MAY: Our Month-Long No-Spending Challenge

posted by Andrea | 04/26/2013

no spending challenge

Can you believe that next week is already May?

West Michigan has had an extremely cold, snowy spring — so it’s just crazy for me to think that the month of May is only a few days away.

One idea Dave and I have tossed around for the past year is giving ourselves the challenge of not spending any “extra” money for an entire month. Obviously, this would be a great way to pad our savings account a bit… but it’s also a really good opportunity to reflect back on what we really NEED versus all those things we just WANT.

We decided that May would be the month we chose for our “No-Spending Challenge” — and we’d LOVE to have you join in on the frugal fun too (I’ll explain the details below).

Basically a month of no-spending can be whatever YOU want it to be. You can be as strict or as lenient as you’d like… because no matter what, a challenge like this will still get you to stop and think about how you’re currently spending your money.

Maybe you’ll realize how much you’ve been spending on fast food.

Maybe you’ll notice that a huge chunk of your income is going to clothing or entertainment.

Maybe you’ll see that you’re doing an excellent job of divvying up your income!

Even if you start and quit, I honestly don’t think anything negative could come out of this challenge :)

So like I said before, you can be as strict or as lenient as you want… but here are some of the ground rules Dave and I have set for our No-Spending Challenge.

1. Bills don’t count.

Obviously we need to keep paying our utility bills, insurance payments, credit card bill, etc… so that money doesn’t count. We would also consider medical bills, car payments, and any other debt payments to fall into this category.

2. Basic necessities don’t count.

This category is strictly limited to basic groceries, gas, diapers, and any medical devices or toiletries you absolutely can not function without for the month.

To be honest, I have a pretty good supply of diapers, toiletries, and groceries, so I don’t foresee any huge expenses in this category.

3. Investments don’t count.

We don’t want our No-Spending Challenge to negatively affect our investments or our retirement accounts so we will continue to invest as normal throughout the month of May.

4. Business expenses don’t count.

Unless you want my website to “disappear” for a month, I’ll need to continue paying my monthly hosting fees, taxes, and other expenses I incur each month :)

5. Emergencies don’t count.

If an emergency should arise, we will not hesitate to quit our No-Spending Challenge!

6. Currently scheduled projects don’t count.

Dave and I are in the middle of LOTS of yard work (I can’t wait to share more about this later!) As a result of our yard work, we had several companies and contractors scheduled to help us with various projects during the month of April. However, because of the crazy winter weather I mentioned above, most of those projects were postponed until May.

So since we’re in a hurry to move forward with these projects, we have decided not to count this money for our No-Spending Challenge. We already had money set aside for yard work, and in many of the cases, we have already paid a “down-payment” and are simply waiting for the companies to come out and finish the job.

7. Using gift cards or store credit doesn’t count.

We went back and forth on this point for a while — wondering if we should ban the use of gift cards and store credit for May. However, we ultimately decided that since we wouldn’t be spending any EXTRA out-of-pocket money, that we would not count this towards our No-Spending Challenge.

8. Everything else counts!

We’ve decided that for the month of May, we will not spend any money out-of-pocket on restaurants, clothing, entertainment, travel, gifts, etc. etc.

I’m also going to do my best to eliminate any extra “stockpiling” at the grocery store. This will be a great opportunity to get creative in the kitchen as we eat through our freezer and pantry supplies!

Also, we’ll be limiting the amount of driving we do to save on gas.

So I think those are all the “rules”.

Dave and I aren’t doing this No-Spending Challenge because we’re hurting for money or because we feel like our spending is out of control. We’re simply doing it as a fun way to take a small step back, focus on what’s really important to us, and to see how much we might be able to save by consciously limiting our expenses for one month.

We honestly don’t even have a goal for how much we hope to save or what we might do with the money we do save… crazy, I know!

Maybe we’ll have to put the extra cash towards our yard projects :)

I’d love to have you join in on the No-Spending Challenge — feel free to set your own “rules” of course. This should be fun, not overwhelming!

Next month, I’ll share some of my thoughts… and the results of our No-Spending Challenge.

Have you ever done a no-spending challenge? How did it go?

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33 comments

  1. Carlen

    04/26/2013

    I use the envelope method for all of my groceries, gasoline and spending money every week. It really has been helpful in making me re-think if I need something vs if I want something. If I know I only have $100 to spend at the grocery, I really think long and hard about the pint of ice cream or the cookies!!

