No Spend Challenge: How to Successfully Save the Most Money

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Have you been curious as to what this no spend challenge is all about? Or have you heard of the no spend challenge, but want to know exactly how to do it?

We have done a few no spend challenges in the past without even knowing it. But the rewards we reaped from doing it have been enormous!

There are so many different varieties (more on those in a bit), so you are able to pick what’s right for you.

Let’s dive right in to start saving you some money!

Are you interested in the no spend challenge, but don't know much about it? We break down what it means to have a no spend challenge, and exactly how it can save you money! no spend | challenge | save money | savings | no spend challenge

What is a no spend challenge?

It’s quite literally a savings challenge, where you spend no extra money (outside of your essential expenditures) for a specific amount of time.

The problem here is that many people understand that that’s what the challenge is all about, but it sounds unachievable and too overwhelming.

Why?

Because they haven’t taken a dive into the logistics of it!

A no spend challenge can be as short or long as you need it to be. It can be for a weekend, an entire week, a month, a year, or even longer (if you’re that dedicated!).

During your no spend challenge, it’s important to cut out any spending outside of what you need to get by.

The ultimate goal is to save up the cash that you would have spent, and apply it toward a goal.

Our first no spend challenge was actually for two years! We decided to cut out any extra spending so we could quickly pay down our debt of over $100,000.

We accomplished our goal way ahead of schedule solely from our no spend challenge!

What should I cut out when doing a no spend challenge?

When you’re doing a no spend challenge, it’s important to cut out things that you don’t need to get by day to day.

It may sound easy to think through all of your expenditures you absolutely need, but it’s almost guaranteed you will leave something out.

Take a look at your budget and figure out things you pay for to get by. Expenditures like mortgage/rent, monthly bills, groceries.

Now, look for things you don’t need to get by in your budget.

Some examples include:

  • Trips to get coffee
  • Fun or “blow” money
  • Entertainment – movies, concerts, bars
  • New clothes or shoes
  • Eating out – fast food, restaurants, dessert, trips to the gas station for a snack or drink
  • New toys for the kids
  • Vacation
  • Beauty products
  • Random Amazon purchases

The list could go on! Hopefully these examples start to paint a picture of what things should be given up during a no spend challenge.

It’s really important to remember that this is not forever. It is a short term savings challenge to meet a goal.

Varieties of no spend challenges

Before we dive into which length of time would work best for you, let’s dive into a few options.

Of course, these are just options and not set in stone. You can choose any length of time that you want to start with! The examples below are some of the most common no spend challenge lengths.

No spend day, no spend weekend, no spend week, no spend month, no spend year. Explaining the no spend challenges to save you money.

No spend weekend

This one is so great for beginners.

It gives you enough time to get a feel for the savings challenge and allows you to save up some cash. But it isn’t so long that it makes you want to give up entirely on the challenge.

For the weekend challenge, it will be a lot easier to give up these extra things you don’t need to get by.

But also think about how much you will be saving for that short weekend!

If you’re like most average people, you might go out to eat a couple of times over the weekend. Perhaps see a movie, even do a little shopping all on your time off.

A no spend weekend could save you $100-200 easily in just a couple of days!

No spend week

Only slightly more intense than the weekend challenge, this is where you commit to a full week of no spending.

This one could be more challenging if you are accustomed to grabbing something quick to eat or drink for work.

Or if you stay at home with your kids and are used to doing paid activities with them during the week.

Either way, it can be slightly more intense, but will end up saving even more money than the weekend challenge.

No spend month

This is when it starts to take some real dedication and remembering why you’re doing it. Why for the month long no spend challenge and not for the shorter challenges?

A month can be a long time to go without buying anything “extra”.

But if you’re dedicated enough, I think a no spend month is a great challenge!

If we’re adding up the savings from not eating out, buying a morning coffee, seeing a movie a few times, and other miscellaneous expenditures, I bet you could save close to $1,000 in your no spend month!

No spend year

A no spend year is pretty challenging, and can test your motivation. I wouldn’t recommend starting with this one for those reasons.

Now, if you’re up for the challenge, a no spend year can save you a substantial amount of money!

Like I mentioned before, we started out with a no spend year when we were going down to barebones and paying off $100,000 in debt. That challenge helped us pay that much money off in just over 2 years.

Doing the no spend year challenge can be intense. You spend that entire year not buying anything outside of essentials. Cooking at home, no coffee shops, no new clothes/shoes/toys, nothing!

It’s really tough. But those daily savings add up to a very large chunk of money. This is for you if you need to save up a lot of money for something big (a large emergency fund, down payment on a house, new car, or paying off debt!).

What’s the right length of time for my no spend challenge?

This all depends on your goal and how dedicated you are.

I definitely do not recommend the route we went, which was to start with a long term (two years) spending challenge.

It can seem daunting and never ending, and can definitely steal some of your motivation. The only thing keeping us going during that challenge was how fast our debt decreased.

I’d recommend starting with a short term no spend challenge, like a weekend or a week.

My personal favorite is a week-long no spend challenge! It’s enough time to see the enormous benefits of the challenge while also being long enough to engrain some serious new money habits.

How do I start a no spend challenge?

I recommend doing a little bit of planning before jumping into your savings challenge.

Why?

Jumping right into it can cause some frustration. If you don’t plan out the things you deem essential and non-essential during your challenge, you could find yourself flustered in the middle of it.

So let’s talk through what it takes to get your no spend challenge started!

1. Pull out your budget

Look through your budget and everything you have allocated. Where can you cut to make the most out of your challenge?

