How to Do a No Spend Challenge [2024 Guide] - (2024)

I see a lot of people attempt a no spend challenge in January, and I get it. It's post-holiday and people want to cut back and see some type of stability in their finances after the spend-spend-spend of the holiday season. But doing a no spend challenge in January is just bananas to me. It feels like you're setting yourself up to fail, for a few reasons.

  1. January has 31 days. Couple that with the after-Christmas slump and January feels forever long.
  2. Often, I find my finances don't immediately stabilize after the holiday. People have to prepare emotionally and financially for a month-long no-spend challenge.

Any time I do a no-spend challenge, I always do it in February. It's the shortest month of the year and other than Valentine's Day…there isn't much going on. You can do a no spend challenge anytime you want, but I love February for several reasons I'll get into below. BUT before I get ahead of myself, let's cover what a no spend challenge is.

What is a No Spend Challenge?

What's a no spend day, you ask? It's basically a day where you don't use your debit card, cash, go to the store, or buy anything online. You spend nothing.

And the challenge of February is to have as many of them as you possibly can. Ideally, you'd want to go the entire month without spending anything extra.

You can have exclusions for groceries, bills, and gas, but that's it. We're already technically cheating because February is a shorter month than most, but you know what? That makes it the PERFECT time to attempt something like this.

February is the best; you can see Spring around the corner, and the coldest month of the year is behind us. (My birthday and my favorite human's …ahem…are also in March, so it makes for a nice reset before I go a little bananas for both my birthday and my son's.)

It's a time for optimism! And for challenging ourselves. You can set exclusions for anything you want. Go wild on Valentine's Day if you want. You can customize this to you, but the point is we want to shake up what we're doing with our finances and really monitor our spending so we can ensure we're doing it mindfully for the rest of the year. (And it's a great way to jump-start saving a large chunk of money in a short amount of time, like this guide on how to save $5,000 in 3 months.)

Tips for a No Spend Challenge

I've attempted a few no spend challenges a handful of time in the ten plus years I've been running this blog. I did one when I very first started out that was laughable because I was still spending every day. A total fail. I also did three of them in a row when I was doing my $8k in 90 days challenge, and those went really well.

Here are a few tips I've learned.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Sure, you can say on January 31st you're going to take on a February No Spend Challenge and I'll admire you for it, but you'll likely be less successful than others who planned for the event ahead of time.

Take a look at your toiletries, your paper goods, your dog's medicine. You NEED all of those things and you'll have to sacrifice a no spend day to go get them since they're not groceries, gas, or bills. So, pad your month a little bit by going out and preemptively buying anything you think you may run out of in the next month. A no spend challenge is as much about getting creative and making do as it is about saving money.

Clear your calendar.

Yeah, this isn't fun. And I'm not saying you can't go out. I'm just saying if you do, that's a spend day, not a no spend day. Even if you planned for it and put it on the calendar, it still counts. Use this time to ramp up your side hustle, purge items from your home to sell, and focus on your own health and well-being. How are those resolutions from January working out? Did you abandon them? Use this time to get back on the bandwagon.

Meal Plan

I'm just now starting to do this and it's harder than I thought. But I do like this tutorial. As well as the meal planning archives on I am THAT Lady. Often, when we have nothing at home we have to eat out, which is why meal planning is crucial to a successful no spend challenge. Make sure you're not caught with your pants down.

Settle on a Mantra

How about, “I can do anything for 30 days?”. Here's a list of my other favorite money mantras here.

Need more resources? Here's how to save $1000 in a month.

Need a little extra motivation? In 2017 I urged readers to join me in a public February no spend challenge and I had over 70 people join me. Below are my observations from that time. While a little dated (I'm writing this in January 2023 now.) The points I make and tips and tricks I learned are still valuable.

Here's How I Did…(From 2017*)

I set the goal of having 4 spend days and 24 no spend days. After following the preparation and planning outlined in this post, I was pretty successful in avoiding expenditures.

I ended up having six spend days, 22 no spend days.

Roo needed an office visit for a skin infection, and because I'm terrible at keeping up with beauty appointments, I ended up NEEDING my roots done before the end of the month was over for some events/TV stuff I was doing.

This is why planning is so critical because also, my roots needed to be done in January, so joke is on me.

Here's How You Did

We had 77 people join us for the February No Spend Challenge – which I'm thrilled about because there was very little promotion to garner sign ups.

After sending out a survey – the majority of you planned for 28 no spend days. (Overachievers, the lot of you…)

That's a full month without any non-discretionary spending, which is very hard to do. The majority of you ended up with 3-4 spend days, which is still super amazing. Although one woman reported buying a piano….?

I took all the emails of the people who filled out the response form and put them into an excel sheet with a corresponding number.

Then I went to random number generator and got this number: 11

The giveaway winner is JULIANA HERRERA . Check your email for your prize – a $25 Starbucks Giftcard.

My Takeaways from the February No Spend Challenge

Even though at times I did feel deprived, it felt really good to focus just on where my money was going for a full (albeit short) month. One thing I learned is how many apps and subscription services I have on autopay (which I didn't notice so much when previously spending at my normal rate). This helped me evaluate if some of these services were really worth the money. Click here to read how to do a full utility audit if you're interested.

I think it's important to have days where you are allowed to spend, even during a “no spend” challenge. I always feel like having breaks allows for greater consistency. Keep in mind the whole point of a challenge like this isn't to not splurge ever again, but to spend in a more mindful way.

Meal planning can help a great deal with food costs and ensuring you always have something around. I live in the heart of a walkable area where you can walk out the door, go down a block, and grab food very quickly if you're #hangry, so having groceries on hand was key for me to being successful with this challenge. Even though I ate at home more, I was able to keep my grocery costs the same as months where I plan for eating out. Meal planning is the ultimate way to get this kind of result! Check out our lifestyle Pinterest board for tutorials from other fabulous bloggers on how to do this.

Every little bit adds up and the more you save, the more exciting is to save faster. I don't think I really understood this before now. (Isn't it amazing to still have revelations about your money habits even after all this time?!) I have savings goals in my Qapitalapp and they're saving for me automatically (usually around $50-$75 per month of “change” off regular purchases) and was able to contribute additional money for those goals thanks to my greatly reduced spending habits. It was fun to log in and see even bigger balances, which helped motivate me to contribute more to those goals that I really do feel are important….more important than say, $30 for takeout chinese. (I eat a lot when I order Chinese. Don't judge.)

How to Do a No Spend Challenge [2024 Guide] - (2024)


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