What Is a No Spend Challenge?
A no-spend challenge is a set period of time in which you don’t spend any unnecessary money. While you can personalize your challenge to meet your needs, goals, and lifestyle, the general goal is to cut out needless spending.
The challenge can be for a weekend, a week, a month, or even an entire year. My advice is to start with a realistic time frame, review how it went, and then extend your challenge period from there if you’d like to.
Money Saving Challenge Rules
Set the rules for your money saving challenge before you start. That should include the time frame, what you can and cannot spend money on, and what your ultimate goal for the challenge is.
Your rules might include the ability to spend money on necessities only. These would be things like:
- Gas for your vehicles
- Groceries (meal plan so you aren’t impulse shopping!)
You also want to be clear about what you do NOT want to spend money on during your challenge.
- Eating out
- Movies, drinks with friends, and other entertainment
- Salon services
- Date night
- Clothing and shoes
- Vacations or day trips
- Anything else that is not an absolute need
Consider preparing for your challenge by stocking up on some things like paper products, laundry detergent, dog food, etc. Think of the things you don’t really need to buy every week, but that tend to pad your grocery bill.
Do You Need to Lock Up Credit Cards During a No Spend Challenge?
This is another personal choice. Remember that the goal is to become mindful of your spending and ultimately spend less.
I rarely carry cash on me, so it would be unrealistic for me to try to get through an entire month with no credit or debit card. The key is to understand that everything that you spend counts: cash, credit, or debit cards. Swiping a credit card is still spending money.
You know yourself best. If whipping out the credit card is going to make it too easy to spend when you’re trying to save, then do leave them at home and try to use a cash-only system for the necessities during the challenge.
30-Day No Spend Challenge
Does the challenge have to be a whole month? Choosing the time frame for your money saving challenge is up to you.
A 30-day money saving challenge a very popular choice, because it strikes a perfect balance between the amount of time to really notice a difference in your bank account when you cut back on your spending, and being an attainable goal you can stick with for the duration of the challenge.
If you feel this might be a little too long for you to start with, try a weekend or one week. If that works well, build on it!
No Spend Challenge Printable
A goal that isn’t written down is just a dream. So use this free no-spend challenge printable to keep you on track. Click the image below to get a full-page printable version.
Why should you print out your challenge and write down your goals? There are a few reasons.
First, it makes your challenge real, and not just an idea. Amazing things happen when you put pen to paper. Keep it somewhere you can see it several times a day, such as on the refrigerator door.
Secondly, it helps to keep everyone in the family on the same page as an active participant in the challenge. This isn’t just YOUR challenge. It belongs to everyone. When you print it out and everyone can see it, everyone takes ownership. That’s a build-it support group for your goals!
Finally, seeing your progress is motivating. After you make it through the first week, you’ll know you got this and can get through week 2 and beyond.
I’m the kind of person who will sometimes write things down in my planner AFTER I already did them, just so I can cross them off. If you can relate, crossing each day off as a successful no-spend day will keep you strong through this challenge!
What Can You Do While You Aren’t Spending Money?
Life doesn’t have to be a total drag during your no-spend challenge. There are plenty of free things to do with your family, and if you really get excited about how much you are saving, it can motivate you to find other ways to save or make money.
Here are some ideas to keep you entertained, and get you closer to your savings goal:
- Family game night
- Read more books (community libraries are free)
- Get outside and move (sports, go for a run, ride a bike, walk the dogs)
- Movie night (watch one you already have, or one that’s free with a streaming service like Netflix)
- Cook dinner together
- Find free museums (our library offers passes to local venues – check yours!)
- Get artsy (draw, paint, etc)
- Do a puzzle together
- Clean out your closets and look for items you can consign (more money for your savings account!)
- Have a fire pit outside
What ideas would you add to the list?
Books on Saving Money
I’m an avid reader and I find that reading books that motivate me toward my goals really makes a difference. If you are committed to getting your financial house in order, check out some of these highly-rated books on saving money.
- Money Honey: A Simple 7-Step Guide For Getting Your Financial $hit Together
- The No-Spend Challenge Guide
- Living Well Spending Less
- Spent: Break the Buying Obsession and Discover Your True Worth
- How to Manage Your Money When You Don’t Have Any
Track Your Progress with a Financial Journal
One of these budget planners can help to keep you on track toward your financial goals beyond the no-spend challenge and throughout the year:
- Erin Condren Designer Financial Planner/Budget Planner Organizer
- GoGirl Budget Planner
- The Ultimate Family Budget Planner
- Budgeting Planner 2020
Get Started on Your No-Spend Challenge
The start of a new year, or start of a new month is a great time to begin, but you can kick off your no-spend challenge at any time. Don’t spend all of your time waiting to start (and spending more the whole time!).
If you mess up and spend money on eating out or a special treat during your challenge, just get right back to it immediately. Don’t throw out all of your progress for one slip up. Perfection is the enemy of progress.
We don’t need to be perfect, just making progress toward our goals and getting a better handle on what we are spending, that we maybe don’t really need to be. You can do this!