Also called a no spend challenge, the low buy challenge, the no shopping challenge or the spending freeze?
The “no spend challenge” can be a difficult task most times, but it becomes easier the longer you do it. You just have to get started.
Slowly, your habits will change. Your mindset will change. It’s quite exciting. You realize you’re more capable than you thought.
You also realize that you might be buying things because you think you’ll get happiness from them. But that kind of happiness is short-lived or not actually true happiness.
How do I not spend money every day?
How do I not buy anything for a week, a month or a year?
Here’s my complete “no spending” challenge guide – the rules and best practices to help you successfully complete your no-spend challenge of not buying anything.
What is a no spend challenge/no buy challenge?
A no spend challenge is when you challenge yourself not to spend any money over a period of time.
There are many types of no spend challenges. For example, some people allow the spending of necessities like groceries and gas.
Based on your lifestyle and situation, you can decide which type of ‘no spend’ challenge works best for you.
Why do a no spend challenge?/The Benefits of a No spend challenge
No spend challenges have many benefits including:
- Changing your spending habits to remove impulse purchases (e.g. buying a shoe just because you think it will look good on you, not because you need it)
- Speeding up progress on your financial goals (e.g. early retirement, paying off student loans, saving for a house or a car)
- Opening up your mind and pushing your boundaries (i.e. You make the best use out of the things you already have. It forces you to be resourceful and creative. You understand what’s a real need vs. a want.)
- Learning new skills to avoid paying for things (i.e. You learn how to fix things so you can use them again.)
How do you get started on a no spend challenge?
The hardest thing about a no spend challenge is just getting started.
People believe that a no shopping challenge requires a lot of discipline . It’s not as much as you think. You can tailor your no buy challenge to your lifestyle and needs. You can make it as easy or difficult on yourself as you’d like.
The first thing you have to do is decide what type of no buy challenge you’d like to do.
What are your no spend challenge rules?
Here are rules you need to determine:
- Allowances: What you’re allowed to spend money on
- Time frame: What’s the time frame of the challenge
We will discuss more on these factors below.
How do you select allowances?
You need to determine what’s a need vs. a want.
An example of a need is “food”. If you want to give yourself less flexibility, you can narrow this down to “groceries” only or “groceries and some restaurants for special occasions”.
Other examples of needs are gas, toiletries, and medical products.
It’s important and helpful to break down certain categories so you’re not just writing down toiletries. You’re including what specific toiletries are allowed e.g. toilet paper.
The key is to write down this list of needs.
The more comprehensive, the better. You want this list handy so you can refer to it throughout the challenge. So you know exactly what you can and can’t spend money on during this challenge.
How do you pick a no spend challenge timeline?
There are many timelines you can target depending on your comfort level and financial goals. Here are 4 options.
1. No Spend Weekend Challenge
If you’re just starting out on your savings journey and want to ease yourself into a no spend challenge, you can try it over a weekend.
In this challenge, you’ll most likely focus on activities like:
- Finding free entertainment and activities
- Cooking at home
- Walking around (as opposed to driving)
2. No Spend Week Challenge
This no spending challenge takes it a step further.
No spending for the whole week might involve weekly meal prep.
This way you don’t get take-out for lunches or dinners. You make the coffee at work or at home and don’t buy coffee.
3. No Spend Month Challenge
In this no spending challenge, you’re making your no spend actions into habits.
Whenever you want something, you’re asking yourself if you really need it.
You’re increasingly deciding to be satisfied with the material items you have and making the best use out of it.
4. No Spend Year Challenge
A “buy nothing year” challenge is a lifestyle change.
You’ll have to learn new skills and use creative strategies to do no shopping for a year.
If traveling is important to you, you might want to focus on economical travel options like camping.
If you love eating out, learn how to cook your favorite dishes during this year without spending.
Something to have in mind is that this buy nothing for a year challenge goes over major holidays and celebrations like Christmas and birthdays.
You’ll have to consider DIY gifts, no gifts, or perhaps give the gift of an experience e.g. take them to a free event or on a hike.
