10 Lessons from a No Spend Month

We did it! We just completed and survived our first ever no spend month! It was a great adventure and resulted in some good savings. Here’s a great long post about how it went, what we saved and all I learned this month.

Now, I should start by noting that everyone in our family was sick at some point this month. Nothing major. Mostly drippy noses with the annoying coughs that hang on for Nathan and my husband. Since we wanted to avoid passing our germs around or getting any new germs, we stayed home quite a bit this month. That unexpectedly helped us with our no spend challenge, but I wouldn’t recommend getting sick just to save money, of course!

We paid all our bills as usual but I tracked our food and gas purchases carefully to see what we were spending and saving.

My husband made 2 runs to the grocery store for us – stopping by quickly on his way home from school. It saved us gas and me the temptation. We bought 2 packages of diapers, 1 gallon milk, 5 pounds bananas, 2 dozen eggs and 6 romaine lettuce hearts on these two trips. We used $6 in diapers coupons and redeemed $4 in Mperks, spending only $20.49 on groceries this month as compared to our normal $260. This is a savings of $240 right there. Yay!

Since I stayed home more than usual, we spent $285.46 on gasoline, which is a savings of $90 from our budgeted $375 a month on gas. My husband has to drive a half hour each way to work 5 to 7 days a week (depending on weekend coaching and which church we are attending on Sunday) so gas is a large portion of our budget. Still, it was nice to save $90 on gas! 

Andy did eat out while at basketball tournaments and used a Buffalo Wild Wings gift card and Culvers gift card – both promo deals that were set to expire at the end of the month. No cash out of pocket for Culvers and Buffalo Wild Wings, but a bit for tournaments. I’ll say we saved another $25 by not eating out in February (estimating low).

That was a savings of $355 in February. It wasn’t as much as I had hoped but it was still a good exercise. Here’s what else I learned during our no spend month.

1. It isn’t really a no spend month because bills always have to be paid.

It’s more of a frugal living month. Yes, the no spend term sounds impressive but there will always be bills that are necessary to pay. Let’s just start with that

2. I like grocery shopping for deals more than I realized.

This was the hardest expense for me to give up. Even though we had plenty of food in our pantry, I still was tempted by the good deals. I stopped looking at the grocery ads so I wouldn’t be tempted by what I was missing out. Since the kids and I view this as our main outing of the week, it was tough to skip it on that regard but we managed. I am excited to go back to Meijer after a month away!

3. We really are living more frugally than I thought.

Outside of food and the occasional eating out with gift cards, there weren’t a whole lot of extra expenses for us to cut. Still, we did have extra expenses. We didn’t purchase any little deals (and the little things do add up) and it forced us to look at what we are truly spending. Our income has been dropping steadily over the past couple years but we are managing to thrive, by the grace of God. It’s a lot of hard work but living frugally is completely worth it so I can be home with our kids. 

4. A stockpile is essential to saving on your grocery bill.

Thanks to our stocked freezer and stockpile, we had plenty of meat to eat as well as cheese. We had plenty of canned goods. We had lots of meat in the freezer. We had pasta and rice and flour to make bread. Here’s everything you need to know about stockpiling because this month truly proved the value of our stockpile. We might not have had everything we wanted but we had more than what we needed.

5. I need to work on regularly cleaning out and rotating through my stockpile.

When I find a good deal, I am quick to stock up but we don’t use everything as quickly as I think. That said, there is nothing in our pantry that is close to expiring so that is good. I’m excited to go back to grocery shopping but I am going to approach my deal shopping a bit differently now as we continue to use up some things from our pantry.

6. Eating simple meals saves money.

My kids are happy to eat simple meals. Pancakes for breakfast, sandwiches and fruit for lunch, pasta and veggies and fruit for dinner are common meals in our house. When my husband is at school late, the kids and I tend to be repetitive with what we eat but that’s okay. None of us mind that fact and we’re saving money.

7. Cooking from scratch saves money.

Plain and simple. If you have ingredients on hand, you can always make something! Plus, we never had to worry about running out of bread because it’s so easy to bake another loaf. And really, at $0.50 a loaf, it’s a delicious way to save money!

8. Staying home does keep you from spending.

I quickly learned not to look at any of the Amazon deals because I didn’t really “need” any of those. Granted, our family was under the weather at the beginning of the month, but outside of piano lesson days, the kids and I didn’t leave the house much this month.

9. There is never a good time for unexpected bills but savings will save you!

Yes, indeed. We had to take my car into the shop this month which resulted in $700 of car repairs. Thankfully, we do have a savings account for car repairs so that made it easy to handle because the money was already there. However, we know need to build that car savings account back up again. This is exactly why we have so many different savings accounts! 

10. It is good to try new things to boost your savings. 

This no spend month was a new experience for us. Was it as hard as I thought? No. Did we save as much as I hoped? Not quite. Will I do it again? Yes.

