Have you tried a no spend challenge? In many personal finance and debt free communities online you will encounter the idea of doing a no spend month in order to save money more quickly. Many people use no spend challenges to save money quickly to pay off debt or save for a goal.
If you are new to a no spend month challenge and wondering if it might be for you, then keep reading! In this post I’ll cover what a no spend month is, how to set up a no spend month challenge, tips for completing your no spend challenge, and lots of printable options to keep you motivated during your no spend challenge.
What Is A No Spend Challenge?
So what exactly is a no spend month? How do you do it? What are the rules for a no spend month?
At it’s most basic, a no spend month is simply a challenge to not spend any extra money during a month long period. You cut out all luxuries and extra spending and only allow the most basic expenses during the month.
This allows you to save a lot of money during a typical month since you won’t be spending like normal.
Most people have a strong WHY behind doing a no spend challenge. Many people do no spend challenges for great financial reasons like the following:
- To put more money toward paying off debt
- To quickly save up to pay for a big upcoming expense
- To reset your spending habits after a period of overspending
- To build up an emergency fund
- To build up a savings buffer to get ahead on expenses so you can live on last month’s income
- To pay off the mortgage faster with a lump sum payment
- To finally become debt free entirely
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!
Setting Up A No Spend Challenge Month
Once you learn about a no spend challenge and decide to do one, you’ll need to set up your own no spend rules and guidelines for your challenge.
Depending on where you look online you’ll find different sets of no spend challenge rules. This is because there is not one set of rules and guidelines. The best way to set up a no spend month challenge is to set your own rules, guidelines, and exemptions.
The only real rules of a no spend challenge are:
- Set your own no spend challenge rules.
- Follow the rules you set for the entire time.
That’s it! As you can see from my no spend month setup, I set my own rules regarding our spending.
For my no spend challenge I decided to leave our grocery budget alone but slashed out eating out money, my personal money, and all extra luxuries. It was as bare bones as I could go without also adding in a grocery challenge/pantry challenge. For us that was a big enough challenge!
No Spend Challenge Rules
If you are feeling like you have no idea where to start, try one of the following ideas. These are just no spend challenge ideas and you should pick ones that will work for you!
- 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.
Typical things cut during a no spend challenge:
- fast food
- coffee shops
- extra activities
Typical allowed spending during a no spend challenge:
- rent or mortgage
- paying bills
- contributing to retirement
- gas for vehicles
- groceries in a budgeted amount
These are just a few different ideas and ways other people do their own no spend challenges. As always you have to pick what will work for your family. It should be enough to make a difference in savings and really be felt by the family, but not so extreme that you can’t accomplish it and give up on day 2.
No Spend Challenge Tips
If you are thinking of giving a no spend month a try, you are likely looking for tips on how to achieve a full no spend month.
Below are my best tips for completing a no spend month. I used many of these myself and found others while researching how to do a no spend month before I started.
- Take an inventory before you begin the month.
- Plan your meals. Look into ways to use the items you already have.
- Find free fun activities in your area.
- Make a list of free things to do that you can do during your no spend challenge.
- Get creative in the kitchen with leftovers and pantry items.
- Play around with ways to increase your income with side hustles without spending money.
- Tell other people about your no spend month for extra accountability.
- Learn frugal living habits that help people live well without spending money.
- Make sure the whole family is on board with the plan and why behind why you are doing a no spend month.
My No Spend Month Recap
In January I decided to do my first no spend month challenge. I set my own rules, exemptions, and guidelines based on what I thought would work best for our life that month but also giving up enough to make sure it would save money.
During my no spend month I realized that despite all the cutting back I’ve done in my regular spending, there was plenty of room for improvement. I found lots of little daily expenses that weren’t expensive but definitely occurred without much thought. I learned several lessons from my no spend challenge.
- No spend challenges are very effective. Regardless of whether you like them or not, they work. Not spending on multiple categories though the month helped us save money.
- No spend challenges are useful for short term goals. These challenges work best for short term goals to save up money very quickly. I don’t think they are a way of life most people can sustain long term.
