Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Why I Don't Do Spending Fasts

With 2016 a bright and shiny new year it's time for all those frugal blogs out there to hold or participate in what's called A Spending Fast or a No Spend Month.

While I can applaud the theory behind the idea I don't participate in them.

I find them pointless really and here is why.....

1. No Spends cause undue stress in your life.  Most people have enough stress just living their lives.  Between, spouse's demands, kid demands, work demands and extended family's demands everyone's stress levels are filled to capacity already.  So putting yet another demand-of not spending in the face of times when you really need to spend money-on oneself just adds to your anxiety level and when/if you fail at it to your guilt load.

2.   No Spending/Low Spending can cause overspending.
Many people who undergo a No Spend/Low Spend Month will be required to stock up so they can go without buying ANYTHING for a month.  You have to go into a No Spend Month with a full pantry and fridge stocked in order to get through the month.  This means the month before your NSM you have to spend more to lay in the required food/toiletries/paper goods/etc. for a full 30/31 days.

Add to this that most people who go through an extended period of time in which they are Not allowed to spend money tend to go off the deep end and overspend once that period is over.  It's only natural that people who are deprived of something want it even more once the period of deprivation is over. It's the same reason you shouldn't skip meals or go on restricted leads to overeating once you can eat again.

3. No Spends or Month long Fiscal Fasts are artificial.
Picking an arbitrary time frame in which to avoid spending is in no way organic to how your life runs.
While the idea of a Fiscal Fast is a good idea I'll venture to say that they never give you long lasting results.
This is born out because people keep going on them year after year.  If the behaviors they purported to change really came to pass there would be no need to continue to do these No Spending Months over and over again.

4.  No Spends/Low Spends don't change the underlying Spending Behaviors.
Let say that one again......No Spends/Low Spends don't change the underlying Spending Behaviors.
A NSM is just a temporary state.  Once the month is over most people go right back to spending at the rate they usually do.  It's only a temporary behavior and doesn't last long enough to become a permanent habit.
Devotees of Spending Fast say they "reset your spending". Yes, they may lower your spending but it's only a temporary fix since you don't actually change your money habits.
While studies have shown that it takes 21 days to FORM a new habit it takes over 60 days, 2 MONTHS, of a behavior to make that habit part of your routine.

 The only way you will change your spending habits is to make it a permanent behavior.  Not spending for a month and then releasing yourself form the challenge and going back to your regular spending habits changes nothing about your life in the end.

5.  Most people don't really learn anything from doing a No Spend Month.  Well, except that at the end of that month that they don't want to be doing a No Spend Month anymore.  lolz

The ONLY way to change your relationship with your money permanently is to....

1.  Track your spending religiously over a long enough period to get a true sense of how you use money.  A month is not long enough to get the broader view of how you use money.  6 months to a year is much more helpful.  Anybody can change their spending habits for a few weeks but by tracking a year or so it will show you where your money truly goes.

2.  Analyze that tracked spending you did to see how much, of what, goes where, and actually learn about how you interact with money.  There are no shortcuts.  You must take the time to study how/why/what/where you spend and then ask the hard questions of yourself.

3.  Put these newly discovered perceptions about how you use money into action and permanently change those behaviors with money that are keeping you from overspending/wasting your income.

I spent an entire year not shopping for "things" back in 2008 while part of The Compact.  We pledged to not buy anything new for an entire year.
Yes, there were exceptions like food, medicine, paying bills, etc.  And I allowed myself to purchase underwear and footwear new, but only if truly needed.  Other than that I bought nothing in a store for an entire year, except for 1 photo album.  That photo album was my only "want" purchase all year.  At the end of the year was a "Jubilee" day during which you could go and buy ANYTHING you wanted to and that you were prevented from being during that Compact Year.  But since my money habits had changed and taken root over the course of that year there was very little I did buy once I was released from my no shopping year.  "Things" I had lusted after during that year when I wasn't allowed to buy them held little interest to me once I was no longer Not Buying Anything.

Not spending for an entire year showed me where my weaknesses were and I was able to change my behaviors involving money.
Before, I shopped when I was bored or wanted something to do, thus I stopped shopping for entertainment and found other ways to spend my free time.
Before, I carried around multiple credit cards and had no second thoughts about pulling one out at the drop of a hat to buy anything that struck my fancy, thus I cancelled cards and kept them in a box at home unless I purposely had a need to buy something.

If you really want to spend less money(and save more)I'd say don't do a No Spending Month.

Instead, analyze how/where/why you spend after tracking that spending for an extended period of time and see what behaviors you have with money you need to change.

