No Spend July: Be A Cheap Bastard For A Month

It’s July and that means our No Spend Month Challenge is in effect. If you’ve been following along on Facebook or on the blog, you know that June is a spendy series of weeks for us and July seems like a natural month to reign in hard on the spending. That’s where NSM comes into play.

Homebrew Husband and I have successfully completed two No Spend Month Challenges before. The first was last August, just before the our son was born and Nick took a month and a half off of work. The second was last January as an economic anecdote to the holidays. August was harder, but only because it was our first challenge; in January the garden didn’t contribute as much to the food bill and it was much harder to walk everywhere so we spent more on gas.

Here are our No Spend Month Challenge rules:

  • Medical expenses, recurring monthly bills (mortgage, insurance, water, electricity, garbage, etc.) and recurring kids activities (for us, swim lessons and Spanish lessons) are exempt from the NSM budget. (Hair balm is not a medical expense.)
  • Everything else, including food, gas and discretionary spending (clothing, dining out, lattes, movies, books, nightlife, bar tabs, dry cleaning, music, family fun, etc.) is included in the NSM budget.
  • If an honest-to-goodness emergency crops up (the car breaks down, spouse gets shipped to Afganistan unexpectedly, you go into labor, etc.) do what you need to do, challenge be damned.
  • An accurate running total of expenditures must be kept. In other words, if you spend a dollar, you write that expenditure down at time of purchase. For everything. If you decide to round to the nearest dollar, round up and down honestly. The challenge is only with yourself, so cheating’s extra dumb.
Now, I know many of my readers are basically frugality pros, and that’s great. If you already know exactly how much money you spend on lattes every week, and it’s zero, this challenge might be too easy for you, or might not be appropriate to your situation. 
If, however, you aren’t totally sure whether your spending habits line up with your greater values, this one-month exercise will help you identify what’s important to you, what you really can live without and where your spending goes off track. 
That’s the thing about NSM: it’s a great savings tool, but it’s an even better tool for identifying your values. Strip away all the marketing and figure out what your values are it becomes a lot easier to see how spending and money fits in there.
Nick and I will be budgeting $250 for the month, with $150 of that pre-allocated for fuel expenses. We are starting the NSM challenge with a producing garden and a freezer full of meat and salmon. The pantry is at about par, stocked with a few types of rice, legumes, canned tomatoes and the like. I may need to buy dairy mid-month but other than that I hope to not set foot into the grocery store. 
If everything goes well, we’ll come in under budget. I hope to save $1000 this month above what we would normally save. Your goal numbers may, and should, vary based on how much food you grow, how large your family is, how much gas you absolutely can’t avoid buying, etc. I think $200-$350 is a good target for most families who are not already in serious econo-mode.
Feel free to let everyone know how you’re doing. I’ll do Frugality Friday posts for the next month and all of us who are participating can swap tips and status updates on our budget.
So, are you in? What is your NSM budget number and what are your goals this month?


  1. says

    We're not doing NSM but we did start our "no buying any food" today, which will go until October 1st. Our fridge is frighteningly empty.

  2. says

    Do you factor in the cost of re-stocking the freezer and all? I mean the expense would catch up with you in another month wouldn't it? Just wondering how it all works out. Great idea!

  3. says

    Ahh if it wasn't summer break with two kiddo's at home I would be all over this! My spending is a little unpredictable due to entertaining my two little money pits. I love this idea and will keep an eye out for when you do it again!! Really love this, looking forward to following your adventure here and being inspired by you =)

  4. says

    @Julia – we are trying to make no-spend a twice-yearly tradition. Once in January as an "antidote" to the crazy holiday season and again in July to recover from our inevitably crazy June (we have something like five family birthdays that month). I find it easier to belt-tighten, clean up my eating, and celebrate what I already have after going through one of these festival seasons.

  5. says

    Hilaire-My feeling is, if someone is absolutely perfect with their budgeting and menu planning and doesn't go in for "extras" without thinking, then, yeah, NSM is basically moving the money around between months cause they are going to make it up somewhere. However, I think most people have a greater "slop" factor than that, and NSM can sort of force the rest of us to use what we already have and get creative. Example: my mom bought a quarter-cow and was going to throw away a cross-rib roast because she didn't really know how to cook it. We ended up making a great balsamic/red wine braise with it and it was great….NSM can encourage that kind of using what you have thing.

    For us, with meat we buy large quantities in bulk only a few times a year, so our meat dollar is spent in big chunks anyway and 9 or 10 months out of the year we spend little to no money on meat anyway….but this is one of those variables people definitely need to factor in for themselves when coming up with their "number" and goaks.

  6. says

    Doing good til the Canner pressure gauge broke…lol… but I am thinking that $21.99 for a new gauge will pay for itself in the food put up… Goose and elk bones/shredded meat from a friend's freezer, and fresh fish so far :) All canned!

    This is making me think about spending a bit more – but also couldn't pass up the 10% 1st Tuesday of the month discount for seniors at Freddies on the Freddies/Kroger brands… so probably not going to do as well as some of you! but that's ok! Keeping track of it is good for me!

  7. says

    Fudge I need to go on a "stop buying produce you have an acre garden you goober" month. My problem is, we sell at our local farmers market and there is so much good stuff there, that even though I have way to much produce as it is, I still want to try what everyone else has! I really like your blog btw. You can check mine out if you get a chance. That would be dandy :)

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