"Poverty is the common face of all scholars." - Chinese Proverb

10 No Spend Challenges Everyone Should Try

By , January 17th, 2013 | 99 Comments »

no spend challenge

If you’re looking for a way to get a new perspective on how you spend money, one of the best ways to do this is to do some type of “no spend” challenge. While there are a number of things that a no spend challenge can help improve, probably the main benefit is that it’ll force you to break spending habits that you may not have even known you had. By finding these spending habits, being aware of them, and then coming up with solutions to change them, you put yourself in a position to use your money more effectively and on the things that are really important to you. In this way, no spend challenges are a wonderful way to help you get some insight into your current personal finances to see the changes that need to be made. Here are a few types of no spend challenges that can be extremely beneficial to your finances:

No Spend Day Challenge

The no spend day challenge is the classic of the no spend challenges. A no spend day challenge is basically a day where you are not allowed to spend any money. While they may not appear to be too difficult in theory, they tend to be more difficult than most people imagine because they often bring to light spending leaks that most people didn’t realize they had. Of course, you are not limited to only a single day. As you get better with your finances, you can try a no spend weekend, and no spend week, or even a no spend month. Any of these are bound to challenge the way that you currently spend money and force you to be creative in finding solutions to do and buy the things that you want without actually spending money.

No Impulse Purchase Challenge

This challenge can be an excellent way to greatly reduce the amount you spend shopping while at the same time making you more organized and think through all of your purchases. In this no spend challenge, you are only allowed to buy things that you have written down on a list before you went to the store to by them. No “oh, I need this too” purchases. If it’s not on the list, then it can’t be purchased. By sticking strictly to buying those things that you went to the store to purchase and buying nothing else, you will place yourself in a position to see how much you were spending on impulse purchases in the past.

No Credit Card Use Challenge

For those who have a volatile relationship with their credit card, a no spending with a credit card challenge can be an excellent way to help break the habit of using your credit card. You simply pick a period of time such as a month period where you’re not allowed to use your credit card for any purchases. This is a great way to see all those small expenses that you put on a credit card without even thinking about it in the past and should help you become much more aware of how often you used to use a credit card without even thinking about it.

No Buying Food Challenge

Not only is a no buying food challenge a great way to save money, it should also help you find new recipes and meals to broaden your cooking repertoire. Again, this challenge can be for any period of time, but it’s usually done for a week or a month depending on how much you have in your pantry. During this time, you’re not allowed to go and buy food from the store. Instead, you need to use the food that you have on hand. Since most families throw away a large amount of food each year, this is a great way to be creative using food without wasting. It can also help clean out your pantry of food that’s been there for a long period, and help you get creative in making meals from the food that you have on hand. The hope is that by doing all this, it will help you shop more efficiently and make better food purchases in the future.

No Eating Out Challenge

For those who have a tendency to let trips out to restaurants ruin their budget, doing a no spending money eating out challenge can be a great way to help temper this habit. As the name would suggest, the goal is to not eat any of your meals at a restaurant or from a takeout joint during this specified period of the challenge. Knowing that you won’t be able to go out to eat should help you prepare a bit more for cooking meals at home, and hopefully get you into a habit where going out to eat becomes a planned event instead of the default option.

No Cost Entertainment Challenge

One place where many people find leaks in their budget has to do with money spent on entertainment. By doing a month-long no spend on entertainment challenge, you will have to find new and creative ways to entertain yourself that don’t cost any money. It should give you a good opportunity to see how much you have been spending on entertainment in the past, and help you find different forms of entertainment that can be done without spending any money. By finding ways that you can entertain yourself without spending money, you place yourself in a great position to really pick and chose when you want to spend money on entertainment in the future.

