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Are you interested in trying a no spend November money challenge?
I’ve written about no spend challenges here before and if you haven’t done one yet, the month of November is a great time to give it a shot!
But wait…November is when you’re supposed to spend money, right? After all, you might have your holiday budget ready to go and of course, those Black Friday sales are calling.
Not so fast!
If that sounds good to you, then keep reading because I’m going to explain everything you need to know to pull off a successful no spend November.
What Is No Spend November Anyway?
In a nutshell, it means putting the brakes on unnecessary purchases and only spending money on things your family truly needs.
It’s all about being frugal and saving money during a season when advertisers are telling you to spend, spend, spend!
You can go on a spending diet any time of year but November makes it an extra interesting challenge. It’s a way to test your money willpower and get super clear on the difference between wants and needs.
But do I have to commit to not spending any money for the whole month?
Well, ideally yes but it’s totally up to you to decide how long your no spend November is going to last.
For example, you could do it for just the first two weeks of November or the last two weeks of the month. Or you could commit to no spending over the Thanksgiving weekend and steering clear of the stores.
That’s the beauty of it! You can figure out exactly what works for you and your family, then go for it.
7 Tips for Making a No Spend November Work
If you’re serious about locking down your spending for November, then high five! These tips can help you come up with a foolproof plan for making it work.
1. Set your spending ground rules
First things first, you have to sort out what counts as essential spending for November and what doesn’t.
So, the things you have to spend money on might include things like:
- Mortgage or rent payments
- Electric, water and other utilities
- Gas and necessary transportation costs
- Internet and cell phone service (I count these as essential expenses in my budget because I can’t run my business without them.)
- Insurance premiums and out of pocket health care expenses
- Pet food and supplies
- Childcare if you and your spouse both work outside the home
- Debt payments
You might also include tithing here if that’s a regular part of your budget. The way to put this list in perspective is to think about all the expenses you need to pay to maintain a basic standard of living.
Now, there’s a whole other list of things that you might be tempted to spend money on. But the point of a no spend November is to avoid doing that.
The list of expenses you might cut out for the month includes things like:
- Holiday shopping
- Dinner out
- Trips to the movies or other paid entertainment
- New clothes
- Non-essential personal care (like getting your hair or nails done)
- Hobbies and recreation
- Non-essential extracurricular activities for kids (This one’s tough–my son’s a soccer player so it’s hard to not spend money on something he loves.)
Remember, this is your list and no one else’s
As you’re going through your expenses keep in mind that what you do or don’t include as essential spending is entirely up to you. So there may be some things on your must-have list that might be a “want” for someone else.
And that’s totally fine. But the more you can cut out, the more money you could potentially save.
2. Set a target for saving
If you’re not spending as much as usual, then that should add up to some savings, right?
So here’s what you need to do next: decide how much money you want to save and what you plan to do with it.
For example, say your regular monthly budget is $4,000. Could you cut out $500 of that using a no spend challenge? $1,000? More?
This is where it’s really helpful to go over your expenses carefully before you get started with a no spend month. That way, you can have a savings goal to work toward.
Once you have a dollar amount you want to save, decide what it’s going to be used for.
Giving those dollars a purpose helps you to make sure that once your spending ban is lifted, you don’t fritter that extra cash away.
Bonus tip: Keep your no spend savings in the right place.
For me, it doesn’t make sense to save money if you’re not earning a great interest rate on it. That’s why I stick with online banks for savings accounts since they can offer much higher rates than brick-and-mortar banks.
If you’re looking for an online savings option, try CIT Bank. The Savings Builder account earns an amazing rate and you just need $100 to start saving!
3. Make it a team effort
Okay, so any time I tell my kids we’re not spending money for a while, I’m instantly met with moaning and groaning.
(From my son, at least. My daughter is a dyed in the wool saver–making mama proud!)
If you’re planning to tackle a no spend November to get your family finances under control, then it has to be a family effort. Otherwise, it just won’t work.
So schedule a money meeting and lay down the ground rules for everyone about what you will and won’t spend money on. Talk to your kids about why you’re doing a spending fast and what the goal is.
