Happy Holidays to you and yours! Today, I thought it appropriate to talk about how to do a successful ‘No Spend’ Challenge.

A ‘No Spend’ Challenge can be done at any time throughout the year. But, January is an exceptionally appropriate time to challenge yourself to a ‘No Spend Month’ to detox from the consumerism of the holiday season. Christmas can be a major budget buster…assuming you actually have a budget.  And even though Christmas occurs on the same day every year, without fail, there are always folks that are caught off guard and unprepared.

Have you ever had a ‘spendy’ Christmas holiday?

If so, no judgment because I’ve been there myself. I distinctly recall a time when I had a serious case of after-Christmas blues. Once the Christmas tree and ornaments were tucked away I remember being afraid to look at my credit card balance for fear of dealing with the reality of my spending choice. What a way to start out a new year.

How to Do a No Spend Challenge

Christmas should be filled with fun times with friends and family.

We should have time and space to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. But too often, we’re caught up in the gift-giving and consumerism of the holiday season. For this reason, I really despise being out in stores after Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, the anxiety-filled bustle of Christmas also tends to bring out the worst in some people, making for an unpleasant shopping experience. 

Case in point…A couple of weeks ago I needed to pick up candy canes and last-minute gift wrapping supplies, so I reluctantly headed out to the local Dollar Tree. As I stepped out of my car I saw two very senior ladies arguing over a parking spot. I went into the store and purchased what I needed and when I returned to my car they were still arguing! Nothing like two silver-haired grandmas nearly coming to blows in a parking lot to get you in the Christmas spirit!

Ok, mini-rant over. Back to the actual topic for this post. After Christmas, I like to spend some time detoxing from all of the overspending and consumption that has become synonymous with the holiday season. So I’m challenging myself (and you) to participate in a No Spend Month. 

What Exactly is a No-Spend Month

A no-spend month can be approached differently depending on the person. You absolutely have the ability to make it your own. To me, a no-spend month is a month in which I won’t be doing any discretionary or recreational spending. In other words, during a No Spend Month, I only shop for essentials.

Essentials might include things like:
  • Groceries
  • Gas for your car
  • Health-related needs such as prescription medications

During No Spend Months, I don’t dine out, buy personal care items, or pay for any form of entertainment (i.e. movie or concert tickets).  I’m even taking it one step further by committing to not using the gift cards that I got for Christmas. Instead, I’ll focus on appreciating what I already have and keeping my hard-earned coins in my pockets. Sound like fun yet?? Probably not, right?

Preparation is Key

The first time I participated in a No Spend Month was about 5 years ago during the month of February. Even though it was the shortest month I could have chosen, it was extremely difficult for me. In years past I had a major spending issue so a No Spend Month was a completely uncomfortable, foreign concept to me. I hobbled through it, making a couple of impulse purchases along the way (makeup of course), but I kept at it. Every year since I’ve done this challenge annually and it gets easier each time I do it. So be encouraged! If this is your first foray into No Spend territory, please trust me when I say that it will all be worth it in the end. But, you should know that it’s not a great idea to enter into a No Spend challenge lightly with no preparation. If you don’t prep (mentally and physically) you will most certainly set yourself up for failure. 

Tips for a Successful No Spend Month

1. Choose a month that you’re likely to be successful in.

DO NOT select a month when you’re traveling out of town or going on vacation, or a month when you are having a birthday or anniversary. If you have any of these events occurring in January no worries…February will work just fine!

2. Take an hour to create a meal plan for the month.

As you’re planning out your meals don’t forget that you’ll need to pack lunch for work each day. Also, it’s a good idea to select a wide variety of foods and plenty of snacks when grocery shopping so you don’t get bored and end up taking a trip to the local drive-thru when a craving strikes.

3. Do a quick inventory of your personal care items.

Do you have enough deodorant, shampoo, and toilet paper to last through the end of the month? If not, be sure to replenish before the beginning of the ‘No Spend’ Month.

4. Let your friends know what you’re up to.

At first, they might think that you’re crazy. But hopefully, once they know what you’re up to they’ll avoid inviting you out to events or activities that require you to spend money. Also, you never know…you might inspire them to give the ‘No Spend’ Month a try.

5. Get buy-in from your family.

This can be difficult especially if you have a spouse that is not on board with your debt-free or financial freedom journey. If he or she is not exactly jazzed about the idea, don’t fret! You can still complete the No Spend challenge all by yourself. You can link up with like-minded individuals in Facebook groups or on Youtube for additional support.

6. Develop a list of alternative activities to participate in.

If you like to shop for recreation on the weekends be sure to have a plan in place so that you don’t get bored…and frustrated and end up in the mall or shopping online.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What should I do with the money that I save?

It is completely up to you! But do have a plan ahead of time. If you budget $100 a month for dining out each month my recommendation would be to use that money to make extra debt payments. If you’re debt-free then consider adding the money to your emergency fund or to a sinking fund.

What if I slip up and buy something?

Don’t get discouraged and give up on the challenge completely. Shake it off and try again the next day!

What should I do if I get bored?
  • Try a new recipe. Start with a dish that you’ve been wanting to try out but couldn’t find the time (if you did your meal plan then you should already have the ingredients you need on hand).
  • Plan a family game night or movie night at home. Pop some popcorn, close your laptop, and cut off your cell phones while enjoying some FREE fun with the family.
  • Declutter your closet. You probably have a ton of things in your closet that you don’t wear or can no longer fit. You might even come across a few items that you can list on eBay or Craig’s List to sell and earn a few bucks.
  • Pamper Yourself..at home. Have a DIY Spa Day! Pull out some candles and bubble bath and soak in the tub while reading a good novel.
  • Work on your budget for next month. If you need help with budgeting, grab a free copy of my Excel monthly budget spreadsheet