Call it being broke, call it extreme budgeting, but more and more women are introducing spending bans as a way to heal their hurting finances or save up for something special. For me, it conjures up the part in Sophie Kinsella's "Shopaholic" when Becky Bloomwood attempts to rein in her spending by becoming frugal and has to buy a whole litany of products to kick off her new thrifty lifestyle.
One thing Becky had right was writing down every dollar she spent. Writing down your expenditures will show you where your money is going and also how difficult it is to really spend 0 dollars, even for just one day. But often, a spending ban isn't inspired by a desire to completely curtail all spending, but by a financial goal.
"I usually institute a spending ban after I realize my spending is getting out of control," said Jennifer Porter, a model and marketer in the D.C. metro area. "[One] trigger this year was looking at my shopping email account (the one I send all my order confirmations to) and realized that the entire first page was orders and shipping notices. For this ban, I am using the money to pay down credit card debt and increase my emergency savings."
Setting a specific goal is more useful than just generally sputtering, "I've gotta stop spending money!" That way there's an end in sight, and a tangible reward. Some women use a spending ban to save up for a wish list item, like saying no lunches out or shopping until I have enough for those shoes.
There are some unexpected benefits to a ban, in addition to saving money. "I think the biggest benefit of doing a ban is that I push myself to wear what I have," Porter said. "I tend to get caught up in the idea of wearing a new outfit and neglect the pieces that I already own. When I know that the money is not in my shopping budget I tend to become more creative with what I already have."
Since your spending patterns are fairly ingrained, you may have to change some of your behaviors to keep on track. Packing a lunch or brewing your morning coffee at home are obvious examples, but Porter also avoids her usual shopping triggers.
"I am constantly inspired by store emails, blogs, Tumblr, Pinterest, magazines, store windows, TV, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, street style here in D.C. and basically everything I interact with on a daily basis," she said. "This make it ridiculously hard to keep the ban going, my solution for it is to just cold turkey. I don't read my blogs, I delete emails in the morning from my iPhone before I have a chance to read them. I also don't buy magazines or window shop."
While your ban may be more or less extreme, find what works for you and your goals.