A 30-day no-spend challenge is a set period of time — 30 days, in this case — during which you can only spend money on absolute necessities. Allowed expenses include utility bills, rent, transportation costs, and groceries. Anything that falls outside the necessity bucket is banned for the 30-day duration.
With many people looking to cut back on expenses due to recent price increases, a 30-day no-spend challenge can be a great way to take stock of your spending habits and find ways to use your money more wisely.
How Does the 30-Day No-Spend Challenge Work?
Again, a no-spend challenge is a time period during which you stop spending money on anything other than what you absolutely need to live. To get started, you create a list of items and services you consider essential. When you review the list, ask yourself if all of your so-called essentials really are that important – or are some superfluous or impulsive?
Keep in mind that this challenge is designed to help curb troublesome overspending or more specific bad spending habits. So don’t beat yourself up if you do spend some money on wants versus needs.
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Allowed Expenses During the 30-Day No-Spend Challenge
During the no-spend challenge, you will still need to pay your rent or mortgage, gas, utility bills, insurance, and things like your internet and phone bills. You can purchase essential personal care items, too, such as medications, groceries, and cleaning products. A budget planner app can help you decide on your “needs” list.
But the lines can get blurry. For instance, what happens if you wear out your shoes and want/need a new pair? After all, walking in bad shoes could lead to injury or avoiding activity. Feel free to give yourself some wiggle room in deciding what’s essential for you.
Forbidden Expenses During the 30-Day No-Spend Challenge
Remember that before you begin the challenge, you’ll be questioning what’s essential and how strict you want to be. It’s smart to decide in advance which of the following will be on your do-not-spend list:
• Eating out: fast food, restaurants, takeout, alcohol, coffees, etc.
• Personal care items or services
• Home decor and furnishings
• Entertainment: movies, concerts, books, streaming services
You may determine ahead of time that there will be certain exceptions to these categories. For example, you can decide on “no gifts” except for your mom’s birthday. Or no salon appointments except for a needed haircut.
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Tips for Completing the 30-Day No-Spend Challenge
Anticipate what will be the most difficult part of the challenge for you, and create strategies for coping. Is your busy social life going to tempt you to break the rules? Or will the siren call of online shopping be your undoing?
Come up with a plan on how you will get past your specific spending challenges. If your social life will be tough to navigate that month, recruit friends to join the challenge and make it a competition. If online shopping is your budget-killer, unsubscribe from retail email lists and delete shopping apps from your phone. The point is to make the challenge as easy on yourself as possible.
Here are a few additional ways to set yourself up for success:
• Unsubscribe from memberships and apps
• Set aside time during the week for meal prep, and bring lunch to work
• Dust off your travel mug and skip the coffee shop
• When you get an urge to buy something, add it to a post-challenge wish list
• Print out a 30-day calendar and make a checkmark at the end of each successful day. Visual reinforcement can motivate you to keep going.
10 Free Things to Do Instead of Spending Money
Taking part in a 30-day no-spend challenge doesn’t have to mean isolating yourself at home in an effort to save money. This is a time to get creative and search out free activities. You may find that some free experiences are more fun than what you normally spend money on!
1. Take a Hike
Whether you’re walking a mile or seven, hiking is a great way to spend the day outdoors. You can invite friends or go solo and get in tune with nature.
2. Get Some Exercise
Many great athletes and trainers offer workouts on social media and YouTube. Or download one of the many free apps that feature yoga, strength training, and high-intensity workouts.
3. Set Up a Sports League
Call your friends and organize a weekly game of flag football, basketball, or frisbee. Encourage folks to BYO beverages and snacks so that there’s no need to visit a restaurant or bar after the game.
4. Dine Al Fresco
Get your picnic blanket and paper plates ready, and propose a pot-luck in the park.
5. Host a Movie Night
Dust off that old projector and DVD player, and watch a movie in your backyard. (Don’t forget the mosquito repellent.) If you’re feeling inspired, select a classic film and ask friends to come dressed in the style of that time period.
6. Sand and Surf
Sticking to your challenge budget during summer is simple: Head to the nearest beach. Bring towels, chairs, and umbrellas and set up shop for the day. And of course, pack a cooler full of sandwiches and drinks.
7. Have an At-home Spa Night
You don’t need to spend hundreds at the spa. Set the tone with candles and music.
And use personal care items that you already have to pamper yourself.
8. Check Out a Local Park
Odds are, there’s at least one park near your home that you’ve never visited. If you live near a botanical garden, even better. Also, see if any national or state parks nearby have free visitor days.
9. Visit Art Galleries and Museums
Support local artists by visiting small art galleries, or see if any local museums have free visitor days.
10. Whip Up a Gourmet Meal
Instead of dining out, try recreating your favorite meal yourself. Take your time, experiment, and have fun with it. You can pull up an online recipe or follow along with a cooking show.
Intended to encourage better spending habits, the 30-day no-spend challenge asks you to limit your purchases for one month to essential items and services only. Utilities and groceries are allowed. Dining out and other “treats” are not. You’ll likely learn a lot about your money habits, and perhaps let go of some “needs” that you really don’t.
Before the challenge, review your monthly spending habits with SoFi Relay. With its budgeting app and debt payoff planner, you can easily examine all your financial accounts and save money for what’s really important to you.
Tracking your money like a champion just got easier with SoFi Relay.
What is the no-spend challenge?
A no-spend challenge is a stretch of time – a week, month, or longer – when participants vow not to spend money unnecessarily. Essentials are still allowed, such as bills, transportation, and groceries. Anything that falls outside of your predetermined needs has to wait until the challenge is over.
How do you do a no-spend month challenge?
Don’t spend any money you don’t have to — it can be as simple as that. Before you begin the challenge, ask yourself which items are essential (such as groceries) and how strict you want to be. The goal is not to purchase anything unnecessary.
How do you challenge yourself to not spend money?
Make spending less money a game by trying a 30-day no-spend challenge. Motivate yourself to stick with it by setting up a reward once the challenge is over. And be sure to track how much you save over those 30 days.
Photo credit: iStock/Seiya Tabuchi
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