My Resolution for this month is to dramatically cut back on my spending. So as a kind of money detox, I’m resolving to do a spending free month for February. Unfortunately, I can’t totally stop spending money. I have bills to pay and I need to eat. I plan to cut out all “unnecessary” spending. I’ve decided that only paying bills, buying groceries and gas will be allowed this month. I’ll need to pack my lunches every day and cook dinner every evening. And the most difficult, I’ll have to cut out my morning coffee run. This might seem harsh to some of you, but I think a spending detox is a great way to re-evaluate your actual needs, focus on any bad spending habits, and save some money.
I’ve made a list of six questions to ask yourself before spending, but these are good in general not just during a spending free month:
1. Is this a Bill?
Obviously, I have to pay my bills. I define these as recurring expenses with monthly deadlines. Although if you have any subscription services, now might be a good time to take another look at these budgeting vampires. Upon evaluation you may realize that you don’t really need those boxes or Netflix.
2. Is this an emergency?
Some spending can’t wait. Like doctors visits, a flat tire, or a plumber if a pipe springs a leak. You can’t just put off these expenses for a month.
3. Is this a household expense?
These are expenses like groceries, toiletries, and paper goods. Although I will try to limit the amount I purchase this month, the household needs to be properly stocked, because we need to eat. The car needs to be full of gas, because we need to go to work. These kind of household expenses are necessary. But worth trying to limit during this spending free month. I’m only buying what’s on my shopping list when I go to the grocery store, and I’m going to ride my bike as much as I can to cut down on how much gas we buy this month.
4. Do I really need this?
This list is useful as a general spending cap. At this point in the list, the answer is probably no. but I figured it was good to list out the rest of the questions you should ask before you put your hard-earned money down. This one should make you reevaluate your spending. Often times we find ourselves craving something, but when we take a step back, we find the item isn’t necessary.
5. Can I afford this right now?
For the non-essential items like in 4, you should be paying for the item with cash. Don’t put non-necessities on credit cards. If you can, wait and save up the money to buy it outright. That’s fine. But don’t add to your debt with these types of purchases. Now I always struggle with paying in cash. This is one of my weaknesses. What I do is have a set amount of cash saved in my checking account and I keep a register with my debit card. I’m not sure why, but that makes me feel a lot less panicked than carrying around a wad of cash all the time.
6. Where will it go?
I like this question a lot. It reminds me of my minimalism goals. When I visualize my clean minimalist house, does this non-essential item fit into it? Does it already have a niche, or do I need to get rid of something to justify this purchase? Visualizing this item in my life lets me see that most of the time it doesn’t fit.
7. (Bonus Question) Are you sure?
Just one last check before you spend that money. Many times, I’ve run through the list and justified the purchase to myself. Take a step back and ask yourself if you’re sure about this. Often this will trigger a doubt. If you doubt at all about an item. Hold off for at least a month. I’ve found that tends to be enough time to forget about the things you don’t actually want and to prevent you from bringing more clutter into your life. You can always spend the money later. It’s a lot harder to un-spend it.
A spend free month is a good way to re-evaluate your spending and detox from any bad habits you’ve picked up over the year. Maybe you don’t need to eat out as much. Maybe you can make coffee at home. Maybe it’s time to cancel that monthly subscription that you never use. Join me for a spending free month, and let me know what your experiences are. What did you learn about yourself from this adventure?