No-Spend Challenge: Is It For You and How to Do It Right?
Updated: May 12
While people do all have different philosophies and outlooks on life (and money, might we add!), we can probably all agree that challenging yourself is a great way to improve. By testing yourself, you can see what you’re really capable of, explore new ideas, and discover new ways to get closer to your goals. Opting for a money-saving challenge – such as a No-Spend Challenge – can also result in a nice boost to your savings. But is it for you?
If you’ve read about people doing a Buy Nothing Year or another similarly massive challenge and got a bit spooked – you’re not alone. However, there’s a lot of versions of the No-Spend Challenge, and it can always be tailored to suit you even better. The Honeygain team is ready to break it down for you – let’s see how putting a temporary stop to spending money actually works and how it could help you boost your savings!
What is a No-Spend Challenge, exactly?
In the times of social media, some people get spooked about the word challenge alone. It’s understandable – it certainly has become sort of a buzzword in recent years! If you look at TikTok or Instagram, it might seem like there’s a challenge for everything now – and while some of them help spread an important message (like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge), others can be plain ridiculous or even dangerous. However, opting for a money-saving challenge is nothing like that – instead, it’s a step towards personal improvement.
While a No-Spend Challenge (also known as the No-Shopping Challenge, the Spending Freeze, or the Buy Nothing Challenge) won’t help you go viral, it will certainly aid in saving money, changing your approach to budgeting, and forming healthier spending habits. The main idea is pretty simple: you pick a certain time period and don’t spend a penny more than you absolutely must until it’s over.
What are the most common types of the No-Spend Challenge?
Obviously, since it’s a personal money-saving challenge, you are free to think and decide on any conditions you might like. Nevertheless, there are 4 main types people tend to go for.
A No-Spend weekend is the shortest and simplest way to try and limit your spending. Most of us tend to spend more on necessities (such as groceries) during the week and splurge on weekends when we have more free time and want to feel entertained, be it with a shopping spree or a dinner at an expensive restaurant. If you’re afraid to commit to no spending for a longer period of time, a No-Spend Weekend might be a great first step that encourages you to take on longer-lasting challenges later!
A No-Spend week might be a bit more challenging since it will require you to stay away from buying lunch at work and stopping for groceries later in the day. However, you can use it as a perfect opportunity to clear out your freezer and your shelves – you might be surprised to see how much you already have in there!
A No-Spend month is a bit of a different beast to tackle: unlike a weekend or a week, a month cannot really pass by without you having to spend money on absolutely anything. You will have to buy groceries at least a few times, as well as pay bills, buy gas, and get other essentials. Hence, you’ll have to approach it a bit differently: instead of not buying anything at all, you’ll have to stick to a predefined list of things you can buy and resist from all other temptations.
A No-Spend Year, of course, is the boss in this money-saving challenge game. There’s a reason why multiple people (e.g., Cait Flanders) have written entire books about their experience! Just like the No-Spend month, it allows you to spend money on necessary expenses like groceries or gas – and in addition to that, you are usually allowed to buy a replacement for something that tears or breaks (just don’t forget to throw the old one away – trash doesn’t spark joy!). However, despite those allowances, an entire No-Spend Year is a pretty long time to go without treating yourself – and if you manage to complete it successfully, you’ll undoubtedly feel a long-lasting effect on your money-spending habits.
If you believe restricting yourself from spending money on non-essentials completely might be too hard, you might start with one or two categories. For example, you could stop buying computer games or eating out for one month at first, and then add new categories for the next one!
Why should you go for a No-Spend Challenge?
There are multiple reasons for you to try a No-Spend Challenge at least once:
It’s a quick way to recover after spending a lot (e.g., after going on holiday or having a big family celebration)
It’s a perfect opportunity to rediscover what you already have and make sure no produce stays in the back of your shelves or your freezer for too long
It’s a great step towards identifying the categories you spend the most on and reevaluating how much you actually need them
It’s a fun way of finding new hobbies and ways to fill up your free time – once you can’t rely on expensive activities, you get creative!
And that’s not all! If you’ve looked for money-saving challenges to try before, you might have noticed most of them focus on putting away a certain sum on a somewhat regular basis. Of course, this helps you save money – but it doesn’t make saving any easier since it has absolutely no impact on the way you budget and spend your income.
A No-Spend Challenge is different: by learning to clearly separate your wants and needs, you get a chance to reevaluate your spending. The longer you go without unnecessary expenses, the more likely you are to change your habits for good, prevent lifestyle inflation, and find it way easier to save money effortlessly in the future!
Tips to make a No-Spend Challenge easier
If you’re a tad bit worried about completing your No-Spend Challenge successfully, here’s a handful of tips that will help you follow through and come out victorious:
Changing the spending habits you have followed for years isn’t easy, so don’t be overly ambitious and start with an entire No-Spend Year – try a shorter challenge first, and see how you manage!
Have a clear goal in mind. Merely thinking about saving money won’t help you resist the temptation of buying something for long – but a clear idea (such as a plan to reward yourself with a weekend getaway at the end of the No-Spend month) will!
Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time so you don’t feel tempted to buy take-away meals or quick bites on the go. When going out for more than an hour or two, make sure you also carry a water bottle you can fill up anywhere (it’s more environmentally-friendly, too)!
Unsubscribe from e-commerce newsletters and unfollow them on social media so you’re not tempted to spend your hard-earned money on various deals for stuff you don’t actually need!
Whenever possible, try leaving your cash and your cards at home as you go out. If you’ve got contactless payments set up on your mobile phone, turn them off, too – you won’t spend money if you don’t have access to it!
If you see or think of something you’re just itching to buy, take a picture or a screenshot of it and put it away till the end of your money-saving challenge. Once it finishes, revisit the folder – chances are, you’ll have changed your mind since!
Include your friends and family by explaining the idea to them – this way, they will be able to support you – for example, by resisting to share the news about the hot flash sale they just heard about… or joining you in your efforts!
Learning to identify your essential needs and your optional wants is a crucial step in understanding personal budgeting and money management. However, you should remember there are two sides to every coin: personal finance relies on thoughtful spending just as much as it does on smart earning.
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