For me, the major stress of the holidays always comes down to my wallet. I have a big family and love spoiling all of my loved ones with the perfect holiday gifts. While I like to imagine that I’m the queen of DIY presents, I usually just end up going into full-on holiday shopping mode on Black Friday, stockpiling tons of store-bought gifts into every crevice of my apartment. Since I’m in no hurry to cut back on my holiday spending, I typically just look for ways to be *extra* careful with my finances in other ways.
This year, I decided to go one step beyond my usual seasonal budgeting tactics and try out a spending-free weekend early in November. I figured it would give me a chance to sock away a few extra dollars before I start my gift shopping (and, let’s be real, test my willpower). If you’ve been thinking about trying a spending-free weekend, I definitely learned a few things that’ll help you make it all the way to Monday on the cheap.
MAKING THE (FLEXIBLE) RULES FOR MY MONEY-FREE WEEKEND
The beauty of planning a spending-free weekend is that you get to make the rules. There’s not a single correct way to get through the weekend. Just by setting the intention to do it, you’re taking a positive step that will pay off (literally). It can be difficult to find a weekend on my calendar that’s totally free of events that require spending some cash, so I created guidelines that would work for my situation.
The weekend I chose for this experiment happened to coincide with my best friend’s birthday, and since I already knew there was a dinner planned for her, I simply decided that I wouldn’t spend any money outside of that celebration. Allowing for this kind of flexibility made it possible for me to go spending-free for the vast majority of a weekend that otherwise would have cost me a lot more. So it was still way more financially productive than waiting around for a weekend when I knew that I could *really* get away with spending zero dollars!
THE RESULTS: MONEY FREE BY STAYING FOCUSED ON MY GOALS
Outside of the birthday dinner, I was able to successfully pull off a no-spend weekend. It felt SO good to put myself further ahead of my budget for the holidays, and it was also a great way to physically and mentally refresh before the chaos of my favorite season. My goal was to add to my “fun money” fund so that I can enjoy the holiday season without constantly checking my bank balance.
During the month of December, I love to treat myself to fun Christmastime activities (tickets to see the Rockettes here in New York City, a fun holiday date with my husband, a new party dress), but I don’t like to give up the money I need to spoil all the loved ones on my list with thoughtful, high-quality gifts. To help keep me motivated toward these goals during my money-free weekend, I spent my low-key weekend researching gifts and checking out fun local activities that I might want to put my extra spending money toward.
HOW TO GET THROUGH — AND ENJOY — THE WEEKEND WITHOUT SPENDING A DIME
Here are a few simple tips to help you succeed at your spending-free weekend, whether you’re gearing up for holiday shopping or simply trying to be a little extra frugal year-round.
1. Set reasonable expectations. If you have an event scheduled that you can’t miss or suddenly end up with a nasty cold and need an emergency run to the drugstore, it doesn’t mean that you have to put your no-spend plan on hold! While a complete temporary spending freeze is obviously ideal, the primary goal of an experiment like this is to cut out all unnecessary expenses. Be practical, and do the best you can.
2. Make a list of cool free things to do *before* your money-free weekend. There are fun things to do that don’t cost a thing. Make a list ahead of time of all of the free museums, cool urban hikes and parks, YouTube fitness videos and events that are free to attend. Don’t leave it until Saturday, when you’re bored and at risk of giving up on your attempt to not spend a dime. If nothing else, head to your local library and check out all of the popular books you have yet to read.
3. Embrace the downtime. A spending-free weekend is naturally going to be calm and quiet, so use the time to relax and refresh. This is the perfect opportunity to catch up on that new show you’ve been meaning to binge watch or to finish the book that’s been sitting next to your bed for months. Maybe you can even catch up on some much-needed sleep!
4. Get outside. Spend an afternoon exploring nature, or challenge yourself to take a walk in your city without doing any shopping. It can be tempting to window shop during the holidays, but if you can resist the urge, even taking a brisk walk outside to enjoy the festive holiday window displays is a great option.
5. Find a buddy. If you’re worried that a weekend without spending will be too lonely, make it a social event and invite a friend or two to join you. Host a no-cost slumber party and see how creative you can get with free activities around your home. Cook a dinner with the items already in your kitchen, then test out a new hair or makeup style.
6. Be productive. What better opportunity to knock some items off your to-do list than a weekend when your social life is already limited? Get some cleaning done around the apartment, organize your closet and make a pile of clothes to donate to charity, catch-up on phone calls and get a jump on meal prep for the week.
Would you try a spending-free weekend? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)