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Consumer Watch: How to do a 30-day spending break

Think you can't save money? A 30 day spending break could show you where you are overspending. (KOKH/FILE)

It might be time to think about a diet-- a spending diet. What does it mean to go on a 30-day spending break? Well it doesn’t necessarily mean spending zero dollars. It still will be difficult, but personal finance experts say it could help you see your habits with fresh eyes after these major spending months.

“It is really hard. There is always an opportunity to spend money. The pros far outweigh the cons, though,” says Jen Smith, a personal finance expert with The Penny Hoarder.

During the new year, people often feel ready to tackle a new self-improvement challenge, but The Penny Hoarder says, it’s never going to feel like the right time to jump into something like this, so don’t bother waiting for it.

“There is never going to be a perfect month to do a spending diet. So, you just have to look at your schedule, and be aware of the times you know you are going to need to spend money,” says Smith.

So here it is—a no spend month doesn't mean you spend zero dollars. You should expect to pay for your needs, like your housing and utilities. If you’ve had a special event planned for some time, like a family wedding, you don’t have to ditch it to be a part of the challenge. The point is to limit spending on your wants. You can create a limited or zero spending plan based on what you know you have going on that month and stick to it. Only spend on what's predetermined.

“A spending break isn't about being perfect. It is about taking time to step back -- learn your spending triggers, and get in the habit of asking questions like 'do I need this?' ' why do I want this?' and ultimately learning what you truly value,” says Smith.

Any predetermined splurges should be related to simpler things that feel valuable. That can look like opting for fresh organic vegetables over frozen meals, especially if you enjoy cooking. Spending money is great when you spend it on things that you truly value. Smith says a 30-day spending diet could be the kick in the pants anyone needs to figure out what those things are, and focusing your spending plan with fresh eyes.

Just like with a food diet, The Penny Hoarder says you should not let missteps derail your attempt at changing your habits. If you spent when you weren't supposed to, just try to avoid that mistake next time.

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