How to do a Spending Diet ®

how to do a spending diet

May 29, 2014:

Here’s a link to a video where I explain how to do The Spending Diet. I love how the video turned out because it explains how to do The Spending Diet in such an easy and simple way with bullet points and things to remember while you’re considering what to think about before you make shopping decisions.

January 1, 2011:

This week I’ve been thinking about how The Spending Diet should work. I thought I had it figured out and then I didn’t and then I did and well, I wanted to have a plan that would work for me for life. Not something that I wouldn’t be able to keep up. So. I think I’ve got it sorted out now and I’m ready to spill the details. The other day I was talking with a pal I hadn’t seen in awhile and he’s all “I’m doing the budget thing too” and I’m all “Oh, I’m not budgeting” then he’s all “Yeah, you are.” Me, “No, not really I wasn’t spending any money at all.” Him “That’s budgeting.” Me “Uh, no it’s not”. Him “Uh”. Me “Uh”. Him “Uh”. And so on and so on for like 5 minutes maybe more, and then we said our “goodbyes” and that was that. Good story, right?;)

Since budgeting is something that I tried pre-Spending Fast and since I didn’t have success with it I never considered that what I was doing was a budget technique. I don’t know, maybe it is? Maybe it’s just the word that I don’t like. That is a possibility. It’s kind of like the word “networking”. That word is scary but that’s all that’s scary about networking. Anyway, that’s totally off the topic. So, for me budgets weren’t a fit. I don’t like the category thing and defining a certain amount for each category and then going over or under categories and what if a certain thing goes into 2 categories?! Then WHAt!? Then WHHAHHHHATTTT!!!?? PANIC!! Budgets work for millions of people and that’s cool. There’s a ton of different ways to do the same thing.


Anyway, here is my Spending Diet plan that I don’t think of as a budget:

How to do a Spending Diet

1. Make list of my NEEDS. These are things like: shelter, phone, food, utilities, mortgage/rent. See my original Spending Fast Needs list here. I’m going to re-do this list. Re-evaluation is a good thing.

2. Out of my NEEDS list figure out where costs can be reduced.

3. Stop spending money. (simple but not easy!)

4. When a NEED from the NEEDS list pops up I’ll spend money on those. Those are NEEDS. Those are okay.

5. Since this is the Spending Diet and not the Spending Fast I am allowing myself a $200 $100 limit on “non-needs” for the month. Things that go into this section are things like: clothes, make-up, entertainment, dinner out, other random “non-needs” stuff. I’ll follow this criteria for purchases so I don’t go buck wild buying corn dogs and bubble gum (that is completely possible).

6. I’ll keep a running monthly tally of the money I’m spending on “non-needs” and once the $200 $100 is hit then that’s it. I’ll stop spending money and go into the Spending Fast mode for the remainder of the month. There you have it! My Spending Diet Guidelines! With this plan I hope to have a life long livable plan that works for me. I’m hoping with this plan I will be able to live in the world of “Enough” and not feel the deprivation I felt with the Spending Fast and also I won’t feel the tedious-ness that a budgeted life makes me think of.

Update on January 10, 2011 by ANNA NEWELL JONES
Okay, 10 days in and I decided to change my “non-needs” monthly spending limit to $100 bucks. After a year on the Spending Fast $200 a month seemed too easy!

91 thoughts on “How to do a Spending Diet ®

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    1. Divya Sharma

      Hi Anna,
      I am very much motivated by what you shared spending diet & spending fast,
      I am not sure how its gonna work for me but I will start it with next week of May 2014!!!!!!
      Thanks & wish me good luck!!!!!!!!!

  1. LaReesa

    The fast was too scary for me. You’re the bravest person in the world I’m pretty sure. I’m going to start the diet in January, wish me luck! You’re a great inspiration and my debt is almost exactly what yours was when you started! Entirely student loans from college…oi. The plus side: low payments and low interest. I can do it!

  2. Hope

    I am doing a spending diet starting 1/1. Not sure if it will be $20 or $25 a week for extras. I’m looking forward to the adventure! Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Tink

    Just put myself on a diet and found a great iPhone app I thought I’d share! It’s called “My Weekly Budget”, and you can set the amount to whatever you’d like. I chose $25 per week like Hope up there. It shows you when you’re in the green and how much you have left to spend, what you’ve spent on, and it carries over your balance to the next week (extra play money!) if you don’t spend it all in a particular week. Poor explanation…sorry…but check out the app!

