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Written By Colin Graves

Sometimes I wonder why I do the things I do.

In the fall of 2016, I wrote a post about a budgeting trick I came up with a few years previous, as a means of disciplining myself to break the paycheque-to-paycheque cycle.  I named it the ‘5-day freeze’.


It involves making a very simple switch in your spending pattern, by refraining from ALL spending during the 5-day work week that follows your payday (for the majority of folks on a bi-weekly pay schedule).  This shift allows you to make necessary purchases and payments as soon as you get paid, (bills, groceries etc). but what follows is 5 days of little to no spending.

The 5-day freeze helps to create a surplus in your bank account, making it easier to reach your next payday without going broke, or worse, dipping into your credit card.  There’s a psychological benefit as well, as the good feelings generated by increasingly common surplus position spur you towards other positive change.

For anyone who finds themselves living paycheque to paycheque, I recommend it as a great way to begin to break that cycle.


Anyhow, one of my blogging friends, her name is Amanda, commented on my ‘5-day freeze’ post, something to the effect of “Great idea, I’ve never tried that, but I do a no-spend January from time to time!”

“A what?  No-spend January?  You know that’s a month long, right?” more or less reflects what I was thinking when I first read her comment.

A few months later, Amanda announced on her blog that she was doing another no-spend January, which inspired me to take up the challenge.

Long story short, while not easy, it was a great experience!  I was successful in not spending any discretionary income for an entire month.  My purchases were limited to essentials such as groceries, utility bills, and gas for the car.  While I first viewed it as an isolated no-spend month, I achieved a new level of frugality which continued past the end of the month.  In fact, between January and June, I think I only bought coffee once or twice, and I didn’t miss it one bit.  That alone definitely saved me a few hundred dollars.


Because of the success of last year’s no-spend January, I’ve decided to try it again.  This time around, I’m calling it “A MONTH OF ZERO”.  Here’s how it will look:

1. Zero discretionary purchases for the entire month of January.  My spending will be limited to necessary payments; mortgage, groceries, fuel costs.

2. There will be no exceptions this year.  Last year, I did make one, as I had some previously planned vacation expenses that occurred during the month.  Not the case this year.

3. I should note, this is a personal challenge.  In no way am I involving my family in this rather extreme commitment.  That being said, my wife is THE most frugal person I know, so there is little worry that my efforts will be undone by any lavish shopping excursions, they don’t exist.


If you’re considering a no-spend month, the key to success is preparation.  For example, if your daily routine includes going to the coffee shop or eating out for lunch, leave enough time to make your coffee or lunch at home, to bring to work with you.  For some people, this might mean planning to have the necessary food in your house to do so.

If you tend to be an impulse shopper, avoid being in places that will tempt to spend.  If that means not going to the mall for a month, so be it.  It’s all a part of being prepared.


A January no-spend is a great way to kick off the new year!  Don’t mistake it with a New Year’s resolution.  This is a 30-day commitment, plain and simple.  Consider it a financial bootcamp of sorts, an opportunity to get in shape after an often lavish Christmas season.

If you decide to go for it, you can expect some positive outcomes.  In addition to feeling great, you’ll undoubtedly build some good spending habits, and be on your way to a more frugal 2018.

Question: Are you planning a no-spend week or month to kick off the New Year?

If so, I’d love to hear about it!  As for me, I’ll report back at the end of the month, and let you know whether my Month Of Zero was a success!

Happy New Year!



  1. I am always so excited for people who do this challenges! That being said, I’ve never done one. We have a $300 spending budget for the three of us for each month. I’m not sure I want to give that up. Ha! I can’t wait to follow along, though. Maybe I can be persuaded for a no-spend February 😉

  2. This is a GREAT challenge!

    Every month I do a similar system of paying all of our bills in the middle of the month, and monitor our spending for the remaing days in the month. It has always been a great way for us to hold each other accountable because once we see all of our bills paid, all of the remaining money we know is dedicated towards our investments. We know that the more we spend from that remaining balance, the less we have to dedicate towards our investments. After reading your challenge though, I will definitely be accepting it and attempting it this month!

    Thanks for the share and challenge!

  3. We actually spend very little on “non-essentials” outside of travel, but that also depends on what you consider non essentials. I did a no spend November where I counted every dollar to be kept within a very strict budget, which had me rethinking gas and groceries as essentials.

  4. Yay! So happy you’re giving it a go again, MMM! Even though I’m not blogging, I am doing a no-spend January too. 🙂 I always benefit from the reset. And, honestly, it’s the absolute easiest month to do when temps are so cold and all I want to do is stay at home anyway. Once again, I’ve found my pantry is overflowing, so I only plan to buy groceries that are needed (no stocking up on sale items). I have a couple of exceptions for discretionary spending (like lunch with an old friend), but the key is to set those exceptions up front and stick to them. Last January, I was astounded at how much we were able to save. Can’t wait to follow along and see how it goes for you, friend!

    • I agree, January is the perfect no-spend month for so many reasons. We certainly have got the cold weather covered here. : ) So glad you’re doing this again Amanda, you have to keep me posted on how it goes!

  5. By the time I’ve made it alive to January, all I can think of is stopping the money hemorrhage. And the eating. And the doing too much stuff. That desire makes January a perfect time to get it all under control. Unfortunately, my oldest has a birthday in January, so I don’t think I could do a no spend month, and I want to be realistic in my goals. I came through my second debt-free Christmas in tact, but my saving slowed a lot over the last month, so I am definitely going to be spending less and working hard on saving more again. Exercising is my other big goal – I was doing so good running in the park by my house and got some great cold weather gear for Christmas. But 13 degrees plus a mean wind chill is to much for me! I did make it to kickboxing today, my final day of vacation with my kids back at school (!) which cost money. But I know it is a good thing for me. I’ve gotten a little out of control with grocery spending and home improvement projects, so I know the areas that I really need to focus on. I am inspired by your spending freeze, MMM. I am going to try my best in your honor! Happy 2018!

    • Happy New Year Linda! 13 degrees? That’s shorts weather! Lol, I kid. It is very cold. January is a natural month to hit the reset button in a number of areas and I definitely share some similar goals to you. I tried to eat really well though the holidays, but it spiralled out of control beginning on Christmas Day. I’m surprised your kids are back at school already. Our kids have this full week off as well. It always feels a bit too long, but they’re definitely not complaining. : )

    • Ha, thanks Troy, and Happy New Year to you as well! I’m sure you could do this. For me, it’s just a matter of making sure I don’t eat out or go to the coffee shop. I don’t do that much of either, but I’ll probably catch myself thinking about it a few times during the month. I might turn out to be wrong, but I feel as though it’ll be easier this year than it was the first time around.

  6. I like this plan. 🙂 We’ll probably do it for January even if unintentionally. Other months will be pretty much the same, except for any travel expenses.

    I’m hoping we can keep our non-essential spending to less than $12k this year!

    • Hey Dave! There’s something about the month of January that makes a no-spend seem like a natural thing to do, which makes it easier. I guess it’s the response to the holiday season which, even when you don’t overindulge, somehow feels excessive. Happy New Year!

  7. January is a great month for this challenge & will put you on a great path for the rest of the year.

    Hope you nail it!

    • Thanks! So far, so good. 10 days in, haven’t spent a penny. I’m finding it a lot easier than last year as well, which is interesting. I guess I’ve really built up my frugality muscle in that time. : )


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