No Coffee Shop Challenge

If you happen to be one of those people who has the habit of stopping in at the local coffee shop on a daily basis, doing a no spend at the coffee shop challenge can be an excellent way to help you break the habit over the short-term, and greatly reduce it over the long-term. While the coffee shop example is used here, this can be used with any habit that you have where you know money is leaking out of your budget. If you’re able to go a month without visiting the coffee shop, you should be in the position to make those coffee shop trips to treat rather than a daily habit, saving you a lot of money.

No Clothes Buying Challenge

Many people seem to get their therapy treatments by buying clothes (or other things). If you find that you’re spending money on clothes every month, doing a no spending on clothes challenge for a month can be an excellent way for you to reevaluate your wardrobe and buying habits. By the end of the challenge, you should know if there are any clothes that you really do need versus the clothes you merely want.

No Cable TV Package Challenge

Many people who try this challenge for a month are pretty surprised when they realize how much TV was a habit rather than something that they really wanted to see. Spending a month without cable TV can put you in a much better position to determine whether it is something that is worth the price, or something that is getting in your way to do other things. It will give a new perspective on how you have been spending time and how you really want to spend that time.

No Spend Hobby Challenge

Hobbies can be expensive and it’s often a good idea to spend a month of more on a challenge not to spend any money on that hobby. While this can be difficult, it will really get your creative juices flowing since it’s something that you enjoy doing. Often times, it will help reaffirm the reason that you originally became interested in the hobby and make you appreciate it that much more. it can also help you focus on where to best spend the money that you do have on your hobby once the challenge is over.

What all these challenges should do is give a different perspective on your spending in these areas, and help you think about new ways to achieve what you want in those areas without spending additional money. Taking on a no spending challenge can be difficult, but the information that you learn from them can be invaluable to helping you get better control of your finances and spending more wisely.

Have you ever done a no spend challenge? What are some of the things that you learned which surprised you if you have? Are you planning any no spend challenges for this year?

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  • Elaine says:

    definitely more loan payments

  • Jamie Herda says:

    I thought it would be easy! I was wrong. If you never left your house, it would be easy-LOL. I learned that pre-planning can save you money on incidental day to day items…they all add up!

    • Jessica says:

      And I’m the opposite. With 3 kids with me constantly, if I’m out of the house, I’m hiking or at the pond, NOT inside a store where the cashiers are all looking at my kids like they’re about to steal something. If I’m home, I have unlimited access to Amazon, Etsy, eBay, etc.

  • Linda Walters says:

    I have gotten to a point that if I cannot pay cash for something then I do not need it.

  • Brittany says:

    I would gain more savings in a no spend challenge.

  • Daniel M says:

    I wouldn’t gain anything because I’m broke and in debt and my spending is already as low as it can go and still survive (barely survive)

  • Emi says:

    I have tried no spend challenges before and it is easy for us because we have an abundance of stuff at our house. Use what you got first!

  • Stephanie O says:

    See how much we spend on eating out, that is unplanned.

  • Janet P. says:

    I think I need to try a no Internet Shopping challenge. Looking over my Amazon bills for the past year is quite horrifying.

  • vickie couturier says:

    oh i have done no spend challenges before an found Im quite good at it,but im thrifty anyway so it wasnt hard

  • Candice says:

    I think I would learn how much unnecessary stuff I buy. I would try the No Impulse Purchases challenge.

  • Cassie Korando says:

    I haven’t tried it before, but I believe I would save money from the little, unplanned purchases that add up throughout a day.

  • Jaimie W says:

    It would let us gain the knowledge of what we really “need”, versus what we think we have to have.

  • Sara says:

    I’ve tried the no fast food for a week or a month..its worked once or twice..but it is difficult

  • Diane says:

    It’s very hard to have a no spend week. I’ve done no spend days sucessfully.

