No Spend Challenge
Are you ready to work on your financial struggles? Maybe you feel desperate to pay off your student loans, or maybe you’re trying to save up an emergency fund. Or maybe you’re trying to save up a down payment for a home. Whatever the financial goal you’re working toward, a ‘No Spend Challenge‘ will help!
What Is A No Spend Challenge?
A no spend challenge is when you commit to reduce your expenditures by cutting out all non-essentials for a specified amount of time, from a weekend to a month, or even longer.
How Will A No Spend Challenge Benefit Me?
A no spend challenge is not just a fantastic way to save up some moolah, but it’s also a great way to learn to discern the difference between wants and needs, and to develop strategies to eliminate bad financial habits.
A no spend challenge can open your eyes to what triggers you to purchase impulsively. Hopefully, you’ll even learn a few strategies that will help you to keep money in your pocket long term, even when you aren’t participating in a savings challenge.
Or, a No Spend Challenge can simply help you get back on track after a big financial splurge, like the holidays or a big home improvement project. In fact, I tend to always use January as a No Spend Month to get me back on track after extravagant (for me, at least) Christmas spending.
How to Prepare for Your No Spend Challenge.
Your have the best chance of completing your no spend challenge if you take a few minutes to prepare first, using the following 3 steps:
1. Set a savings goal. Goals — well-thought out and written down — always inspire me to action. I just completed a No Spend Month, and my motivation was saving money for Shanghai Disneyland tickets. I’ve been saving for awhile for a family trip to China next month, and we paid cash for flights, hotels, and admissions, using multiple savings challenges over the last year.
But I was still a little short on train fares and Disneyland tickets, and my most recent No Spend Month got me there. Having a clear goal to work towards will help you stay motivated and committed to the challenge.
2. Choose a time frame for your no spend challenge. I’ve seen No Spend Challenges last for as short as a weekend and as long as a year (can you imagine?).
You’ll want to choose a time period based on your goals — shorter challenges for smaller savings goals and longer challenges for big savings goals. If you’re just starting out, though, you’ll probably have better success starting out with a shorter challenge.
3. Decide on a few basic rules for your no spend challenge. The rules I listed below are my own personal rules. I tend to be a diehard fanatic when it comes to saving money, so my rules will probably sound Nazi-esque to you. I also have a pretty good-sized stockpile of groceries, plus I have a cow and chickens in my backyard. So a month without groceries is no biggie to me.
Your circumstances will obviously be different than mine, and you’ll need to adapt your rules accordingly. I’ve seen people exclusively forego their morning Starbucks run, or entertainment.
Use the rules you want to use and ignore the rest, or feel free to create your own rules entirely. Your challenge = your rules! Make sure your rules are palatable enough that they’re sustainable. And be sure to write them down and post them somewhere obvious as a reminder.
Here are the No Spend Challenge rules I use:
- Only purchase necessities, including mortgage/rent, utilities (including phone and internet), car payments, gas for your vehicle, insurance, credit card or loan payments, and medical necessities.
- No Groceries. Your no spend challenge is the perfect time to use up everything that gets pushed to the back of the pantry each week. Be sure to check your freezer, too. That’s where things go to die at my house. Use this time to rotate out the canned goods you’ve stocked up on and use up items before they expire. It’s the perfect time to get creative with your meals. >>>Want to save money on groceries??? Find out how here…<<<
- No eating out. That means no snacks at the gas station, no Starbucks, no business lunches (unless someone else is paying) and no bribing your kids with a trip to McDonald’s for not fighting in the grocery store. One of the biggest keys to success is thinking ahead. If you know you’ll be out and about for music lessons, soccer practice or other activities, plan ahead and pack snacks or food. Planning ahead is one of the very best frugal habits you can develop!
- No incidentals, like toiletries or kitchen supplies. Shampoo, soap, toilet paper, toothpaste, diapers and trash bags are easy to stock up on ahead of time. And they last forever. Just be sure to check around the house and see if you’re close to running out of anything, then try to find a good sale and stock up!
- No salon services. This isn’t hard for me, because I very rarely visit the salon. But if you’re a regular, just ignore this rule, or make sure you get your hair done before starting.
- No hobbies. This is the one that hits home for me. I may not ever visit the salon, but I’m a regular at Home Depot. I’ve always got a million projects going, and I realize that my projects are a large portion of the pie graph that represents our spending.
- Cut out all unnecessary subscriptions, like Netflix, gym memberships and Spotify.
- Stay the heck away from Target and Hobby Lobby, because I know I’ll be sorry if I don’t just avoid the temptation to begin with.
- Only free entertainment and activities. Nights and weekends out can be a budget killer, especially if you have a big family. If you research free activities and entertainment for your family, you’ll see that there are actually plenty of fun options. Use Google to find sites with free events in your city, have a family game night, or hit the park. Plan these activities ahead of time so you’re not tempted to pay for activities because your kiddos are bored and driving you batty. Check out some of the free activities below.
Review the No Spend Challenge Rules With Your Spouse and Family.
Make sure the entire family is on the same page, otherwise the savings challenge is pointless. And you’re going to be very frustrated.
If your spouse and family understand and agree to the goals, they’ll be much more likely to cooperate. So it’s in your best interest to let them participate in the rule setting, deciding which rules to abide by and which to scrap.
It’s also very beneficial to have support. It’s hard to hold ourselves accountable otherwise. Isn’t that one of the main reasons Alcoholics Anonymous is so successful — accountability to a sponsor?
Write Out Your ‘No Spend Challenge’ Plan.
My mom always says, “It’s only a wish until it’s written down.”
Write out each of the steps you decide to implement and post them somewhere visible so you are constantly reminded of your plan. Be sure to include your savings goal, too, so you’ll remember the reason for the challenge.
I like to use a financial notebook where I include my reasons, my savings goals and my rules for the challenge. I also track my progress in that same notebook. My notebook looks like a planner and contains all of my financial aspirations, my budgets, and my income/expenditures.
Track Your Progress.
Whether you use a notebook, a simple spreadsheet or financial software, it’s so much easier to stay motivated when you can see progress toward something you really want. It also helps you to see where your weaknesses are and hold yourself accountable when you make mistakes.
I love to look back over previous savings challenges and compare my successes and failures to determine the methods that work best for me. I can easily see that month-long no spend challenges are the most beneficial for me, even though I like and use a lot of different savings challenges.
If credit cards are a weakness for you, don’t carry them. Leave them at home in your sock drawer, or frozen in a block of ice, so that you have to really want something badly enough that you’ll go to great lengths to get it.
And furthermore, stay away from places that you know to be a weakness. Target and Hobby Lobby are my biggest weaknesses! So I just stay the heck away when I’m trying to save money.
How to Proceed Once Your No Spend Challenge Ends.
A no spend challenge is a lot like a diet. What would happen if you ate super carefully for a month and lost several pounds, only to eat everything in sight the minute your diet ended?
You don’t want to fall back into bad habits the minute your no spend challenge ends. So you need to have a plan in place for how to proceed with your finances. Most people call that plan a budget.
Take care of your new savings immediately! Out of sight, out of mind. Stash your money away in a separate savings account where it is designated as savings and won’t be inadvertently spent. I deliberately keep my savings sequestered away in an online, high-yield banking account that requires three days to transfer into my regular bank.
Whether you decide to invest the money you’ve saved during your no spend challenge, or spend it on something you’ve been saving for, take action immediately. If you don’t take care of the money right away, you might be tempted to use it for something else.
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Pin these helpful tips for your next No Spend Challenge!
Have you ever attempted a No Spend Challenge? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!