A No Spend Challenge is a great way to see what you are really spending money on throughout the month. Sure, you have a budget and pay your bills… But have you ever wondered what happens to that extra bit of cash you had? Maybe you wish you could put it to better use?
I am really trying to save money this year. We are in the beginning stages of planning our Tiny House, so obviously we need to start saving up. As much as I would love to have this project come in under budget and do everything for as cheaply as possible, I’m sure there will be a few surprise expenses.
I decided to do a No Spend Challenge for a month because I always find that at the end of the month, there is less money accounted for than there was when I made up my monthly budget. You know what I mean… A coffee here, an extra book here… It all adds up and a lot of times, it’s an unnecessary purchase.
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Defining Your No Spend Challenge Rules
Before you start your no spend challenge, you are going to want to write down your rules and post them where they can be a constant reminder and motivation for the challenge.
Make sure you decide what extras you might spend money on, if anything, after you have created your budget and have your bills paid. For example, are you allowing yourself a treat every now and then? Or sticking to home cooked meals and treats the whole month?
Make sure everyone in your family knows and understands both the rules and the challenge. If everyone in your family is not on board then your challenge is doomed from the get go. If you are doing a no spend challenge with your spouse, make sure you are both taking part in the planning so you are on the same page when it comes to the rules. A no spend month will only work if you are both committed. If one of you is packing a lunch and the other is going through the drive thru, your challenge is not going to go very well!
Decide how you are going to keep track of things like grocery and gas. Are you going to keep track with receipts or are you going to use a cash envelope system so you can physically see what you are spending.
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No Spend Challenge Tips
- Make a Budget – There are lots of programs out there to help you create a budget. You will want to make a note of every bill that needs to be paid, how much you typically spend on groceries, how much you need to spend on gas… Make a list of everything and anything you NEED to spend money on. The necessities should be your focus here.
- Make Your Meal Plan – You can save tons of money by making your food at home. During your No Spend Month ordering fast food is a big fat NO! Create a meal plan, make a shopping list, and don’t by anything that’s not on the list! Anyone can meal plan, it takes time but it is SO worth it!
- Eat What You Have in Your Pantry – This is the perfect time to take stock of what you have in your cupboards and use it up. Before making your grocery list check your pantry and see what you already have and can use when you are planning your meals. You might already have the stuff on hand for chili, soups, casseroles, etc. This can help you save money on groceries.
- Find the Deals – After you’ve created your grocery list, find as many deals as you can. When I buy groceries I usually check 5-6 flyers when I’m writing out my list. Strawberries might be on sale at Walmart and cucumbers might be on sale at the grocery store. It might be quicker if you just shop at one store, but it’s worth taking the extra time to find the deals.
- Coupons – There are tons of places where you can find coupons online. A quick google search of your area may even find a local blogger that can point you exactly where you need to go! Keep your eyes peeled for tear pads in stores, coupons in the mail, and search online for printable coupons. Then try and match the coupon up with flyer deals for even more savings.
- Entertainment – You won’t be able to go to the movies during a no spend month, and you may even want to try to find ways to cut down on other bills. Netflix is only $10 a month and has so many options for everyone in the family. You can easily start a movie night at home. Make sure you also check out free activities in your area!
- Walk and Bike – Avoid using your vehicle as much as possible, so you can save money on gas. If you need to drive to work, try and find someone to carpool with! Of course, you will end up saving money on gas if you aren’t spending money on other things like fast food, extra trips to the store, or trips to the movies.
- Keep Track of Everything – If you end up spending money on something unexpected during your no spend month, keep track of it. If you want to do another no spend month in the future, you can use this info to plan accordingly.
Focus on the Positive
This is my biggest tip. Don’t focus on the fact that you can’t spend money. You will end up feeling like you are depriving yourself of something. Instead, focus on the challenge of finding new activities for your family to do, cooking and enjoying meals as a family, and just enjoying each other’s company in general!