You’ve probably heard people talking about no-spend challenges. They’re pretty popular at the start of every new year, but the beauty of a no-spend challenge is that you can do one yourself anytime you want. So let’s dive into how a no-spend challenge can work for you.
This post was written by our talented staff writer, Kate Underwood.
Figure Out the Purpose of Your No-Spend Challenge
Before you get started, think about why you want to embark on a no-spend challenge. What is the reasoning or purpose behind this?
There are a lot of benefits to making a commitment to spending less for a period of time. Take a glance at these possibilities and think about which goals might apply to you!
- To save up for a specific purchase
- To save up a starter emergency fund
- Pay off debt
- To reset your spending habits and discover expenses you can cut out permanently
- To simplify your lifestyle and appreciate what you already have
- Or, accomplish a goal
You can try a no-spend challenge for more than one of these reasons, by the way. But be sure to clarify in your mind what your primary goal is before you begin. Decide how it might improve your life, so you’ll stay motivated when temptations to buy arise.
Pick A Length of Time
Decide how long your no-spend challenge will last.
It depends on your goals, but here are some ideas:
- One day
- One week
- A month
- Three months
- One year
Much longer than three months could be a major stretch, but who knows? You may surprise yourself. I personally would aim for a full month, as a week may not be long enough to really make much of a difference or change your habits for the long haul (they do say it takes 21 days to create a habit after all).
One day by itself is obviously very short, but the way this might benefit you is to choose one day to spend nothing each week. Maybe every Sunday is a no-spend day, for example.
Determine Your Parameters
Decide your parameters ahead of time.
- What does no-spend challenge mean to you?
- Do you literally not spend a single red cent for an entire week or month?
That’s probably unrealistic…
A common guideline to consider is no spending outside of your regular grocery shopping, gasoline, and paying your bills.
- No luxuries.
- No kids’ toys in the checkout aisle.
- And, no eating out.
- No tickets to entertainment venues
- No vacations
All in all, no extras.
This type of bare-bones budget is a great way to reset your priorities and recognize what you really need versus what you simply want.
Some people also like to try a no-spend challenge to help them combat overspending in one specific area.
Perhaps you find yourself with overflowing closets of clothes and shoes you can’t possibly wear. You can do a no-spend challenge that is specific to clothing or shoes.
Many people have written about their experiences of doing no-spend challenges for a year or more, and they’ve lived to tell the tale! (I highly recommend The Year of Less, by Cait Flanders, if you’re interested.)
- Impulse purchases
- Fast food/Junk food
- Books/Video games
- Home decor
- Toys or gifts for your kids
- Gifts in general
- Beauty or personal care items
Some people even have a trigger store. They might be restrained and calm in any other retailer, but if they find themselves in Target, for example, they suddenly lose all self-control.
(Target is a personal example. I used to live 5 minutes away from one, and it was my Achilles’ heel for spending unnecessarily. Once I moved away and the closest Target was no longer convenient, all that overspending went away!)
Check Your Progress
Throughout your no-spend challenge and at the end, you’ll want to evaluate a few things. Be sure to be positive and don’t beat yourself up if you mess up now and then — keep going through the rest of the challenge (maybe even longer).
Some questions to ask yourself to monitor the success of your no-spend challenge:
- How did you feel throughout the challenge?
- Is it hard to avoid spending? When, where, or why?
- If you slipped up, what were the triggers that led you to spend?
- What are you doing instead of spending when you normally would?
You might learn that you often spend money after a stressful day at work or with the kids. Or you might find that you enjoy a new hobby you never did before, because you were doing stuff that required money instead. See this post for ways to adjust your mindset when it comes to spending.
Doing a No-Spend Challenge – My Personal Example
No-spend challenges are similar to other types of restrictions; anytime you give something up for a period of time, it helps reset your habits. For example, a couple of years ago, I joined some friends for a No-Sugar January challenge. It was 30 days of no refined sugar, a huge sacrifice for me, a sugar fiend.
The first few days were the toughest, as my body adjusted to a sudden lack of sugar. But I got used to this new way of eating, and I liked the way I felt.
The more it became a habit, the less it felt like a sacrifice. I did resume eating some sugar once January was over, but my baseline for how much sugar I thought I “needed” had greatly changed.
That’s the same concept in a no-spend challenge. You’ll probably feel the pain those first few days. But gradually, as with any habit change, you’ll adjust to a new normal of spending less money.
Your No-Spend Challenge – What’s It Going to Be?
Your goal in a no-spend challenge shouldn’t be to feel badly about yourself. Ideally, you’ll save some money right away.
And, you’ll figure out which spending categories you actually missed, and which ones you might cut out permanently (or at least cut back significantly). Wouldn’t it be great to discover you don’t have to spend as much money as you thought to be happy?
What type of no-spend challenge could kickstart your finances?
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.