If you want to save money, spend less — the concept is simple, but easier said than done.
That’s why there are a slew of budgeting tips and tricks designed to help you save more and spend less.
One such tip, from author of “I Will Teach You To Be Rich,” Ramit Sethi, is to create a “no spending day.” It’s as simple as it sounds: Choose one day each week and challenge yourself to not spend a single dollar.
“Technically, even if you don’t open your wallet, you’re still spending money on things like rent, car insurance, and subscriptions,” explains Sethi. “You just didn’t count them. But that’s even more of a reason to create a ‘no spending’ day on the money in your wallet: because you can actively control it.”
I decided to give it a try for six weeks, so I settled on Monday as my “no spending day.” It seemed like a reasonable day to ditch my cash — weekends tend to be pricier, so it would be refreshing not to spend anything the day after, and I likely wouldn’t have to pass up on social activities, as those tend to happen later in the week.
Here’s why, after a month and a half, I’m ditching this strategy and sticking with my trusty cash-only diet:
1. I didn’t save any money.
After crunching the numbers, there was ultimately no significant difference in the amount of money I spent over the past six weeks and a typical six weeks for me. I stick to a highly specific budget — $US120 a week — and rather than changing the amount I spent, this strategy simply altered when I spent.
I even added a second “no spending day” after the first two weeks of the “challenge” proved surprisingly unchallenging. I gave myself more flexibility with the second no-cash day: Rather than predetermining a day like Monday, I let myself choose the day mid-week, depending on how my week was panning out. Despite intensifying the challenge, I still found myself spending about the same amount, just on a slightly altered schedule.
This strategy would be more fitting for the overspender or mindless spender — someone who doesn’t diligently record expenses and couldn’t tell you where their last paycheck was spent.
One thing I did notice while implementing this strategy were the endless opportunities to buy — especially if you’re living in a city, you’re constantly tempted by coffee shops, fast-food joints, boutiques, and even drugstores for a “harmless” $US2 Gatorade or Snickers. I generally keep myself in check when it comes to these temptations, but it does require a level of awareness, and going a day without being allowed to spend was an effective way of solidifying this awareness.
2. It’s highly inconvenient.
Especially after adding in a second “no spending day,” there were multiple times when this strategy seemed more troublesome than helpful. It required much more planning than I was prepared for: For example, my roommate’s birthday was on a Monday, meaning I had to buy everything I needed for the big day ahead of time; it meant that I needed to be set with necessities — such as groceries, laundry, and toiletries — on the no cash days; and it meant saying no to certain social events.
Had I actually been saving money, I wouldn’t have minded these inconveniences as much, but I felt as if it was simply restraining when I could spend, not how much I could spend.
3. There are better ways to save money.
I had a surprising amount of success with steering clear of cards and restricting my daily spending to cash (the “cash-only diet”), and still follow it religiously. I also have had success staying at budget by recording each and every expense, similar to David Bach’s classic money-saving exercise.
I’m not completely writing off the “no spending day.” It was encouraging knowing that I can go two days a week without spending a penny in such a consumer-driven society, and I do think it could be beneficial for a different type of person.
As for me, I’m happy to be buying groceries on Monday again.