  • Jodi Boulier says:

    I try to have No Spend Weeks! I swear every time I leave the house I spend a few hundred dollars. I live in the country and so when I go out I do all of my errands. Which is hard since I need to gas up, get groceries, stop for this part, that part etc. I also incorporated my summers to garage sale’s. I will make a list of things I may need and 90 percent of the time I will find them at the garage sales. I even bought a brand new refrigerator only 6 months old, stainless steel originally $3000 for $400 since they were moving and didn’t want to move it. I just ask people if they other stuff they are thinking about getting rid of. You can save so much, if you just put your mind to it.
    I have a bigger challenge this time around….with my husband in Afghanistan I will be trying to have lots of No Spend Day’s and lots of let’s put the money away days this year!

  • Annmarie W. says:

    I would learn that so much of what we purchase is not really necessary

  • tls simms says:

    I could gain a sense of accomplishment knowing I can control my spending and save money at the same time..I do not know how long I could do it but I will try in 2013! thanks

  • Therese says:

    I’ve done no spend money on food at work, so I have to pack all my lunches, drinks and snacks. Really makes me aware of how easy it is for the money to add up.

  • Suzanne Shattuck says:

    It’s funny that I ran across this. I have been using this technique for awhile now. My husband and I are both on disability so money is very short. This helps us see where and how we are spending.

  • petra says:

    Depending on the no spend category, it might be hard at first. But eventually, I’d learn that there are a lot of things I can live without… and use the money I saved for an emergency fund, college costs, or investments.

  • patientsaver says:

    I don’t find these challenges especially helpful. Most anyone can go a day without spending, and then go crazy on the very next day. I don’t think it really accomplishes much other than getting you to consolidate your spending into fewer days.

    • jeffrey says:

      Very true — it’s easy to cheat if you want on the shorter ones (longer ones a re a bit more difficult). It all depends on how you approach it.

  • Pam says:

    I do these often and they always serve as an excellent reminder of how often we spending money. Not to mention, it’s also a reminder of how much we spend unnecessarily.

  • San says:

    It would stop any impulse buying and identify what my “wants” and “needs” are.

  • I’ll learn to make lists and take them with me! While I usually have a working list, I tend to leave it at home.

  • Gailete says:

    Since I spend most of my time at home, most of these are moot points for me. I never touch coffe, but I do eat chcolate although I try to buy it on sale–still finding some good Christmas stuff on sale 50%.

    Things like a limitied no food buying might have worked for me in the past, but my health makes it hard to cook some days so it is easier if I’m already worn out from running errands when I have to just to pick something up on the way home. It is hard to deal with food and cooking when you don’t feel good so you go for fast and cheap rather than homemade. I’ve been slowly trying to figure out ways to make fast food at home with out a lot of clean up mess to deal with. I’m seeing a lot of recipes on Pinterest for slow cooker recipes to freeze ahead of time and cook when needed. I know I need to study up and on my better days try to get at least one food product made up ahead of time and then frozen in meal size constiners.

    It has been amazing to me how so much ‘saving’ money is focused on people that go out daily to work. No wonder the elderly and disabled have trouble because of already limited budgets, even if you are having a ‘no spend day’ and realize that you need your medications, you have to go buy them. Those of us at home need to find some other ways to have no spend days of some sort. It is hard to sit back and think of what else you can do since you are already skimping so much of the time.

    • Debbie M says:

      I only buy organic chocolate these days, so your mileage may vary, but I’ve learned that, per ounce, chocolate chips are just about always cheaper than chocolate bars (especially if you buy the chips in bulk). Plus you might eat less at a sitting if you figure out the minimum amount of chocolate chips that satisfy you.

  • domestic diva says:

    I think we would gain a good perspective on where much of our money ends up.

  • Lillian says:

    I hope that by not spending any money on coffee anymore, I will appreciate money just a little more!

  • Laura says:

    We’ve tried no spend challenges and we can’t normally get beyond a week. It’s really the weekends that ruin it. If you didnt leave your house it’d work but otherwise it takes a lot of pre-planning.

  • misty farmer says:

    I would love to try the no spending challange, would be hard!

