Trying a no-spend challenge has become a popular way to save money – and with good reason. For people trying to pay off debt or build their emergency fund, cutting down on daily expenses can provide a big financial boost.
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Cutting down on expenses and impulse buys can sometimes be tricky, but spending a few pounds here and there can quickly add up if you’re not careful. This is where a no-spend challenge comes in. Rather than trying to reduce your overall expenses, why not get back to basics with more of an all-or-nothing approach?
How does a no-spend challenge work?
A no-spend challenge is exactly what the name suggests – a plan to stop spending on anything beyond the basics for a certain period of time. It could be a week, a month or even longer.
During this period, you still spend money on your usual bills as well as food, vet bills and anything else that could be considered essential. But you eliminate all impulse spending and avoid any spending that isn’t strictly required.
The point of a no-spend challenge is not to defer spending. This means you shouldn’t just wait until the challenge is over and then buy everything you didn’t buy during the challenge period. The idea is to use this time to re-examine your shopping habits so you can focus on saving money, investing or other financial goals.
How can you make a no-spend challenge work?
Before you can start a no-spend period, you need to set some rules for yourself. These include how long the challenge will last and what you are not allowed to spend on. Some people will stop spending on anything that’s not essential, while others might decide they’ll cut all spending in certain categories.
There are other things you can do in advance to succeed.
Create a list of free things to do
Cutting down on online shopping and entertainment during your no-spend challenge? Come up with things to keep you busy that don’t cost anything, such as going for a hike, playing board games or using the library instead of buying new books. During the lockdown, take advantage of free online events to keep you busy.
Try a pantry challenge
If food is your downfall, try staying away from the supermarket (and takeaways) and instead eat using only what you already have at home. Make it a fun adventure to try to combine unexpected ingredients.
Dig into your drawers
Chances are you have plenty of travel-size shampoos and lotions at home. It’s likely to be the same with unfinished cleaning products and other household items. Instead of ordering something new when you run out of a particular product, make it a goal to use up similar products you already have around.
Challenge not working? Take a look at the why
If you’re struggling to remain committed to the challenge, it’s time to take a closer look at how you view spending. For example, you might be impulse buying out of boredom or depression and need to address that.
In the meantime, take a closer look at the challenge itself to see if you’re making any of these mistakes:
- You didn’t pick a specific timeframe for the challenge, or you picked one that’s too long for you. If you’ve never done this before or have a problem with overspending, doing the challenge one week at a time might be better than trying to go at it for an entire month.
- You don’t have a why. What’s your motivation for doing a no-spend challenge? Are you trying to pay off debt faster? Or maybe saving for something in particular? It’ll be easier to stop spending if the money saved goes towards something in particular.
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