Any time is a good time to try a no spend challenge, to break bad habits and boost your savings. You can start out with a no spend day, or a no spend week, then think about extending it to a month or even longer. It’s a great way to reset your spending habits and take back control of your finances. Let’s dive into the detail of how to do a no spend challenge.
What Is a No Spend Challenge?
Put simply, a no spend challenge is when you make a commitment to avoid spending any money and making impulse purchases for a set period of time. While there are various models to follow, you can customise the challenge to suit your own circumstances and needs.
Doing a no spend challenge can help you to reset your spending habits and break the cycle of living from paycheck to paycheck. It could help you to kickstart your savings or clear your debts, or work towards a longer-term savings goal.
Of course, you need to allow for your fixed payments such as your mortgage or rent, utilities, insurance and mobile phone. If you suddenly stopped paying these, life would probably become quite difficult! And most people wouldn’t be able to go for much longer than a week without buying some fresh food, even if they had very well-stocked cupboards. So you’ll need to set yourself a budget for essential grocery shopping and probably travel costs too.
Beyond this, you’ll need to make your own rules, but it’s likely to involve cutting spending on activities, recreational shopping, beauty services, eating out, takeaways and coffees on the go and any other non-essential or impulse spending.
Once you’ve worked out your own rules and exclusions, all you need to do is choose your timescale, and go for it!
No Spend Days or Weekends
A no spend day is a great place to start if you’re curious but you don’t want to overcommit yourself. You’ll need to plan ahead a little, especially if you’re used to filling your weekends with lots of activities. This is a good way to test how much you need to change your mindset and your habits.
What can you do that’s free instead? If you go on a long walk, for example, can you take a picnic and a flask of coffee with you, rather than buying supplies while you’re out and about? If you usually get a takeaway at the weekend, can you include the ingredients for a “fake-away” in your weekly grocery shopping instead? Can you invite friends round rather than going out for drinks?
Once you’ve tried a few no spend days or a weekend, you might be ready to try a whole week next.
What Is a No Spend Week?
For a no spend week, you’ll almost certainly need to buy food and probably fuel too. It’s a good idea to set a budget, and maybe consider using cash envelopes to prevent overspending. You need to have a clear idea of what is an acceptable purchase, and what isn’t, and stick to it!
For even a shorter challenge like a week, having a clear motivation is helpful. Are you saving for a holiday? Or trying to clear your debts? Try to focus on this if you’re tempted. You might want to leave your debit card at home so you can’t spend on impulse. Trying this for a week could break some bad habits, like buying coffee at work every day or picking up extra convenience food at the supermarket on the way home, instead of cooking with what’s in the house.
The best thing about a no spend week is that you can tailor it to your situation, making it personal to you. If you have a certain area of spending you want to get on top of, concentrate on that. You might be unable to avoid paying for your daily train fare to get to college, but you can stop buying breakfast on the way. It’s all about focusing on long-term goals, rather than giving in to instant gratification.
How About a No Spend Month?
A no spend month is a tough challenge, but it is doable! You do need to plan ahead, though. There might be some events you need to plan for or extra activities for the kids that need to be factored into the budget.
For longer no spend challenges, it’s important to get friends and family on board. Go through your plans with your spouse, and also your kids if they’re old enough to understand, and explain what you’re doing and why. You can be accountable to each other to succeed.
You might find that you start to get bored during your no spend month. This could be the perfect time to declutter your house, list those things on eBay that you’ve been meaning to sell for ages, or even start up a side hustle!
You may want to allow yourself a couple of exclusions – perhaps a coffee out with a friend, or one takeaway during the month. Having the odd treat might stop you from splurging altogether and sabotaging your challenge!
It takes a while to build new habits, so setting yourself a month-long challenge can be a really great way to work out what’s important to you and how you can enjoy yourself without spending money. Make sure you factor in some self-care during this time too, to keep your resilience up. You could do a home facial with those beauty products that have been lurking in the back of your cupboard for months, or ask your partner for a massage. Learning how to destress without spending money is a key issue here!
Could You Manage a No Spend Year?
Once you’ve done a month, you might add up the money you’ve saved and get excited! Perhaps your long-term savings goals are more important to you right now than day-to-day spending on treats and luxuries.
Could you do a no spend year? It can be done, and people who have done it often say it changed their lives. It can certainly help you to reevaluate your relationship with money and possessions, and build healthier emotional habits.
You might also discover new hobbies and interests or deepen your relationships. People often say that they feel better and less stressed by not shopping or worrying about the money they are spending. Knowing you’ve already made the choice to not spend money will stop decision fatigue. A no spend year is a huge challenge, but one that could really transform your life and your relationship with money.
Are You Ready for a No Spend Challenge?
Whether you start with a day or a weekend, or work up towards a month or longer, a no spend challenge can be a great way to reset your spending habits and improve your finances.
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.