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How To Use A No Spend Challenge To Get Your Budget Back On Track

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Commit To The Challenge

Does your budget seem to spiral off the rails from time to time? I can have the best intentions to follow a budget yet all you do is seem to spend, spend, spend. Does that sound familiar to you? I know for me it was and still is my reality at times, I feel your frustration.

Sometimes life is life and it throws us curveballs we could have seen coming thus having us go over budget. But…here’s a hard pill to swallow, sometimes it is our fault and it just comes down to our poor money management skills.

It happens and you certainly are not alone!

We put all this effort into building and creating this picture-perfect budget with nothing but great intentions but we still fall off track.

So what can you and I do to get our budgets back on track quickly and effectively?

Sometimes it has to be something drastic and big to get our spending habits back on track along with our budget, that’s when I recommend a no-spend challenge. You may even be able to walk away with the bonus of saving a bit of money.

Think no spend challenge and commit to it.

So What Is A No Spend Challenge???

So first off this is a totally legit question…I had no idea what it was or how to do one only a year ago.

But it really is very simple. A no-spend challenge is a way to hit reset and essentially regain control over your money as opposed to it controlling you.

The basic idea is that you challenge yourself to not spend ANY unnecessary money for a set period of time that you decide on.

It could be as short as a day, weekend, week, a pay period, a month, or as long as you feel is necessary.

Okay, this is probably a far reach but you could even challenge yourself to go an entire year without unnecessary spending, if you are in debt this could really impact your financial future in a positive way.

To recap, no spend is about hotting your pain points and have a major financial reset. Take your no spend challenge and think of it as a time to reflect on your spending habits, so you can tweak and figure out where you are going wrong. Find out what is or (isn’t) working for you. This will help you figure out what your next move is.

Who Should Be Using A No Spend Challenge?

The answer is simple. Everyone and anyone should be using a no-spend challenge. However, it can be super helpful when you feel lost and don’t know what to do. Use a no-spend challenge to get a good grasp of your financial goals and budget.

Sometimes we just need to get refocused, and a no spend challenge can provide us with that.

If you are struggling to save money? You even have great intentions but just can’t seem to get it together, this is when a no-spend challenge could be your saving grace. It could set you on the right track to the saving high that you want.

Where To Start With A No Spend Challenge

So you want to do a no-spend challenge! Good for you I believe you can do it!

The first step is committing to it. Kinda like a diet, you have to pick a day to start, you have to have self-control, and you must remain on track. In a sense, you are doing it for your financial health and future, so take the plunge and commit.

So now that you have decided to start here are the steps you will need to follow! Ready. Set. Don’t. Spend.

1 | What Amount Of Time Are You Thinking?

Obviously this is the first thing you need to decide. It has been proven that people are more likely to stick to something when they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. So pick your time frame for your no-spend challenge.

If you are a nebe I suggest not overwhelming your self and opting for a no spend a week to start off with.

You might be wondering why only a week?

Well, a one-day no spend challenge would be simply too short to accurately be able to see the impact your no-spend day had on your finance. But a week can be broken down into 25% of a month which gives you a better idea for when you plan for a no spend a month in the future. Start small and work your way up.

Take action now. get out your calendar and pick a week that works for you. Pencil it in and set in stone!

For me I need to have that visual reminder of a calendar, it helps me to stay on track and stick to my no-spend challenges.

2 | Give Yourself Spending Boundaries

A no-spend challenge will make it incredibly easy for you to identify the expenses in your budget that are needs and which are wants.

If you are actually going to make a real go of a no spend challenge and make your spending fast work you will have to decide what you will spend money on for the week/weekend/month/months/year.

Expenses that you will spend money on should be things like:

  • Mortgage/Rent
  • Utilities
  • Essential Groceries
  • Insurance Premiums
  • Only necessary fuel
  • Medical Expenses

You get the gist of it. Spending should only be reserved for the things that are most important, which are your NEEDS for maintaining the basic standard of living.

So we now know what we should spend money on, but what should we not spend money on during a no-spend challenge.

  • Entertainment
  • Eating out
  • Clothing
  • Travel or vacation
  • Hobbies
  • Recreation
  • Impulse purchases

You need to cut out all of the extras that are draining money from your bank account and your budget.

3 | Plan In Advance So You Can Avoid The Temptation To Spend

Deciding to do a no-spend challenge and actually going through with it is completely different. And it is hard, I don’t want you going into it with false expectations.

It is hard because as soon as you make a mental note that you are going to stop unnecessary spending it seems life will try you to your breaking point to get you to spend.