Then make yourself change them over a period of time until they become routine.

This will take much longer than 30 days but in the end it will be worth the effort it takes.

And as for the spending you "have to do", the needs,(ie-bills)go and study how and if you can reduce them too.

New money habits and lowering your required bills will reap you benefits with your money for the rest of your life.



  1. I'm with you Sluggy. I used (no longer available, too bad as it produced nice fancy graphs charting all spending in categories) for several years. Being frugal and weighing every purchase is a way of life now. I give myself so much per week in spending money - when it's gone, and it usually isn't, I don't spend any more. Imagine your grocery bill AFTER not spending for a month. You wouldn't really have saved anything.

  2. I think the only category in our household that we overspend on is groceries and even that is at about $100-$125/week and that includes alcohol so that fact that it isn't $500 is a miracle.
    If you really want to save money, look at your budget and go through the monthly bills. Cut cable, compare insurance costs. Our only monthly extra is Den's gym membership at $30/month. He can get 2 extra people in when he goes so its sort of like having a membership for 3 people. Other than that, we operate on barebones. We very rarely shop "new" even Anna told me when she was home that after working in the second hand shop, she will never pay full price again. Kinda proud of that.

  3. I also have been puzzled about how no- or low-spending helped when people posted they were stocking up so they could participate in a no-spend challenge. Then, the posts afterward about how much people spent to fill the pantry puzzled me because no money was actually saved and no habit formed. Good points on that first half of this post.

    When I have milk in the refrigerator, bananas and Cokes, AND there are no stocking up bargains, I will often spend $10 for a week. I don't buy frivolous things just because there are no necessities to purchase. With no large freezer, stocking up is often just three packs of low-priced chicken. I never participated in no-spend challenges.

  4. Again, you are absolutely on spot with this post. If you go on a spending fast you cannot stock up loss leaders, which is how I save most of my money. Dog food is going on sale this weekend at $4 off my normal package, I am stocking up x 4 which saves $16 and I will have a couple of months supply. A spending fast would not allow me to do that. I was never a big spender but my frugal ways have definitely influenced hubby who never used to think about how much he spent on things as always had a good income. We make a lot less now self employed (and much much happier, live longer etc) so it is even more important to keep track of things, big and small. I buy used most of the time for non-grocery items with the odd exception, I save so much money that way. Hair dryer died yesterday (have 2 backups) so will look for another backup dryer this summer at garage sales. Why pay $15 for one when I can buy one for $2.

  5. I tend to agree with you Sluggy, also. I am frugal each and every day. I carefully think about how I want to spend my money. I ask myself first: is this a need or a want. The needs I buy (but I look for the best deal). The wants I put on the backburner and wait it out to see if I really want the darn thing.
    I live close to my budget now as it is. Cutting back anymore or putting any more hamper on me would cause me to buck.
    Thanks for your perspective.

  6. I agree with parts of what you said and disagree with others. Food spending is going to happen regardless of whether you do it in the month you're eating or not. However, for other consumer spending, like shopping on Amazon, I can see how a month of not shopping would be good for the wallet. I don't have an issue with spending more than we can afford. If I went a month of not buying any new clothes or other stuff, I don't think that I would just make it up the next month. I would be that much farther ahead. When the stock market crashes, I do tend to try not to spend anything for a week or a month so I can buy extra stocks which puts me in a better position.
    Now if I was a chronic over spender with debt, yes I would need more than a month.

  7. Good points! I need to do this better...

  8. Very good points. I've thought along these lines before-kind of like how crash diets don't work for most.

  9. I would imagine that everyone who reads or posts on your blog and similar ones is probably interested in being frugal. Not spending money for a month is not for me but I, like you and most posters here, already know how to save money. I can see the benefits of a no spending month if you are pretty clueless about what you spend, when you spend it or how to save. So it can be a good thing for those folks. I'm specifically thinking of my sister and nephew- it could surely benefit them. I can only imagine how surprised they would be at the amount of money they have each month left over LOL. I can't count the number of times I have asked her how much a pound for a food purchase or what something cost. She has no idea LOL. So a month not purchasing anything but necessities might make some one mindful the next month- maybe?

    1. I asked a friend how much he spent per pound on hamburger meat, He said he bought a $3 package. I have work ahead of me!

  10. I agree with you and I never participate in them. I have tried them but they never work....

  11. I have never heard of this concept but the way you explain it makes good sense to me.

  12. I agree that these spending fasts aren't for me since I was born with a frugal gene. However, it might work for someone else.


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