Let this be a November your bank account will remember.
To curb their total holiday spending, some Americans are trying something a little different: not spending money on anything but essentials in November. They’re calling it #NoSpendNovember and though it’s challenging (no Black Friday deals for you!), some are loving it.
Last year, Brownsville, Mich. resident Jennifer Tucker says she tried it, after being attracted to the idea not only because it could yield “exponential savings” but also because “there’s this mindset of commercialism from Halloween to Christmas” and she wanted “to take a pause from that” and instead focus on what she was grateful for in her life. So, last November, instead of spending time in her favorite stores like T.J. Maxx TJX, +1.06% and Marshall’s, she says she identified a handful of people she’d like to better connect with or help by doing things like putting up their Christmas tree or cooking them a meal.
Financial experts say #NoSpendNovember — even if you start it in mid-November and only do it for the remainder of the month — is a smart idea. “November is a great time for a spending tune up. With holidays around the corner, bills can pile up quickly,” says James C. Kelly, a wealth strategist at PNC Wealth Management in Philadelphia. “Even these shorter periods of time will really make you conscious of your spending,” says Tony Drake, the CEO and founder of wealth management group Drake & Associates in Waukesha, Wis. It may also have a long-term impact, says Kimberly Foss, the founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville, Calif. — as a #NoSpendNovember can help you “start building a new, healthier approach to your finances.”
The savings can be substantial: Consumers say they will spend an average of $1,048 this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. Whatever the number is for you, one thing is clear: If you truly only spend on essentials for a month, it could slash your spending by up to half, data shows.
Indeed, on average, Americans spend a little over 40% of their incomes each month on necessities, and the rest on everything else. So that means for some of us, we could cut out half of our monthly spending by doing a #NoSpendNovember and still put money into savings or pay off debt on top of that.
Of course, there are challenges — especially as Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales taunt you. “Willpower alone is most likely not enough to get you through the month,” says Mitchell C. Hockenbury, a financial planner at 1440 Financial Partners in Kansas City.
He recommends you set a specific dollar amount that you want to save in November (review your non-essential spending from last month to set a target) and get an “accountability partner” to help keep you on track. Drake and Foss recommend only using cash (no plastic) to curb spending, and Dusti Young of GreenPath Financial Wellness says that you should remove all the shopping apps from your phone.
But perhaps most important, visualize what you’ll gain by doing a #NoSpendNovember: “The more you save during November, the more extra cash you’ll have in December,” says Foss. And the less time you spend shopping, the more time you can spend with loved ones: “This isn’t just about a dollar amount,” says Tucker.
This story was updated on Nov. 1, 2019.