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Spoiler alert: The author saved an extra $300 in just one week! (Image: Getty Images)

5 steps to executing a 'no spend' week

If you Google “how to save money,” it’s likely you’ll find an article telling you that you need to stop spending money on “extras” like your morning coffee, a $10 salad lunch, a mindless TJ Maxx run or happy hour.

In an effort to save money (and aggressively pay off my student loans), I’ve been looking for ways to adjust my spending habits. I know that those mindless little purchases really add up, and I was curious to see just how much those types of things were taking a toll on my banking account.

So, I decided to quit spending money, literally. For one week I vowed to spend no money.

Spoiler alert: It was REALLY hard. But also eye-opening!

Here’s how I did it:

1. I planned ahead for the week. The day before I started my no-spend week, I ran all of my necessary errands to be prepared for the days ahead. I went grocery shopping, got gas, all that. This was helpful because it helped me plan ahead for the week and monitor my spending in one day.

2. I ditched my debit card. I didn’t carry around my debit card all week, just the credit card that I have for emergencies. Without the means to frivolously spend, the temptation was reduced dramatically.

3. I got creative with my social activities. Instead of meeting my friends out for our standing Monday night dinner date, we opted to have a night-in playing board games. We all brought our own wine, which I already had at home. It was just as fun, if not more so!

4. I became the meal-prep queen. I made all of my meals at home. I try to meal prep anyway, but so often I will ditch my homemade meal for a tempting invite to dinner or a bagel run in the morning. During my no-spend week I made the conscious decision to turn down these opportunities and instead stick to my meal-prep guns. It was honestly kind of hard, especially because of the social aspect that comes with eating out with coworkers or friends. In order to keep the temptation at bay, I got adventurous with my groceries and made some fun recipes I had been wanting to try for a while. This helped me be excited about my lunch in the refrigerator at work.

5. I was my own barista. Instead of heading to Starbucks, I made coffee at home all week. It’s definitely not as delicious, but spending $5 on a coffee every day REALLY adds up. Instead,I bought yummy K-cups at the grocery store and my favorite coffee creamer, so it made my morning homemade coffee still a treat, but for less.

Final thoughts: The week was definitely a challenge, but it helped me check in with my spending habits and realize how often I am unconsciously handing over my debit card for things that I don’t really need. Of course, there were little things that came up during the week that I had to pay for, but I didn't count those expenses in my "no-spend" rules (ex: my electric bill was due and I had a co-pay at a doctors appointment). In the end, I noticed that my bank account was significantly less drained at the end of the week, and I was able to put an extra $300 into my savings account. Doing a no-spend week felt like my own personal game -- I liked the challenge! While it’s ultimately unrealistic to have no-spend weeks all the time, I will definitely sprinkle in no-spend days here and there to check in with myself and my spending habits.