No Spend Challenge Rules

Are there no spend challenge rules? Yes… and no.

No spend challenges can be great for cutting back your spending and saving money for big financial goals. Whenever I mention them online people always want to no what the rules are and how to do one.

The thing I love about no spend challenges is that you get to make up the no spend challenge rules for yourself.

What Is a No Spend Challenge?

A no spend challenge is set period of time where you go without spending money on anything outside of your essentials like bills, basic food, medical needs, etc.

Also known as a spending freeze, these no spend challenges are a way for many people to reset after a period of excess spending. This is why many people attempt no spend challenges in January after spending a lot of money on Christmas.

How you actually implement a no spend challenge in your own life is up to you.

This type of challenge is pretty clear but you can make it as hard or as easy as you want. Some people go to extremes while others take a more loose approach.

Either way people use a no spend challenge to quickly save money, pay off debt, and get back on track with spending habits.

no spend challenge rules to save money

Why Do A No Spend Challenge?

Many people do no spend challenges for reasons like the following:

  • Putting more money toward paying off debt
  • Quickly saving up to pay for a big upcoming expense
  • Resetting your spending habits after a period of overspending
  • Building up an emergency fund
  • Building up a savings buffer to get ahead on expenses so you can live on last month’s income
  • Paying off the mortgage faster with a lump sum payment
  • Finally achieving debt freedom

These are all great reasons people do no spend challenges.

You may be doing it for one of these reasons or one completely unique to your situation!

Related: 100 No Spend Challenge Ideas To Save Money

What Are The No Spend Challenge Rules?

There are no “official” rules for a no spend challenge.

Instead there are rules and guidelines people typically follow that you can adjust for your own experience.

When setting up your no spend challenge rules you need to clearly define your challenge. To do this you will need to answer some questions for yourself:

  • How long will your no spend challenge last? Will your no spend challenge be for a weekend, a week, or a full month? Will you do a no spend challenge for 30 days or a whopping 365? A month tends to be the typical challenge length but you have the freedom to challenge yourself to any duration.
  • Will you count days consecutively or cumulatively? Sometimes you have events where you will just have to spend money. If one of these events like a birthday or wedding falls during your challenge will you have to restart or will you just skip that day and count before and after? You get to make the rules based on your lifestyle requirements. You could challenge yourself to 30 days in a row or 30 days total skipping planned event days.
  • Will you have spending cheat days? Not everyone loves the idea of “cheat” days when doing a challenge but for some people they are essential. Consider your personality when setting the rules and if you need an all-or-nothing approach or you can allow more flexibility with cheat days.

These are the areas where people adjust the most to fit their lifestyle needs while still keeping it a challenge.

Typical No Spend Challenge Rules

Despite all the flexibility in setting up no spend challenge rules there are some typical guidelines to follow.

Typical Spending Allowed:

  • Mortgage/rent payments
  • Utilities
  • Phone bill
  • Internet bill
  • Groceries (basics only)
  • Medical & Insurance bills
  • Medicine
  • Gas
  • Transportation expenses
  • Debt payments
  • Credit card payments

Typical Spending NOT Allowed:

  • Restaurant meals
  • Fast food
  • Coffee shops
  • Alcohol
  • Gas station purchases beyond gas
  • Salon services
  • Cable/Streaming TV
  • Clothing
  • Shoes
  • Gifts
  • Hobby Gear
  • Anything under the “want” category of spending

The differences in these categories or what is allowed or not allowed in a no spend challenge closely follows what you NEED versus what you WANT.

If you need it? Allowed. If it is an item you want? Not allowed. That’s a pretty simple rule to keep in mind when you are doing your no spend challenge.

Related: 50 Things To Do Instead of Spending Money

Things To Cut From Your Spending

Obviously you want to cut as much spending as possible during your challenge. Here are some ways you can cut back spending for the challenge duration.

