Want to Stop Spending Money? Get Busy.

Back before I started this blog in ’08, I was your typical bachelor. I bought a lot of stuff I didn’t need but I really wanted, I hung out with friends 24/7 outside of my 9-5 (okay, so that’s not mathematically possible), and I drank like no other on the weekends.

Life was good :)

My wallet – and health – however, did not agree. I wasn’t very good at saving my money even though I *thought* I was (I’d go $200-$300 over budget every month but never knew it cuz I didn’t track anything!), and my body was onto my tricks of pretending I was still 21. Oh, and then there was that job thing. I was never a bad worker, per se, but I also didn’t go out of my way to REALLY kill it like I do now either. I did just enough more than my fellow colleagues to “look good,” and then I hightailed it out of there to get back to my high flying ways.

And I spent, and I spent, and then I spent some more.

Over time I settled down and became an “adult” – buying a house, getting married, and eventually producing two of the most beautiful little boys I’ve ever seen before – and then I eventually became a workaholic. I’m still in the reformed days as I type this :)

Now essays and books (and movies!) have all gone over the troubles of being a workaholic, so we’ll promptly skip over all that for now, but the part most people leave out is how much you SAVE in the process. Not to mention how much you EARN too, since, of course you’re working your ass off.

But let’s stick to the savings… When every waking hour is dedicated to your job/hustles outside of the stuff you can’t get away from (potty breaks, food consumption, getting clothed), you honestly don’t have time for anything else. Your brain, and your body, is on workaholic lockdown, and the last thing you’re thinking about is gong out to buy a new pair of shorts. In fact, I’m down to my only remaining pair as I sit here – it literally has 4 holes in them ranging in size from a dime to a dollar bill! No joke. Remember last year when I said minimalism was ruining my clothes? Well, it’s most definitely true – and not having the time to go shopping for more plays a major role too.

But back to the saving. When you genuinely have no time to go to the stores or out at bars/clubs with your friends, you don’t spend squat. You may jump on Amazon from time to time simply to procrastinate and join the rest of the world for a few seconds, but outside of that your wallet is right there with you in that chair along with the aforementioned brain and body.

This is a GREAT thing. Savings wise.

Of course, the other parts of your life suffers dearly (friendships, sanity, health again (why is that always getting in the way??)), but financially speaking the more you work the more you save. And earn.

This does not mean to go out and become a workaholic.

Being a hustler is kick-ass, I’m not going to lie, but it’s not the only way to keep yourself from the mall. If you’re smarter than us workies (my new name for workaholics – has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?), you’d fill your days with other productive uses of your time instead. Such as:

  • Learning (you can learn anything with the internets these days!)
  • Reading (you can read anything on the internets too! :))
  • Getting outdoors and walking/hiking/soaking it in
  • Decluttering your house
  • Fixing stuff up
  • Exercising (not fun, but productive!)
  • Joining a (cheap) sports rec league
  • Taking up intriguing (non-expensive) hobbies
  • Writing/drawing/painting
  • Giving back or volunteering
  • Doing stupid stuff that makes you smile (practical jokes?)
  • Hanging out with friends and family more (just not at the bars every time, okay?)
  • And even taking up a nice (non-hardcore) side hustle.

There are literally thousands of ways to keep yourself occupied and away from the stores. In fact, I just read a post on 99 things to do instead of spending money by Jay-Z Phroogal.com, and they summed up this whole post in a mere two sentences (goody goodies):

“The key to not spending money is being busy. When you are busy earning your money, you do not have time to spend it.”

Again, not saying you have to work your tail bone off in order to save money, but it is one of the thousands of ways to do so. Didn’t the Bible have some quote on this? “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop?” That workshop – among other things – is your wallet ;) If you can keep your hands off it and entertained outside your 9-5, that retirement date will move closer and closer as the months tick by. Sure beats working for the rest of your life! (Even us workies don’t want to do that…)

Your mission this week is to not spend a dime outside your work hours. I don’t care what you do with yourselves (I forgot to mention sex on that list!!), but try and go an entire workweek without spending a single thing. You can use the weekend to reward yourself if you must.


idle hands devil playground

PS: That pic up top? I made it on 4/29 last year for my post on what I’d tell my 20 year old self. This year on 4/29 we made baby #2 – kinda freaky, huh? ;)

[Idle hands pic: megan ann]

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  1. Natalie @ Financegirl June 9, 2014 at 7:05 AM

    I completely agree with this post. Personally, if I am busy, I am not spending money. It’s when I’m not focused on something and bored that I end up spending the most. The more side hustles for me, the less online shopping I do! :)

    1. J. Money June 9, 2014 at 9:26 PM

      Boredom does not help, you got that right.

