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Why I’m Having a No-Spend January (And Just How Much Extra Cash That Puts Back in my Pocket)

  • December 28, 2018
  • By Cynthia
Why I’m Having a No-Spend January (And Just How Much Extra Cash That Puts Back in my Pocket)

Look, here’s the long and short of it. I earn enough money to be comfortable but due to certain things out of my control (here’s looking at you, student loans), and all those things IN my control but for which I LACK control (clothing sales shopping like erry day), I am not exactly flush. And I should be. You know? It’s so maddening.

But in good news, the last couple of years I’ve been all about getting my financial shit together and so I’m sharing this with you, at the ripe old age of 34, because I genuinely never think it’s too late to make big financial changes in your life. And I’ve been obsessed with it lately – despite fluctuating levels of success.

A big part of financial success is, of course, taking stock of your finances super regularly. I do this at minimum weekly, always monthly, and then finally at the end of the year.

I actually keep track of categories of spending and then in December go back, add up everything I spent in those categories, take the 12 month average, and use that to inform the coming year’s budget. I SWEAR to you it doesn’t take as long as it sounds.

But what it does allow me is to account for where my spending has been high. And this year (2018) it was high, well, EVERYWHERE. And I am so pissed at myself about it.

But what’s to be done? Not much except scale it way back for next year and look at a few creative ways to save money and keep myself from spending.

Enter the No Spend January

Is this the most fun thing to do? No, it’s not. But is it sometimes required to take stock and notice just how often you want to reach for your wallet? Yes it is.

And because I have a borderline obsessive personality, I wanted to account for not just what I BUDGETED I would be spending in a month, but what last year’s averages FORECAST I would be spending. A much, much larger number to be sure (I’m shaming myself but I’m pretty sure I deserve it, you guys!). But more on those numbers below.

Photo by Andy Nichols

First, here are the things I AM spending money on during my no-spend January:

  1. Groceries are obviously fine – but within a budget. I spend A LOT every month on groceries so I’m capping myself at $400 for January (a normal cap anyways, but I like clear rules).
  2. I have 2 planned gifts to buy – I will spend no more than a total of $80 on those gifts.
  3. I will spend my normal $100 on boxing classes (it’s a contract).
  4. I will allow myself a maximum of 2 tea dates with friends in the event that the weather is too cold for walks and outdoor activities. It’s January in Canada, so I have to be fair here. Most of the time I can manage a free walk with girlfriends or a tea at home, but I don’t want to be lonely by bent of saving money. Plus, tea is cheaper than coffee so I feel like it’s still a sacrifice 😉
  5. I will still get my nails done because I’m in a shellac cycle whereby I have to pay to get it removed so I might as well pay to get it replaced. Plus, it’s one frivolous bit of self-care that makes me feel nice and work-ready and it only costs $30 including tip.
  6. Camping reservations open in January for the provincial parks for the coming summer season, and since I’m absolutely committed to being outdoors nonstop this summer, I’ll be spending money reserving those weekends in January. I’ve already budgeted them in though, and they should in no way make me feel strained.
  7. One weekend or splurge (Nordic spa maybe!?) with my guy because we were going to do it in December but agreed it would be a nicer treat (and probably less crowded) in January or February. So if that comes to fruition, I essentially already have the money set aside.

Here are the things I WILL NOT spend money on during my no-spend January:

  1. Clothing of any sort.
  2. Meals out, including coffees or snacks.
  3. Entertainment like movies or plays.
  4. Random stuff I think I want.
  5. Anything for my dog that isn’t food or an unforeseen necessity.
  6. Alcohol – out or at home.
  7. Extra gym or fitness classes (I can get outside for free if the weather permits or use online tutorials at home if not).
  8. No date nights with my guy that cost extra money. Meaning I’m going to have to get a little creative (and hope for his support!), but could definitely do things like cooking nights or popcorn and a movie at home or drives out to shoot landscape photos.
  9. Makeup, haircuts, or any unnecessary hygiene products.
  10. Netflix and Spotify Premium subscriptions. I managed to get a 3 month free subscription to Crave TV through Airmiles, my boo lets me use his Amazon Prime subscription, and I rarely use Spotify often enough to justify the cost, frankly. These two subscriptions are $20 a month and every little bit counts! I can easily make do without for a month…and maybe I’ll even find myself doing without more permanently.

Photo by Andy Nichols

So how much money will a no-spend January save me?

As I mentioned above, there’s what I budget per month on the above items (some are rolled-together categories on my actual budget sheet), and then there’s what I actually spend. And last year the latter far outweighed the former, to a point that I am embarrassed to share here. Accountability is a bitch.

But I’m not letting myself off the hook – I’m sharing with you openly because I really encourage you to take stock the same way I am and consider how much a no-spend January could save you.

This is a real exercise in shame, you guys… 😉

Without further ado, my budgeted – or anticipated – savings on the above items for the month of January:

$ 505

Based on 2018, my potential projected savings for a no-spend January are:

$ 983

Let. That. Shit. Sink. In.

Photo by Andy Nichols

So if you’re a compulsive over-spender (like me!) and/or if you’re trying to pay down debts (also me!) and/or if you have loads of bigger savings goals but struggle to keep on top of them (you guessed it – that’s me!), maybe you’ll consider joining me for a no-spend January?

If you’re curious to know how I make out in the end, let me know in the comments and I’ll write a follow-up post at the end of the month with how I managed and what I really saved!

P.S. My Fave Blog Right Now: The Financial Diet

By Cynthia, December 28, 2018
  • 8
  • Selena
    December 28, 2018

    Okay, I’m in!

    • Cynthia
      December 28, 2018

      YESSSS!!! Let me know how it goes. I’m already feeling a little frantic myself 😉

  • Selena
    December 29, 2018

    Actually, I’ve decided that since my budget would be best described as loose, I will take January and collect receipts to see what exactly I am spending on so I can set up an actual budget instead of guessing on my numbers and being wrong all the time. Then perhaps a no spend month later in the year when I will know exactly how much I can save by cutting out extras.

    • Cynthia
      December 29, 2018

      That sounds like an awesome idea. I only started tracking my purchases 2 years ago and it’s made an enormous difference in terms of reaching my goals and having an emergency fund. It’s so surprising where money can go in a month!

  • Lori
    December 30, 2018

    Great post! I’m in too. I need to invoke the austerity measures again to rein in my spending too!

    • Cynthia
      December 30, 2018

      It’s so hard! I’m doing a tiny bit of over-spending (or so it feels) in advance of the month beginning. Which is very contrary to the point, but I suppose also somewhat expected over a 10 day staycation 😉

  • Megan
    December 31, 2018

    I’m In. love this. ❤️

    • Cynthia
      December 31, 2018

      Thanks girl! More transparency, so we can all improve our financial situations, right!? <3

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Welcome! I'm Cynthia and I hope to inspire you to lead a bold, unapologetic life. Read along for travel, style, and everyday realness :)
New Things in 2019
Read a French novel
Makeup free for one week
Knit myself a toque
Visit a new country
Make dolsot bibimbap
Try a Nordic Spa
Spar (boxing)
Do a "bombshell" photoshoot
Backcountry camp (& hike)
Network with badass women
Go platinum blonde
Watch the Harry Potter movies
One month, no clothes shopping
Watch the sunrise in the mountains
Watch a wrestling match
Read "The Mists of Avalon"
Take motorbike lessons
Try super intense eyeliner
Seasonal picture taking missions
Learn to develop photos in a dark room
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