How To Do A No-Spend Challenge To Save Money (Free Printable)

How to do a no spend challenge and save more money
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According to Business Insider, people could be happier and work fewer hours if purchasing less stuff. And if you want to be one of them, a no-spend challenge could help.

You may have heard about the “no-spend challenge” that’s all over Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook these days.

While the concept is not new, it’s not only gaining popularity online but in real life. That’s right—people are actually talking about this stuff at dinner parties. I know because I’ve been there.

The spending freeze is an effective way to jump-start your savings, get familiar with your spending habits, and learn to live on less.

So, what is a no-spend challenge, and how can you do a successful spending freeze? Keep reading.

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How to do a no spend challenge and save money

What Is A No-Spend Challenge? 

As the name suggests itself, a no-spend challenge is a challenge you set for yourself to not spend money (on specific items or activities) for a set period. 

This can be as simple as saying, “I am not going to spend any money for the next week”. For many people, one week or a 30-day no-spend challenge is a good way to get started.

You can decide what categories you plan to stop spending during the challenge and what stuff you need to pay to survive.

For example, some people choose to forego all expenditures for the length of their challenge, while others pick and choose which items they will allow themselves to purchase (e.g., rent, basic food, and gas).

The whole purpose of the challenge is to create a break between you and your spending habits by eliminating all unnecessary expenses. 

What It Means To Be A Part Of This No-Spend Challenge

  • It doesn’t mean giving up fun in your life or being tight with money—it means eliminating unnecessary spending habits.
  • It doesn’t mean being too frugal or depriving yourself—it’s just not spending money on stuff that doesn’t bring value.

Why Do A No-Spend Challenge?

A no-spend challenge has the potential to change your life for good and can do wonders for your money situation.

It’s a great way to put your spending in check and show you how much extra money you have in your budget when you stop spending on things you don’t need.

You can reach your financial goals faster, like beefing up your savings, building up your emergency fund, or paying off debt.

A spending freeze can also help you escape the paycheck to paycheck cycle, say goodbye to those bad money habits, and build long-term financial success.

Plus, the financial commitment could be a fun experience as it encourages you to get creative and discover new ways of living.

One of my favorite things about the no-spend challenge is that it often leads to a newfound appreciation for items we already own.

Also read:

How To Do A No-Spend Challenge

Are you ready to learn how to prepare for a no-spend challenge? Try these tips to help you make it through the challenge.

Know Your Why Behind The Spending Ban

Why are you doing a no-spend challenge?

Whatever the reason, make sure your reasons are strong enough to keep you motivated throughout the challenge. With the special goals in mind, you will be less likely to buy something you don’t need when the shopping bug strikes.

Time It Correctly For your No-Spend Challenge

Once you understand why you are doing this money challenge, it’s time to pick a date and start planning.

Certain months are more challenging to take a no-spend challenge than others. You don’t want to begin a no-spend challenge during the holiday seasons, birthdays, the month before payday, winter, summer, or any other major event.

If you want to succeed and make it last longer than a few days, you need to choose the starting date wisely.

For example, a good time to try a no-spend month is either at the beginning of the year or the end of summer. Try it in January, or do a frugal February challenge when people are recovering from holiday spending and trying to get back on track financially.

Or, do it in September, after you’ve finished your summer vacation and right before your holiday expenses kick into overdrive (if you often overspend in the last quarter of the year).

How long will your spending freeze last?

The length of the spending freeze will depend on your goals and current financial situation.

If you’re unsure where to start, I suggest starting a no-spend weekend as it’s easy to manage for first-timers. Here are some other options.

A No-Spend Week Challenge

If you want to see whether or not you have an over-spending problem, start with a week-long spending freeze.

This will help you identify your triggers for spending and give you a chance to practice breaking bad habits. It also allows you to test the waters without committing to something more long-term.

A 30-Day No-Spend Challenge or A 31-Day No-Spend Challenge

This is the most popular option for a spending freeze.

For a month, don’t spend any money on non-essentials. You’ll save some money and spot a few bad spending habits if you do it right. You’ll see how much of your spending is for convenience and how often you go for the easy but expensive option.

Grab your free no-spend challenge printable and save $1,000 in 30 days below. 👇

A Three-Month Challenge

This is a great length for those who need to shake themselves seriously from some bad spending habits.

It’s a short enough time frame that doesn’t feel intimidating or overwhelming but long enough to get into the groove of living without things like eating out, alcohol, or coffee shop runs every day.

As Jen Smith, the author of The No-Spend Challenge Guide, says,

“Doing a no-spend challenge for longer than a month is hard, but it’s an extremely efficient way to change your life and bank account. And I love efficiency. Doing a challenge over multiple months means you’ll likely experience every temptation your life has to offer—often multiple times—and you’ll see your financial growth a lot faster.”

A Six-Month No-Spend Challenge

The half-year mark is perfect if you have a bunch of bad buying habits that have caused your debt to grow out of control or if frivolous purchases have depleted your savings account.

