No-Spend Weekends Are a Great Way to Save Money—Here’s How to Have One That Doesn’t Suck

Source: Vlada Karpovich | Pexels
Source: Vlada Karpovich | Pexels

In a world where it seems like stepping a single foot out the door costs $30, saving money is way easier said than done. That’s why I’m a huge proponent of no-spend weekends. However, the idea of holing up inside my apartment with nothing on the agenda seems like a terrible way to spend my precious free time. So what’s a girl to do? Well, I’ve turned to an unlikely source for inspiration: Lorelai and Rory Gilmore.

The Gilmore girls are the queens of not spending money, and you cannot convince me otherwise. Coffee? Free from Luke’s thanks to his crush on Lorelai. Their meals? I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen them pay over the course of seven seasons (again, Luke’s crush comes in super handy, but Friday dinners also help). Their days? Booked and busy without somehow setting them back several hundred dollars. Essentially, they found a way to live very fulfilling lives while spending very little money, which is pretty much my goal every day. One of the easiest ways they do this is by participating in free activities. Whether it’s attending Friday night dinner, window shopping, taking walks in the snow, or participating in whatever activity the town has going on, they’re doing it for free and making it look like fun.

While we can’t advise flirting with the owner of your local cafe to get free food and coffee, there are ways you can have a no-spend weekend that’s as fun and fulfilling as the ones in Stars Hollow. Here’s how you can romanticize having a good time during a no-spend weekend without spending a cent.

What is a no-spend weekend?

Growing up, did your mom ever remind you that there was food at home instead of buying you fast food while you were out running errands? Well, this is kind of like that. The idea of a no-spend weekend is to do just that: spend no money. This means cooking meals at home instead of eating out, finding free entertainment instead of spending money on activities, and absolutely no shopping (although some people say buying groceries doesn’t count).

The result is a weekend’s worth of money you would have spent on things like dinners, drinks, and fun saved for your financial goals. Maybe you’re saving for the holidays or just simply need to get your finances back on track after a shopping spree, this method can help you save quite a bit of money in a short amount of time.

The benefits of no-spend weekends

Besides the obvious benefit of saving money, no-spend weekends are a good financial habit to have in your back pocket. While not spending a single cent for an entire weekend might seem like an impossible task, it becomes much easier with practice. Once you’re used to it, you can throw a no-spend weekend into your routine once a month or quarter or after a period of heavy spending to serve as a reset for your budget.

If you find yourself struggling to reach financial goals, a no-spend weekend is an easy way to save a decent chunk of money. Visually seeing this extra money in your account could be the motivation you need to kickstart other money-saving habits, too. And once you can get through a whole no-spend weekend without actually spending any money, you can build up to no-spend weeks or even months. All of this adds up to more money in your accounts and better financial habits overall.

How to actually not spend money during the weekend

Saying you’re going to have a no-spend weekend is one thing, but actually getting through the weekend without tapping your card once is another thing entirely. Here are a few tips to help you get through a no-spend weekend successfully:

Plan ahead

Spontaneity is great in some cases, but if you want to have a successful no-spend weekend, planning is crucial. Make sure you fully stock up on food during your weekly grocery run so that it’ll be easier to resist the lure of Postmates. Likewise, make sure your calendar is cleared. The last thing you want to do is set a no-spend weekend goal only to realize you said yes to dinner plans weeks ago. Planning for your no-spend weekend will also give you time to mentally prepare. As you plan free activities and meals to make at home, you may even find yourself looking forward to a slow weekend

Don’t add things to your shopping cart

Listen, staying off of social media for the entire weekend is too big of an ask alongside not spending money. So when you inevitably come across another thing you’re tempted to buy, copy the link into your notes app rather than adding it to your shopping cart. This way, you’ll be less tempted to complete the purchase. This will also give you time to think through your purchases rather than impulse buy that new amazing thing that’s going to change your life. On Monday, sift back through your wishlist and decide if you still want the things you added to it. Chances are, you’ll realize you don’t actually need those items.

