How to Do a Spending Freeze

How To Do A Spending Freeze ~ Our Cozy Den

I do my best to be frugal most of the time. Especially right now with our super-restricted budget, watching every penny is a necessity. But everyone’s life goes through seasons where things change, and your usual habits start to fade away. Having a baby. Moving. Losing a job. Retiring. Becoming a stay-at-home mom. Becoming a working mom. Kids starting school. All of these life events throw a wrench in your schedule and your wallets.

So every once in a while, my family combats these “wrenches” by instituting a spending freeze. A spending freeze will look different in every family, but the goal is the same: to detox bad habits, instill good habits, and get your life and finances back on track.

For example, when my husband was in the application process for seminary and we knew we were facing several years with almost no income (the situation we are living in now), we did a 90-day spending freeze. In that three month period, we made about $13,000. We tithed $1350 of that, and we lived on under $1600, saving $10,052.

That’s a HUGE savings in a short amount of time!


I’ve had several friends ask for more details about how exactly we did it. So here are some basic strategies for doing a spending freeze of your own!

1. Decide on the rules.

What are your family’s rules for the freeze? In my household, the rule is to buy nothing but a few perishable groceries. If the freeze is longer than 30 days, we will also allow gas fill-ups for the car, but for 30 days or less we restrict driving to only what is necessary. We do no eating out. No miscellaneous spending (clothing, household supplies, extra-curriculars, etc.). All of our bills are paid through automatic withdrawal, so I don’t count those — only things for which we would usually hand over cash (or swipe a debit card).

We usually choose 30, 60, or 90 days, depending on just how much detox we need and how much progress I want to make!

You can also consider trying to sell your way to your expenses for the freeze period. Have a yard sale (either online or outside), and make it a goal to sell-sell-sell, and make enough cash to cover your groceries and/or bills for the freeze period. Imagine if you could do this and sock away a full 100% of your income for a month or two!

Like I said, your freeze will look different from mine. But it’s important that you and your spouse establish the rules before it starts so you are both clear on what is and isn’t allowed.

2. Decide where your money will go.

A spending freeze can free up a considerable amount of your income. Decide ahead of time where that money will go. Pay down debts. Save for retirement. Save for a house. Use it to fund your yearly vacation. Whatever you choose, decide ahead of time and move that money out of your checking account right away. I mean, as soon as it hits your account, it is off to a savings account or credit card company. If it’s not in your checking account, you can’t spend it! {At least not without moving it back! But don’t do that!}

It’s also fun to keep track. Make a chart of some kind, or maybe one of those goal thermometers and color it in as you go. Then you can see how much progress you are making, to help you make it to the finish line!

3. Plan ahead.

Now I’m not saying to go on a shopping spree before the freeze starts, but do take a few weeks to note if you are running low on anything or need to replace something before you start. Because once it starts, then you have to wait until it’s over. Especially make sure to check toilet paper or other things that are absolutely vital!

Additionally, take a look at your schedule during the freeze. Will you need to buy something for one of your kids’ extra-curricular activities? Did your coworkers plan a birthday lunch at a restaurant for the boss? These sort of things need to be taken into account. We usually skip things like optional restaurant meals, but you may also consider a small envelope of cash for emergencies or for unmissable events.

4. Get creative.

We have had many strange-but-good meals that I hodge-podged together from random pantry items during our spending freezes. A few of them even made it onto the menu to eat again!

For household items, you’d be surprised what you can “make do” with when normally you would be running to the store. Out of printer paper? You’ll start printing things on the back of junk mail. Out of scotch tape? You’ll find yourself using those in-between-pieces from your kids’ pages of stickers. Toothpaste? Now’s a good time to test that baking soda toothpaste recipe that you pinned but never got around to trying.

5. Try new things.

Just because you are on a spending freeze, that doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun! Get outside and enjoy your community’s parks and playgrounds. Utilize the library for free programs, movies, video games, and more. Institute a family game night at home instead of going out to eat. Check out this post for tons more ideas and resources for free entertainment options!

6. Celebrate your victory!

Mark on the calendar your end date and plan a celebration! Go out to eat, go out for ice cream, buy a new movie or game for the family, or whatever your family wants to do to celebrate success in all of your hard work!

7. Assess and recalibrate.

When the freeze is over, take a look at how your life has changed. Talk to your spouse, and discuss how you want your spending to look going forward. Maybe before the freeze you ate out four times a week, but now you want to restrict it to once or twice. Before the freeze, you spent $200 a month on random things at Walmart, but now you want to set a budget of $50. You used to rent movies twice a week, but now you’re going to continue to get them from the library. The freeze doesn’t last forever, but some of the good habits can!


We are going to do another 30-day spending freeze later this year as one of my 30-day challenges. I’m looking forward to it immensely!


Share!  Has your family ever done a spending freeze? What did it look like? What did you learn?

How To Do A Spending Freeze ~ Our Cozy Den
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