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We understand that sometimes you need to pause spending in order to catch up. Easier said than done.
Here are some key tips on how to start a spending freeze and get you back on track.
What Is A Spending Freeze?
It’s a simple promise not to spend any money on “needless” things. The bills still get paid, and some groceries (such as meat, dairy, vegetables and a few others), and other “necessities” still get bought though.
First, some “Rules”:
- Decide a Time Length – Is it going to be a weekend, a week, or a month long no-spend period?
- Everyone must agree – It won’t succeed if everyone in the home is not on board with the idea.
- Decide what gets Paid – Decide on what must be paid.
- No Cheating! – Don’t cheat by buying stuff ahead of the spending freeze.
How to have a successful spending freeze:
- Tell Everyone – Not only will this motivate you because now you are being held accountable, but they can help you out by not tempting you to cheat (like inviting you out for lunch).
- Set up a Reminder – Put a reminder of the no-spend period where you’ll see it. (cover your debt card, have a note in your wallet, post-it on the computer)
- Make a Goal – what will you do with the saved money? (holiday shopping budget, repairs, pay off a bill). Seeing a goal helps with motivation too.
- Transfer the Money – Transfer the savings into a separate savings account (preferably one that’s not attached to your debt card). Any savings you create, transfer it over. For example – You usually spend $150 on groceries in a week, but you only spent $40 for the necessities – transfer $110 over to the savings account.
How To Accomplish A Successful Spending Freeze
Here are the key tips you need to successfully accomplish a spending freeze.
1. Look At Your Budget
Looking at your budget will show all the little spending habits you’ve developed – spending at the drive-thru, on newspapers, snacks, cigarettes, and such.
Separate the “need” from the “want” – Anything that’s not related to household bills and necessary groceries can be stopped for the duration of the freeze.
How to determine what to pay and what to freeze? Here’s a basic list:
|Basic Groceries (meat, produce, dairy)||Snacks, Canned food, paper goods, etc.|
|Loan Payments||Anything that’s not on List 1|
2. Start Small
Don’t plan for a whole month just yet, you may get discouraged the middle. So start small, try a no-spend weekend first, then a week, two weeks, then a month, who knows some of these habits may stick and you’ll save money in the long run.
Use up the Pantry and Freezer – Start using up all your canned goods and frozen foods during your spending freeze. There are a lot of recipes online and on Pinterest for the “ingredients” you have on hand. Learn to use leftovers too, many leftovers can be incorporated into “new” meals.
Make it a family challenge to come up with the best use of the pantry items – like on the TV Show Chopped.
3. Make it from Scratch
Learn to make things from scratch. All the stuff you buy prepared – in mixes, premade, packages, and boxes – can easily be made from scratch. Breads, snacks, desserts, sauces and dips can be homemade and are often better tasting too.
Again, Pinterest is full of ideas as well as in this great book.
4. Chart your Progress
If you have set a goal before the freeze, create a progress chart and post it where you (and everyone else) can see it. Watching it climb towards the top is great motivation not to spend any money.
How do you know you’re progressing successfully? If you got a separate savings account like I recommended earlier – you can display that amount daily. Furthermore, If you didn’t get a separate account, then you look at the differences in your account or spending.
If you know you habitually have $50 left in your account by Wednesdays but this week you have $180 on Wednesday – Chart your savings of $130.
5. Using Apps To Help You Out
Using a savings App such as Acorns which will analyze your spending (or a specified amount) into a savings account or investment account. So any necessary shopping you do, the App takes the little change left by rounding it up to the nearest dollar amount and transfers it.
For example, you spend $38.25 on Gasoline, the App will transfer $1.75 into your savings account.
6. Cancel Your Subscriptions
Some services, like Netflix, DirectTV, and some others will allow you to suspend services for a period of time without charges.
7. Avoid It
If you discover that you spend unnecessarily at the book store, (I know bad example, but you’ll get it), then avoid going there. Take a different route, skip the trip, anything to avoid the temptation.
The same with going out with your friends to the bar or club on Fridays and Saturday nights. Sure, you have a great time but it’s a money-muncher! Think of this: Friday and Saturday nights out every week – Averages $65 a night, or about $520 a month, or $6240 a year. Think what you can pay off with that amount!
8. Do it Free
Look around your city or area and you’ll discover there are plenty of “entertainment” that’s offered for free.
Some ideas are:
- Check your Community’s Calendar for events around town
- Visit the Library – some have guest speakers, events, or just spend the day reading free books, magazines and newspapers. Don’t forget story-time for the young kids.
- Self-guided Walking tours around town
- Walk around the park
- Go around and take interesting photos (and sell them online later)
- Check if places are offering a “get in free day” (Museums, Zoos, Arenas)
- Join a Geocaching club and go hunt
- Dig up your family tree in the Genealogy Department at your library
- Volunteer somewhere – kids club, nursing home, pet shelter, etc.
9. Around the House
Since you can’t go out and spend money, and maybe you’ve accomplished everything free that’s out there, you can find things to do around the house to do instead.
Some ideas are:
- Listen to free Podcasts – you’ll pass time quickly as well as learn something new.
- Play board games – Get together with your family and have some fun playing board games. Some libraries lend out board games too if you’re bored with the ones you have.
- Meet the neighbors – in this time and age we are so busy we are almost strangers with our next door neighbors. Invite them over for coffee and just chat.
- Declutter – go through your house, room by room, and start decluttering the space. You’ll feel better not seeing the “mess” too.
- Catch up on that “To-Do” list – You now have time to fix that squeaky door and any other mini projects and repairs around the house.
- Play in the backyard with the kids – make a blanket fort, play ball or any other outdoor activity you kid enjoys. Great bonding time too.
- Skype a family member or friend – Video calls are free to call anyone around the world and would save on your phone budget.
- Have a yard sale – Finished decluttering? Put a lot of it into a yard sale and get more savings for your goal.
- Reorganize your Papers – go through your filing cabinet (or paper system you have) and reorganize, thin them out, and also make a pile for things that need to be updated with current information (and then follow up on those).
In short, just use your imagination to discover things you can do for free with your family and kids. You’ll find that spending zero dollars actually ends up being much better as you spend more time with your close loved ones.
Some of these things are going to suck – big time. But if you’re constantly reminded of why you’re doing the spending freeze that will ease the pain.
How much money can you actually save during a spending freeze? It all depends on your family; how tight you make it and how long it lasted.
Here are some examples from around the internet:
- A single mom of 3 started a 30-day spending freeze and saved $3,000.
- A family of 3 saved roughly about $540 a month. They did it for a YEAR and paid off $6,530 of debt.
- One woman stopped buying her morning coffee, her lunch out and an afternoon snack at work and saved $75 a week, which is $325 a month. (Not much of a spending freeze, but you can see how much of a difference baby steps can make).
After the spending freeze has ended, consider continuing some of the new habits you’ve developed. After a while, you’ll discover you don’t “miss” that overpriced coffee.
So, start small, chart your progress, set the savings aside, have patience, have fun and soon you’ll be surprised how much difference in your budget you actually have.
For other ideas on a having a successful spending freeze, I highly recommend this book.
Do you have any ideas on how to successfully accomplish a spending freeze? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading and happy frugaling!