Anyone else feel like they just bleed money sometimes? Even if you have a budget and stick to it, Decembers, specifically, still pack a punch to the old bank account. That’s why my favorite tradition after the madness of December is over is to have a No Spend Challenge in January, but No Spend Challenges (or a No Spend January) are effective no matter when you do them.
PS – Scroll to the bottom for a free printable tracker. Screenshot it if paper isn’t your jam.
- What's a No Spend Challenge?
- Why a No Spend Challenge?
- How Long should a No Spend Challenge Be?
- The No Spend Rules
- No Spend Challenge FAQs
- Join the No Spend Challenge movement
What’s a No Spend Challenge?
What’s a No Spend Challenge? It’s exactly what it sounds like. You try as best you can to not spend money unnecessarily. You choose the length of time and the categories you’re going to spend vs. not spend (like spending on groceries but not on dining out).
This post will walk you through setting a time frame, rules for yourself, tips for success and a spending tracker to keep you motivated.
Why a No Spend Challenge?
There are a lot of reasons to have a No Spend January (or any month)…
- Resets spending habits—especially after spending like crazy at Christmas time.
- Stops instant gratification — makes you wait to see if you truly need something before buying it, which is a great habit!
- It halts the influx of clutter and allows you to make solid progress in decluttering. It also allows you to keep your home cleaner.
- Keeps some extra cash in your pocket.
- Encourages you use up what you have–like all that food in the pantry that you never feel like eating
- It’s good for the environment. All those items we buy WILL eventually end in a landfill, not to mention the carbon footprint delivery/shopping makes.
How Long should a No Spend Challenge Be?
Personally, I think a month is a perfect amount of time for a No Spend Challenge. A month is long enough that you can actually see your work pay off (lower credit card bills, more money in the bank) and it’s short enough that it’s not overwhelming.
If a month feels too long, shorten it! Try a No Spend Week, a No Spend Weekend, or a specific no spend category, such as clothing, alcohol, or dining out. Choose a category that is a weak spot for you and see how you do.
If you’re really serious about your challenge, you can extend it to two months, 6 months, or a year. Again, you could choose a specific category to focus on, like no new clothing for a year.
I have a friend, Mary Ann, who did a “Buy Nothing New for 2022”. She attempted to only purchased consumables and second-hand items. Read all about how she did here. Spoiler alert – she liked it so much she did it again for 2023.
The No Spend Rules
There’s one simple rule: BUY ONLY WHAT YOU TRULY NEED
It would be VERY hard, if not impossible, not spending ANY money at all. We all have electricity bills, after all. But there’s a difference between necessary spending and unnecessary spending, and that’s what we’ll be reminding ourselves of.
The No Spend Challenge rules aren’t set in stone. Consider your areas of weakness and create rules that will help you battle your spending demons. Want some examples? Read on…
Specific Rules for My No Spend January
- No Coffee Shops / Dunkin / Starbucks
- Make coffee at home and skip the donuts. Good for your body and your wallet.
- No AMAZON.
- Even for the necessities — skip it, add it to your list and shop at the supermarket. Don’t open that Amazon door. And turn off notifications on your phone, too. Amazon is so easy that shopping on it actually becomes a habit. I use the No Spend Month to detox from it.
- No clothes.
- I’m betting there will not be a clothing emergency this month.
- No impulse purchases.
- Create a list of items you need and stick with it. Avoid aimlessly wandering around Target, grabbing a magazine in the checkout aisle of the supermarket, or running into The Dollar Tree.
- No toys, books, or entertainment purchases.
- Odds are the streaming service you already pay for has plenty of movies, and your local library is full of books, should you need some fresh reading material.
- Only dine out if you’ve planned it into your meal plan and budget.
- Be reasonable and not impulsive. No McDonald’s drive through just because it’s on the way home and you’re tired. We budget $150 per month for dining out, which we will continue to use in January.
- No manicures or salon
- I know this is a sensitive subject for some. Personally, these are once in a while items in my life, so I can go without them for a month.
Again, these are MY rules I’ve set. If they feel too restrictive, change them!
No Spend Tip: Make a wish list of items you’d like during your No Spend Challenge. If you still want those items when the challenge is over, purchase them knowing you did so with intention.
No Spend Challenge FAQs
Even though I always explain that participants can create their own rules, I often get followers that seek clarification for MY RULES. It can help some people to have strict rules that someone else has set — you do what’s best for you!
Can I buy food?
Yes! Don’t starve on account of a challenge, BUT this is a fantastic opportunity to see just how much you can eat from your pantry and freezer! I’m sure you’d be surprised at how long you can make it.
Can you use gift cards during a No Spend Challenge?
For me, this one is 50/50. If using a gift card leads to you breaking the challenge, avoid it. If your frame of mind is better when you avoid ALL shopping, put those gift cards away. On the other hand, I’m betting you have a TON of gift cards just sitting around your house. If this is the push you need to actually use them, then do it!
What happens if I make a purchase I shouldn’t?
Put a red mark on the chart (linked below) and try again tomorrow! Don’t let one slip up ruin your whole no spend month!
Can I buy gifts for others during the No Spend Challenge?
If you or your child get invited to a party and you feel you need to purchase a gift, do it! If you your goal is to have less stuff in your life, consider throwing your child a “No Gifts, Please” Birthday Party.
Join the No Spend Challenge movement
Interested in trying a No Spend Challenge of your own? Screenshot, download, or print this free spending tracker and keep it handy. Color each bubble green when you’ve avoided spending unnecessarily. Leave it blank or color it red when you slip up.
If this is your first time participating in a No Spend Challenge, go easy on yourself. Take a deep breath, read these tips, and do your best. The goal is to change your spending habits and changing habits takes times. If you’re not 100% successful on your first try, it doesn’t mean you didn’t grow.
UPDATE: Want to see how my No Spend Challenge Went for January 2021? This post provides a summary.
Are you taking part in a No Spend Challenge? Leave a comment below and let me know!