So you’ve created your budget, cut your expenses, started a side hustle… and now you’re looking for a new way to save extra money with a no spend challenge.
These challenges are such a fantastic way to really amp up your savings and put a whole lot of money back in your pocket!
Sometimes budgets can be a little boring, and you can find yourself in a rut with your savings.
There’s only so much you can cut your expenses, and while I absolutely love a good side hustle, being able to reduce your money going sometimes gives you a faster savings boost than earning more money.
But with a little strategy, you can set a few challenges that can help you save money and help you achieve your financial goals (whatever they are).
What Is A No Spend Challenge?
A No Spend Challenge is when you set out to spend no money for a certain period of time.
You can do this in several ways, spending days, weeks or months doing no spend challenges, and creating the ‘no spend’ rules in different areas of your life.
The longer your no spend challenge runs for, the more money you’ll save in the long run.
However, I highly recommend starting off with a smaller timeframe in the beginning. This is because you want to actually achieve your no spend timeframe goal, rather than get frustrated with it and overspend as a compensation.
Why Do A No Spend Challenge?
There are some great benefits to doing a no spend challenge, and you can reap the rewards even if you only do smaller no spend challenges every now and then.
Obviously, the main goal of a no spend challenge is to save money. That one’s fairly obvious.
But there are other benefits too.
Often times you’ll find that by doing these challenges you’ll start to understand your own spending habits more, and in doing so, will inadvertently reduce the amount of money you spend even when you’re outside of one of the challenges.
Also, budgeting can be a little boring. Even for someone like me who absolutely loves money, and loves talking about money, budgeting and cost cutting gets a little meh after a while.
We set these no spend challenges for ourselves to keep things entertaining.
How To Run A No Spend Challenge
If this is the first time you have done a no spend challenge, it might be a little difficult to understand, but this is often because we overcomplicate things that are actually super simple.
Here’s a few tips on how to run a no spend challenge:
1 – Choose What ‘Spending’ You’re Going To Cut Out
This is probably one of the most important parts of a no spend challenge.
The no spend challenge should be something you can achieve (does that make sense?) and it needs to be realistic for your current situation.
These challenges are meant to help you save money, without making things too restrictive or miserable. You don’t want that. No one wants that.
But they also need to be realistic and actually result in you saving money.
There’s no point giving up eating out if you haven’t gone out for dinner in months. But there’s also no point in saying you won’t eat any take away when your current meal plan consists only of take away.
Instead set something more realistic like ‘cooking at home 3 nights a week’.
2 – Choose How Long You’re Going To Run The Challenge For
This is often one of the more difficult parts.
You want to make sure you set a challenge that’s realistic but also doable.
No matter how determined I am, running a no spend for 3 months would probably break me in half before much money was saved. But it would be fantastic if I could achieve it!
So, set yourself a timeframe of No Spend Challenge you can actually achieve.
Start small, you can always add to it at the end (and be sure to increase your reward – more about that below).
3 – Set The Boundaries Of The No Spend Challenge
This is where your no spend challenge gets a bit interesting.
In order to have a no spend challenge that actually saves you money, you need to create parameters around what you’re going to spend no money on.
For example, I might do the ‘No Grocery Shopping For A Week’ challenge. What this means, is that unless it’s an emergency, I don’t do any grocery shopping for a week.
Instead I have to create meals using what we have at home, the meat we have in the freezer, and what we have in our pantry.
We often create a boundary of this challenge that allows us to spend $20 on fresh produce to help us last the week, but that $20 is significantly less than the amount of money we would usually spend on groceries.
This is an example of how to set yourself boundaries that are realistic, but not too restricting.
It has parameters, but they’re still loose enough to allow you to save money.
4 – Create Your Challenge Goal
It’s important for you to create a specific goal for your challenge, so you know whether your challenge has been successful or not.
You might choose to simply have your goal of completing the challenge, but I encourage you to add a monetary value to your goal too so you really increase your motivation to finish it.
For example, if you choose to do the ‘No Groceries For A Week’ challenge and you usually spend $200 on groceries in a week, then aim to save $180 (allow a little for necessities) AND put a destination on that money.
Where is it going?
To your savings account? Paid off a loan? Or credit card?
5 – Decide On Your Challenge Reward
One of the main ways no spend challenges help you save is by taking away any form of temptation. You’re not going out, you’re not buying things, you’re forcing yourself to find a different way to do something.
Which in turn makes your no spend challenge much more successful.
When you achieve your no spend challenge goal, it’s time to treat yourself.
This is entirely up to you, and what sort of reward you give yourself will depend on your no spend challenge goal.