Not buying anything for a year is a difficult challenge to partake in, but it will broaden your outlook on life. You will grow from this in ways you never anticipated.
Which time frame is right for you?
Based on your lifestyle and goals, select a time frame that’s challenging, but not too uncomfortable.
You want to give yourself the best chance at success! If you’re new to frugal living, ease yourself into a weekend challenge. You can slowly work your way up to a week and then a month.
How do you successfully execute a no buy challenge?
How do you live without spending money?
Here are tips for how to successfully complete your no spend challenge.
1. Determine WHY you’re doing this no spend challenge:
You need a goal to motivate yourself especially when you feel the urge to spend. It might be the goal of saving towards a
- Early retirement!
Put this goal in an area that’s visible like the fridge, white board or the screensaver on your computer. You want to walk by it everyday so you can remind yourself why you’re doing this challenge. Why it’s worth it.
2. Set your no spend challenge rules:
Don’t forget to set your no spend challenge rules (i.e. time frame, allowances).
It’s also important to display your allowance list so you can always refer to it.
3. Discuss the no spend challenge with your family and close friends
Your family and friends are your influencers. You want them to be ideally onside. You want supportive people around you. People that are cheering you on.
It can be strange to bring the no buy challenge topic up. You don’t have to make it into a big discussion. Just casually mention that you’re trying this no spend challenge and why you’re doing it.
“Since you asked what’s new with me…As you might know, we’re focusing on <insert your dream goal like buying a property or a car>. We have been exploring creative ways to make this happen. I’m trying out a no buy challenge. Have you heard about it? It’s when you don’t spend money over a certain period of time…”
You might inspire them. Saving money is a topic we can all relate to. They might also be looking for new ways to cut their expenses.
Alternatively, they might disagree with your decision. If they care about you, they’ll want you to succeed. They’ll know you’re doing this for a greater goal.
On a side note…
What I’ve found is that the no buy challenge is a great reason to say “no” to your friends when they ask you out to dinner or coffee.
It can be very hard to say “no” to your friends because of the fear of missing out.
You can use the no buy challenge as an excuse and then suggest a different activity that doesn’t involve spending money.
There are numerous activities you can do with your friends that don’t cost money like hiking, hanging out at the park or beach, or board game nights. The purpose behind hanging out with your friends is spending time together. You don’t need money to do that.
Here’s an example of how you can communicate this:
“While I’d love to go out to dinner, it’s unfortunately not in the budget for us as we’re saving up for a <insert dream goal>. If you’re interested in going to the beach this weekend, count me in!”
4. Get creative with what you have.
Use what’s in the pantry and the freezer. Cook up those dry beans you’ve had in the pantry for months! This is a great opportunity to clean out your pantry and use foods that you might not even realize are close to expiring.
Here are a few other things you could do:
- Use gift cards you already have
- Use loyalty card points
- Barter with what you own
- Consider trading your time for things you need
You can get really creative once you start looking for alternative solutions other than spending money.
5. Embrace learning new skills
With the no spend challenge, you will inevitably have to learn new skills. It could be cooking meals. Learning how to fix an appliance.
You’ll run into a problem. While you could easily feel frustrated and want a quick fix, view this as an opportunity to learn. A chance to grow.
Watch that YouTube video on how to DIY (Do It Yourself) the problem. We’re so lucky to live in a time when there’s so much information readily available online. Use it! Failing is great because you’re still learning!
6. Cut your expenses
This self-reflection can be a rude awakening, but it’s a necessary step to successfully complete a no buy challenge.
Think about what you’ve purchased over the last year that you didn’t need to buy.
7. Remove any distracting activities that encourage shopping
- Don’t visit the mall
- Don’t do any online window shopping
- Unsubscribe from emails that send you the latest sales
- Don’t browse on sites with the latest fashion trends or technology products
- Avoid tuning in on the ads when watching TV or listening to the radio (These are designed to make you spend money!)
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Source: Mom Money Map.