If you’re considering a no spend challenge to try to get your finances in order, it might seem a little daunting. Whatever time period you’re aiming for – a week, a month, or maybe even longer – planning ahead is key. We’ve compiled a list of handy tips to help you achieve your challenge and take control of your money.
10 Tips for your No Spend Challenge
Focus on Your Goals
For any kind of challenge or change of habit, it’s important to focus on your goals, to remember why you’re doing something. Perhaps you’re working to get out of debt, or maybe you’re saving up for a holiday, for your children’s education, or for retirement.
It can be helpful to have a visual aid to help you focus when you feel your resolve waning. Maybe a photo of your dream holiday destination in your wallet? Or you could make a chart showing your progress against paying off your debts and display it somewhere prominent at home. Focusing on the “why” will help you to stay strong and resist temptation!
Decide on the Length of Your Challenge and the Rules
It’s important to be clear on the length of your challenge, so you can plan ahead. A no spend month will require a lot more planning than a no spend weekend, for example.
You also need to be really clear on your rules. For the vast majority of people, any challenge longer than a week will need to exclude food shopping – few people have enough stocks to last much longer than that, without a top-up shop. You’ll need to still pay your regular bills too.
If you’re going for a longer challenge, you might allow yourself a few more exclusions to stop yourself feeling deprived and then splurging. A takeaway coffee at a work meeting or the occasional treat with your grocery shopping might allow you to prolong your wider no spend challenge for much longer than if you deny yourself every little pleasure. Just set yourself a realistic goal and stick to it.
Let Your Friends and Family Know About Your Challenge
It’s really important to get your family on board with a no spend challenge. Ideally, you want your spouse or partner to commit to the same goals as you, and if your kids are old enough to understand, you can explain it to them too.
You should also let your friends know, especially if you’re usually someone who is out socialising a lot and you’re planning to stop this for a while. You might want to prewarn anyone who might be expecting a birthday present if you’re planning to cut this expense too – you don’t want to offend anyone! You could consider offering a gift of your time instead.
Do a Stock-Take
It’s good to get into the habit of doing this regularly anyway, to save money and avoid food waste. Make a list of everything currently in your freezer and your cupboards, taking special notice of anything approaching its use-by or best before date. Some people like to use an app like AnyList to keep track of their inventories; you can use it for shopping lists and recipes too.
You might be surprised at how many meals you can cobble together from what you already have in the house. You may just need to buy a few fresh items each week to make delicious and inventive meals from long-forgotten items lurking in the back of your cupboards!
Meal planning can be a real game-changer for budgeting even when you’re not doing a no spend challenge. But if you’re trying to spend nothing, or very little, on grocery shopping, then it’s a key strategy.
It’s a natural extension from the previous step. If you know what you have in stock already, you can plan all three meals per day for each member of the household, plus snacks. Then you need to commit to shop only according to this plan, so there’s no temptation to impulse-buy convenience food on your way home from work! You’ll probably find that you end up making healthier choices this way too, and reducing food waste.
Do everything you can to make things easier for yourself! Unsubscribe from marketing emails and remove your card details from your computer cookies so that you can’t make online payments so easily. Remove the “buy now” option from your Amazon account, so that you have to enter in your card details manually if you want to buy something.
A lot of people enforce a “cooling off period” for things they want to buy during a no spend challenge. If you still want it, or think you need it, after say three weeks, then you’re allowed to buy it.
It makes sense to avoid shopping centres if you’re trying to avoid impulse purchases. It can also be helpful to leave your money and bank cards at home if you go out for a walk; that way, you simply can’t buy anything, even if you feel the urge!
Make a List of Free Things to Do
This is really important if you plan to do a longer challenge. It’s quite easy to plan a weekend of free activities, but it becomes more challenging if you intend to do a longer challenge.
What you choose will depend on the shape and size of your family and what you enjoy doing, but some ideas include long walks, going to the beach with a picnic, looking for free local events, visiting your public library or having board game nights at home. If you have TV subscriptions or satellite TV, you’ll probably have access to a wide range of films too, so you could have regular movie nights for free.
Use Up What You’ve Got
The same principle applies here as for your food stock-take. You probably have plenty of things lurking around in your house that you could use up before you buy more. Travel-sized shampoos and body lotion? Beauty samples? Random bottles of spirits from holidays abroad? Time to start looking up some inventive cocktails, maybe!
If you don’t trust yourself in the shops, it might be worth stocking up on essentials such as toilet paper, pet food and toiletries before you start your challenge. That way, you have what you need and you don’t need to expose yourself to temptation.
If You Have to Buy Something, Look for It Pre-Loved or Free
Like many no spend principles, this is a good one to adopt all the time. It’s usually not possible to go for long periods of time without buying anything – kids grow out of their clothes, things break or wear out and sometimes you just want a new book or kitchen gadget.
Get into the habit of looking on eBay and local selling sites first for second-hand items. Your local area might also have a Buy Nothing group or an active Freecycle community. Often you’re doing someone a favour by taking something off their hands if they’re trying to declutter. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, as they say! Buying second-hand is also much more environmentally-friendly than buying new.
Get Stuff Done!
If you’re used to spending a lot of money on entertainment, you might find yourself getting bored during your no spend challenge. This could be the ideal time to get things done that you’ve been putting off for months, or even years.
You could generate some extra money by selling those things in the garage that have been gathering dust, or have a big sort out and declutter of your house. You could sort out all your paperwork, or donate some things to a charity shop. Try to be productive with all the time you have on your hands!
Having a Successful No Spend Challenge
It’s really helpful to track the money that you’ve saved, as you progress through your no spend challenge. You might find that it gets a bit addictive and you want to continue with some of the changes that you’ve made. Having a period of ruthless control over your purse strings can really help with long-term financial security, and set the scene for much better spending habits for the future!
No Spend Challenge Printable
If you’re ready to give it a try, check out our new No Spend Tracker printable to help you keep a record of all the money you’ve saved. By stepping back from our cash, we can break bad habits, stop impulsive spending, and learn to appreciate what we have.