  2. a terrible husband... June 9, 2014 at 7:10 AM

    I like the idea of working where you spend money. In addition to discounts, you get paid to do what you like. So like at a restaurant, rock climbing gym, etc. If you have a big expense and it’s something you love try getting a part time job there. If they won’t hire you maybe even ask to volunteer for a few hours a month if they’ll let you use it for free. :)

    I did that with restaurants and bars in college. A great way to have fun on the weekends without spending money. And actually making money in my case.

    1. J. Money June 9, 2014 at 9:27 PM

      Yeah! Great idea!

  3. Catina Mount June 9, 2014 at 7:39 AM

    Oh man I love babies & this challenge! I’m in!
    Does this include the necessities? (Groceries, gas, etc….)

    1. J. Money June 9, 2014 at 9:32 PM

      You can spend on stuff you need to survive, yes, but nothing outside of that :)

      1. Catina Mount June 10, 2014 at 12:06 AM

        Sweet! I’ve got this!

        1. Julie @ Millennial Cents June 10, 2014 at 8:42 AM

          Glad to read- I’ll go stock up on groceries (and wine) tonight and start the challenge tomorrow :-) Cue music- “i’m hustla baby”

  4. Karen @ Money Saving Enthusiast June 9, 2014 at 7:52 AM

    I love that graphic. Did you make that? It is funny how downtime can get you spending. I like how you wrote Jay Z and then crossed it out. You now associate the number 99 with that song. . .99 problems. haha I will check out that post since I enjoy low-cost activities because every one brings me closer to my next big trip and big lump of cash to save. : )

    1. J. Money June 9, 2014 at 9:33 PM

      Nope, I grabbed the image from Flickr – I’m not creative :)

  5. Dee @ Color Me Frugal June 9, 2014 at 8:09 AM

    I definitely agree that staying busy is the key to keeping spending down! If you are busy then there is simply no time for the mall! Or Wal-mart, or online shopping…

  6. Jon @ Money Smart Guides June 9, 2014 at 8:12 AM

    I’ve fallen victim to spending when bored many, many times. When I was younger and was bored, I would hit the mall to pass the time. I wasn’t going to buy anything, just walk around for something to do. This is the lie I told myself. Nine times out of ten, I would leave the mall with something.

    My wife and I were just talking about this the other night. I was saying that I no longer go to the mall to stop being bored because retailers spend millions to ad agencies to figure out how to get you and me to spend our money, even when we have no need for something. They know us better than we know ourselves and odds are, the second you walk into the mall, you’ve already lost.

    1. J. Money June 9, 2014 at 9:34 PM

      Yep! And it’s hard as hell not to do too when mall-hanging-out is a habit. I used to literally go 2-3x a week – not good!

    2. Rama K Sivamani August 18, 2020 at 7:24 PM

      Walk or bike to the mall and don’t take your wallet or if it’s not close enough to walk then drive there only carrying your driver’s license and not your whole wallet with your money or your credit cards. This way you really are going to the mall just to hang out since you don’t have your money or your credit cards with you so even if you wanted to buy something you can’t.

      1. Rama August 18, 2020 at 7:27 PM

        Except don’t do that now. Stay home and help control the spread of Covid

  7. Travis @Debtchronicles June 9, 2014 at 8:12 AM

    When I get to the weekend, I’ve noticed that if we take the approach of “hey, let’s just relax” we end up thinking of ways to spend money – going out, going to the mall, going to look at “something” and ending up buying it. But if we have activities planned – hey, let’s clean out the closets, let’s organize the attic, let’s have a family movie night – we end up spending way less. I also end up enjoying the “busy” weekends because I feel so much more productive!

    1. J. Money June 9, 2014 at 9:35 PM

      Haha yup! But you better invite me the next time you have family movie night :) Or better yet, Blogger Movie Night!

  8. Holly@ClubThrifty June 9, 2014 at 8:15 AM

    I love babies in the Baby Bjorn!

    It seems like something *clicks* in most of us at a certain point. When I was about 23 or 24, I realized that I was not being a productive citizen at all. I agree that life has a lot more meaning when you’re trying to do something with yourself and always learning something.

