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How to challenge yourself to a no-spend day, week or month

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Editor's note: this blog post was originally written in September 2016 and has been updated for clarity and with the latest information.

Two hands holding a pink Piggy Bank with coins out of focus below

Whether the kids need new back to school gear, you've just paid off your summer holiday, or you simply feel financially drained, sometimes our carefully planned out budgets can take a beating. 

Spending all your funds can happen so quickly and easily.

The question is...

...how to stop this from happening.

Have you ever considered surviving for a certain period without spending a penny?

This is called a no-spend challenge and it could be just the answer to your problems.

A no-spend challenge is where you completely cut out spending for a set amount of time and see how much you improve your money handling situation. Encouraging a spending freeze on your budget can work wonders for your cash-saving efforts.

Great! Where do you start?

A no-spend challenge can be whatever you want it to be

It's important to remember that you define what you want your no spend challenge to include (or not include).

For one person, it might mean cutting out their morning coffee. For another, it might mean cancelling unnecessary subscriptions or not buying an outfit for every new occasion.

Whatever you choose, it's important to stay true to yourself and get what you want from it.

It doesn't always mean cancelling all your bills and cutting yourself off from the rest of the world, although I do know people that have gone extreme minimalist after a no-spend challenge!

Need a hand?

Find out how to create a spending plan that's in alignment with your values with Money Nugget's helpful article. 

Be prepared

Birds eye view of wooden table with 2 people planning their finances. Macbook laptop open, poster with arrows between Funding, Saving and Benefit

There are certain things that don't stop just because you're doing a no-spend challenge:

  • Bills still need to be paid
  • Your car will need petrol or
  • Your train/bus pass will need to be in date
  • And you'll need to eat!

Before you take part in a no-spend challenge, take an inventory of everything that you already have in the fridge/freezer so you can plan meals using these, make sure your car has petrol and automate all of your bills in advance.

This is essential in order to make sure you don’t miss any important payments.

There is no way your no-spend period can eliminate these kinds of costs.

The idea is more to train yourself to stop indulging in unnecessary spending habits that you can’t afford.

This Budget Sheet from Citizens Advice is perfect for looking at all your essential living costs and a great starting point for figuring out where you could cut down costs. 

Determine how long it will last

4 towers of coins rising in height with a green plant sprouting at the end of each pile

The length of your no-spend challenge is completely up to you. 

Are you going to dedicate a day to ease yourself into a no-spend session? Or go for it with a week, or even an entire month?

The choice is yours.

If you've never done it before, start small. If you overcommit you'll be more likely to relapse.

Top tip!

You'll likely find it easier to complete a no spend challenge during the week, as it's easier to plan lunches and stick to a budget when you’re in work or bound by a schedule.

If you're really looking to push yourself, you can commit to a no-spend month. This is perfect if you've overspent the previous month and looking to level your finances back out.  

Have an end goal in mind

Saving up for a holiday? Looking to complete work on your home? Planning a wedding?

Having something to work towards is a great motivator for no-spend challenges. If the urge to splurge gets too much, think about how good it'll feel once you reach your goal.

Plus, make sure you celebrate milestones with little wins and rewards. Indulge in a bath, watch your favourite film or treat yourself to a lie-in!

Start today

Zoomed in image of a calendar with the words 'Today is the Perfect Day to be Happy'

No making excuses.

There is never a convenient time to start saving money but today is the day.

If you have a hard time telling yourself no, then leave your cash and debit card at home. That way, you physically can't spend! 

Over time, you'll be able to tell yourself:

'I have no money to buy this, so I definitely don't need it.'

You'll learn how to prioritise your spends and be truly happy with the items that you do buy.

Challenge every spending decision

For the times that you do need to buy things, it's really important to assess every spending decision.

Are you buying different types of milk in your weekly shop? Do you regularly watch all of the channels on your TV subscription? Do you own a pair of shoes similar?

Start to question your spends instead of spending money on items that you've always considered essential.

It may not seem that expensive, but small purchases add up, especially on your food bill. Double check everything!

Use what you have

Hands up who has a freezer full of food, but still struggles to know what to cook for dinner?

Most of us fall into this category and we end up spending unnecessary money on food. Quit last minute dashes to the shop and ordering expensive takeaways by using up all the bits in your freezer.

Meal plan to save money

White female hand with pink nail varnish holding a black pen about to write in a notepad, on a page with the title 'My Plan'

Not only is meal planning a great way to save money, it's also a really handy way to save yourself time.

Take note of all the ingredients you have in your fridge, freezer and cupboards and start planning your meals around what you already have.

Who knows what kind of wacky (but delicious!) concoctions you'll come up with!

Shop your own wardrobe

Use this same logic with your wardrobe.

If you're guilty of buying a new dress or shirt for every event, have a rummage in your wardrobe to see what you already have.

You might even find something you forgot you had!

After your no-spend challenge, your attitude will change to realise that a new item isn't necessary for every event.

Declutter and make some cash

Nobody said anything about making extra cash during your no-spend period!

Go ahead, sort through your entire house and flog items that no longer serve a purpose in your home.

Stuck on where to start? Find out how I made a whopping £165 by decluttering my home.

Entertain yourself for free

Glass vase with straw ribbon tied around it's neck, lying on its side with lots of bronze pennies fallen out

Filling your time between work/school and sleep is often where our finances takes the biggest hit. 

However, days out don't need to cost a penny. 

There are so many places you can visit for free, as well as outdoor activities like hiking or cycling. If you go to the park, take a picnic, or invite your friends over for a film night rather than hitting the expensive cinema. 

Check out our Free Days Out page, regularly updated with all the free things to do across the UK. 

Keep yourself busy

Your no-spend period is a great time to pull out your to-do list and start tackling items on there that you can never find the time to complete.

By staying occupied on tasks like DIY, cleaning, or anything else, you are keeping your mind off your lack of spending, and before you know it, it will all be over and you will feel so much more productive.

If you actively look for better things to do than shopping, eventually you’ll forget that you ‘aren’t allowed’ to spend money, and may prefer to fill your time with more meaningful endeavours.

Take it easy on yourself

It’s not the end of the world if you spend a little or it’s a special occasion that falls on your no-spend day. The important thing is it’s a blip, not a reason to give up.

Remember it’s not forever

Focus on your goals and reward yourself at the end of your no-spend challenge. Hopefully, you feel accomplished and are one step closer to managing your finances better.

£5 note, 2x £1coin, 50p coin, 2p coin and 20p coin on a wooden background

Have you started or completed a no spend challenge yet? I’d love to hear from you! Let me know how you guys get on.

Collette xx