It’s time for #NoSpendNovember—and it may be easier than ever for you to do it.

By Alisa Wolfson
October 21, 2020
Credit: Getty Images

Much like Sober October encourages people to refrain from drinking, No Spend November aims to help people stop spending money on anything non-essential during the month of November. The goal is to keep people in financial check leading up to the holidays—and this year, it might be easier than ever to participate.

Indeed, 57% of Americans say they are already spending less than they normally would because of concerns about the economy, according to Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate. Plus, amid the pandemic, big in-store holiday shopping days like Black Friday will likely be far less popular and tempting this year. “That might make it easier to continue the type of restraint necessary to pile up additional savings or continue to pay down debt,” says McBride.

Martina Pineda, a 23-year-old in Cincinnati, did a No Spend November last year and plans to do it again this year. She says it inspires her to look at her spending from the past few months, and then consciously avoid mindless consumption or buying simply out of convenience. “It allows me to slow down and reflect on my habits and how they’re easily influenced by social norms,” says Pineda. 

Dara B., a 38-year-old mom in California who asked that her last name be excluded, says she began what she refers to as a month-long shopping embargo two years ago. “It felt really good to examine what my family and I really needed versus what we wanted,” says Dara. “I won’t buy clothing, toys, books or craft projects on Amazon. No impulse kitchen gadget purchases either, just barebones spending.” In addition to wanting her kids to have an awareness of mindless spending and to embrace what they already have, Dara says having money saved from a no-shopping holiday to use in post-COVID-19 life is a nice incentive.

Indeed, the holiday can be an excellent way to reset your spending habits and reassess your financial goals—something that may be particularly relevant this year with millions unemployed and millions more experiencing pay cuts, says Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with “First, ask yourself what you could accomplish if you had more money that you can’t accomplish now due to your current spending habits,” says Ramhold.

Arielle Bittoni, chief wealth strategist at Refresh Investments, says the benefits of committing to a No Spend November include becoming aware of non-essential expenses that you can reduce, creating good financial habits and feeling more confident and in control of your financial life. “To stay ahead of the curve, we need to be vigilant and continuously plan for the expected so we are prepared for the unexpected,” says Bittoni. If No Spend November piques your interest, here’s how to approach a spending hiatus so you can actually stick to it:

Make a realistic, but challenging, plan. If only spending on necessities for a whole month seems extreme to you, experts say you can tweak this slightly. “Note what it is that you would normally spend money on in November that you could refrain from doing or buying this year,” says McBride. “Identifying specific categories of spending to refrain from for the entire month or identifying a specific period of time, like one pay period, can make practicing No Spend November more successful,” says McBride. It may be that during your No Spend November, it’s all about not buying any new holiday decor or clothing, for example. That said, make sure your No Spend November is an actual challenge, experts say. 

Create a holiday budget. “Make a holiday budget that lists the estimated costs you expect to spend on presents, packaging and postage for out-of-town cards and gifts,” says certified public accountant Sophie Trautschold. “This budget will give you an idea of how much you need to save and encourage you to stick to a No Spend November plan.”

If there is a truly great deal, it may be OK to snap it up. “You don’t want to be penny wise and pound foolish,” McBride says. So, for example, “if there’s something you’ve been waiting for a deal on, like the Google Nest Hub Max,” you can put it on your OK-to-buy list, Ramhold says.