Happy New Year! It’s the busiest time of year for us over at Brooklyn Plans with New Year’s resolutions raging. A local news reporter reached out to me last week about a new trend in the personal finance space in the same vein as Dry January: No Spend January. The idea is to only spend on the bare necessities for the month and forgo any unnecessary spending. Check out the full segment that aired on Fox 5 News last week.
Those of you who know me probably know I’m not that into trendy personal finance moves. The best personal finance advice is pretty perennial – live within your means, save, invest for growth and pay down debt. There’s not a hack or shortcut that will build wealth quickly. It’s a long game that requires effort, maintenance and oversight – not a super sexy sell in today’s fast-paced, quick-fix world.
That said, I think there’s value and interesting insight to be gained from personal finance trends that bubble up in a grassroots way. There is a desire to do things quickly and see results, which is understandable. No Spend January is a great exercise for folx to really establish the difference between wants and needs. Clients sometimes get into a habit of feeling like everything is a need: the personal trainer, the fancy meal kit subscription, the pricey gifts for family and friends and on and on. And there’s nothing wrong with spending money on those things, but they are not needed. They are things clients want to spend money on. And wants are optional. That’s the important distinction to make.
When I worked in the non-profit financial education space, we used to do an exercise that is a good one for the New Year and I recommend you try it: Make a list of all the things you spend money on in a typical month. Include everything: bills, money spent out and about, on Apps and websites, subscriptions – everything you can think of. Then go through your list and write next to each item whether it is a want or a need. Needs are things that are required for a basic standard of living and everything else is a want. This exercise can help you shift your relationship to spending and distinguish between your wants and needs without going to the extreme of not spending any money on wants for a whole month.