  4. Amanda

    I’m going to try the spending diet starting in the new year! Thanks for the great site — I can’t wait to read through the archives for more great ideas. :)

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  6. Viviane J

    I am also going to be on a spending fast / diet. I am slowly trying to figure out I will get it done and getting into that mode. By January, I should be completely in it! I am also writing a no-spending pledge for myself. I hope I will be able to keep it up :)

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  8. anna

    Thank you so much for this site and tips – it’s motivated me to blog to also keep accountable so I can get rid of my debt. Love your witty and practical writing – thank you!!

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  16. Amy

    This is a fantastic idea, most people don’t even have a budget so its a good way to start!

    We looked over Christmas at trimming down expenses and just changing our Phone plans we saved $480 a year just by spending an hour at the phone shop!

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  20. tandi

    We truthfully have very little debt aside from our home and car and rv BUT I feel very strongly that our spending is overkill. And we are trying to save money for a down payment on a new place later this year. I tend to like to use the kids as my excuse to spend cuz they ‘need’ certain things but the truth is I just have a compulsion to shop for stuff. Fourtunately I also have a strong tendency to purge so our home doesnt look cluttered and you cant see that I have this issue. But I purchased the weekly budget app and since we are only 3 days into the month it was great timing. I’m already $150 over budget for the week! Im giving us $350 a week for groceries, gas, and spending for our family of 6. That is truthfully just what is leftover at this point after bills, and split into weekly chunks. We are paid monthly so even if we can just keep true, the last week of the month will be better. Great advice tho! Just the push I needed.

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  24. melanie

    I don’t know how you do it. I don’t spend money on myself yet I still cant stop spending money. There is always some event, or birthday or dinner that I need to pay up for. And people just find it rude if you don’t go, or if you don’t by them a gift on their birthday. I don’t really have a social life as it is but if I skip out on any more things I’l just be sitting at home staring at the ceiling all the time! These might sound like excuses but I just can’t wrap my head around how I could spend less money than I already do!

    1. Anna Newell Jones Post author

      Go through the last 3 months of your past bank statements and put each purchase into a budget-like category. Determine the average for each category and then get honest and tough with yourself about what your priorities in life are and cut out your non-priorities. Homemade gifts or baked goods work work great for birthdays too:)

  25. Earning My Two Cents

    $100 a month for miscellaneous + clothes+ shoes + movies + whatever else catches my fancy is my regular budget. I guess my broke butt doesn’t have to “diet” lol but I like the idea a lot! I try to spend less than my $100 or spend some of it on mystery shopping so I will get reimbursed plus make a little extra and then save it. Then I feel like I am spending but I am actually saving :)

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  28. Shirelle

    I’d love to hear suggestions on how to work the diet when there’s one bi-weekly source of income and a monthly SSI payment but the two spouses don’t agree on spending habits?

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  35. Hanna

    This is awesome site!!! I just found it and I am all about saving money next year!! I can pick up some great tips from here and I am committed to pay my stupid credit card debt that’s driving me nuts!

    Thank you so much for making this blog, it’s awesome!!

  36. Carina

    Would you put fitness as a need or a discretionary expense? I see races as discretionary, but our monthly boot camp class as a necessity, as well as registering for a running group with coach twice a year. Just curious. Interested in reading more about this!

  37. Kathryn

    I’m so thrilled I found your blog. I just finished reading The 7 Experiment by Jen Hatmaker and it has made me so eager to simplify and downsize the “stuff” in my life that distracts from what I really want to accomplish. This spending diet is exactly the outline I need, without all the stress over categories. thanks!!!

  38. Melanie Browne

    Terrific move. I am doing the same drastic spending diet since Feb.2014 and it is working. I made a list of all commitments, payment due date, minimum to be paid. Cut back on non-essentials, sewing my own simple outfits, making my jewelry, enjoying online movies, no nail & hair salon, no eating out, no mall browsing to be tempted, and it is working. Hope to be down $20,000 soon.

  39. Audrey

    VERY inspiring. I recently moved to NY one of the most expensive cities in the world and i live alone! I’m paying an astronomical amount in rent and have incurred debt that needs to be eliminated. Because I pay so much for rent and the cost of living is so high i’ve had to be even more disciplined to the point where i’m scared to spend money. I’m hoping that going on the debt diet will allow me to spend money only on what’s necessary so that i can save more money in the emergency fund and begin to pay off student loan and credit card debt.


    I have been doing a budget every month..i took this month off just because I felt I needed a break from listing all the different catagories! I was completely stressed!!! next month I am going to try the needs list instead!! thanks so much for the great ideas.

