Could You Do a No Buy January?

by Katy on January 6, 2017 · 30 comments

This blog post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.

January 1st is an opportunity for a clean slate, and for most people that means the traditional new year’s resolution to eat less, exercise more and get organized. But if you’re a Clark Howard fan, your resolutions likely lean towards a financial theme such as “spend less and save more.” However, for a growing number of Americans, this vague goal is simply not enough. Enter the wildly popular No Buy January, which is sweeping across the blogosphere.

No spend January resolutions go by a number of different names such as Uber Frugal Month, Fiscal Fast or January Money Diet, but the idea is the same. Spend the month of January buying just the absolute essentials. Yes, you can buy food, medication and pay your bills, but gone are restaurant meals, recreational shopping and all those pick-me-up lattés. You’re also encouraged to take a look at what you consider “essential” and trim that down as well.

The popular Frugalwoods.com blog has signed up thousands of readers for their Uber Frugal Month, which challenges readers to:

  1. Examine all of your spending.
  2. Categorize mandatory vs. discretionary expenses.
  3. Identify areas where you can reduce or eliminate spending–and then do it!
  4. Go as frugal as you possibly can for one whole entire month.
  5. At the end of the month, identify what level of frugality is feasible for YOU to embrace for the longterm.

FrugalBeautiful.com adds in to “declutter, donate and repurpose,” which brings in all those who resolve to organize their way through 2017.

When asked if they were participating in a no spend January challenge, members of The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group answered in the affirmative.

  • “YES! My second year. This year I am focusing on eating food already in the house, and no clothes, accessories, or etc. And I am not stocking up in advance – just drawing down overstocks and not extras”
  • “I am keeping it to using what we have in our pantry and deep freezer. I will need to get staples like milk, bread, eggs but I have a grocery gift card I can use. Will use time to declutter and sell some unneeded things. I also plan to catch up on reading some library books, go on long walks with hubby, watch library rented movies, make cookies with frozen dough, or play board games with kids.”
  • “Packing lunches, no coffee out, only going to free activities if near. Game nights and movie nights at home with popcorn and fudge instead of going out. No clothes or anything else bought except for necessities but I think I will have everything bought in this last grocery trip to cover what we will need for the month.”

Despite any and all best intentions, December is a challenging month to stay on budget, which is why devoting January to extreme frugality holds such timely appeal. A detox from gluttonous holiday overspending in the name of financial stability. Want to join the No Buy January movement but don’t know where to start? You can always sign up for The Frugalwood’s Uber Frugal Month e-mail a day for ideas and inspiration.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Frugal In The Valley January 7, 2017 at 3:11 am

This is my mission in life, not just this year but forever. I will begin with this year though…don’t want to get too overexcited!

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A. Marie January 7, 2017 at 5:20 am

I’ve been doing a sort of involuntary no-spend December and first week of January, due to (1) crappy weather, (2) too much telecommuting work at home, and (3) a lost credit card this week (we’re still waiting for the replacement). So I may need to do some spending, at least for essentials, once all three conditions improve. But not spending on non-essentials has been the law of the land at our house for a while now.

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Nicoleandmaggie January 7, 2017 at 5:59 am
marieann January 7, 2017 at 6:08 am

I sort of do a no spend life, I will admit though December we usually open the purse strings.
I don’t usually commit to a time frame for spending, for instance we will be visiting family in the US next week and I will stop by Joanns sewing store to buy notionsI need that I cannot get in Canada.
However I think a no spend month is an excellent idea and I hope your post encourages lots of readers to try it. Once you become a non consumer, you can’t go back!!

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Mariana January 7, 2017 at 6:23 am

Besides the bills and groceries I spent an absolute $0 so far. 7 days into January and it has not been as hard at all. Today I am organizing the house to recycle and donate more items.
Saving $$$ is my biggest priority this year.

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LisaC January 7, 2017 at 6:24 am

We do this in the summertime, because we live in a tourist area. The prices are so high in the summertime that we buy food on sale in the winter and make it last in the lean summer months.

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WilliamB January 7, 2017 at 7:50 am

This doesn’t fit my style. I am a “moderator” not an “all or thing-ator.” I’ll lose it and go wild if I try to cut out everything. It’s true for junk food, for spending, for book buying, …

OTOH I can succeed if I aim to consume less. So that’s why I choose that strategy. The definition of “less in January” may be a bit weird, though: now that the holiday travel is done with, I’m getting a dog.

