If you need to save money quickly and see actual results this is the post for you. A no-spend challenge is a great way to save money, broaden your horizons and get creative.
You can set short term goals and achieve them fast using this budget method.
What is a no spend challenge?
A no spend challenge is a short term goal setting process to keep from unnecessary spending in an attempt to save money and be more frugal and thoughtful with your purchases.
How does it work?
Set a goal, in which you want to accomplish within a month. No spend challenges are often done in one of 3 lengths of time. Either a no-spend weekend, a no-spend week, or a no-spend month, where you have 30 days to not spend any money outside of normal utilities and bills.
If your goal is to save X amount of money, write down the goal somewhere that you can be reminded of it every day. Then as the challenge progresses, you will see your reminder and stay on target to follow through without spending money.
By cutting out costs during the month, you save money and can reach your goals fairly quickly. It’s a pretty fun way to save up for something big. You can also do it out of necessity if you can’t afford that much food.
No spend challenge rules:
Of course, it wouldn’t be a real challenge without rules and guidelines. Generally, the rules are fairly simple and pretty straight forward.
Here are some common rules people set for their no-spend challenges.
- No spending money on anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. If it can wait until next month, you don’t need it this month.
- Avoid shopping at stores
- You can’t eat out, this includes restaurants and fast food
- Find a free alternative to Uber and Lyft
- Don’t stop for the morning coffee
- No spending money on hair cuts
- Don’t buy new clothes
- No getting manicures or pedicures if it costs money
- Shopping online is out of the question
- Bar hopping is also out
- Eat from the pantry, fridge, and freezer as much as possible to avoid buying new food
- Set a budget for what you will allow being spent this month on pre-determined expenses like gas, food and other essentials.
What is okay to purchase during a no spend challenge?
It’s almost impossible to go without spending ANYTHING all month, especially if you have normal living expenses like most adults. So what are you allowed to spend money on during a challenge?
Exceptions to the rules:
- Cell phones
- Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime video
- Health Expenses
- Sinking funds if you have them
- Diapers, wipes or other baby expenses (babies can’t help that they need these things)
- Gas to get to/from work
- Any other “fixed expense” that you pay monthly or have set on a subscription-based plan that you can’t avoid.
It’s important to note that during your no-spend, you will make your own rules and exceptions.
No one knows your situation better than you, so while you may take note of what others do, the decision on what is or isn’t allowed is ultimately your decision to make.
Why are you doing this challenge?
Are you looking to save money for something specific? Or are you trying to save money in general? Perhaps you just want to try this challenge and see if you can do it.
Set a goal
It works great when you have an actual goal in mind. Something to look forward to and keep you motivated.
If you don’t have a goal and just want to try the challenge for the fun, try to consider this:
Make a monthly budget with your current income and expenses. How much money is left over after bills? Do you think you can cut out any of those bills for a short period of time and have an even larger nest of money in your pocket?
If you do, that’s great. Make that number your goal for this process so you can try your hardest to work towards it! Or figure something to do with that much money.
If you are paying off debt, how much of an impact can that have? Saving up for a vacation, it could make a difference too!
How long are you doing it for?
Are you going to start small with a stay home, no-spend weekend or try to go straight for the gold with a month-long challenge?
I really recommend starting small if you’re new to this, but if you think you can do it, go for it!
No spend Weekend
If you find yourself going out every week and looking for activities for the family or yourself only to wind up spending too much money, this one could get you started on the right money-saving track!
Consider looking for free family activities to do during this challenge.
No Spend Week
This short-term challenge helps to get you aware of your spending impulses and put a freeze to the bad money-habits.
Going a week without ordering lunch or coffee can help to open your eyes to your spending habits.
No Spend Month
The no spend monthly challenge is not one to be taken by the faint of heart, it’s for people who are really invested in the challenge. A lot of people will try and fail, and it could be a few times before you have a single successful month. But the rewards are so much greater!
Just like with all things in life, the greater the risk the better the rewards.
What are your rules?
