How to Have a No-Spend Weekend

Sometimes you just need to stop spending money for a few days. Maybe you are already over budget, or close to it, and the month isn’t over. Maybe you have savings goals with attached deadlines, and need to kick a little extra towards one of those goals before the deadline comes and goes. Or maybe you just hate to see your hard-earned dollars fly out of your wallet on trivial things. If any of these things describe you, I suggest a no-spend weekend.

What is a no-spend weekend

A no-spend weekend is pretty much just what it sounds like — a weekend where no money leaves your wallet or bank account, no checks are written, and no spending is done on a credit card. You are allowed to use things you have already paid for, or will pay for in the future, like groceries, cable, and gas for your car. If you take public transportation and have a pre-funded fare card you can use that too.

No-spend weekend musts

In order for a no-spend weekend to truly have an impact on your bottom line, you have to follow some ground rules:

  • Do it spontaneously: If you plan a no-spend weekend too far in advance, it is likely that you will end up spending money in advance in order to prepare for the weekend — as in “oh I can’t buy groceries next weekend, so I’ll do it this weekend. I can’t eat out, so I’ll do it Thursday.” The best thing is to decide Thursday, or even Friday — and challenge yourself to make do with the food and entertainment you already have.
  • Get the rest of your household to do it too: If you spend no money, but your spouse does, it kind of defeats the purpose. Ditto if you split costs with a significant other in the form of “you pay this time, I’ll pay next time” — you’ll just end up making up for you lack of spending at a later date. If you live with or spend significant time with someone, and have commingled your finances formally or informally, you’ve got to both do this together to reap the benefits.
  • Keep spending normally once the weekend is over: One of the reasons that I advocate doing this for just a weekend, rather than days or weeks at a time, is that you shouldn’t really feel deprived after just 2-3 days without spending. Therefore, once your weekend is over you shouldn’t feel the need to spend feverishly to make up for lost time. If you normally do a big grocery shopping on Monday, that’s fine — do it. But if spending isn’t normal, don’t spend just because.
  • Shift the timing to where you actually spend money: When I have a no-spend weekend, I usually define it as the time I get home from work on Friday to the time I leave for work on Monday. I spend at least 80% of my money on the weekend, so that is when going spend-free has the most impact on my bottom line. If you know you don’t usually spend money on the weekend anyway, but can identify other days or times of the month that are hard on your wallet, try going spend-free on those days instead.

Things to do

If your weekend normally revolves around going out for meals/drinks/entertainment, try one or more of these ideas instead:

  • Play Board Games: This is one of my favorite free forms of entertainment. You can invite friends over and have fun spending time together at no cost to any of you!
  • Watch TV/DVDs or catch up on DVR: If you are a TV person (and I recognize that some people aren’t), a no-spend weekend is a great time to catch up on some of your favorite shows. If you don’t have cable, try some of these alternatives instead.
  • Exercise: Get outside and walk, run, or bicycle. If weather doesn’t permit that, do some simple exercise in your house or apartment — this one from Dr. Oz takes only seven minutes!
  • Visit local parks, museums, or any other things your city offers for free: I live in Washington, so most museums have free admission. Take advantage of anything similar in your area — even if it’s just sitting in a park for a few hours. Make sure to bring your own snacks/drinks so you won’t be tempted to buy while you’re out!
  • Try a new recipe: Instead of boiling some pasta for the 5th time this month, get creative in the kitchen. Use Supercook to find recipes that can be made with ingredients you have on hand — an important requirement for a new recipe used on no-spend weekend!
  • Catch up with old friends: Send emails or make phone calls to people you haven’t talked to in a while. If you really want to make someone’s day, write a letter — but only using paper you already own!
  • Clean: Spend some time getting things in order around your house. If you’re feeling adventurous organize your basement/attic/garage/shed as well. Dust, mop, vacuum, and do anything else that you’ve let go just a little too long.
  • Really clean: If you’re really having a hard time filling up your time, do a full weeding-out of your possessions. Go through every drawer, closet, and junk drawer looking for things you just don’t use or need. Package things that can’t be sold and donate to Goodwill or a charity of your choice. Then sell the rest on Craigslist or Ebay — if you’re lucky, your no-spend weekend could end up making you money!

About the Author

By , on Feb 4, 2010
Jill grew up in Texas, graduated from college in 2007 and is currently working in the DC metro area. Jill recently completed a 9-month certificate program in financial planning and will take the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) exam in November. After that she hopes to become a full-time financial planner. You can also find her as a staff writer at My Dollar Plan.