For example, we cut out entertainment, vacation savings, certain subscriptions, cable (if you’re doing a month or longer challenge, you can pause your cable for just a few dollars instead of paying the full bill!), and blow money during our savings challenge. These are things that are not essential, but could definitely save us a ton of money.

What does it look like for you?

If you’re wary about cutting back saving for something big, say a vacation, don’t be! If you’re starting with a shorter term savings challenge (like a weekend or week), it will not set you back far in saving for that vacation.

Plus, think about the reason you’re doing the no spend challenge to begin with. Chances are, that reason is bigger than saving for a vacation!

2. Get on the same page

You’ll want to make sure everyone who shares your finances are on board before starting this challenge.

Leaving your partner (or whoever shares your finances with you) in the dark is the perfect recipe for a huge money fight.

This is especially important during a no spend challenge.

During your savings challenge, you’re really cutting down to the bare minimum. So any penny spent on something not deemed “essential” will throw a wrench in the works very quickly.

Do yourselves a huge favor and make sure everyone’s on board before starting!

3. Discover your why

There’s no denying that a no spend challenge is, well, challenging.

One of the biggest motivators is going to be the reason why you’re doing this challenge to begin with.

Are you struggling with your money each month, or struggling to make ends meet?

Are you living paycheck to paycheck and need a hard reset?

Do you want to save up for your emergency fund, but always find yourself short or pulling from it to pay bills?

Do you have to save up to buy something your family really needs, like an appliance that went out, a car that needs a new part, or something along those lines?

Whatever your reason is, you’ll need to really think through it before you start your challenge.

How much can I save during a no spend challenge?

What you put into this challenge is exactly what you’ll get out.

If you don’t want to cut out much out or aren’t as dedicated, then your savings will be minimal.

If you’re willing to really throw yourself into this challenge, the amount you can save will be incredible. Plus, the new skills and priorities that can come from the challenge will be enough to affect your finances going forward.

I can’t stress it enough: if you’re not willing to give it your all, the challenge will not not be worth it.

So, if you’re serious about a no spend challenge, really do it. Plan things out, commit to it, and you will see some serious rewards from it.

Some helpful tips during your no spend challenge

You’ve done the planning and you’re ready to get this challenge started!

I have some helpful tips to make the most out of your challenge. Let’s dig in.

  • Meal plan. Browse Pinterest of find a website with cheap meal recipes (I like Budget Bytes). Meal planning is an easy way to save money!
  • Order groceries through their curbside service, or try delivery. We tend to impulse buy a lot when we shop in store.
  • Use your free time to declutter and sell things. Try using multiple selling platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Ebay, OfferUp.
  • Bring in cash by making money online. Check out some tips offered on this post.
  • Don’t visit shops! It should be a no-brainer, but staying out of your favorite shops will help reduce temptation.
  • Try out free activities. There are tons of things you can do to have fun that don’t cost anything. Here’s a post with date ideas that you can do for free, or close to free. Or take a look at this list for other ideas of free activities.
  • Do your own household services. Things like lawn service, cleaning services for your house, or anything else you can do for yourself.
  • Brew your own coffee at home. Those little trips to the coffee shop add up!
  • Try cycling, walking, or carpooling to work. You could save a good amount of money in gas!
  • Make your own cleaning products. I think this would come in handy more if you’re doing a longer no spend challenge. But buy a large container of vinegar, add some water and put it into a spray bottle. You’re all set for a lot of your cleaning needs!

Once you finish your no spend challenge

A huge congratulations!! Any no spend challenge, regardless of the amount of time, is an accomplishment you should be proud of.

Keeping yourself from not only buying things you’re used to buying, but saving that money for a bigger cause is huge!

But it doesn’t stop here.

Now’s the time to reflect back on what you just accomplished.

How did it feel saving up all that money?

What was your goal to save up and apply that money toward?

Did you find that you can live without certain things you used to buy all the time?

For us, we learned that we really needed to think through purchases before making them. Before our spending challenges, we bought what we wanted, almost as soon as we wanted it.

That landed us in some financial hardship!

Try to really reflect on what you’ve learned from your challenge and how amazing it felt to save as much money as you did.

Sure, you worked hard, but the reward was you saving money you didn’t think you could save before.

How are you going to start your no spend challenge?

It’s time to get started! Will you make it a no spend weekend to get your feet wet? Or a no spend month to really test yourself and save a good chunk of money?

Whichever length of time you choose, go into it with the right tools and mindset. And most importantly, have a goal on what you want to save for before going into it.

With all that in place, you’re setting yourself up to have a successful no spend challenge!

Have you tried a no spend challenge before? Were you successful? How long did you try it for?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Are you interested in the no spend challenge, but don't know much about it? We break down what it means to have a no spend challenge, and exactly how it can save you money! no spend | challenge | save money | savings | no spend challenge

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Amanda

    Love this! My why is to be more eco-friendly and stop buying things I don’t actually NEED

  2. Lilian

    Never tried a no spend challenge. I used to think its unachievable but i love how you have outlined it. I will start with the monthly one. Wish me luck. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Astrid

    my boyfriend and i started a no-spend challenge on the 1st of january,and we are saving for a new camera,tattoos and trip to venice. right now,we have about 150$ in our savings. i totally agree with all of the advice that you gave!

    1. Melissa

      Great goals! Good luck!

  4. Thanks for sharing! We occasionally do no spend months – and January is often a no spend month. Feels so good to get things under control after the holidays. Thanks for sharing!

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