It’s November and that means the holidays are right around the corner! I know Halloween just ended, and I’m not really one to rush the holidays but when it comes to planning your finances it’s always smart to think ahead! So that’s why we get our bank account ready for the holiday season with No Spend November!
No Spend November
This post may contain affiliate links.
For us, No Spend November means a 2 week long total spending freeze in the beginning of November.
We use the first 2 weeks. So, our spending freeze starts today, Wednesday, November 2nd, and it will end 2 weeks from now on Wednesday, November 16th.
Last year we were able to save $250 we would have spent thanks to our No Spend November. Let me tell you, that made our Christmas shopping a whole lot easier!
As an added bonus, doing this always motivates me to get exciting about saving money and really helps me get my finances back on track.
- Related: The First Step to Saving More Money
Do you want to join me and give your bank account a boost for the holidays?
Here are the rules
What we are allowed to pay for:
- Bills – We will pay our regularly scheduled bills as usual. We always pay extra on our biggest debt, my student loan. We’re going to continue doing that just as we would any other month. (You can read more about debt here).
- Gas – We get our gas at Costco, so we’re already getting the best price around. We’re going to keep driving our cars to work and such as usual and when they need gas, we’re going to get it. Don’t go out of your way traveling to find something to do. Try finding fun activities to do at home.
- Common Sense Expenses – I have a doctor’s appointment scheduled during our spending freeze. I’m not going to reschedule the appointment just so I don’t have to pay the co-pay when we’re not spending money. I feel like that’s a common sense expense. Use your very best judgment on this.
- The most basic groceries – If you run out of diapers, go buy some. If you absolutely need milk or eggs, get some. Try to think ahead before you start your spending freeze, but if you really need it, you can get it. Just make sure this isn’t happening all the time. It should only be once, or at the most twice, during the freeze.
What we are NOT allowed to pay for:
Pretty much anything else.
- Shopping – There will be no new clothes, shoes, toys, or anything else that would be considered a thing during the spending freeze. If you have a gift card, you may use it. But be careful with this! You can’t go over the amount on the gift card.
- Regular grocery trips – There will be more on how to avoid this below.
- Restaurant or Take-out food – If you can’t make it yourself, you can’t have it. This might be where most of your savings will come from!
- Any kind of going out – Watch a movie at home instead of going to the movies. Play a game with your kids at home, or go to the park, instead of taking them on an expensive outing.
This doesn’t mean you can’t see your friends. Just invite them over instead of going out.
Here are some other posts that can help you with this:
I could make the list of what not to buy much longer, but those are the main ideas. A good rule of thumb is that if it isn’t listed as something you can buy, don’t buy it.
Update: I have a new Step-by-Step Guide to No Spend November that will hold your hand and walk you through this process.
But we need to eat! How can I feed my family during a spending freeze?
This takes some practice but it’s totally doable. You’ll probably be surprised at how much food you already have that you just haven’t used yet.
I’m going to explain how I tackle the food situation and I encourage you to follow along with these steps. Your situation is probably going to be a little different, but thinking about how it relates to mine will probably be helpful to you. Don’t forget to be creative – breakfast for dinner is always a good idea!
Go through all the food in your house and make an inventory.
For me this means looking through my refrigerator, freezer, and cabinets. I don’t even have a pantry!
Here is the actual list I made of what I have in my kitchen right now:
- 2 butternut squashes
- 2 sweet potatoes
- ½ loaf pumpkin bread
- 3 packages of brown rice
- 5 boxes of pasta, all different kinds
- 4 cans of tuna
- 2 cartons of rolled oats
- 2 boxes of crackers
- ½ bag almonds
- 1 large bag of walnuts
- 4 boxes of Annie’s whole wheat Mac & Cheese
- 2 jars of peanut butter
- 1 carton of Trader Joe’s Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup
- 30 small cartons of McDougall’s soup
- 24 eggs
- 2 bags of salad
- 1 red pepper
- 3 apples
- 1 bag of broccoli
- 1 bag of spinach
- 2 bananas
- Various cheeses
- 2 containers of various leftovers
- Several bags of frozen veggies and fruits
- Frozen leftover potato soup
- Frozen Turkey Meatballs
- 2 frozen packages of chicken breasts
- 1 frozen container of ground turkey
- Frozen banana pancakes
- 2 frozen loaves of bread
- Ingredients for the chili that I wanted to make last week but never did.
