Desperate to save? Try a challenge without spending

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Trying a no-spend challenge has become a popular way to to save money – and for good reason. For people trying to pay off debt or build their emergency fund, cutting back on daily expenses can be a big financial boost.

Cutting back on spending and impulse buying can sometimes be tricky, but spending a few dollars here and there can quickly add up if you’re not careful. This is where the challenge of not spending comes in. Rather than trying to reduce your overall expenses, why not go back to basics with a more “all or nothing” approach?

How does a No Spend Challenge work?

A no-spend challenge is exactly what the name suggests – a plan to stop spending anything beyond the essentials for a certain period of time. It can be a week, a month or even more.

During this period, you are still spending money on your regular bills as well as food, vet bills and anything else that might be considered essential. But you eliminate all impulse spending and avoid spending that is not strictly necessary.

The purpose of a no-spend challenge is not to defer spending. This means that you shouldn’t just wait for the challenge to be over and then buy anything you didn’t buy during the challenge period. The idea is to use this time to re-examine your shopping habits so you can focus on to save money, investing or other financial goals.

How can you make a challenge work without spending?

Before you can start a no-spend period, you need to set some rules for yourself. These include the duration of the challenge and what you are not allowed to spend. Some people will stop spending on anything non-essential, while others may decide to cut all spending in certain categories.

There are other things you can do ahead of time to be successful.

Create a list of free things to do

Cut down on online shopping and entertainment during your No Spend Challenge? Find things that cost you nothing to occupy yourself, like going for a hike, playing board games, or using the library instead of buying new books. During lockdown, take advantage of free online events to keep you busy.

Try a pantry challenge

If food is your problem, try to stay away from the supermarket (and takeout) and instead eat using only what you already have at home. Make it a fun adventure to try and combine unexpected ingredients.

Rummage through your drawers

Chances are you have plenty of travel shampoos and lotions at home. The same will likely be true for unfinished cleaning products and other household items. Instead of ordering something new when you run out of a particular product, aim to use similar products you already have.

Challenge not working? Take a look at why

If you’re struggling to stay committed to the challenge, it’s time to take a closer look at how you’re thinking about spending. For example, you might be an impulse buy out of boredom or depression and need to fix it.

If you suspect you have a shopping addictiontalk to professionals like UK Rehab Network can help you address these concerns more closely.

In the meantime, take a closer look at the challenge itself to see if you’re making any of these mistakes:

  • You haven’t chosen a specific duration for the challenge, or you’ve chosen one that’s too long for you. If you’ve never done this before or have an overspending problem, it may be better to take the challenge one week at a time rather than trying to do it for an entire month.
  • You don’t have a why. What is your motivation for doing a no-spend challenge? Are you trying to pay off your debts faster? Or maybe saving for something in particular? It will be easier to stop spending if the money saved is used for something in particular.

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Pamela W. Robbins