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    Arin Reply:

    My husband and I had taken the FPU class a couple years ago and had tried the envelope system as Dave Ramsey suggests but I hate to admit that we got lazy and unfortunately we fell off the band wagon. Just within the last couple of weeks I have been trying to incorporate this again to try and tighten the reigns on our spending. Little did I know that it would soon become a necessity because just today my husband found out that they are closing the factory he works at as of June 30th…what an eye opener – so this challenge could not have come at a better time!! Thank you so much Andrea for being such a great inspiration for so many people…my hats go off to you and this great site!!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Sorry to hear about your husband’s job Arin — however maybe we can both use this no-spending challenge as a reality check to help us see where our money is going (and hopefully pad our savings account too!)

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  2. Melissa

    04/26/2013

    I’m not exactly living paycheck to paycheck but recently discovered that we spend every last dollar we earn. We make double what we did five years ago and still have the same amount in our checking account! To be fair, we have a child now. But it’s not just her expenses, we’ve found “reasons” to spend a little more here and a little more there. For example, my one year old was up an hour early today so I “need” this $4.59 caramel latte. Spending is a tough habit to break so thank you for starting the challenge. :)

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  3. Barbara

    04/26/2013

    Good morning. :) I think this is awesome At the end of March I told myself I would not shop for four months. On Monday, I challenged myself to losing weight before my 50th birthday (December). Yes, two big challenges, but I’m up for breaking some bad habits. ! Let’s do this!! :D

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    Leanne Reply:

    I’m with you Barbara! I’m also working to change my life before I’m 50 (March, 2014). Losing weight via My Fitness Pal, (I’m nutfish1 – friend me if you’re on MFP), stoking the retirement funds as much as possible and paying off debt.

    Good luck to you, we will soon be Fabulous, Fifty, and Free! :D

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  4. Jessica

    04/26/2013

    I think this is a great challenge. Living in Canada, I find that something as simple as buying groceries can be a huge challenge in and of itself. Yes, the prices have skyrocketed everywhere, no arguments there. One thing I would like to see here in Canada, is the same type of Coupon system you have in the states. We have nothing that even comes close. Trying to save on groceries can be impossible. Random in store sales are the best we get. Doing a challenge like this is motivation for me to come up with some extra money FOR stockpiling the freezer. Great Idea!!

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  5. Deni

    04/26/2013

    I have been wanting to do this challenge for about a year now. What better time to start and join the challenge with someone else! We have been doing the Dave Ramsey plan for a couple of years now and what a difference it has made in our lives! But over time, I feel myself slipping a little. We are still sticking with our plan and this will be great encouragement to tighten the reins and move forward!

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  6. Jenny

    04/26/2013

    I have also been thinking about trying this challenge out for awhile so its nice to have someone to do it with! I plan on cutting down on my grocery spending as well and eating out of my freezer and pantry. Good luck!

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  7. LauraCyw

    04/26/2013

    I did this for Lent as was very successful. I couldn’t believe how much money I saved! It was a tough, I have to say but I definitely plan to have non-spending months again. Not in May though. . . to soon. Lol. Good luck!

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  8. Barb

    04/26/2013

    I have been wanting to do this for at least a year, but was never sure exactly how it worked. Thank you for spelling out the “rules”! Looking forward to saving money, as well as seeing how much extra we spend because we “think” we need to.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Barb — but remember, you can make your own “rules” so don’t feel like you’re stuck to our “rules”. This is just what Dave and I decided would be best for our situation!

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  9. Laurel

    04/26/2013

    Uh oh. May is Mother’s Day! Dave is getting off easy this year :). I would love to join in this one, but it will have to wait until another month. Lots of extras in May that we actually planned for, but aren’t necessary. I will enjoy hearing about yours, though. How does garage sale shopping fit into your plan since we are just starting to see the garage sale signs pop up?

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    Andrea Reply:

    Haha — Dave isn’t a big “gifts” person so I’ll probably get a homemade mother’s day card from him and Nora. I’m OK with that because I don’t need anything and Nora is still too young to really understand gift-giving. And good question about the garage sales. I honestly didn’t think about that :) We honestly don’t NEED anything so I’ll probably just steer clear of garage sales for the month — I think Craigslist will be more difficult for me!

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  10. Julianne

    04/26/2013

    We are going to take the challenge with you. As soon as that tax money goes into the bank it’s like we forget that we had plans for it. This is a perfect month for this:) Thanks.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yay!! Hopefully we’ll both enjoy some extra savings!

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  11. Kim

    04/26/2013

    I really like the idea of a month long challenge, I really do. But, May is a tough month in the area of gifts: Mother’s Day, end of year gifts for teachers, graduation gifts, wedding gifts, several birthday gifts. Andrea, do you have a stockpile of gift cards you use for gifts?