  41. Protect Your Piggy

    This article shares such a fantastic idea, most people don’t even have a budget so its a good way to start!

  42. Heather

    I’m on the spending diet in order to totally crush my student loans. I just learned that many gyms and yoga studios will trade work for classes! I used to spend $100 on a 10-class pass for fitness classes and go once a week, stretching it out to almost 3 months which I thought was pretty good. But now I work 2 hours per week at the studio and in exchange get two free classes per week! Wanted to pass along the tip to others!

    Going to class motivates me to exercise so it would have been hard to give up, but now all I’ve given up is paying for it :)

  43. Alex Truedman

    This concept is very inspiring, especially for those who have certain solid ideas such as: saving more on utilities, spending more money on traveling instead of buying things and growing a consumed monster, inputting more into education (either yours of your kids’) or simply saving living in a debt-free environment and holding 0-obligations to anyone when it comes to finances. So, as soon as you can go on a Spending Diet, you’ll have to cope with the inconveniences, which is hard at first, but only at first. Especially $100 for non-needs, well it can be hard. Anyway, I’m planning to “join this club” for the sake of more travelling. I have some personal tips about saving money on travelling and know how to see a lot at a fairly low price, still, going abroad requires funding. So, this Spending Diet will be a good start for the next trip to go.

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  51. Eva

    I saw your video on PNC and the one question that stopped me dead in my tracks was this: Is this purchase expense worthy? Is the item worth you working an extra hour at the job for? And for most of the items I have bought this month, I can honestly say “NO.” Thank you for presenting that idea in such an original way. It certainly got my attention!

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  56. Cherie

    I am just in the process of writing a new blog for next year. I am planning a whole year of only spending on what I need in 2016. I am going back to the years when I was so poor that I had to budget hard just to make ends meet. Now I am fortunate enough to be able to do it for fun

  57. Lisa

    I like this list, but I also think there needs to be a fundamental shift in mentality from “things make me happy” to “people and experiences make me happy”.

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  62. Luke

    I’ve had great success with YNAB (You Need A Budget). I had a bit of a spending problem when it came to online shopping. It’s a nice tool that allows you to budget your monthly salary. Makes how much you’re spending a lot clearer.

  63. Melanie

    Hi Anna,
    The book is awesome and has inspired me to work hard at getting out of debt. This is one book I will not be loaning out and will keep close by my bed at home for those times when I’m feeling weak!


  64. Anna

    How often do you let yourself splurge on ‘basic needs’ that are more luxurious than basic? Like eating out vs buying groceries, for example?

  65. andrea

    I am very interested in getting out of debt and livings a simpler life. Could you please tell me what is in your 173 pg guide that is included in your package for $29. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  66. Greyson W

    Hi Anna, I’m commenting on an old post just to say that this post is a big inspiration. It’s not easy to stick to a ‘spending diet’, especially if we live in a big city and have friends that like to go out and stuff. But I believe it’s possible and you show us that it is possible. I don’t budget myself, but I do follow a rule that ‘I spend less money than I make’ (and another one is ‘make as much money as I can’ ha ha). Thanks for the inspiration!

  67. Rebecca Hanlon

    OK, I got to this line:
    “I’ll follow this criteria for purchases so I don’t go buck wild buying corn dogs and bubble gum (that is completely possible).”

    And knew that this was the place for me.

  68. Lara

    I was wondering, how to budget the $100 a month? Does that includes utility bills? Thanks. I really want to learn how to budget my funds every month. I really hope that you could help me.

  69. Sharif

    It’s very difficult. I went to very expensive school, accumulated student loans, and didn’t have a job that could even pay my bills for 2 and a half years. Went to credit card debt. By the time I started paying off my loans after deferment, interest on each loan made them look impossibly high. Plus I still had credit card debt which compounded its own interest. But I did do something very similar to what you described by allowing myself minimal amount of fun. That helped me pay off my credit card bill. I continued this even when I finally got a high paying job for my age. Then I attacked my private loans while minimum payment on federal loans. But then I decided to get married and wanted it all. That’s what messed it up. Even though I’m happy with my love life, wedding did cost a lot and debt payment became less important. Result is that I paid about $25k on federal student loan over the years of which almost 20k is in interest and 5k is principle. This is just crazy! Trying hard to figure out how to get back to your strategy of almost eliminating wants. It’s single income for me and my wife’s still in school. I’m paying for her tuition too. So something’s gotta give if I hope to pay off my loans in the next 5-6 years.

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