Thinking about trying a no-spend challenge? These tips will help you prepare for a successful no-spend month so you can save money and reach your financial goals!
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Have you been thinking about trying a no-spend month? Maybe you’ve been doing a little bit of preliminary research to see what all is involved before you actually take the plunge.
If that’s you, then you’re in the right place today!
Josh and I completed our very first no-spend month back in December, so I have a few tips to help you get started the right way. Severely cutting back your spending for a whole month won’t be easy, but I’m going to show you how to plan a reasonable and realistic no-spend challenge that will work for YOU so you have the best chance for success.
Let’s dive right in so you can start saving money!
How to Prepare for a Successful No-Spend Month
1. Understand the basic idea of a no-spend challenge
No-spend challenge. Low-spend challenge. Spending freeze. Spending fast. Zero spend challenge. Fiscal fast. No-spend weekend/week/month/year.
A no-spend challenge, or any of the other names you might hear it called, is basically where you stop spending money for a certain period of time, anywhere from a weekend to a month to even a whole year!
Of course, there are a few caveats. You still have to pay your bills, and you still have to feed your family. And if you already have activities, vacations, or events planned, you should still do them.
But the idea is to stop all unnecessary spending so you can reach a specific financial goal.
A no-spend challenge can help you
- Save money to fund your emergency fund
- Pay down debt
- Save for a family vacation
- Reset your spending habits
- Break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle
- And so much more!
Really, a no-spend challenge can help you reach whatever financial goal you happen to be working toward at the time.
2. Set your objective or goal
You have to know what you’re working toward if you expect to have a successful no-spend month. Having a clear objective or goal will motivate you to stick with it when things get hard or when you just want to give up.
Decide why you’re doing this no-spend month, write it down, and put it someplace where you can easily see it. Every day you’ll be reminded of what you’re working toward, and you’ll be more likely to stick with your no-spend month when the newness of the challenge wears off.
3. Get your whole family on board
If you want to have a successful no-spend month, your whole family has to be on board. It just won’t work if your family doesn’t want to participate.
To get your family on board, emphasize how this no-spend month will benefit each family member. Whether we like it or not, people usually have a “what’s in it for me” mentality. If you can pinpoint how this no-spend month will benefit each family member, you’ll be more likely to get them on board.
Maybe you’re having this no-spend challenge so you can save up for a family vacation. In that case, explain to your family how not spending money now means you’ll have more money to spend on your vacation. List out the fun activities this no-spend challenge will allow them to do while on vacation.
4. Set your rules
The beauty of your no-spend month is that you get to set your own rules. Some people are very strict and vow to not spend ANY extra money beyond bills. But if you don’t want to be that extreme, you can definitely tweak the rules to fit your needs.
For example, since Josh and I follow a mostly plant-based diet, we decided to allow room in our no-spend month for fresh produce every week. We set our dollar limit a little lower than what we normally spend on groceries, and we challenged ourselves to stay well under that amount.
Likewise, if you know you have to drive to work each day, you’ll probably have to allow room in your no-spend month for gas or for other forms of transportation.
Set the rules based on your needs, not what you think a no-spend month “should” look like.
5. Take inventory of your pantry, refrigerator, freezer, household items, and hygiene/beauty supplies
Before you decide to drastically cut back your spending, make sure you have everything you’ll need to get through the month. Day 15 is not the day you want to discover you’re almost out of toilet paper!
On the other hand, you don’t need to stock your house like you’re planning for the end of the world. Just make sure you have enough household items to get you to the end of the month so you don’t blow your no-spend month on essentials.
6. Make a meal plan or list of cheap and quick meals you can make, preferably using ingredients you already have at home
Having a meal plan is a great way to save money on groceries any time, but it’s especially helpful during a no-spend month.
Plan your meals around the ingredients you already have in the kitchen so you don’t have to spend as much at the grocery store, and write down a list of meals that you can quickly and cheaply whip up when you’re low on time. This will keep you from giving in and going out to eat when you don’t feel like spending hours in the kitchen.
7. Look at your calendar for any upcoming activities and plan accordingly
If you already have activities planned, you should still do them even if they cost money. Since it’s unlikely that you’ll ever have a “perfect” month to do your no-spend challenge, simply plan your no-spend month around any birthdays or family vacations you already have on the books.
