Couple On No Spend Challenge Biking Together

How To Conquer A No-Spend Challenge

Andrew Dehan5-Minute Read
July 15, 2021

Challenging yourself is a great way to grow. One way to push yourself is to be more mindful of your spending habits. Taking on a no-spend challenge has become a recent trend. Think of it like a diet for your credit card – it’s a way to rein in what you’re spending your money on and focus better on making your money work for you.

Let’s learn the details of a no-spend challenge and how you can be successful with it.

What Is A No-Spend Challenge?

A no-spend challenge is a time-based challenge where you choose not to spend money unnecessarily and focus on breaking unhealthy spending habits. You set a spending limit and the time frame of the challenge. Most people choose categories where spending is allowed, like:

  • Rent/mortgage
  • Bills (utilities, car, etc.)
  • Groceries
  • Health care
  • Transportation costs

To curb impulse purchases and overspending, you don’t spend money on anything that falls outside of these categories. You can use a no-spend challenge to save for a goal, build an emergency fund or boost your retirement savings.

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How Does A No-Spend Challenge Work?

The premise of a no-spend challenge is simple: Don’t spend money on unnecessary stuff. But just because something’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. The best way to make a no-spend challenge successful is to plan it.

Let’s talk through few objectives you should determine before starting the challenge.

  1. Determine Your Motivation

When you get down to it, what’s really motivating you to do a no-spend challenge? By determining your motivation, you’re setting a goal for yourself. Your key motivator will give you a tool to realign yourself when you feel tempted to spend.

A common key motivator is paying off credit card debt. By focusing your money on paying down your debt, you’ll also avoid accruing more.

Another motivator could be saving for a major life event. A no-spend challenge can help you align your priorities. It can be a great way to start saving for the birth of a child or a down payment on a house.

Or maybe you want to save for something fun, like a dream vacation. Instead of going into debt for the vacation, plan for it. A no-spend challenge can help you get the ball rolling.

  1. Set A Time Limit

A time limit is essential for your no-spend challenge. Typical time limits range anywhere from 1 week to 1 year. You want to strike a balance between a short-term challenge and a longer-term challenge. Make it too easy and you won’t reap the benefits but make it too long and you may get discouraged.

Many people start with a 1-month challenge. Especially if you feel a little intimidated by the challenge, this can be a good place to start. You can always extend it.

  1. Lay Out The Ground Rules

You need to lay out some ground rules for yourself. Of course, you’re going to need to continue spending on living expenses. The point of a no-spend challenge is to stop spending money on unnecessary purchases, not avoid paying your bills.

But not all bills are created equal. You’ll need to pay your utilities, but part of your no-spend challenge could be cutting out subscription services. If it’s non-essential for you to live and work, it should be cut out.

Tips On How To Complete A No-Spend Challenge

A no-spend challenge can be truly life-changing. However, like anything challenging, you only get back what you put into it. It’s difficult to cut your personal budget. Taking some extra steps to help you stick to the challenge will pay off in the long run.

Here are a few recommendations.

Get More People Involved

No one wants to go it alone. Taking on a no-spend challenge alongside a spouse, partner, close friend or family member will help you stick with it. Having an extra person or two join you will help you plan things to do, give you a place to vent frustration and help keep you accountable.

If you’ve got others on board, make sure everyone’s aware of the rules and time limit. It can be demoralizing to the group if someone’s not fully participating.

Research Free Entertainment

Chances are your town or city has a lot of options for free entertainment. Go to your city’s website or social media pages and see what free events are happening. Many areas have free street festivals with live music, especially in the summer. Local parks and neighborhoods may put on block parties, potlucks or picnics.

If the weather’s not great, check out your local library. You can check out books, audiobooks, movies and music for free here. Many libraries also have an online presence, letting you borrow eBooks and audiobooks for free.

Instead of going out for dinner or a drink with someone, plan to go for a walk or a bike ride. Not only will this help reel in your spending, but it’s a great way to improve your health too.

Use A No-Spend Challenge Printable

Seeing your progress can be really motivating. This is where a handy printable comes in. With a free printable, like these from Money Saving Central, you can mark off each day you didn’t spend, chart what you can spend on and how much and budget out your meals.

Get Creative With Your Meals

It’s easy to be tempted to spend extra on grocery runs, takeout or delivery food. These little charges add up, though. Planning your meals out for the week can help focus your spending and gives you things to look forward to.

Download a free recipe app and start planning your meals. Teaching yourself new recipes is great way to get excited about your food. If you’ve planned ahead, you won’t have a situation where you’re in a pinch and have nothing in the pantry.

Stay Productive

If shopping or going out are favorite activities of yours, you need to find other ways to occupy your time. Invite friends over for a home-cooked meal, take on a new project or hobby, start up a side hustle or begin an exercise routine. Look at this no-spend challenge not as a hindrance, but an opportunity.

Practice Gratitude

It’s scientifically proven that being thankful for what you have will greatly improve your mindset. Instead of desiring a new wardrobe or the latest tech, think about how grateful you are for what you have already.

Every day you practice gratitude, you’re learning how you don’t need new things or experiences to enjoy your life. You’re tapping into a greater reason for living than what you buy to make yourself happy.

How Will I Benefit From A No-Spend Challenge?

The obvious benefit of a no-spend challenge is saving money. This challenge guides you away from impulsive, unnecessary purchases and makes your money usage more meaningful.

Participating in a no-spend challenge helps you identify what you want as well as zero-in on bad spending habits. By taking on this challenge, you can spot budget areas that could be cut back or eliminated, such as spending on streaming services, late night Amazon purchases or trips to Starbucks.

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The Bottom Line: Plan Your Next No-Spend Challenge

A no-spend challenge needs three things: a key motivator, a timeframe and ground rules about what you’ll spend on. From there, it’s up to you to follow through. Shifting your habits like this can be hard, but it can be the thing you need to build your savings and improve your financial health.

Want to learn more about personal finances? Check out our guides to learn the ins and outs on everything from buying a home to budgeting to paying off student loans.

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Andrew Dehan

Andrew Dehan is a professional writer who writes about real estate and homeownership. He is also a published poet, musician and nature-lover. He lives in metro Detroit with his wife, daughter and dogs.