  • Cut all eating out. Plan all of your meals to bring lunch to work and not eat out at all for any meals.
  • Cut out all discretionary spending. If it’s not planned or in your grocery budget, write it down and wait a month.
  • Cut all of your personal spending. If you get any allowance monthly, cut it out entirely.
  • Cut out any entertainment spending. If it’s an event or concert already planned make it an exemption for the month but don’t add anything new.
  • Cut your normal grocery budget in half from what it normally is. Get creative with items you already have an things on sale.
  • Cut your food budget entirely. If you are able to eat out of your pantry and freezer for a month, consider cutting out all food spending. You could make an exemption for a small amount each week for fresh produce.
  • Cut something out in your own budget once you’ve looked through for things that could be eliminated.

Related: Things To Stop Buying to Save Money

No Spend Challenge Rules Example

When I previously did my own no spend challenge month I set up some no spend rules and exemptions for myself.

No Spend Month Challenge Setup & Rules

For my no spend challenge month I created a no buy list which included things like:

  • extra activities
  • shopping for home purchases
  • clothes shopping
  • eating out at restaurants
  • snacks from our bodega at work

Giving myself very specific rules was helpful. Tailoring it to things in your own life makes it more of a challenge specific to you. For example, not everyone would have to make a rule about bodega purchases but it was part of my no spend rules.

I also set up my own specific exemptions based on our planned spending for the month. If it was a bill or already agreed upon spending then we still spent money on it.

This included:

  • bills
  • mortgage
  • my husband’s softball league
  • planned items in our budget

Giving ourselves these pre-planned exemptions made it easy to know what we could still do and what we had to say no to during the no spend challenge.

Success Tips For No Spend Challenge Rules

Now you know the typical no spend challenge rules you might be wondering: how can you actually complete this challenge?

If you want to complete a no spend challenge there are some things you can do to succeed.

Make sure you are prepared.

Getting prepared for a no spend challenge is often the key to success.

Your challenge success actually starts before the challenge date arrives. The things you do to get ready will make it possible to complete the challenge without any spending mistakes.

Some things people do to prepare for a no spend challenge include:

  • taking an inventory of the things you already have purchased
  • planning out your meals to avoid restaurant spending
  • creating a list of fun free activities you can do
  • talking to those in your life about the challenge to help you

These are some of the things you can do to prepare for a successful challenge.

Understand your motivation.

Another key to succeeding is understanding your motivation.

Why are YOU doing a no spend challenge? What are you hoping to accomplish?

Do you want to save money? Stop bad spending habits? Pay off a debt?

Here are a few ways to understand your motivation and use it to complete the challenge:

  • journal your thoughts and feelings about spending money before and during the challenge
  • create a visual reminder of why you are doing the no spend challenge
  • make a list of the things you will feel or do when you complete the challenge
  • use a no spend challenge printable to keep yourself on track

Determining your reasons and then reminding yourself of them will help you finish the challenge strong.

Avoid temptations to spend.

The whole point of a no spend challenge is to not spend extra money. This is hard to do because most people spend money constantly without even thinking much about it.

Avoiding temptations to spend money is one of the best things you can do during a no spend challenge.

Here are some things you might want to avoid during your challenge:

  • stepping foot in stores
  • browsing online shopping websites
  • going to restaurants
  • driving by fast food restaurants

Depending on how you spend money you might have to change your routine during your challenge. Removing yourself from the places that encourage you to spend money is very helpful.

Work to earn extra money.

One things many people do during a no spend challenge is focus on earning money instead.

When you are working more you are less likely to be out spending money. This can also benefit you because you are able to increase the financial impact of the no spend challenge.

Need some money making ideas? Try these:

You can also just sign up to work more hours or even start a new part time or temporary job. Making extra money will combine with all the money you save for a huge financial push in the right direction.

No Spend Challenge Printables

When I was doing my no spend challenge, I used my free time to create printables that made the process more fun for me. I had a lot of time to get creative and think about how different worksheets and techniques could help me get the most out of a no spend month.

Printables have been the easiest way for me to get organized in order to accomplish my goals during a challenge like a no spend month.

No Spend Challenge Printable Bundle

Mary is the founder of Pennies Not Perfection where she shares her journey to build wealth through online income. She quit her day job in 2021 after she paid off her debt and doubled her 9-5 salary.

Mary's favorite free financial tool is Personal Capital. She uses their free tools to track net worth and work toward to financial freedom.

Her favorite investment platform is M1 Finance, where she built a custom portfolio for free with no fees. She shares her portfolio growth and savings progress every month on YouTube.