So today I want to talk about the no-spend challenge.
What is a no-spend challenge?
For a certain period of time, a week, a month or even a year, you decide to not spend money. Obviously you need to pay the bills, you need to eat and you need to put gas into your car. But you don’t spend on things that don’t seem absolutely necessary.
Whatever your rules are, some of your end goals could be:
- Create your emergency fund,
- pay down debt
- Save for vacation
- Reset your spending habits
- Break the paycheck to paycheck cycle.
And so much more!
My no-spend challenge
The first time I did a no-spend month challenge, my main goal was to reset my spending habits. I made a video about it. But it also helped me to save a lot of money and to create my emergency fund.
My last no-spend month was in January this year and it did pretty well. I was surprised that I spent no money on clothes or other things. Here in France January is the month of sales, and you can be sure that I find something to buy every year. You know, bad habits…But not this year! I was so proud of that.
I bought a lot during Black Friday, mostly in thrift shops, so I didn’t have the sensation of needing something.
What really helped me during this month was to start project 333 of Courtney Carver. This challenge helped me open my eyes about my clothes consumption.
So it wasn’t the clothes, the shoes, or other accessories that were difficult for me. It was the food. And because of food, the no-spend challenge wasn’t a complete success.
So here are the things I wish I knew before my no-spend challenge.
1- Being more precise about my “why”
For my last no-spend challenge in January, my “why” was to get back on track with my finances. I spent a lot of money at the end of last year because most of the people in my family were born in the last quarter and it was Christmas too, so there were a lot of gifts and because I earned more, I didn’t budget for these expenses. And it wasn’t a good idea.
So I wanted to get back on track and the best way to do it for me is to do a no-spend challenge. I have to be honest, this “why” wasn’t really clear and I wish I had a better why before.
Having a no-spend challenge for a month just to get back on track with your finances is not really necessary. If you do this for a week, ok. But for a month it’s too long. When I was in the middle of the month, I didn’t spend a dime and I saw all the money in my bank account, I was like: “okay it’s done, I’m on track”. So I needed another “why”.
In January, I had also saved enough for my emergency fund so I didn’t want to put extra money in this bank account. So I switched my “why” and all the money I didn’t spend this month, I would invest it. And it worked. I was so motivated to see my investing account grow!
So what is your true “why”? Do you want to break your spending habits? Do you want to create your emergency fund?
2- Being clearer with my rules
Before doing my no-spend challenge I wrote down some rules:
Only pay bills and groceries and public transportation. No takeouts, no clothes, no books, nothing else.
If I’d paid for something that wasn’t bills or groceries, it was considered a spend day.
But because I did the challenge alone, was it a spend day if my boyfriend paid for a take out? Or was it a spent day if I bought the gift for my mom’s birthday?
It wasn’t clear and most of the time I considered it wasn’t a spent day!
3- Preparing my expenses in advance
January was the month of my mom’s birthday. And because the end of the year was a little bit expensive, I waited until the last moment to buy her a gift. I considered it a spent day because I could have completely prepared this in advance.
I didn’t have other expenses during this month but if you need to pay your car insurance or if you have a birthday, try to put some money aside or to prepare the gift in advance.
During this month, I also had surprises in my bank account because I didn’t remember to have some subscriptions that would come to take my money. There were some subscriptions that I had for free for a month and I needed to pay after, but I didn’t want to. And when it’s something that I don’t remember and it’s a little bit pricey, it makes me angry. Because number one, I didn’t remember to have an alert about this and I didn’t remember to have this kind of subscription. Whatever. I deleted this subscription during this month and it made me feel so much better.
4- Knowing what I have on my pantries
There is something I noticed during my no-spend challenge. I didn’t check what I had on my pantries before going to run errands. So I needed to go back to the shop several times a week to buy just one or 2 things. So number one, I wasted a lot of time and number two I wasted a ton of money too. Because let’s be honest, you don’t run errands just for one thing, you take some bread, some things for breakfast or this cute little bottle of kombucha. And at the end you spend a lot more!
And because groceries were an approved spending, it was ok to spend more.
But during this month, I also learned to use what I had. For a week, I tried to create recipes with only what I had on my pantries and it worked. But I did this at the end of the month when I realized my groceries were a mess.
5- Preparing my free time
Ok, so I would not spend money for a month but what would I do instead?
It’s not a question I asked myself before my no-spend challenge.
And it’s a question you need to ask yourself.
The idea is to do a list of all the things you want to do and that is free. For example, you can declutter your closet and sell clothes online. You can also read all the books you have on your shelves (it’s what I did). You can walk in nature or whatever. But you need to be prepared for these activities. Because if you’re like who I was, when it’s your free-time, you check all the websites of clothes and your wishlist grows really quickly.
I will try to prepare a video about all the activities you can do that don’t cost a thing.
6- Seeing this experience as an opportunity, not a punishment
Most of the time, you decide to do a no-spend challenge because you were off track from your budget. You spent too much and you want to get back into a no-spending routine. But because I spent too much at the end of last year, my no-spend challenge was a kind of punishment. I said to myself “Anna, you spent too much money on things you didn’t need, so now, you’ll not be able to buy anything for a month”.
And it’s not the right solution.
I needed to see this experience as an opportunity to put more money into my investing account and see my money grow. And not feel guilty anytime I buy something that was not on the list.
If you want to see what I learned through this experience, I will put the link of my blog post here.
I hope this blog post will help you to ask yourself the right questions before a no-spend challenge.
I see you in the next one!