How the Occasional No-Spend Weekend Helps My Finances

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on Feb. 9, 2020

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Saving small amounts on occasion can go a long way.

Saving small amounts on occasion can go a long way.

I consider myself to be a reasonably consistent saver. I regularly fund my retirement plan, and I generally make sure I have at least six months of living expenses in my savings account so I'm covered in the face of emergencies.

But sometimes, unplanned expenses -- such as home repairs or issues with my car -- cause me to dip into that emergency fund. And although I try to save money on a monthly basis, the occasional shopping temptation or the desire for a social life can get in the way. 

That's why I try to implement the occasional "no-spend" weekend. If you've been struggling to boost your savings lately, it may be worth employing a similar tactic to get your finances on track.

How "no-spend" weekends help my savings

In case you're not familiar with the "no-spend" concept, it goes like this: You pledge to spend no money on non-essentials for a preset period of time. That window could be one week, one month, or even, in more extreme cases, one year. 

The "no-spend" month is somewhat common, because it has more of an impact than a "no-spend" week but is far more attainable than a "no-spend" year. But to me, a month is still pretty tough. Limiting myself to essential bills only and not spending a dime on modest treats for four-plus weeks doesn't really sit well with me. This is why I prefer "no-spend" weekends instead. But let me tell you, the savings involved can really add up.

I'll generally try to schedule a "no-spend" weekend once every two to three months. During one of these weekends, I won't buy anything that isn't an absolute necessity. If we're out of milk, I'll run to the store and get some so my kids can still enjoy their breakfast. If the car needs gas to get the kids to soccer, I'll stop by the gas station to fill up the tank. 

But here's what I won't do during a "no-spend" weekend: I won't shop for fun things in stores or online. I won't go out to dinner or order takeout. I won't buy coffee from a local shop, and I won't buy movie tickets, see a concert, go bowling, or engage in any other activity that costs money. 

I will take my kids to the playground or go hiking, even though I might spend a small amount of money in gas to get to my destination. And I will buy groceries for the weekend if we're out and need food for dinner. But that's about it. 

The result? Every month I have a "no-spend" weekend, I'm generally able to add an extra $100 or more to my savings (unless, of course, an emergency strikes during that time). And that, to me, is motivation to exercise added self-control on occasion.

What can a "no-spend" weekend do for you?

If your savings need a pick-me-up, think about the money you'd normally spend on a typical weekend and imagine adding it to your bank account instead. For example, if you typically go out to dinner twice a weekend at $40 a pop and spend another $20 to see a movie or local band, that's $100 in savings right there. Have a "no-spend" weekend once a month, and you're looking at an extra $1,200 over the course of a year.

And the best part is, you're not doing anything particularly extreme. You're not giving up shopping or takeout for a year. You’re not forgoing things you love on a long-term basis. You're simply taking a short, limited break from spending every so often to give your savings a nudge.

I actually like our "no-spend" weekends not just because I feel good about the savings that result from them, but because they give my family an excuse to entertain ourselves in different ways. On these weekends, my husband and I might have a board game night rather than spending money to go out, or we might try out a new recipe at home rather than paying a small fortune for someone else to cook our dinner at a fancy restaurant. 

If your savings need some work, it pays to start implementing "no-spend" weekends. You may be surprised by how effective they are in helping you meet your goals over time. 

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