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    Andrea Reply:

    Kim, we honestly don’t have many gifts to buy in May. We have no birthdays, no weddings, no teacher gifts, and since we get invited to TONS of graduation parties for Dave’s students, we don’t give gifts (that’s normal for teachers in this area).
    The only potencial “snag” would be mother’s day gifts and as I mentioned in one of the other comments, Dave’s not big into gift-giving… and neither of our families are big “Halmark Holiday” gift-givers. Hopefully this doesn’t make me sound like a scrooge — we just aren’t big on gifts around here :)

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  12. Rebecca

    04/27/2013

    I would love to do this in theory, but reality is a different story! I live in the boonies, so every couple of weeks or so, I have to get out of here and go to civilization and have lunch and browse Target. If I took this challenge, I don’t know if I could keep my sanity in this small town! Maybe I will just try not to eat out for the month of May, I know that is a huge money waster for my wallet! I too have taken Dave Ramsey’s class and have fallen off the cash bandwagon. That card is getting so easy to swipe! I think I will take this challenge, with some firm guidelines, and try my darndest to stick to it! (I already got my mom a gift so that is good! But we have a teen graduating from HS next month)

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes Rebecca – feel free to make your own “rules” for the challenge. The idea is simply to take a step back and be more intentional about how you’re spending your money. Not eating out for the entire month sounds like a great place to start!

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    Evie Reply:

    LOL You must be my neighbor…

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  13. Jennifer

    04/27/2013

    I’m in! Thanks for the inspiration and challenge!

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  14. Jen

    04/27/2013

    Good luck! Can’t wait to hear how it goes!

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  15. Debby

    04/28/2013

    I love this. I am going to consider this today and actually talk it over with my husband and teenagers over dinner tonite. We are a busy family, but we could cut back on out to eat. I have read of different versions of this in the past.A lot of those are very strict and seemed so stressful. I like the plan you and Dave have come up with. We also have some outdoor projects that will take place. The other thing I thought of was OH My flowers!!!! But my favorite nursery here sells Bonds in February. You get a $50 gift card for $35 and you can use it all summer at their store I bought those for upcoming landscaping and for annuals for my deck and porch. I think we are in: focusing mostly on out to eat expenses. We do have a Home Goods opening up next weekend. OOOOHHH NNOOO! :) Thanks again for a great post with great inspiration.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Wow Debby, I would love to have a place where we could get $50 gift cards for $35 — what a great idea!
    And about the challenge, I’m all for “keeping things simple” so feel free to be as “tame” as you’d like for this challenge. Start small — it’s better than nothing at all!

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  16. Evie

    04/29/2013

    I’m in! (but…it will be “easy” for me since after paying the taxes and the home owners insurance on top of the normal bills there won’t be more than $1.59 left over in May…)

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  17. Ree Klein

    04/29/2013

    Great post, Andrea. I love the way you and your husband communicate; not all couples are as good at talking things through as the two of you. For those in relationships where money talk is difficult or taboo, the person interested in the challenge shouldn’t wait for the other person to “come around.”

    Instead, they can set up some rules of their own, tell their partner/spouse what they’re doing and then keep to their commitment. I’ve used this strategy and while it can be stressful, it can help to model the behavior you want to see in the other person.

    Ree ~ I blog at EscapingDodge.com

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    Paige Reply:

    My husband would never go for a “no spending month”, so thank you foryour comment. I think I will try it on my own.

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  18. Christie

    04/30/2013

    We are kind of being ‘forced’ into it this month, but I’m not complaining. My husband is the director of a non-profit and the ‘financial guy’ for our church and its ministries (of which the non-profit falls under). There is just not a lot of money in the bank right now for the church or non-profit, which means probably at least one, if not two, missed paychecks for him this month. We are sitting down tonight to evaluate our bare basic needs and budget accordingly. We are a month ahead on all of our utility bills, I work part-time as a nurse, and we have an emergency fund, so we will be okay, but we are trying to be as careful as possible – especially if this ‘drought’ is to continue for more than a month or two. We are in the same boat as far as already-planned projects. We are just starting kitchen renovations, but we already have that money in the bank and set aside in a separate account…just hoping we don’t have to dip into that to pay for day-to-day things…

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  19. Jennifer

    05/02/2013

    This challenge couldn’t come at a more perfect time for me! I’m a working graduate student and am paying for school out of pocket. I feel like I’ve been overspending for the past few weeks and need to reel it in if I’m going to continue without dipping into my savings.

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  21. Katie

    08/04/2013

    Thank you for writing so candidly and thoroughly about money, spending, saving, etc. I’ve only read a few of you posts over the last 30 min. (a friend suggested your site) but I can see you are putting into practice the hard realities of less is more and being a good steward of what God has given. My husband and I give ourselves an allowance to spend on all individual, hobby purchases, and the like. This helps us greatly to think twice before we spend money on non-essentials. We also have a Fun fund for mutual activities like date night and vacations. It works for us and that is what is important – finding a system that works for you. Again, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far. Keep it up!

    [Reply]

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