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How a no-spend challenge works and what you need to know to get started
What makes this type of money challenge unique is that it’s designed to help you save money fast. This is different than most other money savings challenges that you may have heard of which typically focus on long term money saving strategies.
If you’ve never heard of a no-spend challenge, then let me explain …
What is a no-spend challenge
A no-spend challenge is basically a way to challenge yourself to not spend any money for a certain period of time.
It’s very similar to budgeting your money where you are aiming to only spend a specific amount of cash on certain categories within a month but takes it a step further.
The most popular time frame for this would be a month but you can do it for a shorter or longer duration of time depending on your money-saving goals.
How a no-spend challenge works
1 Set a goal for your no-spend challenge
2 Decide on the timeframe that you’ll commit to not spend any money
3 Document the rules of your money challenge
4 Decide if you will allow exceptions or go all in
5 Make sure the family is aware of your no spend month
6 Track your progress to stay motivated
How To Do A No Spend Challenge
Set Your No Spend Challenge Goals
The first thing you should do is decide on a goal for your no-spend challenge. Do you want to save money fast for a special event? Build an emergency fund? Or maybe to replace a broken appliance?
Your goals don’t necessarily need to be about saving for a specific thing either, it could be that you need to get your spending under control.
What about teaching your children the value of money by being a good role model? Or maybe it’s to help declutter your home?
Whatever the reason, keeping this top of mind will definitely help you stay motivated to follow through to the end of your no-spend challenge.
Decide On A Timeframe For Your No Spend Challenge
Next, you’ll need to determine the timeframe for your no-spend challenge. The most popular, by far is to not spending any money for a month, but you can definitely do it for however long you choose.
Other options would be for a week, only on weekends, or it could even be for a longer period of time, say 3 months or even a year!
If it’s your first no-spend challenge, you might consider testing the waters with a shorter time period first so you know what to expect when you commit to not spending for an entire month or longer.
Determine your no-spend challenge rules
The next step is to determine your no-spend challenge rules. For instance, is it allowable to spend money on groceries, if not you would actually be doing a pantry challenge simultaneously which could really add up to a lot of money saved in a short period of time?
Once you’ve determined what your rules are, you might want to limit the amounts of money you are allowed to spend.
So if you choose to let yourself buy groceries, you could set a limit on how much you are allowed to spend weekly or for the entire month.
Of course, there are some things that you should not include in your no-spend challenge, below is a list of items that are allowable and some items you should definitely consider cutting out.
Allowable Categories For Your No-Spend Challenge
All other regular monthly expenses
Basic personal hygiene items such as toilet paper, toothpaste, feminine hygiene and the like
Gas for your vehicles (at least enough to get to work and back)
Things You Should Definitely Not Spend Money On
Nights out on the town
Takeout or going to eat out
Trips to the salon
Or just about anything that is a want and not a need.
Make Sure Your Family Knows The Rules
Of course, for a no-spend challenge to work, you need to have a partner who is on board.
If you have children (depending on their ages) you might want to make them aware of your plans ahead of time to avoid having to deal with complaints.
It’s also a good idea to let your close friends and family members know just to prevent any confusion, leaving them wondering why you no longer want to go out to lunch or shopping.
Plus, it’s also a good way to get support and motivation and they just might join you which would definitely make it less of a challenge.
Track Your Progress During your No-Spend Challenge
Lastly, you’ll want to track your progress in some way. It could be by using a calendar or daily planner to mark off the days you were successful at not spending any money.
It could also be keeping tabs on how much more money you’ve saved at the end of each week, which, by the way, is a great motivator to keep at it.
Benefits of doing a no-spend challenge
Aside from the obvious benefit of saving money by not spending any money for an entire month, there are other benefits of doing a no-spend challenge that may not be so obvious.
Teaches you how to live below your means
Living below our means is something we should all be doing if we want to save money and not get into debt.
A no-spend challenge is one of the best ways to realize that you can make do with what you’ve so you don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck.
Teaches kids the value of money
Even if it’s not your child doing the no-spend challenge, they do benefit from it in the form of learning that they can’t always get everything they want…
Even if they might not see it as a good thing, they will reap the rewards of good money habits for years to come.
Opens your mind to what you can do for free or cheap
If it weren’t for the fact that you NEEDED to find low-cost or free activities when doing a no-spend challenge, you’d probably never know how many fun and free things you could do without spending a dime.
Save more money even when you aren’t challenging yourself
One thing the no-spend challenge forces you to do is to evaluate your wants vs needs and determine if it’s worth it.
And many times, evaluating your wants and if it’s worth it, is something that sticks with you long after the challenge is over.