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WilliamB January 7, 2017 at 7:52 am

Oops. “all or thing-ator.” should be “all or nothing-ator.”

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Lucy January 7, 2017 at 10:36 am

Congrats on the dog! You will enjoy an enriched life!

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WilliamB January 7, 2017 at 5:34 pm

Got one! He’s a 6 year old Beagle mix, utterly sweet and low key, and dealing well with his new home so far. Got half off the adoption fee (which includes chip and neutering) because he’s “old.”

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Lucy January 8, 2017 at 5:29 am

Thank you for giving an older guy a chance!

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WilliamB January 8, 2017 at 6:46 am

I feel lucky to have to have gotten him – he’s thoroughly a sweetie. Today I had to pry his mouth open to remove a food-shaped thing – scary, given that I barely know him. His reaction? “Oh, OK. Go ahead. Please pet me now.”

I’m the lucky dog here, if you ask me.

Lindsey January 7, 2017 at 3:13 pm

Don’t know what kind of dog you are getting but we have two Danes and have pet insurance for both of them; you may want to consider doing the same. In 8 years, we have had only one year where the insurance didn’t pay for itself. One year it was the difference between getting treatment or putting down one of our dogs because the injuries from being hit by a car were massive and we would have had to go into significant debt to pay for the treatment. We loved the dog but we had had a massive financial slam the previous year from a catastrophic illness so would have had to make the awful decision. However, the insurance paid all but $150 of the fees; it was a miracle.

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WilliamB January 7, 2017 at 5:36 pm

I’m so glad that’s worked out for you. I’m still pondering the question. The adoption papers include a free vet visit (hurrah!), so I’ll ask them while I’m there.

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April January 7, 2017 at 6:54 pm

I’m the same way. Extremes are really hard for me to adhere to. But cutbacks and scale-downs are extremely appealing to me.

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Roberta January 7, 2017 at 7:51 am

I was planning not to buy anything, but I’v finally given up on my pillow — I need a good night’s sleep! Since I have to go to Target I’m planning to stock up on cleaning supplies with the coupon. With “no-buy” challenges, I always get stuck on issues like that. Should I buy cleaning supplies on sale ($15 off $50, and I can no longer use homemade laundry soap in my machine) or should I stick with the challenge? This month I’m buying the sale item, for the overall budget good, and trying to limit spending elsewhere.

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WilliamB January 7, 2017 at 7:54 am

Roberta, I’m with you. Skipping the sale on something you’d need to buy later, for more, is penny wise and pound foolish.

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Lucy January 7, 2017 at 10:39 am

We do No Spend October, November, and December to aid in paying our farm insurance in December. We bought milk, bread, eggs, and minimal animal feed. In January we begin cherry-picking and building a new stockpile.

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Mrs. Picky Pincher January 7, 2017 at 10:42 am

I’m signed up for the Uber Frugal Challenge and it’s been great so far. 🙂 I’ve even gotten Mr. Picky Pincher on board and we’ve been analyzing our expenses more than usual, which is fantastic.

I’m hoping we can increase our savings to 60% this month thanks to the challenge. We’ll see how we do!

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Tracy January 7, 2017 at 11:08 am

I am signed up for the Frugalwoods Uberfrugal challenge to receive emails and participate in the spirit of it. My version of January no spend month does not include groceries, although I am trying to clean out freezer and last holiday bits in the fridge, eat more veggie meals, and no spending on any junk food. Because I think my no-spend month should not inconvenience others, I have gone out for a restaurant meal which another two friends which we had scheduled some weeks ago to celebrate a friend’s birthday, and I have purchased a birthday gift for my husband’s niece (their family tradition does not include alternative gifts and I am respecting that). I am doing a buy nothing new year for 2017 (to include clothes, accessories, books, and non-essential household items) and for January I am not allowing myself to step into even a Goodwill or other thrift store. I am also taking public transit 80% of time to avoid parking ($12/day) and am taking my food for breakfast/lunch at work. So, on the whole I would say I am doing a “much-reduced” spend Janaury if not a true no spend January. I am finding my attitude is already adjusting and I am thinking of small expenditures that I would not previously have even thought twice about (for example have virtually eliminated Starbucks except for very limited situations involving other people). I am so psyched to reduce consumption!

