A spending freeze is a great way to kickstart your budget and save money.
I’m not so much talking bills, but rather the things we don’t need that we buy. The $5 here and there that adds up and ends up blowing the budget.
Food budgets and entertainment/subscription/family activity budgets usually have lots of wiggle room when room needs to be found in many North American families but it’s hard to know where to start.
Why Do A Spending Freeze?
One of the hardest things to do is to get off the consumption merry-go-round. The Diderot effect was coined to describe the idea that the act of buying things leads to buying more things.
“The Diderot Effect states that obtaining a new possession often creates a spiral of consumption which leads you to acquire more new things. As a result, we end up buying things that our previous selves never needed to feel happy or fulfilled.”
So one lovely side effect of spending less is that you may also find that you have less desire to spend.
For my family, getting rid of stuff when moving house this year has resulted in wanting to buy much less. It’s much less stressful to have room in cupboards and drawers than to have to shove stuff in to make room.
I find that my kids play with their toys in more creative manner when there are less of them, rather than them being overwhelmed by too many choices.
A spending freeze can force you into the no-spend mindset and serve as a reset button.
How to Stop The Spending Itch
Think about that feeling of excitement when you find something you love at the store and it’s not a bad price so you buy it! What a rush! And during that exchange your brain is doing it’s brain chemical thing, and you get a release of feel-good chemicals.
Whatever it is, THAT is where the addiction part comes in.
Personally, I find I have to stay away from stores or online shopping completely, otherwise I always find something I really can’t pass up.
How to fight the urge to buy
One way to get over your need to buy things is to give yourself the buzz of shopping without actually spending money:
- Putting things on your Amazon wish list without actually purchasing them.
- Go to the library and shop for free.They even have DVDs and magazines at mine.
- Visit your local “Buy Nothing” groups and help someone else’s trash become your treasure.
- Go shopping in your house find treasures that you forgot about
If you want to stop buying clothes, especially fashion items that are bad for both your wallet and the planet, this article explains why your next item of clothing should be so expensive it hurts.
What Is A Spending Freeze?
A spending freeze or mo-spend January (February etc) typically means a period of time with no miscellaneous unplanned spending. This means no shopping for anything that you don’t actually need to live!
It is also sometimes called an “essentials only”month where you only buy things you need such as toilet paper, food, etc but no new clothes, no random books or toys for the kids.
One way to get ready for your no spend month is to divide all your typical expenses into Wants and Needs. Anything that is in Wants list is out of bounds for the length of the spending freeze.
Here are some ideas of things that would be in the Needs column:
Milk, fruit, vegetables & other perishables
School field trips
Bills -daycare, electricity, mortgage etc
Gas for the car/commuting costs
Clothing -replacing broken or missing essential items (gloves, hats, winter coat etc).
And in the Wants Column, you would include anything else that is not essential to your life:
Coffee from Starbucks/Dunkin Donuts
DVDs, app purchases etc
How to Make A Spending Freeze Easy
A spending freeze doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.
Here are some tips for making it pain-free:
If you have any apps on your phone which you use to purchase things (Amazon, Wayfair etc) delete them.
Likewise, unsubscribe from store emails so you don’t get tempted by the latest sale.
Get Free Stuff
Take advantage of Buy Nothing Groups if you are in need of something during the freeze. You may be able score your new winter coat for free!
Use Up Food You Have
Try and eat up items in the pantry before buying more food. Make an inventory of your pantry, fridge and freeze then meal plan around it.See how long you can go without buying anything other than perishables.
Make it Harder to Spend
Remove your ability to spend. Freeze your credit cards in block of ice, delete any accounts you use online. So many of the shopping sites save your credit card information, making it too easy to buy things.
Stop Buying Books and Magazines
Read books on hand or from the library. Spend an afternoon at the library checking out books. In my city the library also has puzzles and toys to use while you visit making it a free activity for kids.
Shop the Toy Room
Pull out games or toys you haven’t played with in a while
Go through all the Christmas gifts and actually play with everything, do the crafts, read the books
Find Free Activities
Look for free activities to do in your city. Many cities have free outdoor skating, free story times at the library and other community events.
My library has just started a program where you can borrow a family pass to a local attraction for a week, make sure to see what freebies your library has.
Churches are also a great source for free activities for kids and families including dinners, crafts and more.
Look for openings of new places and free movie screenings etc.
Use Up Gift Cards
If you are trying to do a true spending freeze then you really shouldn’t be buying anything but if your goal is to save money, one thing you can do is to use gift cards that you have laying around.
Gift cards are also a great way to save money eating out at restaurants if you get sick of shopping the pantry.
Become a Copycat
If you love eating out or getting fancy drinks from Starbucks, one way to ease the pain and not feel deprived is to look for copycat recipes you can make at home. Pinterest and Google are full of replica coffee drinks or Panera soups, for example.
The key with making a spending freeze easy is to take one day at a time and not to stress if you fall off the wagon. Just get back on and try and do better tomorrow.
Using a budgeting app like Mint or You Need A Budget can help you stay on track.
More Money Saving Tips
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