Have You Ever Taken A No Spend Challenge?

by Jon Dulin

no spend challengeOn a few of the personal finance blogs that I frequent, there is one topic that gets presented on a regular basis. This topic is a No Spend Challenge. It works like this: you go a set amount of time, be it a week, two weeks, a month, etc. without spending any money on non-budget categories. Some variations set the spending restrictions on everything but gas and groceries. I question the effectiveness of these challenges.

No Spend Challenge: Yes For Some People

In some situations, I see a no spend challenge as a good thing. Heck, I even tried out a no spend challenge once. For those that have a “spending problem”, taking a break from spending may be the thing that makes you realize that you can afford to not have the latest and greatest items all of the time. Another instance where a no spend challenge may be beneficial is for impulse buyers. If you are the person that typically has buyers remorse after making a purchase, then taking part in this type of challenge may be for you. By making yourself wait, you hopefully will come to realize that you don’t need the item in particular. It may help you to build a foundation for learning to delay purchases so you can see if you really need the item.

No Spend Challenge: No For Other People

But for most others, I see a no spend challenge as simply a way to delay the spending. I see it as the same as those spammy emails we all receive about not buying gas next Tuesday. If you haven’t received this email, here is how it goes: The concept is that you refrain from buying gas on a set day. This will force the price of gas down because of a lack of demand. The problem is that everyone that needed gas on the “no gas day” will simply buy their gas on the next day, along with everyone else that needs gas.

A no spend challenge act the same way. You are just going to buy the things you were going to buy the no spend week the next week. For example, if you typically spend $20 per week, you won’t spend anything during your no spend week. But the next week, you will buy your normal $20, plus the $20 you didn’t spend last week. You are in the same exact spot as before.

Final Thoughts

For the majority of people reading this, I don’t recommend taking part in these challenges unless you fall into the one category I mentioned above. For everyone else, I suggest making it a point to review your prior months spending and analyzing where you spent money that you can permanently cut out. Over the long run, you will be in a much better financial situation and you will understand your spending habits much better.

Readers, have you ever participated in a no spend challenge? What was your experience with it?

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Daisy August 29, 2012 at 9:29 am

I have taken no spend challenges and they don’t really work for me but I do understand the value in them. I was successful on one and I saved a few hundred dollars.
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moneysma August 29, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Good job!! I tried one last year, but didn’t get anything out of. I’m glad someone did!

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Jason @ WSL August 29, 2012 at 9:52 am

I’ve never thought of no spend days like this, but I’d say that in the case of eating our or something like that, the person probably won’t spend that money next week. For instance, if you eat out twice/week but have a no-spend week and therefore don’t eat out, it doesn’t necessarily mean that person will then eat out 4 times the following week.

I do see what you mean about the rest of it though. If you have to buy groceries…you have to buy groceries. So just because you don’t spend the money today doesn’t mean you won’t spend it tomorrow.

I’ve never done a no-spend day. We just budget and it works fine.
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moneysma August 29, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Good point Jason. My only fear is that if you don’t eat out 2x this week, when next week or the following week comes around, you may see that you have more money in your eating out budget category and eat out an extra day each week. To stop that, maybe transfer the money from the eating out budget to savings so when you look at your budget, you’ll think that you spent the money, but you didn’t.

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Modest Money August 29, 2012 at 10:44 am

I’ve never done the no-spend challenge since I already limit my spending a lot. I had negative thoughts about it too and also thought it was just like the illogical no gas days. I’m coming around to the concept though. I think it could really remind people how much money they are blowing unnecessarily. Sure there are some purchases they will just delay, but they’ll at least get more time to reconsider it. Then there are all the things like fancy coffees, fast food, etc. If nothing is holding you back from those things, you will likely just keep indulging. I think the key to the no spending challenge is to actually keep track of what you would’ve spent instead. If you’re not tracking the actual results, it’ll just feel like pointless deprivation.
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moneysma August 29, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I like the thought of tracking the actual results. I think to really be effective, you have to remember your long term goal. Just telling yourself you can’t spend today isn’t the key. You’ll just counter with yourself that “it’s only $3″. You need to know why you are doing this. Like, if I don’t buy this, that is $3 more I can put towards paying off my debt.

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Veronica @ Pelican on Money August 29, 2012 at 12:06 pm

I’ve never participated in a no-spend challenge. It sounds like a short term commitment with no real, positive outcome. Maybe I’m completely wrong?
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moneysma August 29, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Those are my thoughts too. I did one over a year ago and didn’t really get anything out of it.

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Shannon-ReadyForZero August 29, 2012 at 2:18 pm

I’ve taken no spend challenges and found success when the spending I refrained from was on things that could be avoided. For example: brewing coffee instead of buying, packing lunch instead of buying, renting a movie instead of heading to the theater, and so forth. In terms of other expenses like groceries and other needs, those really can’t be avoided.
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Lauren @ LBee and the Money Tree August 29, 2012 at 2:43 pm

I undertook a “No Spend Challenge” Fairly recently and failed MISERABLY. Instead of cutting back on my spending I would often just wait until the next day to do something so I could have a “no spend day”. I challenged myself to have 10 this month though, and I did end up saving some money because I chose to go out less…or whatever. They help me stay within my budget parameters, but most of the time they’re just kinda lame.
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moneysma August 29, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Ouch!! Sorry to hear about your shortcoming with no spend challenges. On the bright side though, based on what I’ve found and the comments of others, you aren’t alone in not finding great success with them.

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Poor to Rich a Day at a Time August 31, 2012 at 12:33 am

I did once but really found it non challenging since my family is already extremely low-income, I naturally don’t spend or blow money. For me there just simply was never a challenge here however I could see the benefits to those who tend to be more spend thrift
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thestarvingartistcanada September 1, 2012 at 6:11 pm

I don’t have a spending problem. I have a cash-flow problem!

I have unwillingly participated in many no-spend challenges. I suppose they aren’t really a challenge so much as it is challenging to feed the family when you sometimes have a GROSS income of $0 for three months in a row thanks to the nature of my work.
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