Are you trying to get out of debt or have suddenly realized it’s the holiday season? Me too.

One great opportunity I have recently discovered is the no-spend challenge. I recently tested it out and I will tell you the number one secret you need to do to make it work and be worthwhile.
But first…

What is a no-spend challenge?

In my dictionary (and that’s the beauty of this challenge –it’s on YOUR terms) a no-spend challenge might be a few days or a week. I haven’t gotten to the month-long challenge yet but it’s on my to-do list. It’s not like I don’t budget for bills and household essentials such as groceries and toilet paper but I cut out the OTHER things. You all know the OTHER things I’m talking about…Starbuck’s? Cigarettes? Alcohol? Miscellaneous junk you bought because it was ON SALE! Yeah, I’m on to your ways.

Here’s how to be a no-spend challenge pro:

First, be as specific as possible when creating your terms. “I won’t spend extra money” is not going to be very helpful when you need clarification. Ask yourself: how long is my challenge for? What is the allotted budget for groceries, bills, etc.? How will I know I have achieved it successfully? What will I do with my savings?

Second, prepare in advance. Don’t plan to have an elaborate meal when you are out of 6 of 7 condiments for this one meal. Choose something that is more reasonable and fits into your budget. It may not be super fancy but if you pinterest enough easy and cheap meals then it could still be delicious.

And my secret rule: Go public.

I know. How awkward and pathetic and weird will you seem? Won’t it make you seem slammed for cash? Well, hey, you kind of are and that’s why you are trying this!

The first time I went no-spend for a week I told nobody. I didn’t want anyone’s judgments on me for needing to set limits with my spending and/or being uppity when I eventually gave in. (I know, pessimistic thinking!) But let me tell you: that method doesn’t work as well! I did save money but towards the end of the week I started telling myself that this/that/everything fit in my miscellaneous budget and plus, I was just parched, I totally needed that latte!

The next time I went no-spend for a week I told my close family. Inevitably we went shopping- so I did have to confess that I was trying not to spend money. They were understanding and worried that I was in a bad financial space. I wasn’t. I just realized after keeping a spending log each month (another technique I recommend!) that I would go to the dollar store and buy things that I didn’t need just because I could and I might need them.

But, you may be asking, what do we DO during a no-spend challenge?

Friends, there are so many things to do for free, it would blow your mind. Check out the library and the city centre for free events throughout the month. And if internet is unlimited then you have the world at your fingertips- learn something new, watch videos, read, play games… Boredom is really not an excuse.

So I encourage you to team up with your family/friends and embark on your own no-spending challenge- you will be pleasantly surprised with your bank account!

About the Author

Tara Richardson is a Peer Support Specialist at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby, Ontario. Her own personal journey through mental illness has led her to be a passionate and dedicated advocate for mental health recovery. Tara is an aspiring author who is in the (long) process of writing and editing her memoir compiled from journal entries beginning at age 11. Tara has a B.A. in Psychology, a diploma in Social Service Work, and a certificate in Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Tara can be contacted at: tara_richardson913@hotmail.com Non-creepy fan mail gladly welcomed.