But don’t get downhearted or feel like you shouldn’t even start a no-spend challenge. Here are some things to make sure your no spend challenge goes as smooth as possible.

Plan Your Grocery Shopping Around Your Meals

For me going to the grocery store can be a death trap for my no-spend challenges. So to avoid having my no-spend challenge go to the dumps I plan out my meals for the week according to the weekly flyer and this way I know exactly what I need to get from the grocery store. When I go in with a plan there is a much better chance I won’t overspend or impulse buy.

Another way you save money by planning your meals is by having everything you need at home so you don’t have to make extra trips to the grocery store, which saves you on gas money.

Brainstorm Some Recreation Ideas That Are Free

Deciding to do a no-spend challenge does not mean that you can’t have any fun. But it does mean that you may have to be creative when it comes to your recreation and maybe even try something new.

I’ve come up with some suggestions to get your brainstorming started for free fun as a family:

  • Go for a walk to the park
  • Have a beach day
  • Go for a hike
  • Try a bike ride
  • Check out some of your towns local events
  • Have a baking day together
  • Spend your time volunteering
  • At home movie night
  • Go for a picnic
  • Play some board games/cards

This is a very simple and basic thing you can do as a family for fun that is free.

4 | Keep Track Of Your No, Spend Efforts

I highly recommend that after your no spends challenge starts that you keep close track of your progress.

To do this you could keep a no spend diary. This is where you could write down your feelings about your no-spend challenge.

But why should you write this down?

One reason is it is a good way to gain some perspective and insight into why and how you spend your money. This may help you pick out the bad money habits that are holding you back financially.

For example, I have a big sweet tooth so going on a no-spend challenge and not picking something up for myself when I go uptown is a challenge for me.

So what I do to prevent this from happening is I buy these things at the grocery store and pack them with me so I am less tempted. Planning ahead really is key!

I also find it helpful to track all of the money I do spend during a no-spend challenge. It helps me to see exactly where all of my money is going.

Make a spreadsheet, or keep it in a journal. The point is that you should review it weekly or monthly to see where your budget is falling short.

5 | Give The Money You Don’t Spend A Purpose

No doubt this biggest drive you have for doing a no-spend challenge is to save some money, its a great motivation.

And it is a good thing because everyone needs to have some sort of savings. But that’s when you need to set a plan for your savings, have a financial goal and work towards it.

Some examples are:

  • Save for a bigger goal, like a vacation, or a new vehicle
  • Pay off your credit cards, loans, or any other debt
  • Start an emergency fund if you don’t have rainy day savings
  • Add it to your retirement fund.

Having a plan for your money you save on a no-spend challenge can prevent you from spending foolishly and blowing it all once you’ve completed your no-spend challenge.

This can also make it way easier to continue saving once your spending challenge is over.

If you are continually struggling with saving there are many tools that you can use to up your savings game. Here is a couple you should try:


This app really makes your savings as simple as possible.

All you gotta do is link your bank account to the app and forget about it. Go about your spending as usual and pay your bills like you normally do.

What Digit does is it analyzes your spending to find the extra money you could save.

For instance when the app finds money that could be saved it automatically transfers it to a linked savings account. You will also receive a 1% bonus for every 3 months you save.

The best part is it is completely free to try for the first 30 days, so give it a shot and see what you think. After the 30 days are up it is $2.99/month. But it is totally worth it if you need an extra hand saving.


This is another app that allows you to save your spare change.

What you do is you link your bank account and Acorns “rounds up” all of your purchases to the very next dollar. Whatever the difference is it is banked in an investment account so your money can grow and work for you.

It is very helpful if you can’t seem to make a lot of progress with saving.

This app also has a really cool feature that is called Found Money.

So when you shop partner brands you can even get cashback, and that cash will go directly to your Acorns investment account, so you will get to increase your savings as you spend.

6 | Have A No Spend Challenge Buddy

Committing to a no-spend challenge on your own can be a tough thing. So why not recruit an accountability partner to keep you on the right track. It can also make it easier to keep your focus.

An accountability partner could be anyone really, a spouse, a sibling, or a good friend. But what truly matters is choosing someone that you feel confident and comfortable checking in with you and talking money with you.

Your no spends challenge buddy should be there to help you keep you on track and give you the extra push you need to succeed at the challenge.

Have You Done A No Spend Challenge Before?

A no-spend challenge can be a serious lifesaver in terms of budgeting, in fact, it will get our budget back on track if you fall off track.

So the question remains have you ever done a no-spend challenge?

If you have I want to know how it went for you. And if you have never done one before what is holding you back? Let me know in the comments.

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