3 tips for a successful no-spend day

By Marianne Curphey

Nov. 24 marks "Buy Nothing Day," a national campaign that encourages consumers to give up shopping for 24 hours.

If you want to build up a savings pot or are trying to get out of credit card debt, one useful way to rein in your expenses is to have a "no spend" day. -- If you're extra motivated, you could even try a no-spend week or month. The idea is that, for an entire day or more, you buy only the necessities, such as petrol and food (and pay essential household bills, of course).

While no-spend days can provide much-needed financial detox, it can be difficult not to stray from your good intentions. Here are three tips from financial experts -- some of whom have attempted no-spend days themselves -- for pulling it off successfully.

Reward yourself
Suzy Greaves is a life coach, entrepreneur and founder of The Big Leap Coaching Company. She's been experimenting with no-spend days herself to see whether she could fund a debt-free holiday next year simply by cutting back on non-essential items.

"To make it work you have to set it up as a challenge and make it fun," Greaves says. "I created a 'Mission Impossible' and gave myself a big free reward at the end of the day -- it can be really empowering."

You need to start not with a mind-set of deprivation, but one of learning and adventure.

   -- Suzy Greaves, life coach

Making the experience rewarding can also help you maintain positive attitude necessary to make it through a no-spend day.

"You need to start not with a mind-set of deprivation but one of learning and adventure," Greaves says.

In fact, the money you save might be enough of a reward. Greaves suggests adding up how much you would spend on drinks, coffee, lunches out and magazines over the course of a day or week. It might work out like this: £10 a day saved equals £70 a week and nearly £300 a month.

"Motivate yourself by working out how many pounds richer you will be by the end of the month, and think about how you will use that extra money," Greaves says. no-spend-day

In addition, write down a list of all things you wanted to buy but didn't. This way, you have a record of your success -- and can form a habit of celebrating saving rather than buying.

"It will have a knock-on effect on your whole life -- delayed gratification is a brilliant skill to learn," Greaves says.

Prepare for the cravings that will inevitably come
Buy your rail tickets in advance, carry a bottle of water  and make coffee at home to prevent yourself from having to make unplanned purchases throughout your day. Leave your debit and credit cards at home, and carry only enough cash for emergencies.

When the craving to buy something on impulse hits (and it will), it's time for some mental tricksbecause outright denial makes cravings worse. "When you feel a craving, tell yourself, 'You can have it. Just not today or right now,'"Greaves says. More often than not, in a couple hours, you won't want the item anymore.

While waiting for the cravings to subside, distract yourself with another activity. Walk, drink water or read a book, Greaves says.

Another way to enforce delayed gratification is what Leo Babauta, blogger at Zenhabits and author of the book The Power of Less, likes to call the "30-day rule."

"Money can just slip through our hands if we're not aware," he says. As an experiment, Babauta tracked every penny, just to get an idea of what he was spending money on.

"Every time you want to buy something that's not absolutely essential (anything other than groceries), put it on your 30-day list, with the date the item was added," Babauta says.

Money can just slip through our hands, if we're not aware.

-- Leo Babauta, blogger

The rule is that you can't buy anything until it's been on the list for 30 days. What often happens, Babauta says, is that after a few weeks, you realize you don't really need the item.

"This helps you to be aware of your urges, and to curb those impulse buys," Babauta says.

Know what your emotional triggers are
Sometimes we go shopping because we are bored, frustrated or stressed. Instead, do something rewarding, like going for a walk or chatting to a friend, to keep you from spending money, says money coach Simonne Gnessen of Wise Monkey Financial Coaching.

"Success is about pre-planning," she says. "Think about what your day or week is going to look like, and, if you know you are going to be busy or stressed, think about what your emotional triggers are which tempt you to spend."

Change your habits and avoid the shops at lunchtime, and find a different way to walk home or to your train or bus. If you're still falling into your old money traps, recruit a no-spend friend to make the journey with you.

"It is tempting to let yourself off with an excuse, but we are less likely to let other people down, so by recruiting a friend to help you with no spend days you are more likely to succeed," Gnessen says. "You can hold each other to account and remind each other of the benefits of what you are doing."

See similar: How to track your spending without going mad, Debt payoff strategy: Selling your stuff

Published: 27 October 2012