  9. Christa@ObjectWealth June 9, 2014 at 8:36 AM

    Once I added blogging to my already busy life, I feel like I don’t have time for anything else. This past weekend, some of my friends wanted to go out drinking. Sorry, I have to work on my blog (although I didn’t use that excuse. They would have murdered me). I probably saved myself $50. I also have stopped online shopping while I watch tv because I don’t have time to watch tv anymore- except, of course, Game of Thrones.

    1. J. Money June 9, 2014 at 9:38 PM

      Yeah – blogging def. does the trick! Even though everyone (who doesn’t blog) thinks it’s super easy and takes like 15 mins, haha… If only they knew :)

  10. John @ Wise Dollar June 9, 2014 at 8:47 AM

    I could not agree more J! Being a workie, nice new phrase btw, does have a few benefits and not spending on crap is one of them. My problem, though I guess it really isn’t that much of one, is that when I have shorts with holes in them my lovely wife likes to remind me that I look like a slob. But, then again, I work with her too so I should keep her happy. ;)

    1. J. Money June 9, 2014 at 9:39 PM

      SlobsAreSexy.com? ;)

  11. Serena @ Thrift Diving June 9, 2014 at 8:52 AM

    This pic ROCKS! :) And although I would love take you up on that challenge, I’m in the middle of renovating my laundry room for my 30-Day June Room Challenge on my blog. I’ve scraped gunk off my old 1973 walls, plastered the crap out of the bad parts, and now I must spend (albeit at the thrift store, hopefully) to finish its decor. But I’ll modify–I PROMISE NOT TO BUY ANYTHING **OUTSIDE** OF MY RENOVATION EXPENSES ;)

    Serena @ Thrift Diving

    1. J. Money June 9, 2014 at 9:41 PM

      I’ll only allow it if you stay away from all yard sales and thrift stores over the weekend ;) Hard as $hit for you, I know!

  12. Brian@ Debt Discipline June 9, 2014 at 8:59 AM

    Totally agree. We as a family have spent more time in our local library since we have started our debt repayment then we ever have. Educating ourselves, free entertainment, etc I think I can agree to the challenge, not so sure about the rest of the family. :)

    1. J. Money June 9, 2014 at 9:43 PM

      Yeah Libraries! Perfect place to entertain yourself – good idea :)

  13. Addison @ Cashville Skyline June 9, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    Great perspective, J! It sort of reminds me of when I’m too busy at work to eat junk food. Often the only time I think about grabbing a candy bar or bag of chips is when I’m less busy in the afternoon. But if I’m slammed, I hardly think about food between meal times. Oh, and your picture totally made me LOL.

  14. Free To Pursue June 9, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    I agree that being busy, when it’s intrinsically motivated, is a great way to save $$$. I’m crazy busy these days, but it’s because I want to be & I’m doing the things I want to do. I’m energized by it. Not drained at the end of every day.

    I found the opposite to be true when it was externally imposed. I paid more for conveniences and tended to “treat” myself after working what I called “stupid hours”. The stress of the long hours and the responsibility caused time scarcity that I medicated with restaurant meals, wine and shoes.

    1. J. Money June 9, 2014 at 9:44 PM

      Yeah, stupid hours are lame. Glad you’ve replaced them with “awesome” hours? :)

  15. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life June 9, 2014 at 9:38 AM

    My boyfriend has been out of town with work since the beginning of January, since he’s left, I’ve not only spent a lot more time working and building up my income significantly, I’ve stopped A LOT of unnecessary spending. He comes home on Sunday, I don’t want to be too busy while he’s home, but I also don’t want my spending to skyrocket in celebration.

    1. J. Money June 9, 2014 at 9:45 PM

      luckily there’s a lot of “stuff” you can do that doesn’t cost a nickel when he’s back :)

  16. Noonan June 9, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    I agree that for single “workies” entrapped in the workplace, household spending stays low. But for workies with spouses, the neglected partner often finds great solace in restaurants and retail establishments—and the hard earned money just flies out the door. The solutions? Take your pick. A. Stay single. B. Marry a fellow workie. C. Stop working so darn hard and spend more time with those you love/like.

    BTW, the rolling rock photo rocks: “’33 to you” J$!

    1. J. Money June 9, 2014 at 9:47 PM

      You forgot D) Have babies! Much harder to do stuff when those guys are first born ;) Though, they also wreak havoc on your wallet so probably not the best example, haha…

  17. Broke Millennial June 9, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    Work, work, work is a great way to save. It’s what kept me afloat my first year living in NYC.

    These days, I’ve been trying to get healthier (physically and mentally) and live a little outside the job and side hustles. This weekend I took a completely free weekend and while I spent money going to the movies and out to dinner with friends. I also went outside and played catch and walked about 8 miles exploring my area of NYC with a close friend. Minus the fact I took a softball to the face and split my lip and needed to buy some nepsporin, it was a pretty frugal way to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

    1. J. Money June 9, 2014 at 9:57 PM

      I think you’ve found the perfect balance. Minus the lip problem (ouch!).

  18. Zee @ Work-To-Not-Work June 9, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    I think that finding an inexpensive hobby is really the key to keeping yourself busy and not spending money. I think one of the best things is to find a non-competitive sports league. Where I live there are a lot of co-ed kick ball teams where people mainly go to hang out and have a few drinks while playing a game. It’s free (minus the alcohol which you bring) and you get to be social, and you get exercise.

    1. J. Money June 9, 2014 at 9:57 PM

      YES! TRUTH! Just updated the list to include rec leagues – good one, totally forgot about that :)

  19. EL @ MoneyWatch101 June 9, 2014 at 11:13 AM

    YEs stay busy and you will not spend. I have done a no spend week and it felt great. The problem with many is that they fill time by going to the store to window shop, and it always leads to a purchase. I am trying to do a no spend month, besides food, housing, and bills. Wish me luck.

    1. J. Money June 9, 2014 at 9:58 PM

      Good luck – that’s an even better one to pull off :) The longest I’ve lasted is about 40 days (gave it up for Lent years ago and totally helped break my Mall habit!)

  20. Kristin @ Payment Free Life June 9, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    So true. If I don’t want to spend money, I don’t go to the store. Having a house keeps us really busy. Over the weekend, we cleaned, worked on the garden and painted the spare room. My husband and I both have side projects to generate extra income which keeps us busy after work. No time to spend money when you are hustling!

  21. Even Steven June 9, 2014 at 1:08 PM

    I completely agree with staying busy, my only * is to be careful you are not putting your new business to keep busy on the credit card, let’s cash flow it.

  22. Debt Busting Chick June 9, 2014 at 1:57 PM

    Boredom breeds spending in my house. I’m always keeping myself busy, whether it be on my blog or reading others, I stay busy. Online shopping is dangerous when I’m bored.

  23. Michelle June 9, 2014 at 2:08 PM

    I agree! Boredom is the worst enemy for my budget and days I work from home, I end up online when I take breaks and I’m shopping. The worst of it was I was waking up in the morning, turning the computer on and shopping for clothes. I broke that habit today. I woke up, went for a 30 minute walk, did not turn the news on, made breakfast, posted to the blog and then got straight down to work. Each day I’m going to keep upsetting that regular routine of shopping in the morning and on work from home days.

    1. J. Money June 9, 2014 at 10:00 PM

      Yes please! Haha… nixing that habit alone would probably double your net worth this year! ;)

  24. Joe June 9, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    Ahh… I thought you mean get busy as in having kids, with the picture and all. Our kid suck up so much time that I don’t spend much money anymore. The only regular thing left is eating out once in a while. I’m pretty sure we won’t spend a dime until Friday and it won’t even take any effort. We’ll probably eat out once on the weekend, though.

    1. J. Money June 9, 2014 at 10:00 PM

      I thought about “getting busy having kids” too after it was posted :) Def. another great way, haha… (just not so much on the wallet)

  25. Aldo R @ MDN June 9, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    You’re right. I stopped hanging out and wasting money and got myself busy. I only have a few hours to relax now, but that’s because I read, play guitar, work out, work on my blog and read other people’s blogs – I mean just this one. I spend just an hour watching a specific TV show or movie on netflix, but that’s not every day. It has helped me save a lot of money and still have fun… different kind of fun.

  26. Will of First Quarter Finance June 9, 2014 at 3:36 PM

    When I was younger, I hustled A LOT. This made it so I rarely got into trouble and I rarely spent any money!

    Honestly, when I was a little kid I remember going years without spending more than $100 per year.

  27. debt debs June 9, 2014 at 3:47 PM

    Oh he’s so cute! Look at that little one! He’s saying… “What are you doing with that thing again Dad?” just precious! … I’m sorry…what were you saying?

    1. J. Money June 9, 2014 at 10:01 PM

      Thanks, Debs :) I’ll pinch his cheeks for you!

  28. Shannon @ Financially Blonde June 9, 2014 at 4:24 PM

    I actually hate the weekends because I always seem to spend so much money (relatively speaking) because I am not working as hard and truthfully I take the lazy way out in entertaining my son. He recently started playing soccer again and I love it because he plays Saturday and Sunday and we rarely have time to spend money otherwise. During the week, between work for me and hubby and school for son, we really keep things under control.

