As we brace ourselves to kick off the new year, let’s do a no-spend challenge this January. If you’ve been reading Lifehacker for a while, you might be thinking, “Lady, we did this last year. Catch up.” I know! That’s why I want to do it all over again.
There’s something about the freshness of a new year that makes it prime time for a no-spend month. The holiday season is so hectic—and often so filled with extravagances small and large—that January can be an important recovery period for your finances. Along with making a concerted effort to spend less, it’s a time to review your budget, plan for tax season, and maybe reevaluate some of your financial priorities.
I know I haven’t given you a whole lot of time to prepare for this challenge, but we have a guide to preparing for a no-spend month if you want to go all in. I’m not the scrape-the-bottom-of-the-pantry type, but if you are, please do not let me dissuade you.
If you want to dive in quickly, there are two general ways you can choose to participate.
You could decide to cut out all expenses that are nonessential and nonrecurring. You can keep Netflix if it’s on autopay. You can keep the snacks you take to work each week to enjoy after lunch. You can keep the petrol for the car, the money for the laundromat, and dance class that you’ve been going to every Friday night for three years.
This method helps you see what would-be expenses are truly extraneous and can, with a little effort, be avoided.
The other route is to pick one category and get strict about it. It could be anything from takeout to houseplants. If it’s a category you know costs you too much month in and month out, identify it and commit to cutting it completely. Just don’t let other categories take over for that spending.
I’ll tell you where I’m focusing my no-spend challenge: No spending after 10pm. I’m a night owl, and there’s something about that second or third wind that comes late at night that makes my wallet more vulnerable to online shopping, spontaneous Ubers called to “Just grab one drink,” and late-night snacks. Sometimes I spend Friday night at the grocery store, because I am that cool.
But in January, my money’s going to turn into a pumpkin at 10 every single night.
That doesn’t mean I’m not going to pay attention to my overall finances. I’ll be tracking my spending by hand all month to pinpoint my high and low categories as I review and reset my budget for 2020.
Are you ready? If you’re committing to a version of a no-spend challenge in January, tell us about it in the comments. We’ll check in midway through and at the end of the month to see how we’re all doing.
And if you joined us for it last year, share your wisdom with the assembled. What did you learn? What would you change your second time around?