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. Perhaps you have savings goals with 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 Ground Rules
For a no-spend weekend to truly have an impact on your bottom line, you have to follow some ground rules:
1. 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 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 on 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.
2. Whole Family Participation
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 your 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.
3. 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 only 2-3 days without spending. Therefore, once your weekend is over, you shouldn’t feel the need to spend feverishly to make up for the lost time. If you usually do a big grocery shopping on Monday, that’s fine — do it.
4. 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.
Activities for No-Spend Weekend
If your weekend normally revolves around going out for meals/drinks/entertainment, try one or more of these ideas instead:
1. 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!
2. 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, you can go through old DVDs collection, watch YouTube videos, or do a TV night at your friend’s house.
Get outside and walk, run, or bicycle. If the weather doesn’t permit that, do some simple exercise in your home or apartment.
4. Visit Local Parks, Museums, or 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!
5. 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 a no-spend weekend!
6. 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!
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.
Super 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!
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.