Planning a No Spend Week or: How to Save Extra Money when You Don't have Extra Money
As a large(ish) family living on one income, I’m always looking for ways to save money and lower our weekly and monthly expenses. Through talking to other woman, reading books, blogs and my own trial and error process, God has blessed us with many different ways to save!
I recently have been using another method to save money, called a no spend week. My no spend week is a chance to save a little money in addition to whatever Daniel brings in. Admittedly, my no spend week savings go towards… “fun” money.
We often have a little extra left over at the end of each week, and unless there is something we are in need of or some unforeseen bill or expenses, that’s our “extra” or fun money for the weekend. We don’t do much, normally it’s a weekend breakfast out as a family, gas money to take the Jeeps out to the beach or date night money. So although there is that extra amount, I hate spending our family fun weekend money on say, a new rug. Daniel always encourages me to use what we have if I find something I like (he is so generous and giving!) but I know that the kids and us will have more memories from being at the beach for the day, than say me getting on them for stepping on my new rug with muddy shoes! So, my no spend week is a way for me to have a little fund that I can use to buy things for the home or keep hidden away for a rainy day, it’s a mini savings that won’t take away from the money we put into savings or take away from our weekend fun money budget!
What is a no spend week?:
* A no spend week is where you do just that, don’t spend anything that week!
Normally each week I carefully budget our $160 to account for all meals for the five of us for the week plus groceries like toilet paper, diapers, pet food, ect. I plan our weekly menu and shop for that week.
* During my “no spend week” I don’t go shopping for anything but some fresh fruit and some milk. That’s it! So for my first week of trying out this method, I saved myself about $140.00! Of course you could take it one step farther and buy nothing, but I get very picky about milk and we eat so much fruit that it would be almost impossible for us not to buy any fruit in a week.
Planning your no spend week:Now I say that my first week I saved $140.00 but that took 4-6 weeks of preparation. It‘s a simple plan, you just need to be diligent about keeping stock of what you have and not use the food you are preparing for your week of not buying anything!
I’m sure there are many people who could do this in less time or on a bigger scale, but this plan is specifically for anyone who doesn’t plan on spending anything more than they normally would in a week’s time.
Here is step by step how to plan your no spend week:
* Buy what’s on sale! This seems obvious, but pay attention to anything that is at a super low price and stock up! If fruit is on sale (and often there is something at it’s peak of ripeness so the price is dramatically cut down.) buy it and freeze! Sale prices on specific items seem to rotate every 4-6 weeks. Our local grocery store has a sale on our favorite bread once a month or so, instead of $1.88 it’s $0.88 that week. So I always buy twice what we need, so I can stash a weeks worth of bread in the freezer for later but I still haven’t spent a penny more than I normally would have.
* Check out the clearance carts! Lots of small town grocery stores will have a cart or part of an aisle dedicated to clearanced out food. (It’s often just discontinued items or dented cans) this can be a hit or miss, but if you check them every week for 4-6 weeks and stash away at home anything you buy from the clreaenced aisle, you normally have a nice little stash of food for cheap!
*Always divide up your snacks! I keep 2 plastic shoes boxes in my pantry. One at eye level and one larger sized one (with a lid) way on top in back of the pantry where no one can see it! When I buy a box of nutri grain bars, I dump them all into the main shoe box and stash 2 in my secret shoe box. If I buy pop tarts, all but one pack goes in the snack shoe box. When I buy mini pretzels or animal crackers, ect. I divide the bag up into a bunch of sandwich size ziplock bags and always stash a bag away. At the end of the month for my so spend week, I always have plenty of filler snacks on hand!
*Freezer meals! This is one of the biggest ways to save money! In order to have enough dinners for your no spend week, you have to squeeze out about 1 to 2 extra dinners a week from your normal budget (without spending extra) . This can be done fairly easy as long as you are willing to get a bit creative! For example, If I’m making meatballs, I add a little oatmeal and some cooked rice to the recipe. Because of that I can then add in extra tomato paste, egg and anything else the recipe calls for. So one pound of ground meat can quickly turn into 2 pounds worth of meatballs. (and they taste just as delicious, I promise!) IN fact, I almost never cook ground beef by itself anymore. By adding finely shredded carrots and onions, you can gain about an additional half pound of “meat” from one pound of ground beef, plus your sneaking in carrots! When I do that, I divived the meat portion for whatever Im making in half and freeze the rest of the meat for tacos.
French bread pizzas are another good cheap and yummy freezer meal. You can normally pick up French bread for cheap on the bakery sale rack. (once again, not spending anything extra) Then just slice the bread lengthways, top with sauce cheese and whatever toppings you have and bake half and freeze the other half for later!
So that’s how you squeeze out extra dinners, just 1-2 a week and before you know it you have a stash quickly built up!
* I also do this with breakfast! Make extra pancakes, freeze half, make extra French toast, freeze half. Using the extra ingredients doesn’t take away enough from our pantry to send me to the store for anything more, but that is at least 2 breakfasts worth sitting in the freezer.
Week 3By the last 2 weeks of prep, I start to take stock of what I have in my pantry and what I have already saved specifically for my no spend week. I build a menu based off of that then make a list of what meals or snacks I’ll still need. I don’t need much and can easily squeeze what I need out of the budget for the next 2 weeks.
Week 4Make hay while the sun shines! Basically, if you’re like us, there are always some weeks you have more money than others. The weeks that hubby got a little overtime or less bills were due that week, that’s when I take the few extra dollars and buy an extra thing of toilet paper or an extra package of diapers and stash away for later. With all this meal planning don’t forget other household necessities!
Week 5On the last week I make sure we have the bulk of the freshest food, like extra fresh vegetables and lots of eggs. We eat eggs often, (scrambled eggs, deviled eggs, hard boiled, in cooking…) so I’ll buy a pack of 5 dozen this week (around $9.00) and that will be more than enough for this week’s menu and next week.
Week 6Bask in all of your hard work and money saved! Since my menu is already planned out, I don’t even need to do that this week, yet alone grocery shopping! Like I said, I do keep a little grocery money on hand ($20.00 more or less) but the rest is there to do what we want! Not only that, but I didn’t realize what a break it would give me the rest of the week as well. Other than sometimes whipping up a side dish, I really didn’t cook all week! I would pull a dinner out of the freezer the night before and stick it in the fridge, then throw it in the oven right before dinner. No prep, no cooking, no dishes yet we still had a good home cooked meal each night.
Breakfast was just as easy! The weekend was pretty much breakfast casserole or quiche and during the week if we wanted French toast, I just would use the toaster to dethaw and heat it up!
As long as you are willing to put in a little extra effort with meal planning and have some patience, you can easily save $150 or more depending on your weekly grocery budget. This has really helped me save some money, what are some of your favorite sneaky ways to save money?