Fill your days with things to do

Having a no-spend weekend doesn’t mean you have to do nothing. In fact, packing your days with free activities (which we’ll get to in a moment) will help you feel like you’re having a fulfilling weekend and make the no-spend period go by that much faster. If you don’t have anything planned you’ll be that much more tempted to break your no-spend rule simply to give yourself something to do.

Invite your friends along

It’s so much easier to do a no-spend weekend with someone else than it is on your own. Suggest doing a no-spend weekend with your girls. This way you’ll still be able to hang out with your friends without the pressure of doing something expensive. Chances are they’ll welcome the opportunity to save a little money as well. And if they don’t want to join you, you can still invite them to your free activities. Maybe you have a cozy girls’ night in, catch up over coffee or tea at home, or walk through the farmers market.

Go easy on yourself

No-spend weekends are hard. If you realize you’re out of coffee creamer or that the free activity you planned doesn’t have free parking available, it is OK. The goal of having a no-spend weekend is to build better financial habits and reset your budget. If it doesn’t go perfectly the first, second, or even third time around, simply trying is an achievement in itself. Eventually, no-spend weekends will become second nature and something that you can get through like a pro.

Source: Samson Katt | Pexels

No-spend activities for a perfectly romanticized weekend

Have a movie marathon

If your traditional Friday or Saturday night consists of dinner and a movie, it may feel like a shock to spend the weekend at home to save money. Fill your weekend with the same activity, only the free version, by having a movie marathon at home. Make popcorn, mix up some cocktails, and choose some of your favorite movies to watch while you veg out on the couch. You may just find that watching movies from the comfort of your home is way better than going to an overpriced theater.

Go for a walk in a new neighborhood

Taking a walk is one of the most common free activities you can enjoy every day, but especially during a no-spend weekend. Pro tip: Instead of taking the same walk you always do for exercise, romanticize your regular walk by trying out a new route. This gives you the opportunity to explore new neighborhoods, see new sights, and change up the type of exercise you’re getting. Another free activity that will give you main character energy.

Redecorate your house with pieces you already have

If you’re in the mood to redecorate your home but new décor pieces don’t exactly fit into your no-spend budget, try rearranging the pieces you already have. If you have a blank wall in your house that you’re looking to fill, source art from another room or search for any photos you may have forgotten to hang. Similarly, if things are feeling off in a room, make sure your furniture layout doesn’t break common design rules. This is an absolutely free activity that can bring new life to your home.

Make a meal only with the ingredients you have on hand

Cooking at home rather than eating out is one of the easiest ways to save money. Instead of cooking the same meals you usually make, mix things up and try something new during a no-spend weekend. Not only will this save you money, but it’s also a fun way to shake up your usual routine. Find a recipe that works with what you already have in your pantry so you don’t have to spend money on any additional ingredients, then pour yourself a glass of wine and spend the evening embracing your inner Ina Garten.

Have an at-home spa day

Believe it or not, it’s very possible to treat yourself without spending money. How’s that possible? An at-home, DIY spa day. Take your time treating yourself to an everything shower—exfoliating, shaving, conditioning, the whole shebang. Then, give yourself a restorative lymphatic drainage massage and top things off with a mani/pedi. Not only is this a completely free activity, it’s a luxurious way to spend an afternoon that will leave you feeling refreshed. Talk about a good Sunday reset.

Read a new book

Looking for a way to relax and unwind without spending any money? Try picking up a new book. Whether you visit your local library and rent the newest romance novel or you download a free ebook, reading is a great hobby to try during your next no-spend weekend. If you want to add some fun to your next read, invite your girlfriends to read along with you so you can start your own book club.

Make yourself breakfast in bed

Nothing says romanticizing the weekend quite like enjoying coffee and French toast from the comfort of your bed. It’s also an easy (and delicious) way to save money. Instead of going out to an expensive brunch with friends and having bottomless mimosas, make yourself your favorite breakfast at home. Romanticize your morning even further by turning on your favorite music while you cook, serving your food on nice plates, and staying in your comfiest clothes and slippers to have the ultimate slow morning.