You might look at this as winter hibernation—six months with no unnecessary spending puts you in a prime position to spring forward and make some serious cash while everyone else is tightening their belts during tax season!

A No-Spend Year

Talk about going all in! This type of extreme commitment isn’t for the faint of heart, but it might change your lifestyle drastically by living happier and better without so many material possessions.

Don’t worry. If one year sounds too extreme, pick a shorter time frame and go from there! You can always make the challenge longer.

Target Your Weaknesses

Before you begin your no-spend challenge, take some time to reflect on the areas where it is typically the hardest for you to say no.

It might help if you analyze your spending history by month or category. Where did most of your money go?

For example, I have a weakness for clothes and have been known not to pass up a sale when I’m out shopping. Thinking about how many hours of work I need to trade my desires during the challenge helps me control my money.

After all, as Henry David Thoreau says, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”

Set Your Own No-Spend Challenge Rules

Like any other challenge, you need to set some ground rules for a no-spend challenge to make it work. But if you’re too strict with yourself, you’ll end up feeling like a hermit during your no-spend period. Remember, this is supposed to be fun!

You can ask yourself some questions before establishing any rule: 

  • How much can you spend during that time frame? 
  • What can you buy and what can’t you buy (target your weaknesses)?
  • Are there any special circumstances where you will be able to make purchases (like unexpected auto repair bills)?

For some people, not buying coffee at Starbucks for a week may be enough; for others, staying away from department stores for two months seems more realistic. 

Start small and set realistic guidelines so you don’t feel deprived or stressed about being so strict with your budgeting goals.

Rules For My No-Spend January

The beauty of a no-spend challenge is that you give yourself the freedom to establish your own parameters. 

For example, here is my no-spend January challenge guide.

I only spend on necessary items during the no-spend month. And I have prepared enough household products (cleaning supplies) and toiletries (soap, shampoo) before starting my challenge.

Essential expenses:

  • Rent 
  • Bills (internet, utilities, and phone)
  • Groceries (basic food)
  • Gas
  • Health expenses (insurance)

Nonessential expenses:

  • Drinks 
  • Entertainment expenses (premium subscription, streaming services, and movies)
  • Restaurants and take-out
  • Shopping for clothes, shoes, accessories, and beauty products (This is going to hurt)
  • Gifts 
  • Beauty services (manicures and haircuts)
  • Furniture and home decor

Prepare for Exceptions

While planning for your upcoming no-spend challenge, think about all the things that could possibly come up.

Items that are infrequent and necessary are exceptions (planned spending and unexpected expenses). Things like birthday gifts, prescription medicine, or car service should all be allowed within reasonable limits and budgeted in advance.

Speaking of buying gifts, if you have to spend money, try to shop all year round to save more bucks. You might be interested in browsing these affordable money gift ideas for special occasions.

Avoid Temptation

The more you can do to make it hard for yourself to spend, the better. Here are some ideas:

  • Put your credit cards in a safe place. You will be less likely to swipe them mindlessly if you have limited access. I personally keep mine in my lockbox and have never been torn up about it.
  • Delete shopping apps from your phone (at least temporarily) if you find yourself scrolling through them for no reason other than that they’re there. Instead, install these money-making apps to earn extra on the side during the challenge.
  • Do the same with any marketing emails that send us coupons and other deals that encourage us to spend more than we’d like. Unsubscribe from their newsletters. If you really need something, you can always re-subscribe later.
  • Avoid social media. If you are tempted by what you see on social media when comparing yourself with others. Try taking some time off of social media entirely while doing this challenge.

Get A Distraction During a Spending Freeze Challenge

Getting yourself busy with other stuff is another productive way to avoid temptation.

Want some no-spend challenge ideas to distract you from spending? Consider these options.

Track Your Progress

A no-spend challenge is a great way to handle your finances, especially if you’re struggling to save money.

But even with the best of intentions, it can be hard to stick to one. That’s why tracking your progress is so important.

When you see yourself making tangible progress toward achieving your goals, you stay motivated and keep moving forward.

There are many great ways you can do this. For example, you can use a no-spend challenge app or no-spend challenge templates like this one. Just make sure whatever method you choose is easy and fun for you to stick to your plan.

Be Kind To Yourself

There might be times when you break the rules, whether you do it on purpose or by accident.

Maybe it’s an impulse buy at the grocery store or splurging on an expensive meal after a bad day at work. Whatever form your temptations take, there’s a good chance they will crop up during this challenge—and that’s OK!

Don’t beat yourself up and give up on the challenge entirely.

At least you’re more aware of your habits, and that’s all that matters. The purpose of a challenge is to help establish better habits.

If you fall short this month, pick it up again next month. There’s no expiration on saving money! Or, you can bridge the gap by spending even less on essential items in a particular month.

Also read: How To Get Free Starbucks When Doing The Challenge

Focus On The End Goal

While getting started, it is important to keep your end goal in mind. The no-spend challenge can be tricky, and you may experience some setbacks.

If you fall off the wagon or forget about the challenge entirely for some time, it’s normal. Just refocus on your goal and get back on track as soon as possible.