- Cutting spending is effective but you can only cut so much. You can only cut so much spending out before you are left with nothing else to cut. While spending challenges are effective, they can only be so effective due to the nature of cutting expenses.
- I’m happier increasing income than cutting expenses. Due to my personality, I like earning money and creating more than working to minimize expenses. That is why I’m planning to work on increasing income with side hustles more than cutting expenses. I still plan to be mindful of spending but due to my personality I’d rather spend time earning more money.
No Spend Challenge Printables
When I was doing my no spend month during January, I used my free time to create printables that made the process more fun for me. Without shopping or eating out during the no spend month 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.
When I started the no spend month month I had just the basics – a no spend month tracker with the rules and exemptions and guidelines.
And I also had a no spend month recap page that would be waiting for me to fill out at the end of the no spend month.
During the month of my no spend challenge I really thought about the things I was trying to accomplish during my no spend month and how I could create tools to help myself and others achieve it.
My goals for the month were to cut back on spending of course but to also reset my spending habits. That meant working on finding free things to do and ways to make it more fun.
I made myself lists of no spend activities, no spend bingo cards to fill out, and lists to make things more fun.
Because I’m very visually motivated and love having encouragement where I can see it, I also made a couple printable wall art sheets with motivational quotes. I printed these and kept them in my office so I’d be motivated to keep going during the month.
These printables were very helpful during my no spend month. I’ll admit that not spending for an entire month was more of a challenge than I expected, so having these sheets to keep me motivated and on track really helped.
I also created a couple printables in order to work on my spending mindset during the month.
The impulse spending list is designed to let me write down things I wanted to buy on impulse but said no to instead in order to stick to the challenge and not spend money.
The post spending list allowed me to think through the spending I didn’t miss during the month and the spending I needed to resume once my no spend month was done.
Free No Spend Month Printables
You know I love free stuff, so I wanted to also share some of the best free no spend printables out there! All of these printables are ones that I found on various websites online so I’ve linked to each one for your convenience.
While I went further in my no spend printable bundle and made extra sheets designed around the mental aspect of impulse spending and motivation, there are lots of basic no spend month trackers out there for free!
Here are some of my favorite free no spend printables that can get you started with your challenge:
No Spend Month Template from Don’t Pay Full
No Spend Month Printable from Lively Lotus
No Spend Printable from Debt and Cupcakes
There are tons of free no spend printables out there so there is no reason to no jump into a no spend month prepared and ready to go!!
Whether you use my no spend month printables, free no spend month trackers, make up own, or just skip writing stuff down altogether – it may be worth giving a no spend month challenge a try! You likely won’t know if a no spend month will work for you or not until you try it. Since there is no downside – it’s worth giving it a try!
Other No Spend Challenge Ideas
If you are thinking of doing a no spend challenge but aren’t sure which one to do, consider them all!
Most no spend challenges differ in the length of time you commit to not spending. Below are the most popular no spend challenge lengths.
No spend weekend – A quick weekend with no spending is a great way to dip your toes into the process and free up money for a quick small goal. This type of challenge needs the least amount of planning, so it is the easiest to setup and do quickly.
No spend week – If you’ve committed to a no spend week challenge you will have to change up your daily routine and pay more attention to your choices. It’s more challenging than a weekend and requires a bit more planning.
No spend paycheck period – For most people this two week period of no spending is the best option to reset some spending habits and force a look at your daily spending habits. Two weeks is long enough to hurt and force you to take a real look at daily habits. This requires more planning but is not too much of a burden. I recommend this period for most people to try and found it the most beneficial personally.
No spend month – A no spend challenge that lasts for a month requires lifestyle changes and a shift in mindset to overcome spending habits. A no-spend month is a great way to reset spending habits and force you to look more deeply at the what you really need and want out of life. You definitely have to do a lot of planning to fully complete a no spend month. While it requires more work and planning ti also is the best period to show you how you can live on less!
No spend year – Spending no money on extra things for a year long period is a true test of frugality. A no spend year is a huge commitment and you have to truly cut out lots of spending and habits that encourage spending. A no spend year won’t just adjust your spending habits but it will adjust your entire outlook on life.
No matter which no spend challenge you decide to do, your spending habits will never be the same!
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.