It might be a day off from work so you can spend a day with the family, or it could be a little higher spend of a reward, but is still relevant to the savings goal.
For example, when I successfully completed Challenge #1 on this list, (which probably saved me around $500 – $600 conservatively) I allowed myself to go and buy a few more expensive pieces I had my eye on. It probably cost me $250, so I was still way ahead in savings.
The key is to be sure you pick a challenge you can stick with and give yourself a reward at the end to keep your motivation high.
To help you kick off savings, we have a few no spend challenge ideas to get you started:
Challenge #1 – Buy No New Clothes For 3 Months
This is probably one of the harder challenges for me, but I was surprised at how motivated I was to stick to it once I started. Having a reward at the end definitely helped and I know I saved a ton of money because of it.
The key with this challenge is to choose your timing wisely.
If you’re about to go on a big holiday somewhere, then you’re probably not going to stick with it.
As would be the case if you started this challenge just before a seasonal change.
I started it right at the start of the year, on January 1st and ran right through until almost the end of April (because I was so determined to keep going).
The only reason I didn’t keep going was because of the change in weather and because I was pregnant and my clothes weren’t quite fitting anymore.
Also, be sure to avoid shopping centres if you can, unsubscribe from emails that might entice you and take the opportunity to go through your wardrobe and see what you can revamp in there!
Challenge #2 – Don’t Grocery Shop For a Week
Groceries are by far one of our biggest expenses and one that can easily get out of hand. A quick trip to the grocery store here and there can easily add up to hundreds of extra dollars being spent.
The challenge is, for one week, don’t go to the grocery store.
There isn’t much you can’t get by without for one week.
During this time, shop your cupboard. Work out what you have in there and meal plan from that. You’d be surprised at what you’ll come up with.
We do this little challenge when we feel our cupboard is being overrun and we have too much ‘stuff’ and need to use it up.
Challenge #3 – One Week of $10 Meals
This is actually one of my favourite challenges because it saves a TON of money and because I get to be a little creative and often come up with new recipe concoctions.
The idea of this challenge is to create meals for each night of the week that cost less than $10.
We are a family of 4 and my husband eats A LOT so this is a big challenge for us.
Our meals often include a lot of salad or vegetables as we don’t eat pasta and very, very rarely eat rice, so we stick to vegetables/salads to bulk our our meals
We will also try to have one or two of these meals that are made as a double batch and eaten over two nights.
Things like roasts are perfect for this as we can get a larger roast and cook a ton of veggies easily for under $20 that will do us for two nights. Plus… yum!
Challenge #4 – Keep Every Receipt For Money You Spend For A Month
This challenge is more of an awareness challenge so you start to learn where your money is being spent and how much of it you are spending.
Most people I speak to who do this challenge are surprised by how much they spend.
They honestly didn’t comprehend where their money was going but when it’s in front of them, in receipt form, it’s a lot easier to see.
It’s all the little things that add up too. Spending a few dollars here and there may not seem like much but your $5 coffee every day adds up to $150 over a month.
Once you know where your money is being spent, you can start to work out ways to cut back or redirect your spending in more effective ways.
Challenge #5 – Have a ‘No Spend’ Week Every Month
This is a little like Challenge #2, but next level.
Instead of just not spending money on groceries for the week, the challenge is to not spend money on anything! It sounds really tough, and it is, but it can also be quite fun.
You’d be surprised at how many activities and things you can do for free or you can find around the house.
Walking to the park (instead of driving) and having a picnic (from what you have in the cupboard) and spending the afternoon running around playing with kids can be so much fun.
Of course your bills still need to be paid, but the idea of this challenge is to see what you can go without for just one week and use the money you would have spent to go towards additional savings.
Other No Spend Challenge Ideas
Still need some inspiration, or perhaps looking for a more simple no spend challenge? Try these ideas:
– Save Money on Food/Groceries (like I mentioned above)
– No Spending On A Particular Item (Like No Spending On Coffee)
– No Spending At A Certain Location (Like No Spending At The Movies)
– No Spending On One Category Of Items, But Allowing Spend On Another Category of Items. (Like No Spending on Snacks And Drinks, But Allowing Spend On Fresh Fruit And Veggies)
The no spend challenge is a great way to start making changes and also to help you identify areas that could be tightened up.
I’m not saying the no spend challenge will solve all your money woes, but it can be a fun creative challenge that can help shift your mindset about spending and how you think about money and what you value.
Running a challenge like this just once a month or even once every two months can mean an extra few hundred dollars in your savings account.
This post was originally published on Project Hot Mess but has been edited (to be even better) and republished with permission.