Do ‘No Spend’ Days Really Work?

I’ve seen various personal finance posts which discuss ‘no spend’ days, which are, as you would expect, days in which you spend no money at all.

This sounds interesting, and it’s usually in the context of being able to save money.

I’m not sure that I buy it, so I was hoping for your input.

I’m skeptical because I believe that ‘no spend’ days don’t really save much, if any, money at all.  Why?  Because in most cases, you will probably spend the money anyways.

Take grocery shopping as an example.  Eventually I’m going to need groceries, so even if I avoid a trip to the store, I’m going to have to go at some point.  And, during the no-spend time, my grocery list will grow longer, especially if I use up a bunch of items from my house on the no-spend days, items that I’ll probably want to replace.

Personally, our spending budget cycles run as a combination of monthly or bi-monthly periods, depending on the category.  So, if I spend no money on groceries for 29 days, but spend the entire amount budgeted for the month on the 30th day, there’s no difference than if I spent 1/5th of the budget at five different times during the month.

Maybe I’m missing something, but help me out on how ‘no spend’ days help save money in the long run, or is it merely a psychological boost?

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8 thoughts on “Do ‘No Spend’ Days Really Work?

  1. I've been participating in a no spend/controlled spend challenge off and on for over 3 years now. For me, the purpose is not so much to save money but to really focus and monitor where my money is going. It's easy to fritter away $1 or $2 every day and at the end of the week, not know where your money went. By aiming for a no spend or a controlled spend, it makes you really think "do I need this?"

    I never counted mandatory spending like gas, groceries and bills in my no/controlled spends because, as you point out, you need to spend that money anyway.

  2. I don't do not spend days, but I do no shopping for clothes for myself months. I think the no spend days is to help you think about your need to buy whatever you are considering. Taking more time to think about your purchases instead of being implusive would cut down on extra spending and maybe find better deals if you really must buy it. Also, if you have the stuff at home to use, use it up first then replace it. I have too many times let things expire or go bad, which is a waste of money too.

  3. I haven't done no spend days per se, but I think what I've gotten out of analyzing my days of spending is how much time I spend on consumption.

    Sure, not everyone may save money by doing no spend days, but there is definitely the potential to be more productive and save time.

    If I really think about how much time I spend researching a purchase, thinking about buying stuff, shopping around, clipping coupons, it really can be reduced significantly.

    I always seem to be on the hunt for some kind of used item as my kids are growing in and out of stuff all the time, so that's really what can help me. How do I spend less time spending..not necessarily less money because I already know I do that. It's pretty sad to think about how much of my free time is spent buying stuff and spending. There's more to life than that.

  4. Like Jana, I've been tracking no spend / controlled spend days for a while now. For me, it hasn't been so much about saving money (though it has helped me do that) as about being aware of my spending habits, of helping me take better control of my cash flow.

    However, for those of us who are goal oriented, it can help save money. In my case – vending machines like to call my name. The desire to get a "No Spend" day, to meet my goal of "No Spend" days in a month, helped me avoid the vending machines and the work cafeteria for things I didn't need but only cost $1 or $2. That is not money I would spend otherwise- I don't need the snack. I didn't bring more snacks to work to make up for it (though that still would have been less expensive). I simply didn't buy the snack, and the accomplishment of resisting created a good feeling that lasted longer than any candy bar or bag of chips.

  5. I agree "no spend" days doesn't do much. I view it like cutting up your credit cards. It is better to learn how to spend, budget or use credit cards then stopping altogether.

  6. I see your logic there with the lack of impact of 'no spend' days. In many cases, it's just a matter of shifting the spending around to different days than the 'no spend' days.

    Now, I could see a side benefit of developing some self-control for some people. The forced avoidance of spending could get people used to the idea of spending less, and raise awareness of how it's possible to go without certain things.

  7. I do no spend/low spend months periodically to help me clear out an overabundant stockpile of items in my pantry. I have a problem ignoring a good deal even if I don't really need it. No spend/ low spend months help deal with that. It also stretches my creativity to use what I have to feed us without going out to buy more.
    I think this helps me save money long term because it helps me remember (at least for awhile) that I don't have to buy as much for the stockpile as I have been and that I can be creative in what I cook to help save even more.

  8. No spend days work if you try and run your errands once a week… and then don't go back to the store.

    You generally tend to stick to your list and your less likely to make impulse buys the less time you spend in stores.

    We grocery shop one day a week and if we don't pick it up that day, we wait till the next week so we don't go to target and come home $100 poorer

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