UF/IFAS explains “No Spend January”

dollar bill with various coins on top
By Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

Have you heard of “No Spend January”?  Or any kind of “No Spend” month?  It’s simply a challenge where you only spend money on essentials, such as housing, groceries, car payment, and so on.  The nonessentials, such as getting your nails done, ordering a latte, and going out to eat are all things you would skip.  After all the consumerism in December, No Spend January is a way to only focus on what you truly need.  It also helps people get out of debt, especially if you ran credit card balances from holiday shopping; this challenge lets you start the new year off by increasing how much extra money you can put towards the card(s).  Plus, it’s a great way to start the year for those who made new year’s goals to take control of their finances or are feeling financially drained from the holidays. 

For some, completely cutting out “luxury” expenses seems impossible.  It is possible, but if you don’t think you have the discipline built up to do the challenge entirely, that’s okay!  You can do a modified version: Low Spend January.  Instead of cutting things out completely, you can cut back.  If things went well, you can try doing a no spend month in February.  A no spend month doesn’t have to be in January, it can be anytime that works for you.  For example, if you have an event in January, such as your child’s birthday party or a wedding, it will be hard to fully implement.  Always pick a month that will work best for you to set yourself up for success, and make sure everyone in the household is on board, too. 

The point is to be intentional with your money and focus on wants versus needs.  If your pet gets sick and needs medical attention, please go to the vet—this challenge isn’t about abandoning everyday responsibilities.  If your kids are in extracurricular activities, you don’t have to make them pause sports or music lessons for the month (though, you get to make the rules and can choose to pause this).  It’s about saying no to unnecessary things.  At the end of the month, see how much money you saved and apply it towards debt, saving, or something you’ve delayed buying the past month.  If it wasn’t as bad as you thought, I encourage you to continue with this intentional way of spending beyond January. 

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