Easy No Spend Challenge Guide: Save Money and Improve Your Finances

There are a lot of reasons to try a no spend challenge. Perhaps the month before you spent a lot on presents, food or vacation.

Or maybe your budget is a little tighter than you want, and you need to save up some money for emergencies. Whatever your reason, a no spend challenge can help you save a lot of cash and become more aware of purchasing decisions.

You’ll likely complete the challenge with a new perspective and understanding of your money, in addition to saving. Let’s get started!

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woman holding her hand up to stop and shopping bags no spend challenge concept

What is a No Spend Challenge?

It’s extremely popular – but what is it? A no spend challenge is when you only spend money on things you need, not on wants.

The challenge can be for whatever length of time you want. It’s common to start with a week or a month, but some people try out a much longer time, like a year.

If you’ve never tried out a no spend challenge, a week or a month is a great place to start. It will give you time to get used to the idea and decide if you want or need to continue with it for a longer time.

What is the 30 Day No Spend Challenge?

This is approximately a month of not spending any money. What this means is avoiding anything that isn’t necessary to buy.

Certain things are essential to pay for, like gas for your car and your monthly expenses. But you don’t buy anything random that isn’t essential.

If you genuinely want to spend no money at all during this month, you can try paying all of your bills at the beginning of the month, and buying all the food you need for the 30 days, too.

But this would require having all the money for bills upfront at the beginning of the 30 days. Because of this, most people will opt to just avoid spending on wants instead. 

What are No Spend Days?

On a no spend day, you do not buy anything. There is debate about whether you can buy things that are essential or not.

Since it’s only one day, you can probably avoid spending anything at all as long as you prepare. You can do more than one day in a row or have set no spend days every week or month.

How to Do a No Spend Challenge?

Challenges can be hard to commit to. What you can’t forget is to keep your goal in mind.

There may be moments where you have trouble sticking with what you’ve decided to do. Especially if a fun opportunity comes up or you want to buy food or a snack impulsively.

These tips can help you to stay focused.

1. Pick Your Why

If you’re going to go for it with this challenge, you need to have a pretty strong why. There will be difficult days. You may want to spend money on something, but if you stick to your reason, you will keep going until the end. 

Find something that is motivating for you. It could be saving a certain amount of money to buy something essential or for an investment. Or maybe it’s to create better habits for yourself.

2. Decide on a Time Frame and Starting Date 

Don’t be vague about this. Set obvious starting and ending times for your no spend challenge.

For example, you can start on Friday at 6 am and end the following Friday at 6 am. Adding times can be helpful, so there’s no debate about whether you can spend money that day.

3. Set Your Rules

Decide what matters. What are your rules? Determine what is essential and what is a want.

What are you allowed to buy, and what has to wait? Examples of essentials are food, rent or mortgage payment, insurance costs, and other non-negotiables.

A want could be eating out at restaurants, going to the movies, subscription streaming services, and things you don’t need to survive, like new books or a new purse.

Once you’ve decided on what you can and can’t purchase, give yourself some other guidelines. Can you quit the no spend challenge early for any reason, or not?

What if an expense comes up that you didn’t plan for? Also, decide if you will add days to your challenge for accidental spending or not.

It’s a good idea to write all this down somewhere to look to in the future.

4. Talk it Over with Family/Significant Other

If you are doing a no spend challenge for a while, you should inform people affected by it. For example, family members that live with you.

You should give them a heads up about what you’ll be doing, so they don’t feel confused or expect you to spend money on things.

It’s even more important to let your significant other know about your plans. If you have any combined finances, they are entitled to know what you’ll be doing.

And even if you keep money separate, it’s still nice to make sure no plans are disrupted.

5. Put Away Credit/Debit Cards; Consider Using Cash Only

A simple way to avoid the temptation to spend is to remove it altogether. If you have limited cash with you and aren’t carrying credit and debit cards, you don’t have a lot of spending options.

Consider putting cards somewhere safe to stick to your plan. You should carry some cash with you, and maybe one card, just in case, though.

That way, if you find that you need to spend money in an emergency, you can still do so.

Related: Cash Budgeting- The Good and the Bad

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How to Survive a No Spending Month?

Not spending money can be fun for a few days, but how do you keep it up for a whole month? You’re bound to want to spend at some point. Here are some ideas to keep you going.

1. Eat from your pantry/freezer

Stock up on the essentials before you begin the month, and then eat what you have in the house. You will need to be creative, with ideas that are slightly different from what you usually eat, but you will adjust, and it can help you avoid spending money.

