Spend Free Year Update: January 2020

This post could also be called “how I failed during my first month of my spend free year, and what I’m going to do differently in the next 11 months.”


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So, in December I announced I would immediately be starting a spend-free (or extremely low spend) year.

The very next day I bought a hat (to be fair it did support my favorite non-profit, Honey) but I still bought a hat.

Then, a few days later I ordered a sweatshirt from The Daily Tay to support her shop. Still, I was spending money ?

I said. Okay. Let’s figure this out. Something has to change because obviously just saying I’m going spend free isn’t exactly working. So here’s what I learned this past month.

What didn’t work

Trying to stop spending without replacing the habit with something else.

Getting a gift card for my birthday (which was great) but didn’t help my impulse purchases.

What did work

Using an urge jar (more on this in a minute)

Pausing before making a purchase. Asking myself why I wanted to buy it.

Having some fun money.

Knowing that I would be reporting back here on my blog!


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How using an Urge Jar Helped the second half of my month

Right after I started my spend free year, my friend Brooklyn did a training all about using an Urge Jar to help change your habits.

Essentially, when you have an urge, and in my case that’s impulse spending, you sit with the feelings. You think about why you want to give in, how you would feel if you did or didn’t, and then, when you don’t buy the thing, you get to put a ball in your jar.

The act of putting the ball in the jar isn’t quite as thrilling as ordering a book or a cute hat. But it still gives my brain a reward and I’m able to move forward. My biggest thing with spending money is I think “oh I have to have that” and then I buy it right away.

starting to use the urge jar helped me realize that most of the time, the urges do pass. And if they don’t, I can save my fun money for that particular item.

Which leads me to what I’ll do differently in February.

Part of what Brooklyn does along with the urge jar is to make a plan (for her she did it daily because it was about eating) with exactly what she would eat throughout the day. I’m doing to do the same, but for the things that I will be purchasing throughout the month.

Anything not on this list won’t be purchased, unless it’s an actual emergency! And I’m sharing here so I can give a full report next month.

  • Groceries (budget of $100/week. We don’t usually spend that much, but I wanted to give some wiggle room

  • Insurance (car + health, about $350 total)

  • Phone bill (right around $100 I think (we pay off our phones with our monthly bill))

  • Blog expenses ($300, normally this isn’t as high, but I purchased some legal templates for my blog and I’m paying them off in 3 months, so there’s that expense + my website fees and my designer fee)

  • Subscriptions – Netflix, Hulu, Book of the Month, Libro.fm ($60)

  • The book for the Barnes & Noble book club (up to $25, if it happens to be more than that, I’ll get the audiobook on LIbro.fm) – After some encouragement from a friend, I decided to join the B&N book club so that I can read more books and meet more people in my area since I still don’t know many people and want friends!

  • Tithing (10% of any income)

  • Savings (5% of any income, until our debt is paid off)

  • Debt ($3000 towards our last credit card)

  • Von’s birthday ($50) – she doesn’t really need much, since Christmas was pretty big over here. We got her a coloring book, my parents got her a few books, and we’ll be going to a motorcycle expo to celebrate her birthday.

  • Date Night ($50)

  • Gas/Car expenses ($200 – this includes insurance)

That’s it! I mean, looking at that list it feels kind of big, but most of these are bills/things we need to pay for every month.

We don’t have a ton of things happening in February, mostly just our regular expenses + Von’s birthday. But I’m really going to stick to this plan in February. I feel more prepared, now that I have an actual plan instead of just saying “I’m going to be spend free”

I think I did need that first month though, to realize that each month will be different and that planning ahead will make a huge difference. We started this a few years ago, but then stopped when we moved to Colorado. But I know that it helps so much to see how we’re spending money.


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Have you ever done a spend free year or month? How did it go?!

  1. I have done spend free time frames, usually a month to 3 months and agree you have to have that fun mi way budget to do what you want. I always pulled my $100 fun money out in cash at the beginning of the month bc I think more if I’m going to spend cash. Then if I wanted something online I’d buy a visa gift card to order. Personally, I don’t think gift cards you receive as gifts or earn count for no spending. I was just always more careful with them. I like your first post where you do say it’s ok to replace things that wear out or break. These sort of wiggle room allows for more success than something that is super strict.

    Also, I sell things on Mercari and said that mi yes didn’t count. I could use that money how I wanted it wasn’t part of our normal income in anything from those sales was just extra. I did find a tended to save that money more for something I really really wanted or just in case of an emergency. I also found a used bookstore we could sell used books for store credit I would sell books around the house that I no longer needed or wanted and even some my mom gave me and I was able to use the store credit to get other books I wanted actual copies of for my library.

    Great job on your plan!!

    1. That’s really cool! I think it’s good to give some wiggle room and have some fun money!
      I also don’t think the gift card was making me spend money, as it wasn’t my own money, but it didn’t help with my impulse purchasing so I’m glad that I used it up!
      That’s a great idea, to sell some of your things and get book credits at the used book store!

  2. I like that you have a budget for the next month, which is easier than just saying you won’t spend anything at all. Personally, I like to be mindful about where I spend money and who I’m giving it to, rather than limiting myself to specific amounts.

    1. Exactly! We can’t be 100% spend free because we have bills and insurance and a few things to pay for. But we can be more intentional about where our money is going.
      I love what you said about being mindful instead of just limiting yourself.

  3. I love to do spend-free months because it sparks contentment! We can always chase more and more money, but if we are never content with what God has blessed us with than it is all loss. Thanks for sharing!

    1. That’s so awesome. I think that’s so true, that we can start to chase more and more money and more and more things and not be content. I really want to be more content with what God has blessed me with!

  4. Replacing the spending habit with something else is such a brilliant idea! I’ll have to try this!

    1. Right?! It’s really helped me so far because even though dropping a ball into my jar doesn’t give me quite the same thrill as buying something, I’m still getting a reward and I think it will help so much in the long run! At least more than when I said I wasn’t going to spend and kept spending because I hadn’t replaced the activity yet.

  5. Rachel @ The Confused Millennial

    January 29, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    ahh girl stick with it! It’ll be worth it! I have a post on my blog, theconfusedmillennial.com, about my no-spend experience! Started off as like a month long thing and turned into a 3 year experience that totally changed my relationship to money!!

    1. Thank you! I’m actually really excited about doing it this year and changing my relationship with money. I’ll head over to your blog to read about your experience because that sounds awesome!

  6. It doesn’t sound like you did that bad! I’ve been tinkering with the idea of a no spend month (not sure if I’m committed to a year yet!) but I don’t buy much in general so I’m not too sure if it’d be worth my time of not. It’s so interesting reading these no-spend month reviews, though!

    1. Thanks! And that makes sense. I don’t actually buy that much either, but I really wanted to change my spending habits for when I did spend money and so far this is helping.

  7. This is really cool. I really need to try this. I can barely make it through a month

    1. Start with a month! I feel like that’s doable and a little less daunting than a full year 🙂

  8. I would love to do a spend free year!!!! I might fail, but I will take some of your tips and try it!!! It definitely couldn’t hurt!

    1. Exactly! And even when/if you fail, you keep going and keep learning!

  9. I think it’s really smart to share your spending plans for February here – just writing them down probably helps a lot! I also love that you joined the Barnes and Noble book club, because they are a great way to interact with people. I dunno if they frown on it, but libraries are another good way to get a book you might want to read without spending money 🙂

    1. It definitely helps to write it out! And I will definitely use the library in the future if I can get them in time!

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