Reasons to Do a No-Spend Challenge
There are many reasons to do a no-spend challenge. In this article, I will discuss 5 reasons to do a no-spend challenge and how to succeed at doing one.
What Is a No-Spend Challenge?
A no-spend challenge is where you set a goal to not spend any money on a particular category or categories for a designated amount of time. So, for example, you might decide to do a no-spend week where you don’t spend any money on going out to lunch at work.
Or you might decide to do a month-long no-spend challenge where you decide to not buy any clothes or where you decide to not spend any money on entertainment.
You could also do a no-spend for two weeks where you don’t spend any money at all beyond the essentials like fuel for your car to get to work. Or if you are able to manage it (if you have a full tank of gas, for example, and won’t need to refuel), you could do a total no-spend challenge for a week or more where you don’t spend any money on anything at all.
Great Reasons to Do a No-Spend Challenge
There are many great reasons to do a no-spend challenge. Here are 5 of them.
1. A no-spend challenge can help you save money quickly.
The most obvious benefit of a no-spend challenge is that you can save money—and save it fast—during the no-spend challenge. And especially if you do a total no-spend challenge or do a no-spend challenge in one or more categories where you spend a lot of money and you do it for at least a couple of weeks (but a month or more will of course mean even more savings in the bank!), you can save a significant amount of money.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re a family of four and that in a given month you typically spend $600 on groceries, $200 on gas, $200 on entertainment, $100 on clothes, $100 on eating out, and $100 on stuff for the kids and other miscellaneous household items or other purchases.
Now, let’s say that you decide to eat what’s in your fridge, freezer, and cupboards and pantry and save $400 on groceries, you cut down on your driving to save $100 on gas, and then you spend nothing on entertainment, clothes, or eating out for the month. So you could save $1,000 during that no-spend month! And that awesome amount of money you just saved can become your starter emergency fund. Love it!
So you really can save a lot during a short period of time. By participating in a no-spend challenge, you can save a lot of money that you can use toward things like the following:
- Saving the $1,000 for your starter emergency fund
- Starting a savings account and putting money toward a down payment on a home, the purchase of a car, paying cash for this year’s summer vacation, and more (find 9 savings accounts every family should have)
- Purchasing a larger item with cash, such as a piece of furniture, an appliance, or an inexpensive car
- Paying for your summer vacation with cash!
- Paying off credit card debt
- Paying down student loans or car loans
- Paying off debt from Christmas
2. A no-spend challenge can also really help you change the way you look at money.
If you are like many people, there is a good chance that you haven’t thought a whole lot about your relationship with money other than how much you miss it when the end of the month nears and you’re waiting for your next paycheck. 😊
But another huge benefit of doing a no-spend challenge is that it can help you look at money as a way to build security and future wealth and a way to reach large future financial goals rather than just a means of buying the next handbag, electronic device, or fast-food or fancy restaurant meal.
3. A no-spend challenge can help you break bad spending habits.
If you are used to spending money regularly or even continually, a no-spend challenge can help you reset your habits.
For example, if you are used to running to the store “for just a couple of things” multiple times a week or even most days, doing a no-spend challenge can help you to become more organized and disciplined so that you can reduce your shopping trips and therefore the amount of money you spend.
In addition, if you shop recreationally or as a kind of emotional therapy, one of the reasons to do a no-spend challenge is that you can break that habit and find healthier, more effective ways to deal with any underlying issues this habit may be allowing you to ignore.
4. A no-spend challenge can help you use up food in your freezer and cupboards.
Another reason to do a no-spend challenge, when you include not buying food or not buying as much food as part of it, is that it can help you to use up food in your freezer, cupboards, and pantry.
Maybe there are nonperishable foods that you like but you just never get around to eating them, like that box of pasta dinner that you have had for the last six months.
Throughout your no-spend period, go through your cupboards, freezer, pantry, and fridge to use up things that are near or past the recommended use-by date. (In most cases, even if they are a few months past—or in some cases, even several months past—the recommended use-by date, they will be just fine. Look at the color of the food, give it a good sniff, and if it seems OK, you’re probably just fine. We sometimes let food go past the best-by date before we eat it, and we’ve never had a problem with it.)
5. A no-spend challenge could even change your whole financial future.
The biggest and ultimate benefit of a no-spend challenge is that it could change—if you let it—the trajectory of your future. If, for example, a no-spend challenge changed you from being a spender to being a saver, the positive consequences throughout your life would be incredible.
But even if the benefit wasn’t quite as drastic as that but was just that you, forever in the future, consciously thought about the money you spent every time you made a purchase rather than just buying whatever caught your interest without really thinking about it, that would still be an amazing, life-changing outcome with far-reaching positive effects.
How do I participate in a no-spend challenge?
If you are all in, let’s see if you can go all month without spending money on anything but the necessities. So use food from your cupboards, pantry, fridge, and freezer. Don’t buy any clothes or toys. Don’t eat at any restaurants or order pizza or takeout. Don’t spend any money on entertainment. Don’t spend any money that you don’t absolutely have to.
Need some ideas for free activities for you and the kids? Read this article with more than 70 ideas for family fun.
