First things first. What is a No Spend Challenge?
It is exactly what it says. It’s a challenge where you don’t spend any money for a specific amount of time.
Why would you want to do this?
It’s a great way to get your finances under control and really understand where your money is going and how much you really need to sustain a lifestyle that you want.
- Can you really survive not going to the movies for a weekend?
- Do you need to stop at the gas station for snacks?
- Soda is bad for you, so maybe buying 18 at once isn’t the best idea.
- Do you have to stop each morning for that expensive Double Mocha Latte?
These are things you will find out when you restrict your level of spending.
There are no official rules or guidelines when it comes to No Spend Challenges.
However, no spend doesn’t mean you don’t pay your bills. Explaining to your landlord that you can’t pay rent because you’re participating in an online challenge is not the best route to take.
Set Your Own Rules
It’s important that you set your own rules so you understand the boundaries that you can work within.
For example, if you love fruits and vegetables, it can be pretty hard to get fresh ones that last a whole month. So maybe you allow yourself to buy some essential food items that spoil in a short period of time like milk.
What happens if you get sick and need to buy medicine? Is that okay? Anything is okay if you allow it to be but don’t become so flexible that everything you always buy falls under the safe category.
It’s a good idea to be very specific so you understand the challenge for yourself. Write down your rules so you can hold yourself accountable.
Stocked up on wine or beer before the challenge and find yourself in the middle of a 6-hour Netflix marathon craving ice cream? Too bad. It doesn’t fall under your list of necessities.
Plan for Events and Activities
The idea of a No Spend Challenge isn’t that you sit at home doing nothing. Odds are you have something going on during the challenge so plan accordingly.
If you’re just doing a weekend No Spend Challenge then maybe you can just sit at home but if you’re doing a month-long challenge you probably already have things planned.
If you’ve already got Beyoncé concert tickets then what money will you need to spend there? Maybe parking.
It’s important to take note of these things so they don’t catch you by surprise and you end up beating yourself up over it.
Some people that do No Spend Challenges like to add a little loophole that if they earn any side money then that money is safe to spend.
For example, maybe you clean out your closet and sell off some clothes. That money is yours to spend.
This loophole actually works well as it starts to show you the art of the side hustle
Let Your World Know About Your No Spend Challenge
It’s important that you let your friends and family know that you are doing the challenge.
It’s similar to going on a diet. If you keep it to yourself then you might find that they put you in some tough situations that you don’t want to be in.
Even better if you can get them to help make the rules.
Remember, this is a No Spend Challenge, not a No Eat Challenge.
What causes most people to fail on these challenges is that they don’t know how to plan their food.
You shouldn’t go to Costco and buy food like the world is about to end.
Instead, take inventory of what you already have in your house and how many meals you can make with that.
Then take the time to plan out the rest of your meals for however long the challenge is.
Meal-planning is not only an awesome way to make yourself more productive but it’s also a great way to save money.
Again, “No Spend” doesn’t mean no fun. You should plan for some activities ahead of time.
Many cities and towns have free activities happening on weekends and in the Spring or Summer might have a movie in the park type of thing.
Check out your local library for free events too. Or go to the library and borrow some DVDs and CDs (books too!) and have a home movie night. Also see if your local library has any online resources, like Overdrive, which lets you borrow e-books and audio-books for free (with a library card)
You don’t want to sit around wondering what you can do one day. Instead, plan ahead so everyone knows that is exactly what you’re going to do.
If you have kids you have to approach your No Spend Challenge a little differently. Check out my post about how to plan and survive a No Spend Challenge with Kids!
The Mental Game
Once your loved ones (spouse, kids, pets) are taken care of then the last thing to do is make sure you are mentally prepared for this.
You go your whole adult life spending and then suddenly you challenge yourself to not spend at all.
It’s important to look at a No Spend Challenge as a chance for growth. It’s not torture or meant to deprive you of awesome experiences in life.
It won’t be easy but if done correctly it is well worth it.
The Extra Money
The final awesome question is what do you do with the extra money that you save?
This is really up to you.
You can put it towards knocking out debt, an emergency fund, or get a jump start on saving for a deposit on a new house! You should make an intentional decision about it however instead of just admiring how much extra money you have leftover.
Know what you’re going to do with your money. Don’t let it decide for you.
Start the Challenge
Doing a No Spend Challenge is a great way to understand where you are at financially and how you view money. Many of us have money problems not because we don’t make enough or go crazy with money, but because we don’t completely understand where it goes.
Most of us find it hard to make a budget and stick to it. Those small $5-$20 transactions might not seem like much when you are doing them but over time they definitely add up.
If you are planning for early retirement, No Spend challenges are a great way to help you understand what your base level of income should be and once you are able to reach that each month, retirement doesn’t seem like a faraway dream.
However, you do it and whatever you decide to do with the extra money. Enjoy the experience and see how much you can learn about yourself and your lifestyle.