  • Vonnie says:

    With money being tight nowadays, we are in a no spend challenge already. 🙂

  • shelley says:

    I would pay more attention to what to what I spend my money on. I don’t really spend that much but I realize it adds up fast.

  • Cheryl Chervitz says:

    It’s not that hard for me to have a no spend day. I don’t go out much, so its easy for me to not spend.

  • rebeka deleon says:

    i would like to try this. i think my husband would have a harder time as he is the one always wanting to order or go out to eat. it would help us save some money which we never do

  • Joshua Brown says:

    I am looking forward to trying some of these in order to save extra to pay off debt!

  • My hubby and I usually only buy things on a tuesday and a saturday or sunday. We normally do not go out to eat, in fact, it’s probably twice a year if that. All of our meals are usually home cooked, if not, we go to family homes if we are invited for dinner or just wanna get out of the house. We do not go to the movies, we watch movies at home. We never buy clothes unless they are a need, not a want. Any excess buying is if we have some money saved up and we know we can afford it without cinching ourselves too tight. We’ve become very savvy with our money although we don’t have any saved up since we are taking care of debt and slowly saving to get a house, so it’s been rough. It’s also hard when my husband is the only one working and I bring no money home at all. We only have one source of income and he can get laid off at any time, so we have learned to be careful and not spend where we don’t need to. Thanks for the advice and the giveaway!

  • Kathleen M Smith says:

    I lived in a very remote area for over a year and sometimes weather or other issues prevented me from going to town for 3 – 5 weeks. I learned that I had been spending a LOT of money on impulse buys, even though some of these were sale or clearance items that were good buys, the majority were not. I learned that buying in bulk and growing sprouts for fresh veggies was kind of cool.

  • Lori P says:

    I’m looking forward to doing some of these things in order to put more money towards paying off debt.

  • Debbie M says:

    The closest I’ve done was a no-sugar week, and I really had to plan ahead for that–I made sure there were no parties with friends or at work and I figured out something different to eat for breakfast.

    Right now I’m tracking my spending, partly so I can make informed budgeting decisions. But side-effect is similar to having a no-spend challenge: I do slow down and pay more attention to my purchases. The first time I did this I would use an old checkbook register or a little notepad so I could record purchases as I made them so none would slip through the cracks. Now I use a spreadsheet. Refusing to buy something because I’m too lazy or too embarrassed to write it down is a good side-effect.

    I like the idea of the no-impulse purchase challenge, but I automatically imagined myself putting things on the list like “cereal if it’s on sale” and “one dessert item,” so I could still have impulses, I mean, remain flexible.

  • Lisa R says:

    believe me, when i was married to my first husband every day was a no spend challenge. He was an abusive control freak and never let me have any money and i learned to be frugal and he did it just to upset me because I was not a spender, it’s not like i ran up bills

    • Lisa R says:

      I didn’t gain anything in that situation because he stole my money from a settlement I had and was stupid enough to put it in a joint account. I know when I was on my own with the 2 kids i handled money very well

  • Allan says:

    I think it’s save some money doing this challenge.

  • KHBride says:

    I’m a poor grad student, so it’s pretty easy to do the no spend thing. It does inspire creative activities

  • Samantha says:

    I just need to get my husband on board. 😀 Having a clear sense of the word “need” makes doing one of these super easy for me. About the only one I would have trouble with is grocery shopping, but that’s because I have kids and really love fresh produce. 75% of my shopping is “walking the perimeter” as my husband calls it. Produce, check for deals on meat, grab milk, go home.

  • Rebecca Reinwalt says:

    I can and have done all but 2 of these challenges. I have to go to the store at least 2 times a week to buy extra milk as my fiance’ drinks between 2-5 gallons of milk per week and he won’t let me stock up on it. Has to be fresh with an expiration date of at least 10 days away when I bring it home. The other one is the no cable challenge. It’s on in our bedroom every hour of the day that my fiance’ is home. I generally don’t have the tv on when he isn’t here, unless I am sick or laid up from pain. But he has certain programs on every night that he has to watch and then uses it as a night light.

