I set a strict budget for Christmas. I made a diligent spreadsheet. I shopped sales. And I still blew past my limit without even realizing what was happening, despite my best intentions.
Like many people, I ended up spending more than I intended this holiday season.
My Christmas shopping spree hurt my budget and threatened my financial goals for 2018. But I’m determined to get back on track as soon as possible — that’s why I’m deeming January a no-spend month.
Monthly money challenge: start a spending detox
Just like I feel that I ate way too much junk food during the holidays, I also feel like I spent too much money on clutter and stuff I didn’t need. I want to start 2018 strong by taking a break from spending money on unnecessary things and focusing on my financial goals.
As it turns out, I’m not alone in my mindset. Thousands of people each year participate in the January Money Diet, a 30 day money-saving challenge. During the month of January, you only spend money on essentials like food, and you focus on living well without unnecessary spending.
This is not my first no-spend month; in 2015, I went all of November without spending money on nonessentials. I was able to save money and avoid taking on any holiday debt as a result. It’s a great way to get yourself on track and prepare for — or recover from — major events.
The rules for the month
There are some expenses I simply cannot get rid of (no matter how much I may like to), including rent, utilities, and home internet — without an internet connection, I can’t work and pay the bills. Those expenses are non-negotiable, but my husband and I will ruthlessly cut other areas.
Gas for the car is a must, and groceries, too. But the grocery budget will be reduced by about 50 percent. We will eliminate the sweets and snacks we love, and the convenient ready-made meals from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. We’ll do a lot more from-scratch cooking during the month, stretching our grocery budget further.
Clothes, dinners out, and trips to the movies are all eliminated. Instead, we’ll take trips to the park with the dog, we’ll use our library card to rent movies, and we’ll check out free community activities around town.
This is a significant change for us, but it’s certainly effective. When we sat down and did the math, we estimated that we would save about $400 in extraneous spending. That money can go a long way in helping us build our savings back up.
Results to expect
A no-spend month is more than just a way to save some money; it’s a detox that helps reset your mindset. After overindulging and overspending over the holidays, it can help you readjust your approach to money.
You can significantly change your financial outlook in just 30 days. While we think we can save $400, the results over time are more significant. That money bolsters our emergency fund, which means we’ll rely less on credit cards if a crisis pops up. By saving money, we’re less likely to end up in debt.
After we get used to spending less and living without so many extras, we can make do on a smaller income. That means we can save even more after the 30-day challenge is over. One simple month of not spending can compound to have long-lasting effects.
Make it a game
There’s no doubt about it: Going a whole month without spending money is tough. The best way to make it doable is to make it fun. For us, that means making it competitive.
My husband and I try to come up with the best free date ideas, the tastiest cheap dinners, and the most innovative do-it-yourself solutions. The only prize is bragging rights, but we’re both innately competitive people.
Turning a no-spend challenge into a game makes it more fun and less of a strain. If your family is struggling to get through, try different ways to make it fun for you.
Find an alternative
At some point during the month, you’ll be tempted to fall into your old habits. When that happens, find a free alternative to help you stay on track.
If you feel the urge to shop, clean out your cupboards and closets at home. You might unearth a long-lost item, making it feel like new all over again. When you’re craving your favorite meal from the restaurant down the street, recreate your own version using pantry staples at home.
Remember: You’re only doing this for 30 days. Stay motivated and those few weeks will fly by.
Start 2018 off strong
If you overdid it over the holidays, don’t get bogged down with guilt or shame. Instead, start fresh and get your finances back in shape with a no-spend month.
Not only will you save a lot of money and pay back debt, but you’ll reset your habits and be better prepared to manage your money for the rest of the year.
If you’re ready to get your finances in order for the new year, try these 31 tips to get your finances in shape for 2018.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
Application detail: 5 minutes indicates typical time it takes to complete application with applicant information readily available. It does not include time taken to provide underwriting decision or funding of the loan.
Instant rates mean a delivery of personalized rates for those individuals who provide sufficient information to return a rate. For instant rates a soft credit pull will be conducted, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.47% – 6.99%3||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit SoFi|
|2.47% – 5.87%1||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Earnest|
|2.47% – 8.03%4||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Lendkey|
|2.95% – 6.37%2||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Laurel Road|
|2.48% – 6.25%5||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit CommonBond|
|2.72% – 8.32%6||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Citizens|