safety or friendships in jeopardy over a spending fast.
Get Creative. Some of the creative ideas brought out of No-spend February are worth keeping. I’ve met friends at parks, libraries and their homes instead of out to lunch and have had more enjoyable meaningful conversations without spending money. You might realize you like some easy to prepare and inexpensive to purchase foods, or you might find your family spending more time around a board game than renting the latest movie. Find ways to work, play and build relationships that don’t involve spending unnecessary cash.
No-spend February is a great chance to experiment with going without. So often I hear people talk about how expensive life is. But does it have to be?
I’m all for spending money on things that add value to your life and your mission, but I’ve found that we tend to passively accept all of our expenses as ‘required’ when this truly isn’t the case.
If you join me on No-Spend February you’ll find at least one place that has its grip on your money and you’ll find yourself more grateful for the things that don’t.
You want in?
Let me know you’re participating in No-Spend February.