Could You Spend No Money for One Week Every Month? If So, Here's How Much You Might Save

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  • As Americans, we tend to throw out much of what we buy.
  • A spending freeze -- even just one week per month -- can save thousands of dollars over the course of a year.
  • Just as important as the money you save, is what you may learn about your spending habits during a spending freeze.

A spending freeze can save you money, but that's not all.

When you spend no disposable income, it's called a spending freeze. How long a freeze lasts is up to you. To be clear, you would still pay your monthly financial obligations, like your regular bills, but take a break from buying anything else during that period. What if you freeze spending for one week out of each month? Here's a look at how much you could get ahead by trying this.

Just groceries

According to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture numbers, a "thrifty" family of four spends $223 per week on groceries. Your number may be higher or lower than that, but let's use this number as a baseline.

While this fact alone does not indicate how much you might save by spending no money one week a month, it does give us a good place to start.

Buying in bulk

Naturally, you're still going to need to eat during a spending freeze week, and that means planning ahead. In addition to creating a menu of meals you plan to enjoy, you'll need to shop for the supplies to make those meals.

Let's say you normally shop weekly but plan to go on a spending freeze the third week of each month. That means you'll need to pick up cooking and baking supplies during your first or second week shopping trip.

Now, here's where you could save money. By creating a menu based on what's on sale in your area, you can buy in bulk. And according to some estimates, buying in bulk saves an average of 20% (more on some products).

If you typically spend $223 per week on groceries, that amounts to an average savings of $45 during the freeze week, or a total of $2,340 per year.

Meal planning

Meal planning is essential if you're going to refrain from spending for seven entire days each month. And one benefit of meal planning is the amount of money it saves you. The better you plan for each meal, the less food you're likely to waste.

For example, according to the nonprofit organization Feeding America, the average American family of four tosses $1,600 a year in produce alone. That's $1,600 that can be tucked away in a college savings plan or used to fortify a rainy day fund.

If you're tossing $1,600 per year in produce, that's $133 per month. Now, let's say you use the groceries you've purchased for at least one week of the month. That amounts to $33 per month, or $396 per year.

Miscellaneous expenses

Research from The Ascent notes that according to the Consumer Expenditure Survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average American household spends the following on these miscellaneous expenses each month:

  • Entertainment $297
  • Restaurants $253
  • Apparel and services $146
  • Personal care $64
  • Alcoholic beverages $46
  • Tobacco/smoking products $28
  • Reading $10
  • Other miscellaneous $82

That's a total of $926 per month. A spending freeze for a single week would put an extra $231 in your bank account, or $2,772 per year.

Impulse buys

Most of us are guilty of the occasional impulse buy. We're standing in a checkout line and see something we suddenly can't live without or head to the store to buy a new top and end up with a new pair of shoes too. The average American spends about $314 per month on impulse purchases, according to a Slickdeals study.

Not making impulse buys one week each month would save you $79, or $948 each year.

A mindful reset

Let's say you try a one-week spending freeze and find that it's not for you. That's okay. One of the best things that can come out of an experiment like this is a more mindful approach to spending. Once you've tried to cut it from your life (even for a short time), you're far more likely to recognize those moments when you're reaching for a product you don't need or buying an item that you're likely to end up tossing in the trash.

If a week seems like a stretch, why not try a one-day spending freeze and see what you think?

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