And then see the savings start to add up. If you want to save money toward a specific goal such as purchasing a car with cash or buying an appliance or furniture with cash, set up a specific savings account for that purpose. If you don’t have a bank or credit union that lets you easily open multiple savings accounts to save toward specific goals and purposes, then check out an online bank like Capital One 360. We’ve been banking with Capital One 360 for close to 15 years (since they were still ING Direct), and even after the purchase by Cap One, they’ve still been a great bank. We’ve never had any problems with them, and the couple of times when I’ve had a minor issue with an account (due to my user error ) they’ve resolved it in a matter of minutes with a simple phone call. They also have one of the best savings interest rates around.
If you want to grow your savings or pay off debt even faster, look for things around the house that you can sell. You might have sports equipment, electronics, toys, clothes, cookware, an extra vehicle, or other items that you could sell at a garage sale, through the online classifieds or Craigslist, or on eBay, for example.
How can I succeed at doing a no-spend challenge?
It probably won’t be as hard as you might think to be able to succeed at your no-spend challenge. First, if you do a full no-spend challenge, you will need to get organized and do some meal planning. (But you should do that anyway! Get my super handy meal planning worksheet and other helpful meal planning resources by signing up below! :))
And you will probably need to get creative with your meal planning, if you decide (as I would recommend you do) to cut your grocery budget during this time. You can of course search online for some great ideas for recipes that have the ingredients you have on hand that you are trying to use up, or you can just wing it and see what concoctions you can create. You might even find some new family favorites!
You can even make the no-spend challenge into a game, to help keep things from getting too serious. With your family, once you have determined a goal for how much you want to plan to save, see how quickly you can do it or if you can even exceed your savings goal!
And then maybe give yourselves an inexpensive reward when you reach your goal or complete the no-spend challenge—like going out for inexpensive ice cream or buying a variety of toppings and making homemade banana splits. Or if your no-spend challenge helps you reach a really big financial goal, then maybe splurge a little more. 🙂
Other than that, being successful at a no-spend challenge mostly means just staying out of stores and restaurants and movie theaters and so forth and staying offline. Figure out what your triggers are for spending money, and then set yourself up for success by avoiding those trigger points.
Setting and then working toward financial goals and dreams will also help you stay on track to reduce your spending and complete your no-spend challenge. When you know what your financial priorities and goals are, it’s easier to stay the course and keep your resolve to go for a time without spending because you know that whatever you might be giving up now is a small sacrifice compared to the big financial goals you can reach if you will stay strong and follow through.
Also work on finding new hobbies and activities that don’t cost money or that don’t cost a lot of money. For ideas, see this huge list of more than 70 fun free and cheap activities you can do. (And during the challenge, stick to the free ones!)
What else can I do to start to get a handle on my financial situation or start to save money?
In addition to doing a no-spend challenge, you should create and start to follow a budget or spending plan. I know that sometimes budgets have negative emotions attached to them, but a spending plan or budget is simply where you tell your money where you want it to go. It’s that simple. You control the budget, so that your spending won’t control you. See this article for more information on how to create a budget that works. And learn how to stick to a budget here.
To learn how to start getting control of your finances and really start winning with money, get my free Save Your Money, Change Your Life ebook. Sign up below! This book will teach you how to earn more, save more, spend less, and invest more in order to right your financial ship, gain financial stability, and work toward building prosperity and wealth and reaching ultimate financial freedom.
As you work to get your financial life in order, you should also start tracking your spending. You can track your spending with the free worksheet and simple budget available when you sign up below.
A great free app to help you track your spending is Personal Capital. With Personal Capital, you can see not only all of your bank checking and savings accounts and even your credit cards and other finance accounts, but you can also link your retirement and regular nonretirement brokerage accounts.
This allows you to have a complete, overall picture of your current financial situation. And you can also view your account history to see how your accounts and overall portfolio have done over time. I love this very helpful tool and use it regularly! Sign up for your free Personal Capital account here.
As you can see, there are many great reasons to do a no-spend challenge. Maybe the idea of doing a no-spend challenge is a little daunting—but you can do it! And when you do, not only will it help you save money (and save it quickly!), but it really could change the way you look at money and even change your whole life. It will strengthen your resolve to make positive financial changes in your life.
Participating in a no-spend challenge, especially if it is for a month or more, can really change your life in incredible ways. It can help you to save a big chunk of money fast. If you have money habits that you want to break, a no-spend challenge can be an amazing way to reset those habits and help you find healthier practices or habits to replace them with. If you have food you want to use up, a no-spend period is a great time to do that. And a no-spend challenge really could change your whole future and the way you look at money if you let it.
Most things in life that are worth achieving require a little hard work or sacrifice, or both, and winning with your money is no different. But the rewards are so worth it!
Changing your money habits so that you really succeed with your finances will have a bigger impact than many other things in your life. And the sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll reach the finish line! Get ready, get set, go! And I’m here to help you all along the way!
Are you ready to do a no-spend challenge?! Leave a comment below (and post a comment in our new, closed Facebook group!). I can’t wait to see the great things that you will accomplish with the money you are able to save!
Invitation to Share
Was there something in this article that inspired you to change something about your money? Are there ideas or tips that you feel could help others? Would you please take a minute to share this article via email or social media? I would love your help to share these principles of financial well-being. Thank you!
Join our closed Families for Financial Freedom Facebook group to get support and share ideas for how we can all improve our financial well-being by earning more, spending less, saving more, and investing more and reach our financial goals. You can do this! And we are here to help.