A No Spend Challenge in January is a little tradition I’ve done for the past three years. It’s exactly what it sounds like—you spend as little money as possible, buying just the necessities. For me, that means no purchasing from Amazon, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts. No buying clothing, toys, or alcohol… nothing impulsive and nothing that’s a “treat” to myself. Read all about the No Spend Challenge rules here.
No Spend Friends
I shared this idea on Instagram, and it thrilled SO MANY FRIENDS! Dozens of people chimed in, sharing that they were taking part, saying it was just what they needed after Christmas. I created a template and shared it on Instagram daily (almost), along with tips to stop spending money. Most people who didn’t keep me updated throughout the month, but many did, and it was fun to see — you’ll hear from them soon.
People would write to me asking, “Can I buy this birthday gift for my son’s friend?” or “This bag I’ve wanted for years was on sale, so I bought it.” Even though some participants purchased items that weren’t officially “allowed” THEY STILL SUCCEEDED because they were being intentional and thoughtful about their purchases instead of just shopping.
My No Spend
My No Spend rules allowed me to buy food, but I tried not to. We ate from the pantry and freezer as much as possible. My January Meal Plan was less than ideal, an assortment of random meals created from food that had been frozen for months.
I also paid bills, bought necessities like gas, registered my kids for upcoming activities, and purchased legitimate business expenses.
So do you want to know how I did? After all, it was my idea and I have 16,000 people holding me accountable.
No Spend Expenses
My normal grocery budget is $800. Sometimes I’m under, sometimes I’m over. For No Spend January, I shopped my freezer as much as possible–in fact, it’s quite barren right now (easy to clean!). I didn’t purchase meat all month long.
Unfortunately, our kitten had two vet visits this month. She had a well-check appointment for vaccines and then developed a bit of a cold and needed to see the doctor again. Ordinarily our monthly vet bills aren’t so high, but I would not deny my pet treatment because it was no spend January. I wish these expenses weren’t here, but it’s okay.
Children’s Activities: $240
Just because I decide to do a No Spend, it doesn’t seem fair that my children don’t get to play instruments or take part in sports in the spring. Piano lessons, violin rental, lacrosse conditioning, and tennis registration cost $240. We didn’t purchase any new equipment.
Business Expenses: $570
Business expenses are a bit of a grey area. I definitely needed to purchase vinyl for my Etsy Shop. I could have held off on purchasing shipping supplies, but I get a little anxious when I run low, so I grabbed these items even though it was a no spend.
The cameo was a bit of a splurge at $300 and probably could have waited, but man, my 4-year-old machine was getting quirky and making some ugly noises. If my machine had broken and I had to wait to find one, I probably would have to spend more money, and then lose money on sales while I closed my shop down. This was a big purchase for me, but it will pay for itself with a week’s worth of orders, so I’m counting it as necessary.
I also upgraded a few aspects of my website, which ended up costing around $80.
On January 9th, almost 1/3 of the way through my No Spend, my husband ran to Walmart and couldn’t resist the Christmas clearance aisle. Every year, we put bows and wreaths on our windows and I mentioned how we’d need new bows next years because ours were getting shabby.
Guess what he found in that aisle?
I approved the purchase of the bows at 25 cents and they ended up being 10 cents each. He purchased 11, so $1.10 for 11 bows for next Christmas. I took my red X and moved on.
My No Spend Tracker
After 31 days of marking successes and failures (failure) this is what my chart looks like:
Throughout January, as I thought of items I wanted to purchase, I wrote them down on my wish list. This helped me think about whether I truly needed these items and helped me succeed with my No Spend. As you can see, there are no essential items on this list, they’re mostly organizing materials for projects around the house.
I am doing a complete house reset, going from room to room, cleaning and reorganizing. While doing each room, I would note items I wanted to purchase and add them to my list. This was the hardest part for me. Take dining out and coffee away forever, but let me buy organizing products!
I stayed strong for January, but will purchase these items in February.
What No Spend Friends Had to Say
I mentioned earlier that many “No Spend Friends” joined this challenge on Instagram. I didn’t hear from everyone, and I’m sure some petered out after a few days, but many also stayed strong and shared their progress with me regularly. Here’s what they had to say:
- “Who knew that “adding to cart” without checking out is as satisfying as actually buying the items! Bonus: No buyer’s remorse!”
- “Thank you for the challenge, it wasn’t that hard for me, but it definitely helped reign in the family spending and allowed us to realize we have more money to put towards paying down debt, rather than attributing to it! I highly recommend for everyone to try it!”
- “I think the no spend January reset is a great way to reflect on where you are spending your money & how often! For me, I found a lot of my “fun money” was spent on the weekends, eating out socially with friends. It’s interesting to see how much you spend on things when you’re forced to keep track. This also allowed me to see if there’s something I can cut out of my spending or create new ways to save. I think it’s a great thing to do periodically throughout the year!”
No Spend February?
Towards the end of January, I was asked if I would keep going into February. Nope. The items on my wish list are calling my name. I *might* try it again in a few months. If you’d like to try, there’s a free No Spend Challenge Tracker here.
Overall, this was a really great practice. Since I made rules for myself, and I tend to be a rule-follower, I wasn’t even very tempted to purchase anything. There were a few times I longed to swing into the coffee shop and grab something, but the No Spend in combination with the pandemic kept me strong. I didn’t even spend gift cards!
So what do you think? Could you use a No Spend in your life? Give it a try, even if it’s not January!