The No Spend Challenge

9Who else can relate to scrolling through your credit or debit card recent purchases and thinking to yourself, ‘what in the world did I buy at that store? Let’s see, it was Tuesday, where did I go on Tuesday?’ Challenging yourself not to spend any money for a period of time can be an eye opening experience if you are looking to cut down your overall expenses and aren’t totally sure where your money is going every month. It can also be a great exercise in preparation for creating or updating your budget (be on the lookout for our upcoming article on creating a budget) because it forces you to notice how much you are spending in certain categories.

Choose a length of time that will force you to give up at least a few things you do routinely. A week is probably the shortest amount of time that would have an impact and a month is for those of you that are swinging for fences. Whatever length of time you choose, it is unlikely that you will be able to literally spend $0 during that time, so don’t get discouraged, especially if you choose a month. Utility companies aren’t typically very understanding of these kinds of experiments, if you know what I mean…

The point of the challenge isn’t to save money during that period of time, although it is a positive short term side effect. The point is to create an awareness in yourself for all the little purchases you make on a daily basis that you don’t even think about. We’re also not advocating that you remove every little expense you have in your life. If a particular item like a coffee in the afternoon, or a cookie from the cafe in your building makes you really, really happy, then please, indulge, just be aware of the cost and include it in your budgeting.

Recently, I had gotten into a habit of stopping to buy a coffee on my way to work every morning. It started out as a treat when I knew the day ahead would be crazy. Then it became my Monday morning pick me up to get the week started. Then Wednesday got added in to get me through the week (happy hump day, everyone) and before I knew it, the coffee stop had become a part of my daily routine without me even thinking about it. Sound familiar? I bet most of you can relate to this, or a similar small daily expense that suddenly became a part of your routine without a second thought.

One morning, as I went to get my morning coffee, I realized that the coffee shop staff recognized me and knew my order before I placed it. This was the moment I knew it was time for a no spend week. For the next 7 days, I did my best not to spend any money on anything I didn’t absolutely have to. I will tell you, my car practically drove itself to that coffee shop the first morning. But I stopped for a moment and asked myself, ‘do I really need that coffee today?’ And most of the time, the answer was no. Sometimes the answer was yes, and that’s okay. We all have those days, right? But at least if you take that moment, it keeps you from making those mindless purchases that you don’t even remember a week later.

The ultimate goal of the no spend challenge is to be mindful of the spending choices you do make. Give it a try and let us know how it goes!