There are so many ways to save money that are worth trying. Maybe they will work for your family and maybe they won’t – but you never know until you try!

This no spend challenge reminded me that the little things do add up. And when we need to save extra money quickly, stay home and eat from the pantry!

If you participated in our no-spend, frugal February, be sure to leave your comments about what you learned! If you didn’t participate, I’d still love to hear how and where you saved the most this month!

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13 Comments

  1. Just read your article and it brought me back to the days of my kids being young. All your points are true. The only thing I can add is to be sure to tithe first, and then save for your retirement and savings. God is so good, He will provide. Trust every day He has your best interest at heart. My boys are now on their own, debt free as we are. He is faithful and just, we must be also by being good stewards.

  2. I’ve toyed with doing the No Spend month thing, but every time I end up deciding to skip it. So I was interested in reading how it went for you, because I think that we shop, live and think similarly.

    I had to smile at point #2. I KNOW that would be one of the hardest things for me! And I’m curious if you felt like it affected your stockpile adversely. One of the reasons I haven’t done it is because I was afraid it would set me back to far with my stockpile and end up hurting me in the long run because I’d use up so much of it. But maybe I’m wrong?

    1. I agree, Lydia! I do think we shop, live and think similarly. It’s so nice to know there are frugal shoppers like out there! 🙂 I did use my stockpile a lot during the no-spend month, but not too far back on anything. Rather, I think it helped use up some things that had been sitting there for awhile. It is also gave me a better idea of what we really use regularly and what I purchased because it was a good deal. And yes, it was hard not to shop the deals. I am quite happy to be back shopping the sales again! 🙂

  3. My mom is the same way when it comes to shopping and “good deals”. She sees products marked down 50% and thinks it’s a great deal, when it’s still at least $80 (clothing).

  4. I honestly did try, but….we had car insurance, ick!!!, then plates for 2 cars, gas, a scheduled trip to the doc, some hospital tests, etc. I did have to buy the milk, eggs, etc. The main things that I don’t/can’t stockpile. I also bought fresh fruit and veggies. I didn’t need to buy fresh, but I like to keep them on hand for snacks. All in all, I think I did OK. I can’t imagine NOT spending ANYTHING! Couldn’t do it! I would do this again in a heartbeat!!!

    1. Good for you for giving it a try, Kathy! I don’t think there is anyone who could go without spending ANYTHING. Ha. We all have to be responsible adults! I’m glad you found it to be a good source of savings!

  5. Nice work! It would probably be an amazing exercise for us to cut out all unnecessary spending, but so hard to do! I don’t really have a stockpile like you do so I couldn’t imagine us doing with so little groceries, but there are weeks when we are sick or busy and I don’t get groceries and though the niceties run out the essentials are still there and we make it just fine!

    1. Thanks, Kate. It was a good exercise and yes, it is hard to do. The stockpile really does make a difference but I think anyone can make it work because like you said, we’ve all made it work on sick weeks. Still, I think I prefer living frugally year around – like I know you already do, too!

  6. So interesting to see your month. We were sick with colds/coughs and I had to buy Tylenol/tissues/etc. that I had not planned on. I wasn’t trying a no spend month, but I did stay under budget on groceries this month.
    Gas is most interesting to me-I budget $80 a month and was happy that we spent $103 total for first 2 months of the year.
    I know you were sick, but I’m pondering #2 and #8 for myself. I really enjoy shopping for deals too. But when we were sick and I didn’t shop at all for a week, we were fine. I need to find a balance between shopping for good deals and saving money-because there is more to life than shopping. I’m considering not only a $ budget, but a budget for the amount of grocery stores I’m allowed to shop at each month. I would save $ if I only went to Costco once a month etc. I know you have already done this mainly shopping at Meijer, but I haven’t.
    My Costco annual reward came this week. I’m challenging myself to see how long we can buy groceries at Costco with this reward. Due to house repairs before moving, we have quite a large reward this year.

    1. Deal shopping is such a thrill, isn’t it? Ha. I love your challenge to stretch your annual Costco reward. That’s a really good personal challenge. And gas? Wow! That’s amazing that your amount is so low. Of course, Andy spends an hour in the car 5 to 7 days a week driving downtown. Plus, when we averaged our road trips to Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, Minnesota and Florida, of this past year, with all the basketball tournaments, $375 is the perfect average to account for all our travels. It’s high, but as long we budget for it, we manage!

  7. Good lessons learned. I think a no spend month results in some savings, though I’m skeptical of how much because of the fact that you’ll often spend in advance or after the month to ‘catch up’ (in other words, you have to rebuild that stockpile to some degree). However, your point does touch very well on the fact that it’s more about setting new normals and improving habits.

    1. True. For us, I actually think this next month will still be lower than normal. This month showed me that we still plenty in our pantry, and anything I do restock will be with sales, like normal. However, I am probably not “typical” in those regards. It was a good exercise but for us, we’ll continue to just live frugally all the time.

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