That’s not including every single thing. I’m not listing the mayo in the fridge, the coffee and tea we have, or other small things like that. But this list gives me the big picture of what I really have. It’s way more than I expected! I’m feeling good about getting through 2 weeks with this list!
Some other notable things that I found in the kitchen:
2 bottles of wine – This gives me an idea to invite my girlfriends over for wine instead of going out to dinner at some point during our freeze. I actually will probably invite them over for coffee instead but I like knowing that I have options!
We’re not really dessert people, but we do have a ton of leftover Halloween candy if we encounter a sweet tooth during these 2 weeks.
How can you use what you’ve got?
Next, I’m going to look at this list and brainstorm some ideas of what I can make with the items I have on hand.
Here are some of the ideas I thought of:
- We’ll start by having our leftovers for dinner tonight so they don’t go to waste.
- I’m going to make a soup with the butternut squashes.
- We have a ton of eggs. We buy them at costco because it’s the best deal and my husband has an egg for breakfast every day. I’m thinking of making a quiche or even scrambled eggs for dinner at some point.
- I’m going to make the chili that I never got around to last week.
- We have a lot of pasta but no ingredients for sauce. Maybe I can make a simple pasta salad, or even spaghetti with oil, cheese and veggies mixed in.
- We’ll probably make tuna salad more than once.
- I’ll definitely be making my apple cinnamon oatmeal for breakfast.
- Fried rice with veggies sounds good.
- I’ll use a package of the frozen chicken breasts to make super easy shredded chicken, and then I’ll use that for a bunch of other meals.
- We will probably have mac and cheese with cooked frozen veggies mixed in.
- For lunch, I’ll have peanut butter banana sandwiches and leftovers. My husband loves the McDougall’s soups, which is why we have so many. He’ll take those to work for lunch with some other small things like cheese and crackers, oatmeal or peanut butter toast.
Those are just the ideas that I came up with in my first 5 minutes of thinking about it. This is my third November spending freeze and I’m starting to get pretty good at it.
Don’t worry if you think my ideas sound unappetizing. We’re super simple people and the food that we have in our house reflects what we like.
The food that you have in your home probably reflects what you like.
Make your inventory and spend a little time brainstorming your options.
Get your family on board!
This is so essential. It’s no fair for you to stop spending and start sacrificing if your spouse is going to keep spending as usual. It has to be a team effort.
I’m lucky in that my husband is actually the frugal one in our family. Early on in our relationship it was actually him who convinced me to change my spending ways.
Have a conversation about working together on the spending freeze to allow your family to have a less stressful holiday season.
Does it have to be 2 weeks?
Nope! If you’re new to No Spend November, try it for a week a first and see how it goes. So, after you conquer your first week, you can decide if you want to continue on for a second week or stop for now and try a second week later on.
If your first few weeks fly by without a struggle and you want to keep the freeze going, go for it!
You decide how long you can make it last. It really will depend on your family’s individual circumstances.
What should I do money I save?
This part is super important! Don’t work so hard on saving money and then blow it all as soon as your spending freeze is over. When you’re done with your freeze, resume your spending as normal. Don’t go overboard.
Allocate your saved money to whatever area would have the best impact on your financial situation.
For many of us, it will go right to the holidays. I think that’s great! That’s the power of No Spend November. It allows us to enjoy the holiday season without the stress that comes from having to pay for it.
Need some moral support?
I plan to post my efforts during these 2 weeks on Instagram! Follow me on Instagram here to see how I’m doing. Share your own spending freeze using #NoSpendNovHHH and we’ll encourage each other along the way!
Update: Want to find out more about how my No Spend November went?
Want more? Here are some of my best posts about saving money: