Using Intermittent Spending To Stay On Budget


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A body builder friend of mine recently posted a link to an article that caught my eye. The article described a diet methodology called Intermittent Fasting in which a person would consume all their food for the day in an 8 hour window followed by 16 hours of fasting. This wasn’t just some person’s half cocked idea about how people should eat, there was actually some science behind it.

The thought is that eating all the food for a given day in a short period of time more closely resembled how our ancestors lived. Prehistoric man would spend the day hunting, and if he was successful in securing food for himself and his family they would then have a large meal. Following that large meal would be a longer period of no food until the conclusion of the next successful hunt. In today’s world we have constant access to limitless food options, resulting in our bodies being in constant “feast mode.” Our bodies therefore never have to tap into and burn it’s energy reserve (fat). Studies cited show that given zero changes in what a person actually ate, having ingested it in this manner resulted in weight loss and body fat percentage decrease.

I decided to give it a try, and quite frankly I was surprised at the results. I decided my window to eat during the day would be between 10am and 6pm. My normal wake up time is 4:15am, so waiting until 10am to eat anything is a little challenging. However, eating three meals between 10am and 6pm is even more difficult. By the time I finish my evening meal at 6pm I was so full that I no longer even crave food during the evening. This felt awesome, because nighttime is traditionally when I struggle the most with my eating. After a few days I found myself actually eating less because I didn’t want to go through the evening miserably full.

I weighed myself on Saturday, after one week of trying intermittent fasting, and found that I had lost 5 pounds.

Backing up a few days, on Thursday I was walking through Walmart at 4:40am on my way to the gym. We had run out of peanut butter, and I needed a new jar for my daughter’s lunch that day. I realized that I had stopped at Walmart to get something every day that week. Looking at my bag as I exited the store,  I noticed that it didn’t contain just peanut butter. I had found an inexpensive pair of gym shorts, some gum, and a couple of snacks that I thought would be good to have around the house. The net is, the more times I enter a store, the more opportunity there is to buy more than what I really need.

Could I apply what I had just read about intermittent fasting to finances? Could I implement intermittent spending, and would it help keep us on budget?

The goal would be to do all our (non bill payment) spending during a 48 hour window starting Friday evening and ending Sunday evening. This would be followed by a five day period of no spending, or financial fasting. Here’s how it would break down:

  • Gasoline : Put gasoline into both vehicles on Friday
  • Groceries/Household needs: Load up on supplies for the week on Saturday
  • Entertainment : All entertainment is done during this 48 hour window
  • Illegal Spending: Any additional spending outside that 48 hour window would be prohibited. If we discovered we needed something, it would go on a list and would have to wait until the spending window opened on Friday.

Of course we would still have our budgeted amounts, but by banning any weekday spending the theory is that it would eliminate any out of budget spending (yep, it happens!) and force us to be more thoughtful about what we buy when we are able to purchase things.

Do you think that using intermittent spending could help us get more value out of our hard earned money? Have you ever tried something similar?

About Travis

31 Responses to “Using Intermittent Spending To Stay On Budget”

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  1. I take the small, frequent approach to my meals and it works great for my health goals. As for spending though, I try to incorporate “no spend days” as often as I can. It’s definitely easier to do them intermittently than it is to have a bunch in a row.

    • Travis says:

      I tried the “many small meals” approach too, but it just didn’t work for me….so I had to try something different. The goal with the spending is exactly to have many of them in a row….a financial fast if you will. We’ll see how it goes! Thanks for reading, Stefanie!

  2. This should certain force you to plan ahead better, and reduce spending I’m sure, because your are limited impulse type spending during the week, Good luck sticking to it.

    • Travis says:

      Exactly, Brian – an inexpensive pair of shorts here, a few snacks there add up over the course of the week. By having a limited window of spending, it forces us to plan for our spending trips more carefully. I’m excited to give it a try!

  3. I do this without thinking I suppose. I eat a small breakfast, a big lunch, and a small dinner. I usually don’t eat at night because I am either busy or exhausted!

    • Travis says:

      Ah but are they within an 8 hour window? The study I read suggested that there was a huge difference between eating everything in a 12 hour window (say from 6am to 6pm) vs an 8 hour window. In any case, if it’s working for you, keep rockin’ it. I have self-control issues with eating (imagine that….self control issues with spending AND self control issues with eating), so I needed to try something dfferent.

  4. Interesting!!! I think anything is worth a try to see how you react to it and if it helps you. I sometimes feel like I don’t need to eat as much as I think I do. My problem time is 3-6pm, so I wonder how I can make adjustments.

    • Travis says:

      My trouble time is from the time I get home from work (5pm) until bed. I just shovel things into the pie hole at a mind boggling pace. I think that I (maybe this will help you too) have problems when I’m not busy….and when I get home from work I have more time on my hands. So, I guess I need to keep myself even more busy???

  5. J. Money says:

    Do it and report back!

    I guarantee some of those items that you put on the list for weekend buying will be scratched off it by the time it comes to purchase them 🙂

  6. Dawn says:

    Funny thing is I just did this at Wal-Mart today. Went in for bread, milk and lunch meat….. oh well again ugh! Think you have hit on an interesting idea here! Definitely would force better planning.

    • Travis says:

      I knew I wouldn’t be the only one who does this sort of thing, Dawn……when you have to write down your projected purchase, and stare at it for a few days….well maybe by Friday it just won’t seem that important. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  7. Very interesting idea, both of them actually. 🙂 I am curious what your experiences will be. It will definitely make you more mindful and plan ahead, which is always a good thing.

    • Travis says:

      The eating portion certainly has made me plan more about eating…..because hey, if we don’t eat by 6pm, I don’t get to eat! If that kind of necessary planning carries over to my spending plan it can only have a positive effect. Great to hear from you Shannon!

  8. Due to health problems, most of our spending is intermittent. We have to kind of get as much done as we can before the next bit of stress wrecks us, or maybe our health problems just flare up for no reason.

    Also, we huddle inside in the summer. I keep an eye on the forecasts in summer, and we go stock up when there’s a prediction of multiple days over 105.

    Unfortunately, that intermittent spending can really send you into a panic when you see the dent it made in the budget. You have to calm yourself down and remember that you’re done for a bit. And by “you” I mean me.

    • Travis says:

      Multiple days over 105? I’d be huddled inside too….I may even move. LOL. Your last few sentences make a great point. Because a spending window results in a large amount of money being spent quickly, it is important to remember that it will be followed by a period of no spending – allowing the account to “heal.” 😉 Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Abigail!

  9. We do this intermittent spending for our groceries. Only on the week-end, and if we find we’ve forgotten something – too bad. I ran out of soya sauce last week, Googled soya sauce substitutes, and actually made a substitute. That is beyond DIY for me : ) I know that we spend way less on groceries because of this modus operandi. I like your idea of using it for all household spending. I also want to give that 8-hour eating window a try. Great post!

    • Travis says:

      The whole “too bad” and wait until the next spending window is going to take some getting used to…but I’m excited to make it happen. Groceries is a big spending item for many households, so any trick that can be implemented to whittle that down is welcome in my book!

  10. Kim says:

    I think it could work. I’ve done similar things when I know I’ll be really busy and can’t buy groceries or other things during the week. That is also a very interesting way to eat. I also struggle with afternoons. It might be fun to try.

  11. First timer says:

    This is an interesting idea to spending. Without thinking about it, I do this with my food for the week. Typically, I will buy the bulk of food on Fri/Sat and then grill a bunch Sat/Sun and then eat leftovers through Thurs of the following week.

    • Travis says:

      I grill up a whole bunch food on Sat/Sun during the summer months as well, First timer…’s nice to have all that delicious grilled food ready to go for the rest of the week, isn’t it??

  12. Catherine says:

    Interesting. I couldn’t do the eating thing since my “window” would be very similar to yours but by 10am I’m seeing patients qith no break until usually 1. I am trying to stop eating after dinner though and if I MUST have something it’s like an apple. Per spending…i actually love this idea for no reason other than convenience I’d love to dp it but it wouldn’t work with us and my husband’s irratic work/travel. Good luck!

    • Travis says:

      Yeah, I have to admit, my job as a software engineer makes it very easy to implement this kind of eating schedule. As for the spending, I think it actually simplifies shopping – less trips to the grocery store means less time shopping!

  13. Melissa says:

    I do this with Amazon! I place an order on Thursdays. Sometimes it’s every Thursday, sometimes it’s every few Thursdays. If I find something I think I want or need, I add it to my cart. Throughout the week, I maintain that cart, removing items that I no longer need or want. Whatever is left in there on Thursdays gets ordered. I find that with Prime, I always think “meh, it’s only $8, nbd.” But then, I’d have seven $8 orders landing on my doorstep. Now, it may still be $56 worth of items, but at least I took the time to think about their usefulness. I chose Thursday, because with Prime, they arrive on Saturday, when I have time to unpack the order, put everything away, and dispose of boxes and packaging in one go. I already only go to the grocery store once a week, but I may try this with other items I order online.

    • Travis says:

      That’s a great example, Melissa….putting things in your Amazon cart and only hitting “go” on the order once a week (or however often). It gives your the opportunity to really stare at, and think about that item before you commit to it. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Kayla says:

    From a diet perspective, I love intermittent fasting. As a woman I give myself a wider window (there’s science behind how the 8 hour window is bad for woman, although a smaller eating window is still beneficial), and am typically less strict about it on the weekends/stressful days, etc. I have significantly less cravings, especially to sweets. Like you, I can drop weight without feeling hungry, going through weird eating cycles/binges, etc. I’m usually eating similar calories as I was before on a daily basis, but probably a little less on average over the long-run without the weird cravings here and there. It feels like such a natural way to eat!

    Anyway, what an interesting concept to put to finances. I can see how that could help me to spend more mindfully. Saying no when I want to pick up dinner on Tuesday, no matter what, seems like a great plan. Scheduled grocery shopping would prevent any excuses. I can see a lot of scenarios that weekly spending fasting would fix a lot of my financial ‘gotchas.

    • Travis says:

      Yay, a fellow intermittent faster! You know what I’m talking about….so I’d be interested to hear how intermittent spending works for you if you give it a try – come back and let us know if you try it! Thanks for reading, Kayla!

  15. Ramona says:

    I loved this piece!
    Good for you for you weight loss, by the way.
    This method of eating is something that my dad has recently taken to as well, and I will follow. He eats between the same times as you, and he focuses on just eating three meals a day with no snacking. He says that drinking lots of water keeps him from going hungry between these meals.
    He feels great and has lost some of “reserves” too.

    This also gives your body time to heal and work on other functions, since it’s not always digesting.

    As for applying this method to finances it’s definitely an interesting approach that I want to try as well!

    • Travis says:

      I’ve been at this for a few weeks now, and I feel great as well. I don’t have much of a problem being hungry….trying to get my food ingested in only 8 hours doesn’t leave much time to be hungry…lol. I’ve tried the intermittent spending with limited success. I still seem to justify some mid-week trips to the store. I’ll keep trying though…I think I’m on to something – thanks for your comment, Ramona!

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