#RealTalk – I’m not always the best with money. Rather, I’m not always the best with tracking money. If you need someone to spend your money, I’m your girl. 😉 But really, my mindset used to be more shortsighted, where so long as I knew I had enough in the account to cover a purchase in the moment, I was covered. Not only is that an incorrect mindset, but it can be downright dangerous – especially since unforeseen expenses can pop up at any time and require emergency funds.
Ever get in a funk where you just know in your gut you’re being a bit too frivolous with your card swipes or your add-to-cart’s?? Because that’s me. And if/whenever that happens, I know it’s time to take a hot sec and cool off the credit card before I do something I’ll regret come account reconciliation day. I end up internally vowing to nix spending on clothes or shift my schedule to make unnecessary spending harder – like lessening Target trips where I just know I’ll somehow come out with 13 more things that I didn’t even know I needed. 😉
Without even realizing it, I was unofficially evoking personal no-spend challenge days (or weeks – even months!). A no-spend challenge can be a fabulous financial habit to get into, especially when you’re a 20-something with debt on the horizon (student loans, car payments, rent that you’re looking to become mortgage, etc). And what actually IS a no-spend challenge??? A no-spend challenge involves not spending money for a specific amount of time. Really, it’s all about eliminating non-essential spending, since obviously the cable company or phone bill won’t take “I’m actually doing a no-spend challenge this month so take an IOU?” as an acceptable excuse. 😉
It means cutting out the BS (that’s Bags and Shoes), as well as clothes, candles, coffees…anything + everything that isn’t essential. Granted, one could debate the essentialist nature of something like caffeine or a good fall-scented candle, but for argument’s sake today (and for the sake of the challenge 😉 ) – we’re calling it quits and cutting spending where we can.
And while it’s certainly popular on Pinterest, a No-Spend Challenge isn’t just something for fun – it’s really meant to help rewire our brains, identify any bad spending habits, and get back on track with healthy money handling in our lives to bring us closer to a place of financial freedom that so many folks seek. Oftentimes, we might be totally sabotaging our savings and not even realize it; we could be accidentally taking more out than we’re putting in, or pulling one too many “treat yo’self” nights that result in concerning amounts of cash left in your checking account.
Beyond that, a solid no-spend challenge can really help with honing in on specific areas where you’re looking to spend or save more – like putting an extra car payment down, or paying off as much of your student loans as humanly possible. With those bigger ticket items come bigger interest rates, which we know can end up costing us so much more in the long run. So lessening those amounts when you can can really make a big difference – and sometimes not spending in one area is the golden ticket to being able to spend more in others.
So. I’m so happy to be partnering with Lexington Law again, as they’re leaders in credit repair and a great resource for all things in the realm of financial literacy. Without further adieu, let’s talk ten tips for completing your own No-Spend Challenge, whether that looks like a day, a week, a month or even more.
First thing’s first: Choose your timeframe. Maybe you’re trying to just kick a bad spending habit – and you know that habits starts + ends with your daily Starbucks Venti and your snack shop pickmeup on the train home from work. So a weeklong no-spend challenge may be just the thing you need to focus on those daily triggers and eliminate the $10-20 bills being dropped like flies everyday.
Maybe you’ve got something a bit more serious on your hands, though, like a bigger battle with spending – or just bigger goals with savings like what we talked about above. So for you, a monthlong no-spend challenge may be well worth it. It might feel more sacrificial in many areas, but the rewards could be greater and more substantial in the big picture. The folks at Lexington law have shared that credit utilization accounts for about 30% of your credit score. (Remember when we chatted all things credit here, and learned habits of people with good credit scores, too? Read up!). So your no-spend challenge bears weight in that it’s not just about reducing “smaller” purchases that we make with petty cash or discretionary income every week – it’s about strategically lessening ALL spending, including things we’re putting on a credit card “for later” (since we know that’s not the right mindset to spend with, ever!).
CAN SPEND ON:
- Groceries (but par it down to a healthy minimum where possible!)