  • Judith R. says:

    I have no financial problems but, still, a no spend challenge is good for me because it means I save time that would otherwise have been spent shopping.

  • Emma says:

    Ah, I could really do with a “No spending money on food” challenge!

  • Sarah L says:

    I know friends who could use many of these challenges. I’m retired, have no TV, always have a list before I go shopping (for anything) and I treat myself to fast food about once a month.
    Thanks for the contest.

  • Deanna G. says:

    I have tried it. I learned I don’t need everything I think I do & it gave me a chance to really think about how I want to spend my money.

  • Alexandra Roach says:

    I am in a spend challenge because I am in grad school.

  • Just over the half way point for my no spend January and I wasted too much money on fast food so now there is no cash left for the month except the coin I can find.

    Freezing cold in Canada today and it means that I will use much more gas to get my car warm and keep the windshiedl clear. I have the weekend off and will have to have a no drive weekend to save the gas for getting to work.

    Lots of food in the pantry so I will be stuck eating my own cooking until the end of January. At least I still have lots of toilet tissue.

  • Gina says:

    I’ve done many no-spend days but have never tried a month. I’d like to do it in February since it’s the shortest one 🙂

  • Danielle P says:

    We’ve tried some of these no spending challenges. My other half has a hard time with impulse buying and will try to justify it. We learned it’s something to be worked on constantly.

  • CB in the City says:

    I do these challenges a lot. My favorite is the $300 challenge — trying to keep all variable non-bill spending under $300. Quite a challenge for me but a good way to sample post-retirement living.

  • Stacy says:

    I like the no buying food challenge idea, it will really help us stop buying food when we have a pantry and freezer full of food already.

  • MY says:

    I’ve never done these challenges and never even thought of it before. But I think it will be a great exercise for me to learn how to live within my means and stick to my budget by getting rid of unnecessary purchases. It will make me think twice about what I need, what I want, my budget, and my overall financial goal.
    Thank you.

  • Gabe A. says:

    It would allow me to utilize my money in a more productive manner.

  • Brandy says:

    I’ve done this before… it’s great because it really requires you to focus in on what’s important to be spending on.

  • Debbie Q says:

    We have undertaken a permanent cable challenge and we are loving it. It just became too expensive to pay for channels that we never used.

  • Sandra J says:

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  • sue brandes says:

    It would help me have better control of my money.

  • sheila scroggins says:


  • amber says:

    I think i could learn the difference between needs and wants

  • Selene M. says:

    I’d definitely save money and perhaps it would be the start of regular saving.

  • Leslie J says:

    I love trying no spend challenges, but I often fail at them miserably…. no enough discipline and “life” seems to always get in the way.

  • Elisabeth says:

    I should definitely participate in the No Eating Out Challenge as we eat out wayyy to much. That will save us money and pounds!

  • rachel says:

    Saving money is great, so if this helps, I’m all for it

  • cathy henatyszen says:

    I have never done one of these challenges, but I am fully aware that often we spend too much on things we do not need, I have a father who is a hoarder, so I try to really watch what I spend my money on.

  • kelly nicholson says:

    What do you think you would gain from trying a no spend challenge?

    money saved..ha ha

  • Mary says:

    I had a no-spend week, 2 weeks before Christmas, which allowed me to focus on what I had spent and how much I could spend. The week before Christmas was mostly food purchases and a couple of small items. It can be done.

  • Denise Donaldson says:

    I have use lots of coupons and not spent anything, so that is my no spend challenge. 🙂

  • Biku Toria says:

    I don’t spend much right now, so 9/10 days I do not spend anything.

  • Jenny says:

    I think it’s great for getting you to think more about how you spend your money.

