It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, I always find it beneficial to stop. Take a look at my finances. See where I’m spending frivolously. And do a self-imposed no spend challenge. It’s time for me to do one right now!
No Spend Challenge
Depending on the size of your family and your storage space will determine how long you can do a no spend challenge for groceries or clothing.
You can choose how expansive of a challenge you are going to do. No spend grocery challenge? No spend clothing challenge? No spend eating out challenge? Or no spend challenge straight across the board!
What a No Spend Challenge Is NOT
Please don’t hear me say to not spend a penny for a [day, week, month] no matter what. You have responsibilities. You have regular bills to pay. You may have an emergency car repair. You may have a birthday party that your child forgot to tell you about until the day before.
A no spending challenge is not meant to make you and your family irresponsible, unsafe or miserable. Well, miserable may be relative!
What a No Spend Challenge IS
Choose an area or two of your life where you are not going to spend money on for a predetermined, set amount of time. A no spend challenge is simply meant to make you more conscious of how you are spending your money and usually helps lessen the “stuff” in your life. [Related article: Frugal Kitchen Habits to Help Your Budget]
However, your no spend challenge will be unique to you. For instance, if you choose to do a spending freeze on eating out, your groceries in the house will increase a bit along with your grocery bill.
When do you need to do a No Spend Challenge?
This again is variable. I find the need to do no spend challenges after I’ve had a month or two of high spending or after the purchase of big ticket items.
For instance, this spring I took a 3,200 mile road trip to visit family. To the east coast. Hello toll roads! Not only do you have to budget for gas, tolls are a huge expense now days. Eating on the road was another expense of my trip, but a small one.
In the grand scheme of things, or compared to other people’s vacations, my road trip was not that expensive. But when I put those numbers into our usual monthly budget – Wow! It was a chunk.
We also recently bought a tiller for our garden. This expense stretched out over the 10 or 20 years it should last is piddly. But it was still a blow to our monthly budget. So after that purchase, bring on the no spend challenge!
Plan your Exceptions Beforehand
With any spending freeze, you can for-see possible spending needs. Plan those into your challenge so that you don’t feel like you are failing your challenge when those needs arise. Make them part of the plan! This article offers some more great tips for planning.
For me, I’m doing a grocery no spend challenge. But I am planning on dairy sales. June is Dairy Month in Wisconsin so stores run great sales all month. It is the cheapest price on butter all year long. I plan to stock up on butter at every opportunity and keep it in the freezer. Yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, block cheeses and cream are other sales items I stock up on. But only on what I will use! I know how long these items will last past their expiration date if they are unopened. And I know what freezes well.
Implementing Your No Spend Challenge
Now that you have an idea of what to look out for before you commit to a spending freeze, let’s look at the details.
- Choose your day/week/month and commit to it.
- Lay out the parameters of what you will allow yourself to spend money on.
- List the ways you will accomplish this no spending challenge.
- Tell your spouse and family so they can help keep you accountable.
- Write down your goal(s) that you want to accomplish through this spending freeze.
Keep it Real
Lastly, don’t make a no spending challenge for yourself that is unreasonable. If you spend money every day on coffee and a muffin, snacks at the vending machine, lunch in the cafeteria and take-out for supper, start small. Make it tangible. A month-long eating out freeze may be too drastic and unattainable. Maybe start with a one day spending freeze.
If you have a habit of buying groceries just because they are on sale (my hand raised high here!), you may be able to handle a month long challenge.
Design a challenge that works for you. Then stick with it!
Make this no spending challenge fun! Ask your kids to help come up with creative ways to not spend money on groceries or clothes or family entertainment. Look up how to make paper dolls from the newspaper. Do an in-home theater production. Make a new recipe with those random items in the bottom of the freezer.
So don’t throw in the towel on your budget after one high month of spending. Get creative in ways you can make up for it in the following months. Make a no spend challenge plan and stick with it. Look at it as a positive thing to get excited about and you will have much more success!