I Tried The Viral No-Buy January Challenge And Saved $1600
·20 min read
Hi, I'm Hannah, and I live in New York City — one of the most expensive cities in the world. This year, one of my New Year's resolutions was to be more intentional about budgeting, spending, and saving. I'm already someone who always looks out for a deal, but in order to challenge myself, I decided I'd try something new out to save money — No-Spend January.
Now, I have no idea if "No-Spend January" is actually a thing (it doesn't quite roll off the tongue), but it's based off the "No-Buy Year" Angela Szot (@vomitgrocery on TikTok) did last year, which went viral! Essentially, I decided I would go an entire month without spending money on anything but essentials. Here is what I deemed as essentials:
This month was INCREDIBLY difficult, and — spoiler alert — I ended up breaking a few rules. BUT I did learn a lot, and came away with some habits and tricks I'm going to use moving forward. Here's what I learned!
1.Apps like TooGoodToGo (where you can buy food from grocery stores and restaurants that would otherwise be thrown out at the end of the day) are a fantastic deal — if you're not picky.
2.Buy Nothing groups — where neighbors post items they're giving away or in need of, often on Facebook — are absolutely life-changing.
3.There's nothing wrong with things you find on the street!* Also, there are a ton of Instagram accounts and Facebook groups dedicated to items found on the street if you live in a major city.
4.Facebook Marketplace is also a good place to find free items — and to make money selling things. Though compared to the above options, I'd rank it last, as it's a major pain in the butt, and people can be pretty entitled. For example, in selling my old bed, I was flooded with messages, many simply asking if it was available or asking questions that were already answered in the description. The below interaction just made me laugh.
5.Impulse buying is a thing, even when it comes to functional items or "necessities." If I identify that I *need* something — for example, I "needed" plastic storage bins for under my bed — I usually just buy it right away from Amazon. This month, I couldn't do that, and I ended up being able to repurpose items I already had in my apartment for a solution I ended up liking even better.
6.The library is a beautiful, magical thing, and strongly aided me in my book-buying addiction. In fact, I read more books this month — 12 — than I've ever read in a month before, and I didn't buy a single book. I have a New York Public Library card, which I use via the free Libby app to check out e-books straight to my phone.
7.The absolute hardest part of this month was the isolation, because as I learned, it's extremely expensive to have a social life.
8.Another huge struggle this month? Most hobbies are also extremely expensive, leaving me with little to do when I was at home by myself besides reading, writing, and watching TV. However, I did try to do some creative things.
9.One unexpected benefit of the month was that it was much easier to get an idea of how much I specifically spent on these "essential" categories when I took away everything else. And reader — turns out I spend WAY too much on groceries. Like, I don't even want to tell you the number. This is one of my biggest takeaways of the month, actually: as I'm never going to be able to go *without* groceries, I need to find a way to basically halve what I'm spending on them. Here are some problems I identified:
10.With everything else stripped away, I was also able to take a look at subscriptions I have that I pay monthly, as well as my utilities and that was super helpful.
11.Finally, I learned what I didn't miss spending money on, and what wasn't really a problem in the first place.
Based on everything I learned, here are the goals I set for February — and not all of them were money-saving measures!
Now, you're probably wondering...did I actually complete No-Spend January? Well...unfortunately, no. I did break a lot of rules. I never pretended to be perfect!
At the end of the day, while it wasn't easy, this was definitely a valuable experience that helped me learn some smart saving habits. All told, even with my few cheats, I was able to save $1,600, which is amazing and a great start on my New Year's resolutions!
Now I'm curious — have you ever tried a No-Buy month or year? Let me know in the comments!
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