By in Budget, Mind and Money, Money Management, Saving | 11 comments

Spending Detox: Great Way to Free up Cash and Get Creative

Everyday we are bombarded with images of new, fresh, and interesting products. For almost every problem the modern household has—running out of storage room, dull car paint finishes, fruits that just won’t stay fresh in the fridge beyond one week—there is a solution-for a price. Just watch late night television where problems that you did not even know you have are solved with a telephone call. We can buy products on the internet while at work, at home, or on our Smartphones when waiting for the bus. If we don’t have cash, there’s plastic. If we can’t pay now, we can pay later.



Where has this plethora of products and ease of payment led us to? Some are in debt; others suffer from anemic bank accounts and retirement savings. Perhaps even more detrimental to our lives than these two issues is the amount of time and energy it takes to work for, purchase, and then maintain all of these products we never knew we needed anyway.

Just like people detox to shed the excess, acclimate back to the basics and evict all the things that affect their body’s optimal functioning, so too you can go on a spending detox and reap the financial and life benefits from doing so.

Set a Spending Detox Goal

Goal setting is important for anything that you wish to accomplish. There are two reasons for this. The first is because having a goal gives you a definable and measurable outcome to shoot for. The second reason—probably most important for the spending detox plan—is to know that the trials and difficulties you find yourself dealing with are only temporary.

After all, a detox is only meant to last for a short amount of time.

One of the key concepts in cognitive behavioral therapy is to understand that most discomfort is temporary. Learn to tolerate discomfort and you experience better mental health. Additionally, recognize that temporary discomfort is, at worst, uncomfortable, not catastrophic.

How Long to Detox

Determine the number of days to detox. This depends in part on what your spending habits look like (if you typically spend daily or only every few days), and whether or not you have ever tried something like this. If this is your first time on a spending detox, you might try a weekend. From Friday after work through Monday morning, vow to not spend a dime. If you are further along in your spending detox skills, perhaps it is time to try out an entire week. Regardless of the length of time you choose, there are some other things to think about.

Get Creative

During any spending detox there are times when you question what you are doing, and times when it seems almost impossible to avoid running to the store. This is only natural; after all, we are all used to purchasing products to take care of everything in our lives. Instead of prematurely ending your spending detox, get creative by thinking about other solutions to the problem at hand. For example, use dish towels instead of purchasing paper towels, divide existing plants to plant in bare garden spots with similar sun hours, and attempt to repair items instead of replace them.

The kitchen is where you can get really creative. Think about all of the food in your freezer, cupboards, and fridge that might go uneaten before its expiration date. Instead of grocery shopping for one week,  in your kitchen (plug in the ingredients  and supercook dot com gives you a recipe to make). If you need a certain ingredient, search the internet for a substitute. For example, the other day I was making a recipe that called for buttermilk. Since we did not have it on hand, I made my own using milk and lemon juice.

Find Free Entertainment

There is nothing worse than feeling like you are missing out on life because you don’t have any money to spend. The good news is that you do not need to be bored throughout your detox. There are many forms of free entertainment, starting in your very own home. Dust off the board games and light some candles for a change of pace one Wednesday evening. Start reading the books gathering dust on your bookshelf. Do you knit, or have all of the pieces purchased for a craft on your Pinterest Board that you have been dying to try?

There is plenty of free entertainment outside of your home as well. Many museums offer a free day each month (in Houston the zoo is free from 2:00-6:00 p.m. every first Tuesday of the month, and the Museum of Fine Arts is free every Thursday). Find a cause that interests you and volunteer at an organization. Personally, I love to volunteer at Habitat for Humanity. You might find that if you volunteer for a few hours at certain events (especially plays and concerts), your admission is free. Take advantage of parks and trails, or take your friend up on their offer to swim in their pool (bake some cookies with ingredients on hand to offer as a thank you!). The possibilities are truly endless.

The level of austerity you wish to achieve with your spending detox program is completely up to you. Some people refuse to use gas or watch television, while others think of a spending detox as simply not purchasing new items from stores. You may start a spending detox program for financial reasons, and yes, a spending detox opens up funds to pay down debt or add to your savings account. But I think you will find that other reasons are what keep you coming back for more: a decreased consumer appetite, extra time in your life, and more quality time spent with family and friends are a few of my own that come to mind.

Have you ever tried a spending detox? What was the outcome?

Guest columnist, Amanda Grossman blogs at Frugal Confessions and is available for freelance opportunities.


  1. I find that small changes work best. For example, I used to grab a Starbucks every week and now I am down to once a month. I would get it when I went to the bookstore. I am not doing it to save money, but just to make some changes.


    April 16, 2013

  2. This is an interesting approach. Never heard of spending detox before. My wife and I are always on the look out for very cheap or better yet, free entertainment. During the summer we try to go bicycle riding and hiking. Since we live close to Washington DC we may go down there since the museums are free to get into. Also huge fan of redbox for our dvd’s instead of going to movie theater.


    April 16, 2013

  3. Hello Alan,

    I was just in DC a few weekends ago! One of my favorite places in the US. And so nice that all of the museums are free. I am glad to introduce you to the spending detox.

    Amanda L Grossman

    April 17, 2013

  4. Not so sure if DC is the best place for a spending detox! You’ll either have to pay for parking or the metro if you go on weekends, 9 times out of 10! Either that or be ready for a VERY long hike.

    Jenny @ Frugal Guru Guide

    April 17, 2013

  5. I’m not a huge spender, but there are definitely some things I could detox on – like eating out. Though we’ve cut back, we could probably make it a goal to forgo (or detox) eating out for a month.

    Little House

    April 18, 2013

  6. I like the money detox approach, as a way to prove to oneself that you don’t need to spend. Little efforts like that help spur bigger behavioral change.


    April 19, 2013

  7. @Jenny, So true, some cities require quite a bit of creativity to cut back on spending.
    @Little house, IMHO, one month of not eating out sounds like a long time for me. But, eating out for us is one of our most fun and satisfying activities each week. There’s other things I would give up first :).
    @Squirrelers, There’s even a certain competitive, self satisfying aspect to challenging oneself to a spending detox.


    April 20, 2013

  8. I love your Detox suggestions. I’m currently planning to save for my mortgage and if I can save and earn more money then I can pay more for my premiums.

  9. At first I thought the post said “Spending Botox”. So I had to click on it.

    But the suggested detox approach makes sense. We have to change years of bad habits to make any progress. It’s really like a detox because it’s so ingrained in our system.


    April 21, 2013

  10. I always say that you can do it gradually if it’s too hard to let go. We all start somewhere. Little by little and make it a habit and you’ll eventually notice that you are saving a lot.

    KC @ genxfinance

    April 23, 2013

  11. Hi Dave, I’ll have to consider a “spending botox” as well!!
    Hi KC, Gradually is the way to start any change. Just do a bit at a time. How about a spending detox for one day to start?


    April 23, 2013


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