6 Can’t-Fail Steps for a Successful No-Spend November

Be merry, but beware. Holiday season is officially upon us, which is great news for retailers, but bad news for budgets. Last year Americans racked up an average of $1,054 worth of holiday debt. From lavish gifts to last-minute trips, it’s easy to spend heedlessly during November and December. To help curb spending, many are borrowing a page from the No-Shave November campaign and embarking on a 30-day financial cleanse.

The concept is simple: avoid spending money on items that are not essential to your survival. While you’ll have to budget for expenses like rent, food, and utilities, consider skipping that $6 post-lunch cold brew or the periodic $25 happy hour bar tab. Participating in a No-Spend November challenge can help prevent unwanted holiday debt, and set you up for a financially healthy 2019. Think you’re up for the challenge? Here are a few tips to help keep you on track:

1. Set yourself up for success

The glory of the No-Spend November challenge is that you determine the rules yourself. Start by sifting through your bank statements and listing your expenses under two categories: essential and non-essential. What line items can you live without? Be ambitious, yet realistic. For example, how often do you use your Netflix subscription? Do you have a few books you’ve been meaning to finish? Or will binging a new series help you avoid more high-priced temptations? The more practical your plan is, the more likely you are to follow it — and succeed.

2. Have a clear goal in mind

How do you intend to use your savings? Hoping to purchase a special gift for your significant other? Perhaps you’d like to make a hefty student loan payment? While there’s no right or wrong reason to participate, having a specific end goal will keep you motivated throughout the challenge.

3. Prepare for FOMO

Talking about saving money is easy. Following through can be a bit trickier. In a recent study of 1,045 Americans aged 18–34, nearly 40% said they have gone into debt just to keep up with their friends’ lifestyles. You can combat the fear-of-missing-out by convincing a friend, family member, or co-worker to participate in No-Spend November with you. Turn it into a competition by seeing who can put more money aside each week. If you can’t convince anyone to take the plunge with you, still consider sharing your financial goals with someone you’re close with. Talking about money can be awkward, but disclosing why you’re not splurging on $15 chopped salads will help your friends better understand where you’re coming from.

4. Make the most of your groceries

Have you ever found yourself in a grocery store intending to buy fresh produce and toilet paper, only to somehow leave with bags filled with frozen artisan pizzas, freshly-ground nut butter and seasonally-scented dish soap? Before trekking to the market, take inventory of all the food you currently have in your kitchen. Are your cupboards lined with dusty soup cans and forgotten bags of rice? Try to make use of what you already have while planning out your meals for the month.

5. Move your savings

After a week or so of avoiding impulsive purchases, you should start seeing the fruits of your labor accumulate in your bank account. If possible, transfer this surplus into a savings account or somewhere you’ll be less tempted to spend it. Out of sight, out of mind.

6. Expect the unexpected

They say that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. This is especially true when it comes to budgeting. No matter how well you plan, you’re likely to encounter an unscheduled expense or two. You might come down with the flu and have to spend more than you’d like at the drugstore. What if your trusted mode of transportation suddenly requires maintenance? It’s easy to let unforeseen circumstances derail your progress. Give yourself some wiggle room by establishing a small emergency fund at the beginning of the month. That way, if you need it, you have it. And if you don’t, you’ll have even more savings come December.

Budgeting is about progress, not perfection. If you have a bad day or week, forgive yourself and keep going. Are you participating? Connect with us on Twitter and share your successes (and struggles.)