I shared the general rules usually set in place for these challenges but this is YOUR challenge. You get to make all of the rules. So what are they? Do you have any exceptions to these rules?
Take note of things like birthday’s and holidays if they are happening during the challenge period because you want to be able to do something on those days and not feel like you broke a rule.
Write down your rules, and have them posted somewhere to remind you.
Helpful No Spend Challenge Tips:
- Plan frugal activities to keep you busy
- Use this time to perform a pantry challenge and eat the food in your house so you don’t spend as much at the grocery store.
- Post your goals and rules somewhere where you can see it every day
- Talk to your family and friends about the challenge so you have accountability
- Remain positive
- Deep clean and de-clutter your house
- Unlink your debit/credit cards from online merchants
- Take note of your shopping triggers and avoid them
- Meal plan
- Use the cash envelope system so you can avoid using debit/credit cards at all.
- Keep a list of free activities that you can do when you need to get out of the house and feel active. (You won’t feel motivated to continue if you stay shut-in your home all month!)
- If you need to grocery shop, and impulse purchases are a weakness of yours try this tip- Order your groceries online. Even just doing a ship to store option is a great way to only buy the exact items that you need and not anything that you don’t.
Why use the cash envelope system during a no-spend challenge?
First, what is the envelope system?
The envelope system is a form of budgeting made famous by Dave Ramsey. It’s when you take cash and place it into designated envelopes and only use it for that purpose.
For instance, if you budget $40 for gas and $200 for groceries, they each get their own envelopes and you stay mindful to only use that cash amount and not pull money from another area.
This helps you to stay in your budget because research shows you will pay more attention to cash leaving your hand as opposed to using a debit or credit card.
Why the envelope system can help you during a no-spend:
To go an entire month without spending money and avoiding grocery stores, you’ll eventually run out of milk, eggs, fresh produce and other basic house staples.
Setting aside a specific amount of cash per week to spend on replenishing these items allows you to continue eating, gives you a chance to get out of the house a few times and lets you still cut down on your normal grocery expenses.
Don’t forget to use your gift cards:
If you have any unused gift cards laying around, use them during the challenge to avoid using your own cash. It’s better to spend a grocery gift card to Walmart with only a few dollars on it then it is to spend your own hard earned money during the challenge.
The purpose is to save you money, so use up those awkwardly balanced gift cards you have laying around and make more space in your wallet.
Alternatively, if your gift cards are to a place you don’t even shop at, or plan to shop at you can sell them for extra money. Using websites like the Raise app can help you to get rid of those gift cards and make money. I use this site a few times a year, and it’s really great!
Things to remember:
Keep a record of all of your spending triggers and progress during this challenge. Write down if you have a slip-up, and include possible ways to avoid these in the future.
Remember that the no-spend challenges are a learning experience and think of every mistake in a positive way. No one is perfect at everything on their first try.
Stock up in advance:
If you know that during this no-spend time frame that you will no doubt need to shop for dog food, toothpaste or some other item, stock up in advance.
The goal is to stop you from entering the store, where you can avoid impulse buys and other eye-catching budget busters. Shopping is okay to do during the challenge, but the less you have to do it, the better off you’ll feel about staying motivated.
Also use this time to:
Use up any travel sized items that you may have laying around. If you collect those little shampoos and soaps from hotels, use them up and avoid buying yourself new full-sized products.
Doing this helps you in 2 ways. 1.) It helps to declutter your home. You now have fewer things to store. 2.) Soaps and shampoos have expiration dates/best by dates too, and its a use it or lose it situation. Might as well use it.
Another great tip:
While your challenge is all about saving money, there is nothing against the idea of making some extra money. So why not have a yard sale or sell things online?
Deep cleaning your home, organizing and planning a yard sale can help you to stay busy for a week or more, plus you get money. It’s like a win-win.
If you don’t have any signs or means to make signs for the yard sale, consider offering to allow another family or friend to join you in the sale. Multi-family yard sales do great! Have them bring the signs and you can find another way to contribute to the event.
[Suggested purchase] Yard sale sign set with price sticker bundle.
Have you ever done a no-spend challenge?
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