Leave Your Comment (19 Comments)

  1. Bob says:

    Wonderful suggestions. Don’t forget to do the practical/boring things in life like balance a checkbook and finish projects around the house. Great way to save money and feel like you accomplished something.

  2. Patrick Del Rosario says:

    You do really have a point here, this is truly mind setting, I used to spend much in the weekend than weekdays. I am going to this by next weekend. Thanks this is a great post that can help me a lot.

  3. Gary Counterman says:

    You can watch FREE tv, movies,Sports or News on A great alternative for going out to a movie. Thanks for the No Spend idea. I am all for it and will be doing it very soon. Can’t wait to try a week without spending. Thanks again Gary

  4. sandra says:

    Great idea! We also spend a lot of money during weekends dining at our favourite restaurant. Well, I can’t possibly watch my favourite movies because my husband and son are the kings of DVD. May I just add one more thing on your list – book reading. A bookworm friend promised to lend 2 of his Sidney Sheldon books. I think “The Best Laid Plans” and “Mistress of the Game” will help me through a no spend weekend. And I also love the cleaning idea too. I’ve always postponed doing it, so maybe It will be the perfect opportunity for me to do some. Thanks again for the tips!!!

  5. Steve says:

    I think every weekend needs to be a no spend weekend for me!

  6. Karen Z says:

    I’ve done this for a while, and it’s a great way to make yourself get into the pantry to eat those foods you forgot about. No-spend weekend doubles as clean-out-the-pantry weekend. (Okay, week.)

  7. ParisGirl111 says:

    I love this idea. I have tried having spend free days and spend free weeks. The tip about not planning it too far in advance is so true. The last time I tried to have a spend free week, I wound up buying significantly more at the grocery store to compensate for that week. It’s better to do it spontaneously and it makes it kind of a game when you do it that way.

  8. Veracity says:

    This is huge. The problem seems to be the more you earn the more you spend, so you always stay broke. The key is self-discipline. A no-spend weekend is a great idea whether you are rich or completely broke.

  9. robert says:

    Interesting article, I had not thought of something like this. The thing that I spend money on the weekends is for eating out or something like Starbucks.

  10. Jerry says:

    This is a great idea and it leads to people making creative choices for their time on the weekend. My family and I will go hiking on a weekend that we want to spend together and not spend money. It’s insurance for our health and our budget when we make choices like that.

  11. Jill says:

    @Matt good idea! I’m not much of a video game player, but I can occupy myself for hours with free games on :)Definitely something to add to the list.

  12. Matt says:

    Might not be your audience, but don’t forget an important one: play video games. You already paid $60 for it, and if you can play it online with other people, you can get hours of enjoyment out of it.

  13. Jill says:

    @Evan I like that too. But since I make dinner and bring leftovers for lunch, I usually don’t spend much if any money during the week anyway. The weekend is a real challenge for me though – and the satisfaction even better! If you’re feeling up to it sometime challenge yourself to try a weekend!

    @Laura That totally counts! The point is to use up stuff that is already paid for (like the scrapbooking supplies). And I like the returns idea!

  14. Laura says:

    Great timing!!! I am planning this this weekend. The only thing money related I am doing is scrapbooking, but I paid for that with a coupon way back in December. Actually, perhaps I’ll make it a negative weekend by making a few returns. 😉

  15. Evan says:

    I never go a weekend without spending money, but I LOVE when I go a work week and realized that I haven’t spent any money besides fixed expenses.

  16. Shaun McGowan says:

    Not spending money on weekend is a mind setting matter. First be sure that your groceries are enough for few days. Advice your family about the budget matter, and tell your kids to have their home based activities during weekend.

  17. Jill says:

    @Gina and Ken Come back and tell us how it goes 🙂

  18. Ken says:

    I like the recommendation of cleaning. I have a basement full of junk that needs organization badly. The kids love board games as well. I’ll bounce this idea off of wife and see where it goes. Good post.

  19. Gina says:

    It’s not spontaneous, but we’ve already declared this weekend “no spend” since they’re calling for 2 feet of snow here in DC. We want to tackle our list of house projects that never seem to get done, since we’re forced to stay home, and it will just be a matter of keeping the kids happy while we work. Thanks for the great list of entertainment ideas!

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