    Another challenge you might want to try: a drink only water challenge. No soda, coffee, tea, juice, alcohol, etc. Of course this can be modified however you like. I keep milk in mine because I think it’s healthy and not something that I drink in excess (should probably be drinking more, actually). You could also allow yourself to add lemon, lime, cucumber, etc, to your water for extra flavor, or not.

    This is a good challenge for both your health and your wallet. Drinks can add a lot to a grocery or restaurant bill, and tap water is nearly free. It could also break a caffeine addiction or help to readjust taste buds that are used to a huge hit of sugar (soda) several times daily.

  • Cindy Merrill says:

    I did No spend challenge on Coffee Shops- learned how to make lattes and specialty drinks.

  • Katherine says:

    Less clutter I am trying to buy as few groceries as posible~

  • Pearl says:

    I learned that I could use what’s left in the kitchen creatively.

  • Sarah says:

    I’ve never specifically done one of thees challenges, but we’ve done something similar to the no food spending challenge at times. It’s amazing how many meals you can come up with just from what you have on hand.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Anon in Seattle says:

    I am tracking and trying no spend days this month. I seem to average 2 per week. It’s been eye-opening to me to realize what a habit spending some money every day was for me. It’s been sort of a game so far, but also is making me think about the mindless spending I have been doing.

  • Elizabeth says:

    It would help me find hidden expenses.

  • Anya says:

    Lol, some much-needed self-control. Not that I don’t already have any, but I must admit to my fair share of impulse buying! Ahhh, I must resist! Thanks for the giveaway! 🙂

  • Andrew Wade says:

    It’s always good for me to take on a challenge that encourages me to break out of my routines (including spending routines) and seriously examine them.

  • Riann says:

    I think I’d learn how those little things we don’t think about really add up!

  • nicole w says:

    it would really show me my bad habits I’m sure!

  • Angel Jacklyn says:

    I’ve never tried a no-spend challenge before, but I’m sure from the experience of it alone I would walk away with a few extra bucks & 2nd guessing future spending decisions.

  • secretarysaving says:

    I have. We will do a no eating out food challenge.

  • Holly says:

    I need to try the No eating out challenge, that is definitely our biggest budget buster.

  • Gianna says:

    I do all of that frequently! I would love a new way to save.

  • Felicia says:

    Think these challenges will add to those savings for my emergency fund.

  • Kate says:

    I want to stop my lunch time habbits. I have a tendency to bring food from home and then buy something outside the office instead. I hope this challenge will help me to make better decisions to eat healthier and with more frugality.

  • Darla Mathews says:

    I currently do the No Cable Package but that also includes no cable at all. We do have a subscription to Netflix but I find that’s all I really need and it’s MUCH cheaper than cable. Prefer reading anyway.

  • Kathie Weiss-Lefebvre says:

    All good ideas, because they all work. I love clearing out my pantry — because then it’s easier to do an inventory of the shrinking remains, clean all my cupboards, and then buy some fresh non-perishable staples in bulk (only on sale, and only with a coupon).

  • Colleen Boudreau says:

    I would gain a larger bank account lol.

  • Naznin Azeez says:

    I have been on a no spend day challenge. I learned that I really can cut down on my expenses!.. Thank you for this amazing giveaway..

  • Hope says:

    We often do a week here or there where we do not buy food at the grocery store. It started as something we did out of necessity – we were out of money and needed to eat. But occasionally I am just too tired to deal with a trip to the grocery store on Sunday, so I take a good hard look at what we have in the pantry. I am amazed when a week passes by and we haven’t starved to death. The only caveat is that during those weeks we *really* miss having fresh fruits and veggies in the house – even if we have plenty of frozen and canned stuff to get us by.

  • molli vandehey says:

    i have unoffically tried to this, and gained an understanding of the things we do spend and how we can limit those thigns….

  • Lamar Bowen says:

    I stopped eating out once and I definitely noticed the savings.


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