Learn how to meal plan
If you don’t allow yourself to spend money on groceries when doing a no-spend challenge, then learning how to meal plan on a budget is an awesome side effect that you’ll benefit from for years to come.
You’ll be able to pull together a meal from what you have on hand without batting an eye.
You become more mindful not to waste
When you know you just can’t go out and buy things on a whim, you are more mindful not to waste or to use every little last bit of things that you normally would have thrown in the trash.
It gets your creative juices flowing
Not being able to spend money tends to make people more creative with what they already have on hand.
For instance, if you run out of laundry soap, you might learn how to make DIY laundry detergent at home with things you already have on hand.
Builds your will power
I’m sure you know that you’ll need will power to complete a no-spend challenge, but the effects can last longer than just a month.
You might even surprise yourself at how much will power you actually have which can help you in more ways than just saving money.
Learn the difference between needs vs wants
Anybody who does a no-spend challenge will definitely learn the difference between wants and needs.
This will help you manage your money better, help you reach financial goals, and improve your overall finances.
Who would have thought a simple money saving challenge could have so many benefits that will make a huge impact in not only your finances but your life too!
Other types of money-saving challenges
A no-spend challenge is just one of many other money challenges that you can do to save. Below are two of the most popular and effective ways to save more money with a challenge.
The pantry challenge is similar to a no-spend challenge but focuses on not spending money on food for a month, or however long you choose.
Basically, you would meal plan around items that you have on hand in your fridge, freezer, and pantry to…
- Save money on groceries
- Declutter your pantry
- Utilize food you have on hand before it expires or goes bad
52-Week Saving Challenge
The 52-week money savings challenge is where you stack your savings every week. The first week you would save a$1 then the next $2 and so on for a year.
This helps ease you into saving money because you really won’t notice $1 less from week to week and at the end of the challenge you’ll have saved $1378.
If you need or want to save more you could try doing a $2 or $3 a week money saving challenge to sock away between $2756 and $4134 a year.
You can learn all about the 52-week money savings challenge in this article plus download free printable savings charts.
Tips to Survive a No-Spend Money Challenge Month
Planning ahead of time for a no spend month is the key to making it less of a challenge.
Now by planning ahead, I don’t mean going out and buying everything you’ll need ahead of time. This would defeat the purpose of the challenge since you won’t save any money this way.
Instead, look at what’s going on in the month. Is there a birthday that you just can’t let go by without buying a gift? Do you have obligations that might require you to purchase something?
Taking care of these things ahead of time will help you stick to your no spend month without feeling guilty or having to give up because you feel that you can’t do it.
Create a meal plan for the month
Making a meal plan for the month is definitely going to save you some stress as you go through this challenge. Just like planning ahead, this doesn’t mean you will go out and buy all your groceries ahead of time.
Instead, create a meal plan for a month with what you already have on hand in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. If you are missing an ingredient or two for a few meals, you can purchase just those items.
But if you want to really save money on groceries you can get my complete system to saving money on groceries here.
Leave cards/cash at home to avoid the temptation
When doing a no-spend challenge, you might be tempted to make a small purchase or even just go all out and give up. One way to combat this is to leave your debit and credit cards at home as well as any cash.
This will prevent you from making spontaneous purchases or cheating just because “it’s only a few bucks”.
Research free events in your area
Boredom is a big side effect of doing a no-spend challenge, but there is a way to combat this while sticking to your plan.
There are many free events or outings that you can go to that don’t cost you anything. Doing some research ahead of time of things that you can do for free in your area will definitely make things easier and prevent you from going stir crazy.
Let your close friends and family in on your plan
You don’t need to make a big announcement to everyone you know about your plans, but it’s a good idea to let the people closest to you in.
This way they can be mindful of your situation and not ask you to go out to lunch or spend the day at the mall. It’ll also prevent any hard feelings when you have to turn them down.
Plus, they can help cheer you on or even join you in the challenge, this support definitely helps you and keep you motivated.
Unsubscribe to emails
We all get tons of promotional emails in our inboxes daily, and if you are the type of person who just can’t resist a good deal or have fear of missing out, then it might be a good idea to unsubscribe to those emails.
If you want to stay on certain email lists for whatever reason, you could set up a rule to have them go directly into a folder you don’t see them every time you want to check your email.
No-Spend Challenge Conclusion
Committing to a no-spend challenge can be difficult, especially if it’s your first time, but the rewards are worth it when you see how much money can be saved.
And it will get easier and easier with ever no spend month you do. Hopefully, these tips and ideas will help make things a little easier!!
Are you planning on doing a no-spend challenge or have you done one in the past? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.
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