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If you are like me, spending money comes a lot easier to you than saving. It’s not that I plan to spend the money in my bank account, it’s more like it just disappears. Sometimes I’ll review my spending history at the end of the week, scratching my head about where it all went.
More often than not, I notice that I have lots of different transactions from the grocery store, Target, Amazon, a restaurant, etc. and try to recall exactly what I bought or why I went to the store. This made me think that there has to be a better alternative that will limit how often I shop and help me save money. Enter the no-spend day challenge.
We all have a certain amount of money each month to budget and spend in accordance with our priorities. The less often you pull out our wallet to actually separate you and your hard earned cash, the more money will be left in your bank account.
What to consider when doing a no-spend challenge
A common recommendation for helping control spending is to do a no-spend month. Typically that is a month in which you spend money only on essential purchases such as basic groceries, personal hygiene products, bills, etc. It requires that you review your spending and separate your purchases into two categories: wants and needs.
During a no-spend month, you will review and cut out any “wants” spending such as restaurants, clothes shopping, recurrent expenses that you are not utilizing such as magazine subscriptions or gym memberships, etc. This is designed not just to save you money but also to help you realize where you have leaks in your spending. For example, if you are paying for a magazine or newspaper subscription that you are not using, then you should cancel it and save the money.
Doing an entire no-spend month can be quite a challenge (pun intended). It could also be particularly difficult to get your significant other on board, especially if he/she does not see your family spending as an issue. There is also the added worry that you will end up cutting out things that you actually enjoy and that it will be a miserable month of not having any fun.
While that can certainly be the case, there are definitely some great ways to have fun during a no-spend month and still save lots of money. I’ve personally never been able to do a whole month but I know it can be a great tool for many people looking to cut their spending.
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The alternative: No-spend day challenge
I have found a great alternative for myself and I’m very excited to share it with you because I think it could be a total game changer when it comes to your finances.
I know it has worked well for me.
Instead of doing a no-spend month, consider doing a no-spend day(s) challenge instead. It’s a great way to take the pressure off of having to stick to an entire month of no spending.
Here’s how it works:
Look at your calendar and carefully consider what you have planned for the week ahead. Do you have any social outings already scheduled? Those days are going to be spending days so you can look at what other errands you can run on the same day.
For example, say you have drinks scheduled with your friends on Thursday. Can you do your grocery shopping that day as well? Look at what money you were already planning to spend and try to shift and consolidate your shopping trips.
Then try to figure out how many days you can go without spending any money. Those do not have to be consecutive days – it could be a Monday and a Wednesday, for example. Get creative and focus on spending no money on those particular days.
How to set yourself up for success during a no-spend day challenge
It’s great to set out a list of guidelines for your no-spend days. For example, if you have bills on auto-draft such as the electric bill, and it drafts on a day that is a no-spend day, you can decide to still count it as a no-spend day. Auto-drafts are usually set up for certain days, such as the day a bill is due, and they help ensure you don’t get any late fees so they could get a pass.
Just make sure that you don’t go overboard and decide that your morning latte is an automatic expense that you have to have every morning. The goal of a no-spend day challenge is the same as during a no-spend month: get creative and spend no money.
For example, you can make coffee at home in the morning and take it to go in an insulated cup (love my Yeti!). Make your lunch and bring it to work along with a few snacks so you are not left stalking the vending machines at 3 p.m., staring longingly at a bag of chips. Pack some trail mix, fruits, pretzels, and hummus, etc. for the inevitable snack attack.
Setting yourself up for success is more than half the battle during a no-spend day challenge. Think about your day and where do you usually spend money.
Do you usually grab some donuts on the way to work?
Are you starving by the time mid-morning hits so you look for snacks or hit up the convenience store downstairs?
Do you usually buy your lunch?
Do you stop for a milkshake or a frozen drink on the way home?
Do you tend to order dinner most nights since you forget to make plans for what you are going to cook?
You can make a plan for each of these spending leaks and be ready when something does come up. Planning is the key to doing a successful no-spend day.
What not to do during a no-spend day challenge
A word of caution on spending days:
Do not take spending days as an opportunity to keep spending. For example, if you are already planning on going to lunch with a friend today, don’t take this as an opportunity to hit the mall and buy some new outfits because, why not? It’s already a spending day, right?
The idea behind a no-spend day challenge is to combine spending that you scatter throughout the week into a few days to eliminate any duplicate trips and also to limit spontaneous spending, which is one of the main ways money just disappears from our accounts.
No-spend days are not deferred-spending days. They are designed to get you to reconsider whether what you were planning to spend money on is really necessary. It’s a great idea to write down when the urge to spend strikes during a no-spend day challenge. This way you can keep track of every time you did not spend money and you can reconsider the next day if it’s something you truly need.
For example, if you run out of a particular lipstick, you can note down that you are out and just use another color instead of running out to buy a new one or ordering it online. Then you can look at your list later on and really consider if you need to buy another lipstick or if you already have enough lipsticks and you can just save that money.
As you keep track of those spending opportunities where you opted to just write it down instead of pulling out your credit card, you will start to notice all of the little money leaks that leave you scratching your head at the end of the month. It’s often this spontaneous spending that is responsible for your inability to save money at the end of the month.
How to compound the savings of a no-spend day challenge and save hundreds this month
One great trick that I try to use every week is to try to outdo or at least match the number of no-spend days from the previous week. I’m naturally competitive and even competing with myself makes this a fun challenge. It also helps me consolidate shopping trips and makes it less likely that I will forget to buy something since I know that I won’t be able to rush out tomorrow and pick it up.
Alternating no-spend days with spending days will probably be the easiest way to approach this at the beginning. You can up the challenge level once you get the basics down by going two or more days in a row without spending any money.
It’s harder than it seems but it’s an easy and fun way to save some money without feeling completely deprived. You can say yes to your friend who wants to go out for drinks knowing that you can do a no-spend day the day before or after to help keep your spending in check.
There is no long-term commitment such as an entire month but at the end of a month, you would have usually spend a week or sometimes two in total not spending any money. If you do just two no-spend days every week, that will be a total of eight no-spend days in a month – more than a week! All those little tricks add up to more money in your bank account without much effort.
No-spend day challenge recap and next steps
To do a quick recap:
- Review your weekly calendar and do a rough plan of when you have scheduled spending days such as dinner or drinks with friends.
- Designate no-spend days based on your schedule.
- Make a plan for how you are going to avoid spending money that day.
- Move and consolidate planned spending such as grocery store trips.
- Plan your spending exceptions such as automatic bill drafts.
- During no-spend days, write down any spending opportunities.
- Challenge yourself to increase your number of no-spend days.
- Watch your savings account grow.
Try doing a no-spend day starting this week and see how it goes. There are many free ways to entertain yourself and have a good time. From free concerts and outdoor movies to having a picnic in the park or inviting friends over, there are many fun activities that do not cost any money.
You can even invite your friends to join your no-spend day challenge. A little friendly competition can keep your momentum going and make it fun.
If you have a significant other, it would be great if you can convince them to join you on your no-spend days. It will also keep you from cheating by asking your boyfriend to pick up a bottle of wine on his way over to your place when you are doing a no-spend day.
There are many different ways to save money but I have found that the ones that give you a quick and easy way to get to your goals are the ones we are more likely to attempt. Just make sure that you set yourself up for success by making a plan for how you are going to address any spending opportunities that pop up during your no-spend days.
What works best for you when you are trying to save money?
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