Ultimate Guide to Surviving a Spending Freeze
If you’re looking for a way to save a lot of cash fast, look no further than your own bank account! It’s all right there, so let’s keep it all in there. For a week, 2 weeks or even a month, keep that money safe in your bank account.
If you’re not spending money, you can keep all of that money that you would have spent on groceries or your morning coffee and kept it in your bank account.
This is called a spending freeze. And it’s the most effective way that I’ve found to keep money in your bank to make it look like you’re flush with cash.
I’ll be honest, though, it’s no cake walk. It’s tough work, even for the crazy saver that I am! The idea of not spending for a week puts me through all of the stages of grief:
- Denial: I can’t do this!
- Anger: Who’s bright idea was this!?
- Bargaining: I can grab a cup of coffee still…. right?!
- Depression: Why can’t I get the coffee *sobs*!
- Acceptance: Ya know… this isn’t so bad!
Oh yes. It’s like that. But ultimately, the goal is to come out of the week with some extra dough saved and with a new respect for money and your ability to save it!
What’s a spending freeze?
A spending freeze it just that: a freeze on spending money. For a period of time that you set, you and your family won’t be spending any money.
Things that you can spend money on during a spending freeze:
- Rent/ mortgage
- Credit card payments
- Car payments
- Utility bills
- Any other monthly bill that you need to pay.
Apparently, “I’m doing a month-long spending freeze” isn’t a real excuse not to pay your bills. Go figure!
Things that you can’t spend money on during a spending freeze:
- Coffee (*sobs*)
- New throw pillows
- A new comforter
- Cute wall art
- Those cute boots
- Anything else that isn’t a necessity!
You could even throw gas for your car into the mix and try to conserve as much gas as possible in a month.
A spending freeze can vary in intensity depending on how strict you want to be. But the idea behind it is that you’re keeping the money that you would have spent in a normal week.
This is a really cool way to save more than $400 in a month for a family of 4. If you do a month-long spending freeze and you would normally spend $400/ month on groceries, that money stays in your bank.
Are you ready to save all of your money for the week or month?
Ultimate Guide to Surviving a Spending Freeze
1. Have a clear goal.
If you feel like you’ll be struggling to stay on track, having a clear goal will help. Let your goal be the carrot that incentivizes you when it gets hard.
Your goal can really be anything. Maybe it’s building that emergency fund. It could be paying for a big car repair without putting it on a credit card. It could be saving up for vacation. Or that new pair of boots that you’ve wanted for ages.
Make a clear goal. Put it next to your calendar, make it the background of your phone and laptop, put it next to your bathroom mirror, or even wrap it around your debit card.
2. Plan ahead!
This is a big one. You’ll be in trouble if you don’t have a plan for how you’re going to avoid spending. If walking past Starbucks on your way into work is a problem, brewing a pot of coffee and bringing a to-go mug with you will help you walk right past that temptation.
3. Don’t stock up!
This is the surprising killer when it comes to a spending freeze. If you’re stocking up your pantry the day before the spending freeze and then running out to the store and building up a doomsday-style stockpile the second that the spending freeze is over, it’s completely pointless.
Stay on-budget the weeks before and after the spending freeze and it will be worth it.
4. Meal plan.
When you can’t just run out to the store to grab everything that you need for dinner that night, you need to make do with what you have on-hand. I don’t know about you, but my pantry is full of food waiting to be eaten. Making yummy and filling meals from pantry staples isn’t impossible, but it will require planning.
One of my favorite cookbooks is More with Less and it’s all about filling and inexpensive meals for the family. It’s absolutely perfect for pantry staples! $5 Dinners is another one of my favorite cookbooks for making amazing meals on a dime.
Another great resource is $5 Meal Plan. These great meals are already set up in your ingredients lists and recipes. This would be helpful for mote than just your spending freeze, but also when you’re done with the spending freeze and need to start food shopping again. $5 meal plans will help you to get on track with your grocery budget and stay there.
5. Find DIY alternatives to your daily spending.
I keep going back to the coffee example because it is basically my life. If I could go out and get a latte every day, I would. But I can’t. So I make them at home!
Making things at home doesn’t just apply to coffee. You can pack lunches each week that will not only save you money but will also be much better than anything that you’ll get running out of the office at lunch.
There are great lunch bento boxes that you can reuse (save money and be a hippie all at once) and bring your lunch to work every day. This is how my husband takes his lunch to work every day.
6. Avoid temptation!
Are you a notorious impulse shopper? Don’t even tempt yourself by going near a mall or a store or any place that might tempt you to go “ooooo this is so cute!”
Keep yourself out of those situations and you won’t spend. Easier said than done, right?
You can still have a girls’ night without needing to go out. There are plenty of things to do at home or at a friend’s house that don’t require spending lots of money.
7. Lock away the cards.
Don’t even leave the house with a card if it’s tempting. Take out $20 and keep it in your car for emergencies, but other than that, leave your cards at home!
If you don’t have them with you, you couldn’t spend even if you wanted to.
Who doesn’t love getting things for free?! A great place to find fun and free things to do it at your library. They even have classes and workshops for adults, too. You can rent movies from the library for free. Of course, there are tons of books for the whole family. But libraries are much more than that now!
If you want to rent a new movie, Rebox is the place to go. Why? Because there are thousands of places to find codes for free Redbox rentals. I haven’t tried all of these yet, but there are many that have worked for me!
Another great place to get freebies is Hunt4Freebies.com. This is a site to get free samples and enter product giveaways. They find all of the freebie offers all over the internet and bring them all to you.
My personal favorite is a site called AMZReviewTrader.com. You review products on Amazon in exchange for a review of the product. It’s really that simple. If you’re looking for a way to get out your pent-up need to shop, this is the way to do it! I’ve received probably $1,500 worth of products for free this year so far! It’s 100% worth it.
9. Consolidate trips out of the house to conserve gas.
Avoid leaving the house as much as you can. This is for two reasons:
1. You can’t spend money or be tempted to spend money if you don’t leave the house.
2. This will save on gas.
Gas can be a huge expense. And all of those individual trips to the store, then back out to the store next door, then back home, they can really add up and take a toll on your gas budget.
If you can avoid leaving the house altogether, even better. You can’t get into trouble if you’re not leaving the house. You’re also being aware of how much you use your car.
10. Just say “NO.”
Coming from a people pleaser, saying “no” is HARD! Ugh. But in a spending freeze and in any situation when you’d want to take control of your finances, saying “no” is a skill that you will need.
Can you buy the whole first grade snacks every day this week? No.
Would you be able to buy new markers for the whole school? No.
Can you pick me up some dinner? No.
How about we go out for drinks? No.
Is dinner at this 5 Star restaurant good for tonight? NO.
If you don’t like to say “no,” try offering an alternative.
How about we have a cookout instead of dinner at a fancy restaurant? I can’t pick up cookies, but maybe I could volunteer to help at the bake sale? What if I cook dinner instead?
I know it isn’t easy, but it’s a really great way to protect your finances. A lot of times, just offering to spend time together instead of spending money is really great.
At the end of the month, the goal is to have a few hundred dollars saved up. But almost as important as the money you save, it’s just as important to realize just how much you can save when you’re aware of your spending. Just by cutting spending, you can save lots of money. You didn’t need to change your life dramatically, but you still saved up more money than you’ve saved in a week or month before.
Have you ever tried a spending freeze? How did it go?
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(PS - NONE of them have to do with sales!)