8. Determine how much you need to spend on necessities such as food, transportation, pets, and hygiene
There are some expenses you just can’t get out of. If you have pets, you have to buy them food. If you live thirty minutes away from work without the option of public transportation, then you’ll have to spend money on gas.
Set reasonable limits for these necessary expenses and challenge yourself to spend as little as possible during your no-spend month.
9. Assess any bills, subscriptions, or extras you can eliminate
Now is a good time to look over your budget and cut out any unnecessary expenses so you can get the most out of your no-spend month. Do you have any subscriptions that you forgot about but don’t need or use anymore? Cancel them. I’m pretty sure you won’t even miss them!
10. Create a list of free entertainment and activities to do
It can be hard to stick with a no-spend month when you get bored. A month is a long time to go without spending money on fun experiences! Luckily, there are plenty of free things you can do for fun if you exercise your creativity a little bit.
Here are some free things to do during your no-spend month:
- Visit the library so you can borrow books and DVDs
- Watch movies you already own or watch Netflix if you already have a subscription
- Spend some time outdoors
- Find free local events
- Exercise with free workout videos on YouTube
- Clean your house/declutter your stuff/organize your home/rearrange your furniture
- DIY some projects with materials and supplies you already have on hand
- Have a home pamper session
- Visit a friend/invite a friend over for a home-cooked dinner
- Pack a picnic and spend the afternoon at the park
- Finish a project you’ve already started at home
- Assess your finances
Need some more ideas for free activities? This free printable will give you 35 ideas to get your creative juices flowing!
11. Create a wish list for things you want to buy after the no-spend month
It’s hard to go a full month without buying any extras, so to keep you from feeling totally deprived or neglected, create a wish list for the things you want to buy after your no-spend month is over.
For me, the act of writing down the things I wanted made me feel better because I felt like I was telling myself “wait” rather than “no.” Just knowing that I could have these items after the no-spend month made it easier to delay the purchase.
And do you want to know something funny? I ended up NOT buying the vast majority of the things on my wish list. When the no-spend month was over, I realized that most of those items were impulse purchases that I didn’t even want or need after the impulse was over!
12. Wrap your credit and debit cards if you think you’ll be tempted to use them
I haven’t actually done this, but I do know how tempting it can be to use debit or credit cards. If you think you won’t be able to resist that temptation, try wrapping your cards in wrapping paper as an extra measure to prevent yourself from using them. You could even write a note on the paper reminding you of your end goal.
13. Keep a positive attitude and have fun with it!
When you have a positive attitude, the month seems to go by more quickly and pleasantly than if you adopt an attitude of misery. Choose to be positive, focus on the end goal, and make sure to include lots of free activities that will allow you to have fun without compromising your no-spend month.
How to Plan a successful No-Spend Month (the Easy Way!)
If you’d like a simple, step-by-step guide to help you plan a successful no-spend month, then you might be interested in my no-spend month planner!
I created The No-Spend Month Planner to make the planning process easier and to equip you with the necessary tools and resources to make your no-spend challenge as easy as possible. It’s 45 pages of in-depth instructions, worksheets, and bonus resources to help you make the most out of your no-spend month.
Final Thoughts on Preparing for a No-Spend Month
Not spending money on extras for a whole month is hard. It requires discipline and creativity, but it is totally doable! These tips will help you plan a no-spend challenge that’s realistic and reasonable for YOU so you have a better chance of sticking with it. It’s easy to get excited about the challenge in the beginning, but these tips are what will help you see it through to the end.
And when it’s all said and done, you should have a nice chunk of change to help you reach your financial goals! Now that’s a feat worth celebrating.
Other Money Saving Articles You May Enjoy
- No-Spend Month Results: What We Learned from Our First No-Spend Challenge
- 9 Personal Finance Resources You Need in Your Life
- 30 Ways to Save Money so You Can Reach Your Financial Goals
- How to Save Money Without Feeling Deprived
- How to Spend Less Money When Your Spending Is Out of Control
What about you? Have you ever tried a no-spend month before?
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