Tips on how you can start saving money too
In mid-July, my husband was picking up another Amazon box from our front porch when he said, “It’s really freaking me out that we have a delivery driver walking up to our house multiple times a day every day.”
I crossed my arms in front of my chest. “Honeyyy, I ordered stuff the kids need for school.”
He crossed his arms in front of his chest. “That’s not all you’ve ordered. I think we need to take a break from spending on stuff we don’t need.”
I nearly laughed, but held back. “The kids are starting school in a few weeks. How are we just not going to spend when there are still school supplies to get? Stuff for their lunches? New clothes!”
“No Spend Challenge,” he repeated. “We should do it.”
No Spend Challenges are an active decision to re-evaluate and cut back on your spending.
During a No Spend Challenge, you don’t stop spending money on the things you need because certainly you need food and shelter, and not paying bills, your rent/mortgage etc. could put those things at risk.
What you WILL cut back on is spending on things you simply want.
Needs (something necessary for you to live and function):
Groceries, utilities, bills, rent/mortgage, gas, loan payments, insurance, etc.
Wants (something that you like, that you could still live and function if you didn’t have or do this thing):
New clothing, eating out, getting drinks, going to the movies, entertainment subscriptions, anything that might be an impulse purchase, etc.
When my husband and I sat down later that night to discuss implementing 30 days of No Spending, I had to admit that he was right (though I would have rather let a bus run over my right foot than say that to him): my Amazon spending hadgotten out of control.
During the summer months, I’d developed this habit of scrolling through Amazon product lists late at night with titles like “37 Amazon Products You Didn’t Know You Needed.” While I wouldn’t buy something every time I scrolled through a list, I’d, probably every 1 out of 3 times, would buy something I/we might not actually need.
One such example was two light therapy lamps I’d purchased for mine and my husband’s home offices that we’d…never used, or the iPad car mount that I’d bought for our family beach vacation that had ended up not working at all and I’d never returned.
So when my husband said “No Spend Challenge,” I knew it’d probably be a good idea. I knew it’d likely help us cut some unnecessary spending and that we could use that money towards things we actually cared about, like fluffing up our savings account.
While every individual or couple might pick different rules for their No Spend Challenge, these are the ones we came up with:
No Spend Challenge Rules: Spend only on what’s necessary (groceries, utilities, bills, rent/mortgage, gas, loan payments, etc.). No impulse purchases or “just because” items.
We just completed our No Spend Challenge on August 13th, and we saved $2032.57.
How did I come up with that number? I averaged out our monthly spending over four months and subtracted all that we spent during this 30 day period.
This how we saved that much:
- We quit eating out.
- We canceled subscriptions that we weren’t using enough or we “paused” or “froze” subscriptions that allowed us to for that period.
- We quit making “impulse” purchases.
- We made use of things we already have instead of buying new things.
When I looked at how much we saved just by following through with these rules, it was enough to make me consider doing No Spend challenges more regularly!
Here’s how to create your own No Spend Challenge:
Select a time period to hold it. This can be a day, week, or month.
As I mentioned earlier, we chose a 30 day period, which started July 14th and ended August 13th, 2022. It might be easier for you to start at the first of a month (like September) and do it that way, or to start with just a day or week to get used to the idea of cutting back on your spending.
Consider what your “bad” purchases are and find ways to help you avoid them for the time period.
Maybe you love to eat out, buy high-priced lattes, scroll through Amazon late at night, get drinks with your friends every week, or you can never go to Target and get JUST the items on your list.
Instead of eating out or picking up high-priced lattes, make coffee or food at home and take it with you.
If online shopping ruins your budget every month, delete spending apps from your phone (you can always re-download them later!). Also consider unsubscribing from store text messages and e-mail lists, so you aren’t reminded of sales and feel like you have to buy things now.
If you like to get drinks with your friends every week, consider eating/drinking before you go so you order less, cancel the plans altogether, or see if they’d be up for a non-paying option instead (like a walk around a park).
If you can’t go to Target and resist impulse purchases, consider making a list before you walk into the store and KEEP to it, or buy the things you need online and use the “Pick-Up” option. That way you can avoid walking into the store altogether.
Decide what’s necessary vs. not.
These are the “rules” of your No Spend Challenge, as in these are the things you CAN spend money on.
These can include: groceries, utilities, bills, rent/mortgage, gas, loan payments, etc.
These may differ for you. For example, my husband’s hair grows super fast, so he needs to get a haircut every couple of weeks to look professional, so that goes on our “needs” list, while you might be able to delay your hair appointments indefinitely.
It’s important to note that a No Spend Challenge isn’t about making your life miserable. It’s about stretching and being creative. If you miss your high-priced lattes, for example, consider buying a fancy creamer while you’re at the grocery store. Buying a fancy creamer will STILL be significantly cheaper than buying a high-priced latte every day!
Consider if there are things you can cut back, cancel, or delay.
Maybe you could do without certain subscriptions for a month (some will let you “pause” or “freeze” for a certain time period). Some you might realize you can cancel completely because you’re just not using them. Also keep in mind that sometimes when you go to cancel some monthly subscriptions, they may offer you lower per-month rates!
If you’re up for your monthly haircut during your challenge time, ask yourself if it’d really be so bad if you delayed it for that week or month. Or instead of always driving to work, could you bike, ride public transportation, or carpool instead?
When you think you “need” something, do some things first before buying it.
Often, we think we need something, and we really don’t. During our No Spend Challenge, my family had a beach vacation trip planned. Before leaving, I told my husband, “I need a new bathing suit.”
“Why?” he asked me.
“My other ones don’t fit.”
I huffed and trudged to my closet and pulled out the three bathing suits I’d purchased the previous year for our last beach trip. While searching for them, I also found the two bathing suits I’d purchased the year before that, and another two bathing suits I’d purchased the year before that one…
When I tried on the seven bathing suits I’d found, four of them fit perfectly.
While I might have bought another bathing suit thinking I “needed” another one, in actuality…I didn’t. I just needed to make use of what I already had.
This can apply to a lot of things. The next time you feel like you need something, look around and see if you might have something that could work.
Another step you can take is if you feel like you need something, go ahead and add it to your shopping cart and wait. Wait a day, or a week, or a month. If you still feel like you need it after that amount of time has passed, then purchase it. But you may find (like I did), that you wanted it more than you actually needed it.
Keep yourself accountable.
It’s not always going to be easy not spending money, but keeping yourself (or you and your partner) accountable can mean the difference between following through and…not.
You can keep yourself accountable by keeping track of every day you follow through with your commitment to not spending. This could be as simple as making an X for every day you complete it on a calendar.
Or you could have check-ins every week with yourself and/or with your partner and see if you stayed on track or not. It can also help to keep a running tally of the money you’ve saved because that can be super motivating too.
While your results may be different than ours (we are a family of six and just not eating out can save us around $50-$75 a pop), I’m certain implementing a No Spend Challenge can help you make some real changes to your spending that could help you considerably.
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