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Kathryn January 7, 2017 at 11:14 am

Wow, I’m trendy… who knew? I’m doing a No-Spend month here, after our December excesses. We’re working through our freezer and pantry, buying only perishable staples like milk, and some fresh veggies. I’m even doing most of my laundry by hand (five gallon bucket and a never-used-in-the-toilet plunger) in an effort to lower our electricity consumption. So far I’m not finding it to be an unpleasant task.

I’m making one exception… this is my birthday month and I get a discount at my local quilt shop, so I’m buying some fabric to finish up projects.

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Trish January 7, 2017 at 11:44 am

I usually do a no-shopping spree in January to catch savings back up after Christmas. We can’t really commit to a no-spend month this year, though, as we are right in the middle of a home improvement project that needs doing and my son is rapidly outgrowing all of his clothes. We have been hitting up the Habitat for Humanity Restore for building supplies and thrift stores and online swap sites for kids clothes. We also signed our son up for swimming lessons at the Y. We really want him swimming by summer for safety reasons. (We have a large pond in our back yard and I am am having another baby so my attention may be divided).

To compensate, I borrowed maternity pants from my cousin, am using shoe polish to fix up my leather purse and shoes to make them do a bit longer, and my husband is selling things on ebay, amazon, and craigslist.

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rebecca January 7, 2017 at 3:37 pm

I may have even gotten this from you but I subscribed to bookbub. Tons of free books available…at least one a day.

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Marcia January 7, 2017 at 4:21 pm

I COULD do a no spend month, but I’m not going to, because I’m doing some judicious spending on sale/coupon items. I bought a pair of sneakers at 50% off, wrapping paper for the next two years (approx) for 40% off, and a tee shirt in my favorite color, which hasn’t been available for over a year, for 20% off. I also found a pair of fleece lined yoga pants at the supermarket marked down to $3.25. They are warm as toast, although if they don’t stretch a bit, they will be strictly for at home wear! On the other hand, I’m well stocked with groceries and spent only $35 this week on dairy, fruit, etc. I have no further buying plans, although if I see something we need at a good price, I will probably buy.

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K D January 7, 2017 at 4:26 pm

So far this year I have only purchased food and a used pencil sharpener. Now that you have issued the challenge I will try to only buy food and drugs and pay the bills. I have to make an exception for meals out, I have one planned with a friend for next week.

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Marie January 7, 2017 at 4:53 pm

well i usually are very frugal with money, but i’ve only bought cat litter, and 2 marked down suets for the birds so far this year. excluding$30 for fuel for my truck. we did get an inheritance, which half will be put away, and the rest will go on our mortgage. cant really think of anything we need this month, but bread,milk, and veggies. i use cash for Christmas, so i dont have bills coming in. so i think i have this month covered. not a planned buy nothing month but im still participating!!

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Cindy in the South January 7, 2017 at 7:52 pm

Doing the No Spend challenge with Frugalwoods, and The Compact, suggested by Katy. So far, so good. Zero spent on the grocery front, and only paid bills….the land taxes, my driver’s license renewal (which had totally slipped my mind), gas for car to get to work, mortgage, electricity, and water. I cooked up a lot for next week lunches, that can be taken in my glass jar to work (zero waste packaging)…I am listening to bluegrass music on public radio. So far so good. I have always been frugal, but I have always had a problem with buying extra snacks at the convenience store and Dollar General. This challenge has been a good reset in thinking at gas stations.

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ilona January 8, 2017 at 5:29 am

A recent article form the UK featured a couple who did a buy-nothing year.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/buy-nothing-year-one-woman-saved-22000/

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l bryant January 8, 2017 at 8:11 am

I will do a no buy month but January can’t be it. I feel that if you are responsible and evaluate your real “needs” than January can be a great month to make necessary purchases (I do examine the likelihood of finding the items second hand before purchase). Christmas. holiday items, kitchen, appliances, birthday, household , anniversary, graduation, and wedding gifts are on huge markdowns. In addition all of the office supply stores are in major sale mode and this is when I stock up for our business. I feel February is a much better time for a spending “freeze”.

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