While New Year’s resolutions hardly stick for some, they did when Elyse Lyons first took on the “No Spend January” trend as an annual habit seven years ago.
No Spend January has become more than a month where people avoid spending on non-essentials like coffee and clothes and has evolved into a way to pay off debt, reset finances and save money. Expert money savers like Lyons have mastered the trend and are who social media deems as the ‘Queen of No Spend Months.’
“For me, the goal is to take it back (to) the basics of bills, gas and groceries, so I can see what I’ve been buying and challenge myself to spend very little on anything outside of those core essential categories of living,” Lyons told Reckon.
The hashtag #nospendmonth has nearly 40,000 views on Instagram and close to 113 million on TikTok, where users and experts share everything from tips to track spending to personal stories on saving money.
While many people assume No Spend January and other money-saving challenges are about making zero purchases, Lyons says that it’s more important to be intentional with what you’re buying and lean away from a deprivation mindset by using her free No Spend Tracker tool.
Lyons first created the tracker for No Spend January as a New Year’s resolution seven years ago when she started her debt-free journey. After two years of no spend challenges, she got rid of $36,500 in debt. Eager to share her path to financial freedom with others, Lysons created the Savvy Sagittarius social media accounts.
Lyons No Spend Tracker tool is built with a fillable calendar and sections where savers can write goals, free things to do, habits, expectations and rewards.
While she shares money management advice online, she recommends people tackle the No Spend January trend on paper instead of relying on expense-tracking apps like Rocket Money and Goodbudget during the challenge.
“We just get distracted and there’s so much overstimulation with digital products that can make it harder for us to be accountable. I really like the pen and paper because I hang mine right by my kitchen, so I see it every day and feel responsible to fill it out,” Lyons said.
The 29-year-old works to master the no spend month challenges by asking herself questions like: How can I be more creative? How can I use what I already have? Do I need to buy a new book or are there books I have and haven’t read? Are there clothes in my closet I haven’t worn?
“I try and reframe no-spend months by focusing on the things I’m so grateful for and figuring out how can I use what I have to the best of my ability,” Lyons told Reckon.
With two out of three workers saying the cost of living is rising faster than wages, according to a 2023 Bank of America survey, many social media users taking on the No Spend January trend share the sentiment that they are financially strapped and hope the challenge saves them money.
Posts with the viral hashtag #nospendmonth are full of users’ intentions for taking on the trend like TikToker Kyyah Abdul, ”…because I enjoy travel, spoiling people in my life, and investing in my wardrobe I do so intentionally. When I feel I’ve spent too much, challenges like this make it VERY easy for me to put things into perspective and do a hard reset.”
“Often we talk about how buying the $6 coffee won’t affect us buying a house, but it’s all of our little habits that make up our financial picture. And even if you cut one or two of them out it might make the difference between you going on vacation and buying the house or not,” Lyons explained.