Here are some helpful articles:

2. Brainstorm free entertainment

You don’t have to spend money to have fun. If you’re used to going out on the weekends and spending is a normal part of that, it can be a challenge at first.

But check out some of these fun activities that won’t cost anything!

Parks

Parks are a great place to go after work or on the weekend. Take a stroll, read under a tree, have a picnic, or play a game of frisbee. Fresh air is good for you, and you won’t need any money.

Games

You probably have some fun board games or cards tucked into a closet or cupboard somewhere. Now is the time to bring them out and have some fun. You can even host a game night as a way to connect with friends without spending.

Movie night

Are there any old classics you haven’t seen for a while? Check out what movies you own and see if there is anything you’d like to watch.

You can have a marathon on the weekend if you own any movie series. Make some popcorn and enjoy the day.

Library

Libraries are great for borrowing books, games, movies, and more. Check out your local library for a fun outing, and then pick up some things that will help pass the time.

Find a book series you’ll enjoy reading, or even begin learning a language with books and DVDs.

Related: Ultimate List of Free or Cheap Date Night Ideas

3. Be content to work on projects at home.      

Before you begin your no-spend month, make a list of home projects you can work on during the next few weeks. Things like painting a room, spending time on a hobby, or rearranging the furniture in your house can all be great projects.

If you need to spend any money, do so before the month begins, but it’s better to use only what you already have if possible. Look for projects that may be time-consuming but are not necessarily expensive.

4. Make a list of things you want to purchase when the challenge is over.

Just because you are not spending for a certain amount of time doesn’t mean you can’t in the future. Instead of not thinking about spending at all, try making a list when you want to buy something.

Read through the items on the list at the end of the challenge. If you still want any of them, give yourself permission to spend then if it makes sense. 

5. Exercise

Exercising can help you be healthier, and it also is a free way to spend your time. Try taking up a new activity like yoga or running. Or you can work out at home. 

6. Be creative

Make up a list of activities you can do while you’re in the middle of the challenge. Try to come up with things that both pass the time and are valuable activities. 

Why You Should Try a No Spend Challenge

There are many reasons to do a no spend challenge. Check out the top five.

Save Money

This is the most apparent reason to do a no spend challenge. Try creating a goal for how much to save and make it a game to see how close you can get.

Take the Stress Out of Money Decisions

If you’ve already decided not to spend, you don’t have to worry about it much. If something comes up that friends or family want to do, you can tell them about your decision and not feel obligated to spend money.

Identify Spending Triggers

This challenge can be a great way to find out what your usual spending impulses are. You might even try writing down what you want to spend money on during this time. In the future, you can use this to help you stick to your budget.

Clarify Your Goals

A no spend challenge will help you to be clear about what you want financially. It can be a great way to set goals and saving challenges.

Use the time you have during the challenge to think about what you should do with your money and time in the future.

Force Yourself to Challenge Your Priorities

When you change your habits, you’ll be pushed to think differently about priorities. You’ll have the time to consider what truly matters to you and how you want to spend and save. 

Use a No Spend Month to Improve Finances

A no-spend challenge can be a great way to give your finances a kickstart. As a recap, there are some of the financial benefits:

Have a why for a no-spend challenge and apply your savings to that goal.

Choose your “why” before beginning a no spend challenge. Then take all the money that you’re able to save and use it to reach your why.

A savings goal gives you something to accomplish, and it can make it easier to say no to spending because you want to save as quickly as possible.

It can help you get control of your budget.

Sometimes your budget needs a reset. A no spend month can be just the thing to get your money on track again.

While you aren’t spending, you’ll have the time to reevaluate your budget and see what is working and what isn’t. Plus, you’ll know how much you’re capable of saving, which can make sticking to a budget easier.

You can meet your money goals faster. 

When you complete a no spend month, you are in charge of your money. You control your saving and spending, and you can reach your goals much faster.

A few no spend months in a row may even make it possible for you to reach a significant savings goal.

A No Spend Challenge Can be Difficult, but the Rewards Are Worth It

Beginning a no spend challenge is not easy. You’ll have to say no to some things that come up and find ways to be creative to avoid spending.

But there are some great benefits to this, too. You can save up a lot of money quickly, become financially organized, and understand your priorities.

A no spend challenge is a good thing to try at least once. You’ll find out more about yourself and your habits, and you’ll have more money at the end of it.

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