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Are you looking for ways to increase your savings? Have you read about “no spend” challenges and you want to learn more?

“I could not go one DAY without spending money”. 

That was what my brother said to me when he heard that I was going a whole week without spending any money. 

I’m sure some of us have said that exact same thing. Spending money is easy and makes us feel good (dopamine and endorphins are firing as you swipe that card). 

But the cold, hard truth is that we can do it. We are capable of not spending our money! Our credit cards are not forcing us to spend the money, we are making these choices. And we can choose to say “no”. 

Saving money is difficult, but it is also simple! It is a simple formula: if you want to save money, stop spending! 

Why did I start the no spend challenge? 

My husband and I are students and we live below the poverty line. We live paycheck to paycheck with a little help from scholarships and student loans. 

We are not able to save a lot of our money because of this, but we understand the importance of savings. 

Over a year ago, we were looking for ways to increase our savings while decreasing our spending each month. We decided that some spending would have to go completely. 

Things like buying gifts for our family members made the chopping board. It was a hard thing to cut, but it was an “extra” every month that we could not afford. We cut our gas money down by walking more and driving less.

While searching for other ways, we found the “no-spend month” challenge. 

What is the No Spend Month Challenge?

No-spend challenges have become increasingly popular over the last few years and I am on board! 

This is a savings technique that has been around long enough that I cannot identify the source of creation. True to its name, you complete this challenge by going a whole month without spending any money on “nonessentials”. 

This term “nonessential” is obviously a loose term because essentials are relative to the person. 

Diapers are not essential for me because I do not have children, but for others that is an essential purchase. You ultimately decide what nonessentials are, because there are no “rules” in this challenge. Just differentiate your needs and wants, and you’ll have your list of nonessentials. 

The No Spend Week

One full month is a common period that is used to complete the challenge, but you can choose any amount of time to complete your challenge. A day, a week, a month, even a year if you are feeling extra good about no spending! 

If you are new to this challenge, a full day of not spending might be a big feat for you! I suggest that you look at your normal spending habits and then look at your goals.

With these things in mind, determine what is a feasible and appropriate amount of time for yourself and your family. You can always change it if it does not work, or if it is too easy.

One month of no spending can be extreme for some people to start. Some will slip out of the habit or just cheat. With a one to two week period, I discovered you can be more strict on your spending. 

You can get groceries for that period of time beforehand, leaving you no excuses to go to the store and spend money. You can fill up your car for the week, and you won’t stop at the gas station and be tempted. You can buy gifts or tickets to that movie ahead of time. 

Essentially, you can go a whole week or two without spending ANY money because you have all of your essentials. This cuts the impulse purchases out, and allows you to plan your purchases for that time period. Plus, there are still days left in the month to be spontaneous!

My husband and I have chosen to do one week of every month of the year. We did this for 2020, and it worked so well that we are continuing this challenge into 2021!

Each month we look at the calendar and pick our no spend week. We do not plan our no spend weeks over special holidays or birthdays (because Crouches take birthdays seriously). 

The point of no spend is not to stop enjoying life, but to stop mindless and impulse purchases. 

How do I prepare for a No Spend week or month? 

We grab an order from Walmart pickup, usually the day before the start of our no spend week. 

During this shopping trip, we include a few treats, like a bottle of Coke for my husband (because it’s his favorite), and maybe a tub of ice cream for date night. 

We also include a few freezer meals or a crockpot meal for days that we’re busy and do not want to cook. 

On the way home, we’ll fill up our gas tank and check that we have all our needs taken care of. We also double check our bank account and know which bills are coming out during the week, if there are any scheduled. It takes a little bit of preparation, but in this step we are trying to get rid of any reason to pull out our credit cards. 

Then we look ahead at the calendar. Any birthdays coming up to send cards for? Is there a party we’re attending and we need to bring drinks? Are there events that we may need to travel for or get a new outfit? Plan ahead, so fewer surprises come up during the week. 

No spend rules

The best (and hardest?) part of this challenge is that you make your own rules! 

Some people allow grocery shopping during their No-Spend month because it is considered essential. 

Personally, we have chosen to not go to any stores during our No-Spend weeks. It is too easy for us to make purchases that are NOT essential while grocery shopping (candy, drinks, snacks, etc).

Instead, we spend our time prepping and planning to ensure we do not need to go to the store. Meal prepping is essential! And if we forgot an ingredient, we ask our neighbors or substitute it.  

It is up to your discretion, but use it wisely. Be tough on yourself, you can take it! 

We do make room for essentials like bills, recurring payments (like Disney+), and medical emergencies or medicines. I have had to go to CVS for cold medicines during no-spend week, and my sister had to visit the auto shop to repair her headlight during her no-spend week. 

Sometimes life happens and we cannot stop living. Headlights are essential, medicine is essential, but a no spend week is about cutting our spending down where you can

Can you go this week without your morning visits to Starbucks? And instead make coffee at home for the next 7 days? Can we take our lunch to work? Can we make pizza at home on Friday night and invite friends over instead of going out? 

Dig deep and analyze your spending habits! 

5 tips for your no-spend week.

  1. Prepare with grocery shopping and include some key items in there!
    1. Include a freezer meal or an “easy” meal that requires little prep. This is perfect for those long days at work that leave you feeling too tired to cook. 
    2. Include a treat for date night or a spontaneous celebration! For example, we like to keep a bottle of sparkling grape juice on hand.
    3. Get the ingredients to try to recreate your favorite meals at home this week! 
  2. Fill up your gas tank.
    1. Most people will only need 1 tank of gas for the week, so go ahead and fill up now! 
  3. Plan free dates or family outings.
    1. There are a lot of fun free things to do, so don’t feel like you are trapped at home with nothing to do. Check out Makayla’s ultimate list of board games. And Maegan has easy ways to do date night at home!
    2. Go to your local library to get a book or rent a movie!
  4. Have your goal in mind, and put up a visual of it in your house and car!
    1. Why are you doing this? Do you have a certain amount you are trying to save? Do you have a specific thing you are saving for? Print off a picture or a visual to put up! This will motivate you when you are tempted to purchase something! 
  5. Don’t give up! 
    1. If you slip up, do not stop! Just because you didn’t do it perfectly this time, does not mean you should throw in the towel and start spending again. You are capable of achieving your goals and you are strong-willed! 

Why You Should Do the No Spend Challenge

There is a saying in financial planning that advisors use with clients. It’s “earn more or spend less”. There are no secret formulas in accounting that change the amount of money you have, it is really that simple. 

Very few of us are willing to make cuts in areas like rent/mortgage, car payments, insurance, or other large expenses. It requires a lot of time and effort to save money in those areas. They are more difficult to change but with our small purchases, we can make a difference! 

Those little trips to the grocery store add up. Eating out for lunch everyday adds up. “Treating yourself” adds up. 

Some people have a spending problem, and want to curb the habit. Others want to put a little extra into savings. Whatever your motivation is, no spend periods are good for you and for your wallet. This challenge is a great first step towards your financial goals. 

The no-spend challenge has reshifted my focus on what is important to me. I have found new hobbies and I have found time to develop talents while I’m not spending money. 

I have learned that every purchase counts, and that I have control over my finances. 

I AM capable of going a whole week without spending money. And so are you. 

My wish is that your no-spend week is successful and you discover these truths for yourself. I hope we can learn to work with what you have, and enjoy what you have. 

If you like this challenge, share it with your family and friends! Happy saving! 

How to Rock Your Mortgage in 2021
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