In January of 2018, frustrated by the excessiveness of the holidays and how much money I’d spent, I decided to scale back the spending to the bare minimum for 30 days. It forced me to spend thoughtfully and creatively—I borrowed and reused things, scoured free forums to find specific items that I needed, and spent frugally.
And surprisingly enough, changing my spending habits wasn’t terribly difficult. Because I placed specific constraints on myself at the beginning of the month, I didn’t have to spend time or energy deciding whether to buy X or Y. The decision had already been made.
Do not spend money on anything other than groceries, fixed costs (housing, school, utilities), or basic necessities. And by necessities, I mean must-haves, like medication or diapers, not nice-to-haves. No impulse purchases or mindless buys. No doorbusters. No Amazon deals of the day, no Amazon at all. No presents, movies, restaurants, or monthly subscriptions.
*Go cash only. It forces you to be a conscious spender because you withdraw a limited amount.
*Pack your own lunches.
*Create a list before you go to the grocery store and stick to it.
*Take advantage of the library and free online podcast apps like Overcast.
*Buy used or get free. Beyond Craigslist, eBay, and Tradesy.com, there are hundreds of local sites (like Nextdoor.com or Freecycle.org) or local Facebook groups where people within your community buy, sell, and give things away.
*Remove your credit cards from your computer’s autofill.
*Comparison shop. Browser extensions like InvisibleHand (Google Chrome) automatically scan the web to look for a better deal.