At the moment I’m getting ready for No Shop February with a group of fellow bloggers here in Boston. This is the second year in a row that I’ll be taking part, and I highly encourage you to join in if it sparks your interest! Read on to find out more about NSF and my tips for the month ahead.
No Shop February is all about sticking with the essentials and hitting pause on anything that’s a want vs. a need. It’s a fantastic challenge that helps you get clear on what your essentials are (groceries, mortgage/rent, etc) and forces you to be deliberate when you’re at the check-out counter. At first glance this might seem like an exercise in deprivation, but I promise you it’s not! I think that pursuing financial freedom is actually the highest form of self-respect and I love that this challenge pushes you to think creatively and get outside of your comfort zone. I think if you commit you’ll find that you have more free time, more mental space, and the opportunity to try new things.
I’m easing into this No Shop February from a low spend January, so it’ll be a smoother transition. I’m sharing tips from what I’ve learned this month and from my experience last year, which will hopefully help you to have a successful and fun NSF!
1. Shop your home.
This is a big one. When you’re in need of something, try shopping your own house first. When I thought that I needed a new chapstick earlier this month, instead of heading to the store I checked the nooks and crannies of the apartment. Between the bathroom cabinets, bedside table, and car, we had no less than ten tubes. TEN. That might be enough chapstick for a lifetime. I’m definitely guilty of buying things that we already have, and I’m learning to slow it down and check around first. I’ve also discovered that it’s deeply satisfying to use something up fully.
2. Seek out free events!
Get creative with your entertainment this month. If you live near a city, there should be plenty options. Here in Boston beautiful museums like the Museum of Fine Arts and the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art) offer free entry on certain nights of the week. If you live in Boston, I’m including a list of free offerings that I’ve found in the city at the end of this post. Eventbrite is another great resource for searching out free happenings. Grab a friend and try something totally new!
3. Make the local library your BFF.
During this month, you’ll quickly learn that the library is a magical place. You can learn about anything and checking out a book to take home with you fulfills that urge when you want to buy something. Take out a cookbook and practice new recipes, borrow a book on saving money to keep you motivated, AND (this is a big one) check out museum passes for FREE or discounted entry to museums and cultural institutions in the area. PURE MAGIC.
*The one book that’s an exception on my list is Your Money, Or Your Life by Vicki Robin & Joe Dominguez. This is a book you’ll want to purchase and keep forever. They explain how money is essentially just “life energy” and the book helps you set up a system to make sure that your spending aligns with your values. It’s 100% life changing. I’ll re-read this at least once a year.
4. Use your gift cards!
Over the holidays, it’s common to end up with a few gift cards. Oftentimes we tuck them away only to forget about them until 12 months later. Make a point to catalog any gift cards you have and then actually go out and use them! This is the perfect way to treat yourself during the month without spending any cash. I’m looking forward to using a gift card to For Now and Whole Foods.
5. When you have the chance to walk or drive, always walk (or bike).
I know that February can be a difficult month for this because of the weather, but one of the challenges that I love to incorporate during NSF is human powered travel. That being said, I’m lucky to live in an area where I can walk to the bank, the post office, the grocery store, etc – which might not be your situation. The feeling of completing an errand by foot seriously brings so much satisfaction! Our bodies aren’t made to sit at a desk in front a screen for 8+ hours a day, so if you can build movement into your day you’ll be so much better for it. It’s nice to get out in the fresh air, to chat with a friend or listen to a podcast, and to save money on gas. Challenge yourself to embrace a little “voluntary hardship” (a concept by Mr. Money Mustache), and use your car as little as possible this month.
6. Use the extra time that you have to pursue things that matter to you.
Chances are good that you’ll find you have some extra free time this month. It’s the perfect opportunity to catch up on some things that are important to you. It could be a visit with a friend, more time spent with family, hours spent reading, or pursuing a new project or business. As a side note: I highly recommend you recruit a friend or two to join in NSF with you! You’ll have a support team and you can get together for check-ins.
So what do you think? Will you give No-Spend February a try? Leave a note in the comments if you’re going to join in!
As promised, if you live in the Boston area, here are some of the great events you can take advantage of during the month:
Free Boston Events
– MFA Boston, free every Wednesday after 4:00 PM (voluntary donation encouraged)
– MFA Boston, free Open House Saturday, February 9 (Lunar New Year Celebration)
– ICA Boston, free every Thursday (from 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM)
– Mayhew Wines, free tasting every Thursday (from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM)
– The Third Piece, free social knit night every Friday (6:00 PM – 8:00 PM)
– Harvard Book Store – ongoing free readings (I’m eyeing Maggie Battista’s on 2/12)
– Brookline Booksmith – ongoing free readings
– Curling at the Liberty Hotel
– most area museums offer free and discounted entry when you reserve passes in advance from your local library