NO SPEND ON:
- Unnecessary food/drink (ie. Starbucks runs, alcohol tabs, drive thrus, eating out)
- Activities/trips for leisure
- Take solid inventory of your closet, cabinet, and freezer situations. We’ve done this more unofficially outside the context of an actual no-spend challenge quite a few times already if/when we found ourselves going a bit over budget for something like food in any given week. Before beginning your no-spend challenge, take inventory. All of this can vary in difficulty depending on the intended duration of your challenge, but the key is being prepared so that planning ahead is easy, and temptation to buy is near-non-existent. If possible, plan out your outfits for the entire length of your no-spend challenge? Literally pair things together – try on head-to-toe looks if you have to to ensure you feel good about your choices! This way, you’ve got at least one solid option per day and don’t feel stuck in a style rut of I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR! with a closet full of perfectly good pieces staring back at you. Same goes for your kitchen cabinets, pantry and/or freezer – take stock now! Pull out everything, from the pastas to the black beans to the taco seasoning, to make heads or tails and see what meals will be possible with the LEAST amount of spending in your final run for necessities before calling it quits on spending. Make your goal to use up everything that you already HAVE before needing to purchase more.
- Start meal prepping. At least in the Gwynn household, we plan to fail the second we fail to plan, especially in the kitchen. If we’re both experiencing particularly busy weeks and don’t get around to a solid meal plan session, you can find us calling for takeout at 8 pm on a Monday night when we realize we forgot to add a grocery store run into our calendars. Whoops. Not only is that the pricier mistake, but it’s also an unhealthy one more often than not. Take the inventory list you just did in point numero uno, and turn it into a solid plan for the challenge ahead. We typically have luck planning a homecooked meal about every-other day, with leftovers in between – but always double check your recipes to see what serving size you’re making!
- Fill your calendar with free things. Good news for you: I’ve got ___ free date ideas here, here, and here! Since spending on activities will be a no go in your no-spend challenge, plan ahead with anything + everything that won’t cost a cent – but mix it up so that you still have FUN while keeping things fresh.
- Create a safe space for saving. If the whole point of your no-spend challenge is to have MORE money at the end for something specific (like the car payments or student loans that we talked about above, or something more lively like a tropical vacation), it’s important to ensure you’re actually ending up with that extra cash in the end. If you spend all of this time NOT spending money, but then end up with the same amount or less money in the end from impulsively goin’ to town, that’s just silly! If you budget entirely online, create an additional account that’s JUST for the money not spent (so, saved) from your no-spend challenge. If you aren’t spreadsheet savvy, opt for something like an envelope method – especially if cold hard cash is what you more often use for those trivial purchases on the go, like funky lattes or tacos to-go. This way, you can literally watch the wad of dollar bills add up as you say no to unnecessary spending throughout the week (or month, etc).
- Stock up on freebies. Now is the time to go through that junk email address that you give to retailers, and cut ALL of the coupons you never thought you needed. Take advantage of free samples and use any discounts smartly in conjunction with your meal planning. Also, gather those gift cards that you’ve had in your junk drawer since Christmas – it’s like Christmas all over again when you re-find what was lost in there! I just found $50 to Express and a handful of free coffee coupons in mine, so BLESS UP – I’m well on my way.
- Unsubscribe. Beyond going through your email for coupons, you ALSO might want to hit unsubscribe on any retailers whose promotional emails are too temptational (this was me at the LOFT’s online flash sales – I was crazed.).
- Don’t open up any new accounts. Sure – having multiple credit accounts can be a good thing for your credit score. But TOO many accounts too quickly can be the opposite. Lexington Law shares that “multiple inquiries within a 12-month period can cause your credit score to drop drastically.” so take this time during your no-spend challenge to cool it with any credit inquiries, as well.
- Watch out for wants. Of course, it’s natural to have things catch your eye! Since you’re now in a season of NO, though, get in the habit now of starting a list on your phone or in your favorite notebook of those things that stop you in your scroll-tracks in your next online shopping session (albeit, online WINDOW shopping… 😉 ). Once your no-spend challenge is up, give it a week – better yet, give it two. If you still want it as badly as you did when you first laid eyes on it, it might be worth the treat yo’self moment. If you find yourself no longer in lovelovelove – it’s a good sign that you don’t actually need it in your life, and a good practice in eliminating unnecessary impulse shopping.
- Take the time spent NOT spending and make it productive. Meaning, beyond swapping those spends for saves in other area, do a deep dive into your personal finances to see where you can go above and beyond, and where you can be more proactive. If credit repair is something you’ve been considering, or something you think you might need, the team at Lexington Law are credit specialists and are here to help – you can call them today for a free personalized credit consultation to see what you might need next in terms of professional help.
Have you ever done a No-Spend Challenge?
Is it something you’d consider? I hope this was a helpful resource if a No-Spend Challenge is in your future – let me know how it goes!
*Thanks to Lexington Law, a brand I lovelovelove, for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions + thoughts presented are entirely my own. Thank YOU for supporting the brands that support Coming Up Roses!