You want this to be a positive thing for everybody so don’t let your kids assume that no spending equals no fun. It just takes a little more creativity when you can’t spend money.
And if you need a little inspo, I’ve got 43 fun fall activities you can do that cost little to no cash!
4. Plan ahead as much as possible.
Hopefully, you’re reading this post in October or even September, and not waiting until the last minute to try and plan a no spend November.
But regardless of how much (or how little) time you have to plan, make the most of it!
You can minimize your chances of having to spend money during by checking these items off your list:
- Plan your meals for the month and stock up the pantry ahead of time. (Try $5 Meal Plan for some super frugal meal planning ideas.)
- Purchase any necessary cleaning supplies you might need for the month. (Or better yet, make your own with ingredients you have at home!)
- Pay up some or all of your bills in advance if you’re able to.
- Take your credit cards out of your wallet and consider switching to cash-only if you can.
- Plan out some ways to spend your time as a family that don’t cost money.
- Take care of any necessary clothing or personal hygiene purchases before the month starts.
The more you can plan ahead, the better.
But even if you’re reading this on November 1st (or later), just do what you can with the time you have. Even small steps can make a big difference in cutting down what you spend.
5. Track your spending
Sticking with a no spend November challenge is tough and you need a way to stay accountable as a family. An easy way to do that is to track your spending.
There’s no right or wrong way to do it. You can use a budgeting app that links to your debit card to record purchases, record it in an expense tracking spreadsheet or just write it down in a notebook.
The point is to keep a running tab on what you spend to make sure you’re staying within those boundaries you set for yourself way back in step one.
Review your spending weekly to see how you’re doing. (And if you’re doing a no spend November for less than the full month, you might do this daily.)
The upside is that if you’re sticking with your plan, you’ll get a nice motivational boost from seeing how well you’re doing.
And if you’re not, then reviewing your spending can help you figure out what you need to change to get back on track.
6. Resist temptation!
I will not lie to you–a no spend challenge, in November or any other time, isn’t always easy.
And when there are sales everywhere, it’s so hard to just say no to spending.
This is especially true if you’ve got family in town for the holidays. I’ve fought the Black Friday crowds more than once to appease my mother who just can’t pass up a sale.
But here’s something I want you to remember. You don’t have to spend.
Really. I mean it. Just because your favorite store is running a super-awesome-amazing-can’t-pass-this-up deal doesn’t mean you have to buy in.
So, here are some of my best tips for resisting temptation:
- Unsubscribe from your favorite stores’ email lists so you’re not bombarded with sale ads.
- Take a break from watching TV. No TV = no commercials trying to lure you into breaking your no spend vow.
- Tell people you’re doing a no spend November and say “no, thanks” to friendly invitations that could lead to spending.
- Toss the sale papers that come in the mail in the trash. (Or better yet, find a way to repurpose them.)
- Turn off notifications from shopping apps or websites.
If you need some help staying on track, give yourself some motivation.
Create a money mantra as a reminder of how much you want to save. Promise yourself that once the no spend month is up, you’ll enjoy a small, frugal treat.
Bottom line, give yourself something to look forward to so that you have a reason to keep going.
7. Leave room for the unexpected
Sometimes, life happens. And when it does, that might require you to spend money.
November and the holiday season, in general, can get hectic. Three Novembers ago, I had to spend $5,500 to replace my HVAC system two days before Thanksgiving. Super fun.
So yeah, I get that things might not always work out the way you planned. But you can make any bumps you might run into smoother by being prepared.
The best way to do that is having some cash savings you can draw on just in case. But how much do you need?
At a minimum, I’d say $500 to $1,000. That should be enough to cover any minor blips that pop up.
If you don’t have that much cash on hand, then here’s the second-best thing you can do: find ways to make some extra money just for emergencies.
As always, I’ve got you covered if you need some ideas. Check out these posts to help you get started with a money-making side hustle!
Are You Ready to Rock a No Spend November?
By now, you should be well on your way to planning a successful spending freeze for November. And once you get that first no spend challenge under your belt, you’ll be ready for the next one!
Do you have an amazing no spend tip or story to share? Head to the comments and tell me about it.
Then please show this post some love and share it if it helped you!