I love a good challenge don’t you? Part of it is my stubborn nature. If someone thinks I can’t do something, well then guess what I’m going to do? My poor parents never stood a chance with me.
I first heard about a no spending month challenge a few years ago and that’s the first time we attempted it. I believe we modified it and just made it a no eating out (or Starbucks, drive thrus, etc) challenge. Considering quick trips to grab food were pretty normal for us at the time, this challenge was a huge wake up call. Last August we decided to re-visit the challenge to help us reduce our spending so that we could put away the excess for Christmas. But this time we took it pretty hard core. When I say no spending, I meant no spending.
Our definition of a no spending challenge this time around was:
Spend money on bills
Spend money on food from a grocery store
Spend money on gas in our cars
Wash, rinse, repeat. That’s it. End of story. No exceptions.
It was challenging. It was uncomfortable at times. But it was one of the best challenges we’ve ever taken on and I would recommend it to anyone, no matter where you are on your financial journey. You learn so much about your habits, what you can live without that you currently rely on, and what you’re capable of.
There are some things I would recommend doing the month prior to taking on this challenge so you can be prepared. These will make it easier to set yourself up for success then to go in blindly.
Set parameters before the month starts
For us it was just bills, groceries and gas in the cars but you might need to make some adjustments. Do you have pets? Please still feed them. 🙂 Do you have medical necessities for your family? Let’s not end up in the hospital over this, please pay for those. You can decide what are basic necessities for your family, but the point is to make it totally basic. Don’t start adding in things that you can really live without.
Look at your Calendar and plan
What challenges could you come up against this month? If you’re traveling during the month, it may not be the best time to take on this challenge. It would be pretty challenging to be backpacking through Europe trying to cook all your meals. Assuming you’re in town for the month, what other challenges might come up? Do you have an all day conference for work that you would need to bring food to? Do you have packed afternoons with kids activities and would need to have your meal prep game on point so you don’t get tempted to fly through the drive thru? What about parties coming up? Are they must attend parties? If so, do you have a stash of gifts you could pick from without going to the store? If not get to the store this month so you won’t be spending money during the challenge. Going into each day blindly won’t work during this challenge so looking at your month up front is key to setting yourself up for success.
Schedule a family meeting to get everyone on board
Thankfully my husband was all in but I was very careful about how I approached it with the kids. I didn’t want to make it seem like we were punishing ourselves. So I told them we were doing a fun challenge so we could hit the reset button and focus on spending time together instead of focusing on things. My 8 year old loves a challenge so she was all about it. My 3 year old just stared at me. Because he’s 3. But this meeting came in handy because when we were at the store and they started asking for toys or junk food or whatever, I reminded them what we were doing and why.
Pinterest is your friend
I was on pinterest for pretty much everything during the no spend month. Meal planning printables, slow cooker recipes, free date night ideas, free kid activity ideas, you name it, I pinned it. Meal planning will be so important, especially if you work outside of the home. Keep emergency snacks in your car and at work so you’re not tempted if you get hangry.
You know when you’ve gotten out of hand with your eating and you realize you need to reign it in, so you start off with a pretty strict eating plan and eventually you can add back in some things but you never really go back to your old way of eating if you want to create a healthy lifestyle? That’s what a no spend month does for your money. You’re hitting the reset button. You don’t have to be this strict forever but you have to remind yourself what you’re capable of so you can settle into a healthy money lifestyle.
It feels pretty good to accomplish it. You should do it. Like really. I practically walk up to strangers on the street and tell them they should do it. And we’re friends right? So you should totally do it! And when you do, tell me how it went! I want to hear all about it.