How to Go on a No-Spend Weekend

You probably already know this: it’s a cardinal rule to make a budget and stick to it. During the summer months, however, it’s almost as if the money gods are setting booby traps, divisive schemes, and other prickly obstacles to make it super hard for you stay on course.

Common culprits include getting bitten hard by the FOMO bug, not tracking your spending as closely as you should, or reaching for your credit card for willy-nilly spends. Whatever the reason, summer can bust your budget. This happened to me last summer while taking on a side hustle as a pet sitter in Chicago. While I was saving on big essentials, like housing and transit, I was spending way too much eating out and cavorting around the Windy City. To get back on track with my finances, I went on a no-spend weekend diet.

Here’s how to set yourself straight on a weekend spending fast:

Set Rules Beforehand

Like all challenges, you’ll need to provide some parameters and set rules beforehand. Besides not being able to use any cash, I couldn’t put any charges on my debit or credit cards. Scary, I know. What I could do was stock up on groceries ahead of time, and load up my public transit card to get me through the weekend. I was also allowed to use any gift cards I had lying around.

Exceptions included a true emergency that required tapping in to my emergency fund – such as a trip to the ER, urgent dental work, or a family member who desperately needed a helping hand. If something urgent and unexpected popped up during my spending fast, I could certainly take money out of my bank account.

Check Past Spending Habits

When setting rules for your no-spend weekend, carefully review your transactions from the last few weekends to see what has been gobbling up your money. I noticed that I had been spending more on restaurants and nights out reveling in booze and pinball at the local barcade. My Chicago pals also turned me on to a few killer thrift shops. While it certainly wasn’t an ‘80s style, full-blown shopping spree on Rodeo Drive, all those little purchases were adding up. My frugal self was starting to suffer the consequences.

Prepare to Decline Social Outings

This is probably the toughest part when you’re cutting back on spending: curbing those FOMO feels and the YOLO philosophy to spare your pocketbook. During my no-spend weekend, I skirted going to dinner with pals. Instead, I checked out art shows, where I enjoyed free drinks and snacks, and went to the Farmer’s Market and sampled goodies. When I did decide to go to a bar to meet friends, I first trolled the perimeter of the Pokemon Go Fest grounds for free fun (yes, I’m that person). Once I was inside, I drank water and made it clear that I was on a spending fast. For the most part, my pals understood.

However, after a bit of tugging on my friend Greg Slade’s part, I agreed to join him for dinner. Sitting at a restaurant while my friend noshed on a burger was A-W-K-W-A-R-D. He did insist I have his hot tea and share of fries. That being said, I still felt a bit shameful for mooching.

Be Resourceful

My gut reaction was to stay home and minimize interactions with friends. But, I made a point not to be a hermit during the weekend. I wanted to get out and be my regular social self. In planning my weekend, I scoured listings for art show openings, movies and concerts at the park, readings at jazz nights at the local coffee shop, and free street festivals.

And those gift cards that had sunk to the bottom of my purse finally got some love. I used movie passes, and gift cards to Target and Buffalo Exchange. I did a little happy dance to be rid of those gift cards, at long last.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to live in a major city to have a social life during your spending fast. You can enjoy some nature by way of a hike or bike ride. Or check your city’s calendar of events for some options for free fun.

Try It During the Week First

If attempting a spending fast during the weekend is a bit intimidating, try it during the week. Trying it out midweek is far easier than the weekend for a number or reasons. If you’re a worker bee, you have a routine and structure. Because you’re busier and your schedule is more predictable, it’ll be easier to plan to eat in and refrain from shopping. Plus, you’ll be less tempted to hang out late with friends and spend money.

Know Your Intention

Before committing to a spending fast, it’s also important to know your “why.” In my situation, I wanted to curb my purchases and cut back on eating out. After my no-spend weekend, I committed to dining in more frequently and I quit shopping for the time being. I bought groceries for the week and used up everything I had before heading back to the market. I actually found the challenge to be fun while discovering new ways to get out and about without spending a dime.

Are you ready to try out a spending fast? Just think: by becoming more mindful of your spending, you’ll save money. In my book, that’s a win!

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