How a ‘no spend week’ can free up cash

Could you go a whole week without spending a single penny? While a 'no spend week' sounds almost impossible to do, our family discovered that this money saving strategy is an easy way to free up cash for an emergency bill. A 'no spend week' is all about eliminating discretionary spending for a one week and looking for no cost alternatives.

Our family schedules a 'no spend week' every few months and have done so for the past 20 years. We've discovered that when spending is not an option, all of us become more creative in the ways we manage to get what we need without having to pull out our wallets. A 'no spend week' usually saves us between $100-$250 which is then used to pay an unexpected bill or reduce our debt. Here's how we make a 'no spend week' work for us.

Choose a week when bills aren't due.

A zero spending week doesn't mean shirking your regular bills like the mortgage, utility payments or a credit card payment. It does mean NOT spending money on all that other stuff, the incidentals that we can live without for a week. I always schedule our monthly 'no spend weeks' during the month when there aren't any bills coming due -- for us, it's the 2nd week of the month.

Prep yourself for no spending.

While some people load up the cars with gas and the frig with food at the beginning of their 'no spend week,' I've always felt that this defeats the whole purpose. Aside from making sure we have half a tank of gas in our Beetle and no prescriptions coming up for renewal, we start our zero spending week with what we've got in the house. This forces me to reach deep into the freezer for long forgotten cuts of meat and soup bones, and cooking all our meals 'from scratch.'

We also tuck a $20 bill in a jar in case my teen gets a last minute invite to a birthday party (and needs cash) or my husband is required to attend a staff breakfast at a local restaurant. Even though the goal of the week is zero spending, we do make accommodations for an unexpected event that's important.

Find the free alternatives.

So, instead of buying a coffee on the way to work, consider packing a thermos of coffee from home. And when lunchtime rolls around, dig into a sack lunch that you've packed yourself instead of blowing $10 in the cafeteria. Other ideas include:

--Taking the kids to a local lake or the riverside park instead of a water park

--Making a birthday gift, gift wrap, and cards instead of buying them

--Riding your bike to work instead of driving or riding the bus (if possible)

--Baking cookies & cupcakes 'from scratch' instead of buying them ready-made from a local bakery

--Hosting a (potluck) home movie night instead of going out to the megaplex

--Visiting the library and renting (instead of buying) a book, CD, or DVD

--Making home repairs with materials you have on hand

--Search the internet for homemade recipes for shampoo, soap, cleansers, and seasoning packets in case you run out

--Barter with a neighbor for the things you need

--Scoping out the free activities that your community has to offer instead of paying for this, that, and everything else. You'll be amazed to discover how many free events there are!

Zero spending is not about pushing this week's debt into the next week but finding creative ways to take care of your family's needs without spending any money at all. While the task may seem daunting at first, you'll discover like our family did that a 'no spend week' can be a lot of fun.

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