Have you heard of a No-Spend Challenge? In the age of Minimalism, Marie Kondo and plain old Spring cleaning, it’s a great way to save money. More than just boosting your emergency fund, you can also reevaluate the items and experiences you pay for. What do you miss the most? What did you barely notice was missing? It’s not the easiest of challenges to try out for an extended period of time (though there have been plenty of successful year-long experimenters). If you’re interested in trying it out, we have a few tips to help you through it.
Pick a Time Frame
There’s nothing worse for motivation than a goal without realistic limits. Or a time frame that goes far beyond what you need to achieve it. If you’re tying this out in April with half of your family members having birthdays this month, you’re making your life unnecessarily difficult. Start small, with a week or even a day. You can always rinse and repeat later on.
Make Your Allowable List
This is NOT meant to be a time where you’re forced to go without the necessities. Buy your toilet paper, within reason. Your food, within reason. A replacement for something you break, within reason. See the trend there? Don’t take this opportunity to spend money on a few items as free reign to eat oysters and hoard bath tissues.
Create Your Savings Account
Make sure you have a place to keep track of the money you’re saving during your No-Spend Challenge. Transfer funds regularly – perhaps weekly – to keep yourself accountable. This is a great way to keep yourself motivated. For an extra push, name your savings account something fun, such as CANCUN TRIP.
Know Your Weaknesses
Alright, so part of this little experiment may be to learn what those weaknesses are, but you’re likely already aware of a few of them. Do you like to grab a coffee first thing in the morning? Are you an afternoon vending machine fiend? Bring some tea bags and snacks with you to work for those times when you get peckish. Enjoy talking a walk away from your desk? Try taking a walk outside instead of in search of more consumables.
This should ideally not feel like a time of deprivation. There are plenty of things out there in the world to enjoy that don’t cost a dime! At the very least, you’re likely already paying recurring costs for entertainment that you’re not even taking full advantage of. If you have an Amazon Prime membership, have you checked out their free Prime movies or music? Do you already pay for Netflix? Even a gym membership can provide fun in the form of a challenging workout or a spa day complete with hot tub and sauna.
Try a Mini Challenge
Not ready to plunge fully into a No-Spend Challenge? Try out a miniature version of the challenge first. Pick a category that you’d like to cut your spending in and start there. Do you want to stop eating out for a while? Are you trying to take a break from alcohol or unhealthy foods? Each of these are awesome goals, and turning them into a spending ban instead of just a ban on the item in question can help change the way you think about them.
If you’re not already the type to journal, it might be a good time to start. Take notes on the items you haven’t bought (but you thought about it!) and how much money you’ve saved. This can help in a number of ways as you transition out of your shopping ban. We’d be willing to bet that many of the items you thought you absolutely had to have don’t seem that important in retrospect. Plus, you’ll likely start seeing patterns in your spending habits that you didn’t notice before. Maybe on your days off you’re much more tempted to go shopping or you go on autopilot to the drive thru after work. Knowledge is power, and that’s especially true when it comes to knowing more about yourself and your own habits.
Make New Habits
Speaking of habits, this is a great time to start new and healthy ones. So much of the food and drinks that we buy while out and about aren’t healthy for us. Try out some fun things like an afternoon tea (pinkies out!) or a lovely French press coffee in the morning while reading the news at home. When we’re pushed outside of our comfort zones, we can often make those changes that we’ve been trying to work toward. Take this perfect opportunity to work on yourself.
Don’t End With a Splurge
The end of your No-Spend Challenge is NOT the time to just go out on a shopping spree to end all shopping sprees. Don’t undo all the hard work you’ve done over the past days, weeks or months. Take the time to reflect, look back through your journal or notes, and be proud of what you’ve accomplished. If you assigned a purpose for that extra cash, why not take the first step in making that dream a reality? Buy those plane tickets, reserve a resort room or grab a rental car for a road trip.