Are you ready to try a no-spend challenge to transform your finances? If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re either unhappy with your financial situation or you’ve got your mind set on a big savings goal.
Either way, no-spend challenges are a fantastic way to give your spending a break and hopefully help you hit some big financial goals too.
Whether you’re looking to do a no-spend month or you’re planning to save even more money over a longer time period, this guide has everything you need to get started! So let’s dig in…
Get my printable no-spend challenge bundle to help you get started!
No-Spend Challenge: Transform Your Finances In One Month
Being financial savvy isn’t something that comes naturally to most of us. In fact, being great with money is a skill that needs to be learned rather than something you just ‘know’.
As such, setting yourself spending challenges like this can be a great way to stay motivated and break some bad habits too.
While your no-spend challenge doesn’t need to be a full month-long challenge, often this period of time is one that feels realistic and achievable, without being such a dauntingly long goal.
What Is A No-Spend Challenge?
So what actually is a no spend challenge? And does it need to be a full month long?
A no-spend challenge is a saving money challenge that you set yourself to avoid unnecessary spending.
The main goal is to reduce your spending and avoid the likelihood that you accidentally buy something you don’t need during the challenge period.
While some discretionary spending is allowed for topping up essential groceries, like milk and bread, and of course, paying bills and essential living expenses, the goal is to save money on the things you don’t need to buy during that set period.
No spend challenges can be done in a lot of ways and over different time periods. The best part is that you can set your own rules. Essentially, they are a fun system that can help you and your family maximise your budget and cut out extra spending.
The average time frame for a no-spend challenge is for a one-month period, however, even a no-spend week or no-spend weekends can make a difference to your unnecessary spending.
You can do the challenge solo or try your own no spend challenge as a family.
No Spend Challenge Rules
The best part of a no-spend challenge is the fact that you get to create your own rules.
Of course, the more strict you make these rules, the more money you are going to save, but the ball is in your court!
The most effective no-spend challenge has fairly strict rules around spending habits, with a plan for how and what you will spend money on and the things you will cut out during your no-spend months.
Rules will help you stay focused on the challenge and avoid unnecessary purchases.
In the following sections, we will go through some tips on setting your own no spend challenge rules:
No Spend Days Or No Spend Month?
Firstly, before you can get too specific with your rules, you need to set your time period. Choosing a no spend challenge length depends on your personal finance goal.
A full month of cutting down your spending and giving your credit card a break is going to have a much bigger impact than a week or a weekend.
However, every action you take to save money is going to help you towards your goal!
A 31 day no spend challenge (or 30 days, depending on the month), means having a comprehensive plan for how your time will look.
This means creating a meal plan that will minimise spending and lessen your monthly expenses. Your budget is going to be limited to monthly home utilities, family needs such as groceries, and the like, as defined in your personal no spend rules.
Alternatively, a no spend week or weekend can be a less intimidating starting point to help save money and avoid bad spending habits. You could do a weekend or a week each month of the year where you choose to not spend unnecessarily.
What Can You Spend Money On
Even during a no-spending challenge, there are certain expenses that can’t be avoided. Especially if you are choosing a longer period to stop spending money.
These things fall into the category of allowed spending for most people:
- Home utilities like gas, water, electricity, internet, and phone.
- Credit card bills
- Medical care
- Pet care
- Living costs such as rent and mortgage
- Insurance premiums
- Baby needs such as formula or nappies
- Necessary transportation costs and fuel
These items fall into the discretionary spending category where they are less essential, but still important so you will need to decide your own rules around these items:
- Topping up groceries
- Subscriptions (streaming subscriptions, magazines, apps etc)
What Not To Spend On
As I said, this is your challenge, your way. This means you can choose to adjust these lists to suit you. However, if your savings account to grow and to pay off debt quicker, these are the things that I recommend you don’t spend on:
- Dining out
- Non-essential clothing, shoes, and accessories
- Online shopping
- Entertainment (books, toys, going out for movies)
- Salon treatments (hair and nail services)
- Makeup and beauty products
- Spontaneous getaways
- Impulsive buying
- Furniture and home decor
- Extra snacks and treats
Exceptions To The Rules
There is always an exception to the rule! Since you’re the boss of your own challenge.