  29. Crystal June 9, 2014 at 4:43 PM

    Your son’s face in that picture is priceless – like “What? You looking at me?” ;-)

    Yep, the busier I am, the less we spend overall although our restaurant/fast food expenses do tend to rise. But most other spending just disappears since we don’t have time to shop or the inclination to replace things…

  30. Debt and the Girl June 9, 2014 at 8:19 PM

    Staying busy does help. Sometimes, though, i get so busy that I forget to do things that save me money like cook. I am so guilty of buying take-out when I don’t feel like cooking. Sometimes having time helps.

    1. J. Money June 9, 2014 at 10:03 PM

      Good point. Though hopefully the hustling more than makes up for the money lost there :)

  31. Brian June 10, 2014 at 7:54 AM

    And I failed already. Took my wife out for her birthday to dinner last night and got her tickets to see Book Of Mormon next week. Bad timing for me!

    1. J. Money June 10, 2014 at 8:19 AM

      It’s not supposed to be good timing! It’s a challenge! Haha…

  32. Done by Forty June 10, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    I’m definitely no workaholic, but have been finally working on creating a side hustle via rentals. Oddly, it still seems renting out a single room in our house might be more profitable than an entire home, due to all the upfront costs of the house (having to pay the mortgage, property management, stupid down payment, etc.) Still, money’s money!

    I’ll take the challenge though (outside of grocery spending). Monday ended up being a no spend day…the beers at kickball last night were free!

    1. J. Money June 11, 2014 at 1:07 PM

      Nice! Haven’t played kickball in years…. such a great social activity :) (And love the idea of renting out one of your own rooms in your house!! No idea how I can convince my wife of the same, but I’d be all about it!)

  33. Kim June 10, 2014 at 3:29 PM

    J$ I love this post. It made me understand my husband a little better. (ha ha). I tell him I sometimes think I missed out because I never did those “early free years” things. And honestly, when he tells me the stories they sound like such fun. But he paid for it in terms of credit card debt. I have never (with a big N) liked debt. i remember I got my first store card because it would have been my ticket to buying the to die for designer tote bag all of my college friends had (and I HAD to have). I went to the store, picked up the bag, looked at the price tag, started calculating how much I would end up paying for the bag if I made only the minimum payment each month (which is what I would have been able to afford), and promptly put the bag back. LOL. I couldn’t figure out how my friends afforded it. I didn’t ask either. I just assumed they had money. It would be really interesting to know the answer to that question. But that’s not the point of your post. It’s Father’s Day on Sunday so it won’t be a no spend weekend, but it will be a weekend well spent. Enjoy your Father’s Day too!

    1. J. Money June 11, 2014 at 1:11 PM

      Thanks Kim! And congrats on being so financially smart over the years :) I was anything BUT in college!

  34. Daniel June 10, 2014 at 10:13 PM

    So true! I’m between finishing school for the year and starting an internship in a few weeks, so I have a ton of free time right now. It’s so tempting to spend money to fill the time…and I confess, I’ve succumbed a few times. I need more productive things to do!

  35. Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen June 11, 2014 at 1:32 AM

    Oh I wanna add something. If you’re super busy not only do you not have time to spend money, you also don’t have the energy to! Haha. When it’s crazy busy in my life on my downtime I just want to relax at home and do nothing. Too tired to spend…

    1. J. Money June 11, 2014 at 1:12 PM

      Great byproduct as well! :)

  36. The Phroogal Jason June 13, 2014 at 8:20 AM

    I’ve been so busy this week I realized I haven’t spent any money either. I just stare at a jar of cash that I got selling stuff on Craigslist this week.

  37. Dollparts June 25, 2014 at 2:55 PM

    How do you stop your husband from spending money at the bars every night? He gives me $250.00 a month for bills, but he spends $3,250.00 a month at the bars playing pool. I wouldnt mind if he went out once a month or even once a week, but he leave the house at 7pm and gets home at 1am, seven nights a week. I started working extra hours at my job, to pay bills. He spends every pay check on himself. He had been out of work for 4 years, and just started this job 5 months ago, I was so excited to have 2 incomes, but I am still in the same place I was before. I have never spent $3,250.00 on myself for anything, in my whole life. I am in tears, that he spends that much on himself each month. I have no idea how to stop this. I am home alone every night in tears and a nervous wreck with all the bills coming in. I feel like i’m going to have a nervous break down.