A spending freeze is a great way to save money and reevaluate your expenses. If you’ve been losing control of your finances or if your spending habits have gotten a little (or a lot) out of control, a spending freeze is a great way to regroup.
I recently shared some things to consider before going on a spending freeze, but I also want to share some ways to ease into a spending freeze. A spending freeze isn’t for everyone, and it is really difficult. While my spending freeze was a great learning experience, it was a lot harder than I ever anticipated.
Here are some things to consider to prepare yourself before you go on a spending freeze:
Try a Spending Diet
By the end of my spending freeze, I have to admit that I was doing more of a “spending diet” than an actual spending freeze. We had several household expenses crop up over the month, and I found a couple great sales on meat that forced me to spend more than I wanted on my grocery budget of “just milk and bread” funds.
While you typically don’t spend anything (aside from bare necessities like milk) on a spending freeze, you try to spend less or focus on a certain area of your budget without cutting all spending on a spending diet.
Be Honest With Yourself
The good thing about a spending challenge is that it will force you to evaluate your spending habits (and maybe even learn something about yourself). I realized that I have a serious fear of missing out. Not missing out on life in general, but missing out on sales. If I know of a great deal, I’m going to shop! With a spending freeze, I wasn’t supposed to do that, and, for the most part, I was able to restrain myself. I did break down and buy jeans (October is the best time to buy jeans, after all!), and I continued my Christmas shopping, although I did think about each item and whether we really needed it.
Have a Backup Plan
On Day 1 of my spending freeze, I had to take my daughter to the doctor for an ear infection. At the end of the first week, our furnace stopped working and the spring on our garage door broke. Clearly, I was going to need to spend some money!
If you find yourself in the middle of a spending freeze with large, unexpected expenses, have a plan for how to pay for those items. For example, I paid for the furnace and garage door out of our “household fund” instead of pulling funds from our regular budget.
Try a Shorter Time Frame
I tried to follow the 31 Days of Living Well and Spending Zero challenge, but a month is a long time to not spend any money.
While the savings may be greater with longer spending freezes and diets, my recommendation is to stick to two weeks. That’s long enough to feel some pain but not so long that you feel the urge to run to the nearest restaurant and buy everything on the menu.
If you do decide to tackle a longer time period, try limiting your spending freeze to certain areas, such as pantry staples. Even after a month-long spending freeze, I still have items in my pantry that I won’t need to buy for a long time! If you still have items to use at the end of your spending freeze or diet, continue to follow your original plan but only for those certain items.
Be willing to get creative and use substitutes. Could you use beef broth instead of chicken broth? I did, and I didn’t even notice a difference! Experiment with the things that you do have and find new ways to have fun. We had a lot of popcorn parties in our house as we watched movies that we checked out from the library. The kids loved it and we were still bonding (for free) as a family.
Give Yourself Grace
Things happen. You may make mistakes and make a mad dash for Tim Horton’s in the middle of your spending freeze. I had to bribe my kids with fries from McDonald’s to get them through the grocery store (my mistake for taking them shopping in the first place) during the last week of my spending freeze. It’s ok. The “spending freeze police” won’t show up on your doorstep. Forgive yourself and move on. There’s always next time!
If you’re thinking about doing a spending freeze, you may need to check your willpower first. After that, make sure you have a backup plan and get ready to break out your creative side. You may find it easier to do a shorter time frame, but if not, try a spending diet and focus on one area of your budget that needs the most work.
It’ll be a long time before I ever attempt to do another spending freeze, but I may try a spending diet in the near future. I’ll still save money while evaluating my spending habits, but it won’t be nearly as intense as a spending freeze.
What about you? Have you ever done (or will you ever do) a spending freeze?