Remember that this is a long-term strategy and will take time to implement effectively. While some sacrifices may need to be made, focusing on what matters most to you will help keep you motivated and encouraged during the process.

Enjoy The Process

Doing a no-spend challenge isn’t a chore or a punishment. It’s an opportunity to save money, reduce your financial stress, and gain some new habits that you can benefit from for the rest of your life.

Enjoy the savings in your bank account and the feeling when you don’t have to pay for something that used to cost extra money every month.

You will also appreciate the freedom of dropping your monthly bills lower and lower as you discover new ways to maximize your budget each month!

Communicate With Your Family

Talking to your family about the challenge is important for success. You can start by explaining why you’re doing it, making sure to point out that everyone will benefit from it in one way or another. They’ll probably be just as excited as you are!

Once you’ve established a common goal, you can move on to discussing the rules. Explain each rule and its purpose clearly so that there is no confusion later on.

You also want to get the family involved by asking them to come up with a list of activities they want to do together while completing the challenge. This will be a great resource when boredom inevitably sets in!

If you have young kids, they may not understand the concept of a spending challenge, but if you are doing it for several weeks or months, they will be able to pick up on the changes.

Related: How To Avoid Money Fights As A Couple

Celebrate Your Success

“Sometimes you minimize your accomplishments because you feel like you’re still playing catch-up. You’re not. You should acknowledge every win.” — Jen Smith, The No-Spend Challenge Guide

This step is crucial to the success of your no spend challenge, and it can be easy to forget. Think about what you want to accomplish with this challenge and set a reasonable reward for yourself.

For instance, you might wish to save up money for a trip abroad or buy a new piece of furniture you’ve always wanted. Whatever you’d like to buy, give yourself a treat at the end of your no-spend challenge!

Just don’t go overboard and defeat the purpose of your no-spend challenge. Avoid breaking your savings habit by not going on an impulsive shopping spree or making an expensive purchase that you would normally try to avoid.

What Should I Do With All The Money I’ve Saved?

First of all, congratulations! You’ve made it through your no-spend challenge. Now that you have this extra cash in your wallet, what should you do?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Pay off debt
  • Save for a rainy day
  • Invest in retirement or college funds
  • Go on a vacation
  • Put it into a high-interest savings account

Whatever your original plan is, now you can make your dream come true.

What If I Don’t Want To Do My No Spend Challenge?

It’s no secret that saving money can be a real struggle, and giving up coffee or lunches out with friends is not always fun. 

When you’re doing a no-spend challenge, there will be times when you’re bored and tempted to break your no-spend challenge.

You can make a list of free activities (read a book, take a walk, call your friends, etc.) on your phone to reference if you get tempted to spend.

We often end up spending not just because we want something, but because we’re bored and don’t have any other ideas for how to fill our time.

So by making this list ahead of time, all you have to do is pull out your phone when the temptation comes and choose one of these activities to enjoy instead!

Sidenote: When I feel the urge to spend, I like to shift my focus on earning extra using my phone in my free time.

Plus, running this personal finance blog keeps me busy for good. Read here to learn more about how I started this blog from scratch. And you can do it too. No experience needed.

However, if the challenge feels like too much of a sacrifice, try lessening the restrictions on your spending habits. 

For instance, instead of cutting out all dining out expenses, give yourself one meal out per week. Or, if you love shopping online, allow one online purchase per week that is still within your budget.

FAQ (No-Spend Challenge)

I’ve had a few people ask me about a no-spend challenge, so I have included some questions and answers to provide more information.

What Are No-Spend Days?

No-spend days are days when you don’t spend money, or at least you don’t spend much.

This might mean no Starbucks lattes or bottles of wine or pickup pizza. You can choose how many no-spend days to do each week and what types of spending count as “spending.”

Is It Possible Not To Spend Money For A Month?

Yes, it is doable! It takes time and planning, but you can make it work with realistic goals and caution.

You’ll need to plan to ensure everything runs smoothly throughout the month. Things like buying enough groceries and toiletries beforehand can make a no-spend month more manageable.

Is A No-Spend Month A Good Way To Save Money?

It can be. If you’re trying to save money or get out of debt, a no-spend challenge is excellent to boost your budget.

Or, if you use it to address any problematic financial behaviors and build healthy new habits (like budgeting and tracking all of your spending), it can have a long-lasting impact on your finances.

Ready For A No-Spend Challenge?

Taking the no-spend challenge is a great way to reset your finances and build up your savings.

Not only will you likely save money, but you can also pinpoint exactly where your money is going and make better decisions in the future based on that information.

Even if you don’t go through the whole challenge, you will still put you closer to your goal every day.

If you’ve got this far, I’m sure you can take the no-spend challenge! Don’t forget to review some of my top tips for surviving a spending freeze if you ever hit a roadblock.

Before you leave this blog, be sure to share this page with a friend, as you share might inspire your friend to join you on the challenge. It’ll be more fun!

If you’re looking for simple ways to save and make more money, you can follow Create Earn Live here on Pinterest.

Tips for a no-spend challenge
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