If you want the benefit of a no-spend challenge right now, but you know you’re going on holiday at the end of the month or you know you have a special event that falls right in the middle that will require you to pay for extra things, you can write that into your rules as an exception.
You can still spend money and stay on track with your goal.
On your planner, you can list down exceptions and when you can only spend money on them.
Can I Use Gift Cards?
Using gift cards is a grey area. Your goal is to change your spending habits, but if you’re paying with gift cards, you’re not really paying at all. So does this count as spending?
This is definitely one that you will need to make your own mind up about.
If you are struggling with impulse spending and have significant debts, being really strict with your rules might be the better option.
Plus you can treat yourself with your gift cards after you have finished, rewarding yourself with something from your wish list with the bonus benefit of having not spent actual money.
Pre-Planned Budget For Special Events
If you’re aware of a special event before your challenge starts and you know you’re going to spend money during this time, consider setting yourself a strict budget for this event or trip and stick to it.
This way you’re still keeping to your challenge with a planned exception.
What About Meals & Food?
Often the biggest concern most people have when doing a savings challenge like this is around food and meals.
A no-spend challenge is the perfect time to ‘shop your pantry’.
This is a challenge in itself, where you do a complete meal plan based on what you already have in your pantry, extending that also to what you have in your fridge and freezer.
Before you even start your challenge, create a meal plan that uses food you already have and make a grocery list of the extra items you need for meals throughout that period.
Meal planning will help you make sure you’ve got ideas on what to eat and also help you avoid those spontaneous takeaway meals that you might have been splurging on before.
Tips For A Successful No Spend Challenge
These tips will help you stay motivated, on track and help you get your debt back under control:
Know Your Motivation
Why are you doing the no-spend money challenge? Focus on your ‘Why?’ and keep that central throughout this experience.
- Are you saving for a specific goal?
- Are you in a bad financial situation?
- Do you simply want to create new positive spending habits that will help you live a more intentional life?
Whatever your motivation is, this will help you maintain focus when you know exactly why you want to do this!
Set A Goal For Your Saved Money
Goals are always a great tool for creating new habits. For instance, you have been longing for an out-of-the-country trip, but you don’t have the funds yet. A no-spend month will help you achieve that goal sooner.
Use A 30-Day No Spend Challenge Tracker
Track your progress with a challenge tracker. You can use a printable 30-day no spend challenge tracker, or create your own habit tracker in your planner or a notebook. If feels great to mark off another successful day of progress.
There are also habit-tracking apps that work for this purpose, plus budget tracker apps will help you set daily, weekly, and monthly budget goals.
Share Your Intention With Someone Supportive
Get yourself an accountability buddy!
Share your plans and intentions with someone you trust and who is very supportive. Your partner, husband, children, best friend, or even your parents can help you successfully finish the challenge.
Doing a challenge like this as a family or couple or with like-minded friends can also be a great way to stay focused.
Prepare Ahead Of Time
Before you commit, check your schedule and choose a month when you can do the challenge without too many extra roadblocks or big events.
You should also make sure that you have planned ahead with buying gifts and anything you are low on that you use regularly, like skincare or hair care essentials, and food pantry supplies.
Don’t forget to stock up on your freezer, as well!
Avoid places and things that make you want to spend.
Try a social media detox so you won’t have to see new updates from your favourite stores. Uninstall online shopping apps and ensure that you have unsubscribed to sales emails to avoid receiving tempting promos and offers.
Lastly, plan for a budget-friendly celebration or a free date night idea when there’s an upcoming social event like a family member’s birthday or anniversary.
No Spend Challenge Printables
Stay focused on your personal savings challenge with my printable no-spend challenge bundle:
The printable bundle includes a no-spend month challenge tracker, no-spend habit tracker, monthly savings goal tracker, $250 and $500 one-month savings challenges, no-spend challenge rules and reflections.
A no-spend challenge is the perfect way to help you give your savings a boost, cut back on bad spending habits and be more intentional with your time and money. You might even find there are things you can live without and find yourself spending less even after you’re done.