This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy for more info.
Have you ever wanted reset your spending to discover what really matters to you? Or do you want save a lot of money in a few short weeks? A no spend challenge may be just what you’re looking for! Today, Ashley from Budgets Made Easy, you may remember her from her visit to the Aha! Debt Series, has practiced no spend challenges when paying off debt and is here to teach us how to be successful with these challenges. Take it away, Ashley!
A great way to save money quickly is to do a no-spend challenge. It allows you to avoid impulse spending, save more of your hard-earned money, and put your cash toward paying off debt or a savings goal.
Personally, I have done a couple of no-spend challenges but I haven’t been able to go longer than 2 weeks.
I can do a weekend pretty easily since I am such a homebody but that short of a time frame doesn’t really do much to further your savings. It is just going to depend on your situation and spending habits.
What is a no-spend challenge?
A no-spend challenge is where you try not to spend any money for a set period of time. You may choose to spend money that is already budgeted for a certain thing or event during the no-spend challenge. However, there is no extra spending.
A no-spend challenge can be a month, week, or just a weekend. The goal is to reign in spending and limit impulse buys.
A no-spend month is a little harder to do and will take more prep work than just a no-spend weekend. However, a no-spend month will give you the biggest reward.
It is important during a no-spend challenge to reduce the temptation to impulse buy.
You do have to pay your regular bills during the no-spend challenge. You may also have to get food or at least fresh produce.
There are no hard and fast rules for a challenge but the general idea is to not spend a bunch of money.
10 Tips for a No-Spend Challenge:
These no-spend challenge tips will help you save money and get your budget back on track. Having a spending freeze can help change your mindset and save money for a special event or project. It can also help you stop spending if you have been a little out of control lately. These tips will help you complete your challenge successfully.
1. Pantry Challenge
During a pantry challenge, you want to use up all the food you have stored up. You can create meals with the ingredients you already have on hand. This is good for when you have a lot stocked up.
Americans waste a pound of food per person per day! A pantry challenge can help use up the food you already have that may be getting close to going bad.
You will have to stock up on things before the challenge depending on what you already have on hand. If you do a whole month, you can freeze a lot of things to save trips to the store.
You can go to My Fridge Food and put in what ingredients you have and it will give you recipes for those ingredients.
You can freeze things like:
- diced onions
Here is a list of 83 foods you can freeze.
During a pantry challenge, the goal is to use up what you have and save trips to the store. So, make an inventory and figure out what meals you can make during the challenge.
2. Meal Plan
My grocery budget is now $600, which includes household products and dog food.
Meal planning for the challenge is important, even if you don’t do a whole pantry challenge. You will still need to figure out what you need for the entire duration. If you do a whole month, it will take more planning.
Make sure to have a plan and get everything ahead of the challenge. Plus a quick and easy backup meal or two just in case you just don’t feel like cooking.
Note: Want free meal planners? Download them here!
3. Free Activities
There are lots of free local activities that you can do. You can find out what is going on locally by following your local town’s Facebook pages or website, local mom groups, or the library. Some areas even have websites that keep track of local free or cheap activities.
Some free activities could include:
- going for a walk
- bringing a picnic to the park
- going to the library
Here is a list of over 30 free family activities!
4. Stock Up
Be sure to stock up on any needed items. There will be an upfront cost to this but you will save it during the challenge. This isn’t just food, make sure you have enough toothpaste, toilet paper, hygiene products, dog food, etc, to last through the challenge.
If you do forget something and need to run to the store, it’s not the end of the world. Just make sure that you don’t buy anything you don’t need.
5. Unsubscribe from emails
This is a good tip when you are trying to save money. Unsubscribe from store emails or any emails that tempt you to spend money. There is a reason every store wants your email address when you check out. It’s because it works for sales!
They tempt you into spending money you may not have spent it otherwise. So, remove the temptation and unsubscribe. On the plus side, if you subscribe again later, most places give you a welcome coupon.
6. Be Accountable to Someone
What I mean by this is to let someone know that you are doing it, so you are more likely to achieve your goal. A no-spend challenge is a goal that you are trying to achieve.
If you don’t tell anyone then it’s easy to give up or “cheat” because who really knows or cares?
You can even find a Facebook group to join to help get ideas and stay accountable.
Tell your friends and family so that they know why you may say no to an outing or spending money. They hopefully will not tempt you and can offer moral support and accountability as well.
7. Use Up Everything
While you are doing the challenge, use everything up or go without if you can. This will depend on what it is but there are things that can wait until after the challenge.
This will keep you from being tempted at the store because “it’s a good deal” or you just don’t want to eat at home or whatever it is that day.
8. Plan Family Fun At Home
Make a plan for things to do at home so everyone isn’t bored. It will make it go by quicker and easier. The kids won’t even notice that you aren’t spending any money. They just want to have fun.
Make a plan for kids crafts, science experiments, treasure hunts, and anything else your family likes to do together.
This is a great opportunity to reconnect as a family.
9. Leave Money At Home
Only take the money for whatever you need at the store. Do not take any extra money with you so you won’t be tempted.
Do not take your whole wallet or cash envelopes with you. If you only need a couple of food items, take only the amount you need.
10. Use Up Gift Cards
One BILLION dollars goes to waste every year on gift cards! Use them up and don’t throw that money away. You can even save them up for a no-spend challenge. Just keep in mind that some gift cards start charging a fee out of the balance after a certain time frame.
If you choose to use up some gift cards, be sure to only take the cards or a little extra just in case. However, don’t take your whole wallet or extra cash so you aren’t tempted to spend more than what is on the card.
What If I Spend Money During the Challenge?
Don’t beat yourself up about it. There may be some things that come up unexpectedly that you decide to spend money on. It’s not the end of the world. However, don’t use it as an excuse to abandon the challenge altogether.
If you mess up or decided to go to an unplanned event or something like that, it’s okay. The goal is to not spend money. Just refocus and get back to it.
Remember that a no-spend challenge is an opportunity to not spend any money. It will drastically reduce impulse spending, eating out, and quick trips to the store.
Your money will quit leaving you in $5-$20 increments so you can save it easier. It can help reset your budget and stick to it. It can also help you develop new habits for saving money. The more you do it, the easier it will be.
So, if you have been struggling to save money or stick to your budget, a no-spend challenge is a good exercise to get back in control!
Ashley is the owner of Budgets Made Easy. She was able to pay off $45,000 in 17 months. Now she helps people budget their money so they can pay off their debt. She has written two ebooks; 200 easy ways to save money and The Ultimate Budget Workbook. You can follow her on Facebook or Pinterest.