The Results of Our No-Spending Challenge

posted by Andrea | 06/3/2013

the restuls of our no spending challenge

It’s June — which means our month-long no-spending challenge is over! Yay!

Dave and I made it through… and it honestly wasn’t that difficult, especially after the first week (read my half-way update here).

I do have to confess that I broke the rules once — but it was 100% unintentional, and I honestly didn’t even think about it until the next day. I was taking a shower and I realized that not only had I scheduled a hair cut for myself in May, I also went to the appointment and paid without ever thinking of the money I was spending.

Granted, it was only $25 (including tip), but the fact that I spent my cold hard cash without even giving it a second thought and without remembering our no-spending challenge just goes to show how easy it can be to spend, spend, spend.

In my defense, Dave said we could probably consider my hair cut a basic necessity (my hair was getting REALLY long) and thus approve the expense based on Rule #2 :)

.

I consider myself quite frugal, and I make a point to think twice before I spend money; however, this challenge has really opened my eyes to how often I have the opportunity to spend a few dollars here and there without ever thinking about it.

There were so many times over the past month when I thought:

“I’ll just quick pick up _______ from the store”

“I need to buy _______ on Amazon.com”

“I wondering if anyone is selling ______ on Craigslist”

“I wonder if we have any Culver’s coupons”

Then I quickly reminded myself that there was no reason to go to the store, to Amazon.com, to Craigslist, or to Culver’s because I couldn’t spend money anyway.

And  yes, we survived just fine without a few bargains, without fast food, and without online shopping. We did go to Culver’s one time — but we had a gift card and a BOGO coupon so we didn’t break any of our rules.

I realize we couldn’t continue our no-spending challenge month after month after month, but this mini month-long challenge was actually really refreshing. It was a good excuse not to spend anything, not to go shopping, not to browse the web, and not to always want more, more, more.

We’ll definitely have to make this an annual thing — maybe not always the month of May, but certainly some time during each calendar year. If nothing else, it’s a fun way to save. Plus, it forced us to take a step back and re-evaluate our priorities, our true needs, and all our many wants.

This challenge was a totally new experience for Dave and for me… and I didn’t really know what to expect.

I was pleased with the number of you who emailed and commented saying that you were joining in on our challenge. However, the thing I found MOST interesting and MOST surprising were the many responses, emails, comments, Facebook messages, etc. I received from others saying things like:

“What an awesome idea! I wouldn’t be able to do it this month because of _______ but I’ll have to try this some time.”

“This is such a great idea. My spouse would never go for this because ______, but it sounds really fun.”

“Cool, I love this idea! It wouldn’t work for me right now because ______ but I’ll keep it in mind for the future.”

The reasons listed were everything from family birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, kids in sports, holiday parties, new babies, work events, moving, home projects, etc. etc. etc. etc.

And while these are all very good reasons to spend money (seriously, I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad), I had to smile each time someone gave me their excuse because I know that Dave and I have given ALL those excuses too… and we could have given many of the same excuses this time as well.

But we didn’t.

We knew it wouldn’t be easy, and we knew there might be times when we messed up (a.k.a. my hair cut!) But we really wanted to do this challenge and we figured we might as well do it NOW.

After all, when is “some time”? When is “in the future”?

Is it next month? Next year? In 5 years?

And whenever “some time” or “in the future” finally arrive, I’m sure there will always be a really good reason why a no-spending challenge wouldn’t be convenient at the time.

The truth of the matter is: There is NEVER a convenient time to save money.

Never!

There are way too many reasons to spend money all the time… it’s almost impossible not to give in some of the time.

However, I’d like to challenge you to seriously consider doing your own no-spending challenge. You don’t have to use the same rules Dave and I used, and you honestly don’t even have to do it for a full month.

If a month is too long, start with a no-spending week, or even just one day.

If you can’t get your spouse or family members on board, make it a personal challenge that you do on your own.

If you’re going on vacation, then don’t count that time, or better yet, set a strict budget for your vacation and buy gift cards or travler’s checks ahead of time.

If you have lots of expenses for your job, for school, or for your house, then make an exception for that specific area and do a no-spending challenge on everything else.

If no-spending on EVERYTHING is too much for you, give yourself a no-spending challenge just for clothing, just for entertainment, or just for restaurants.

If you have a birthday or anniversary or other occasion, force yourself to plan ahead and buy gifts before your no-spending period — or better yet, try to come up with free gift ideas like dinner for the family, homemade baked goods, free babysitting services, flowers or veggies from your garden, etc.

There are a hundred other ways you could tweak this challenge to make it fit with your life. The point is, by giving yourself a no-spending challenge, you will be MUCH more likely to consciously think about how you’re spending your money. And even if you’re a frugal person like me, I’m guessing you’ll probably have your eyes opened to just how easy it is to spend a few bucks here and there without thinking twice.

You can totally do this! 

If you also participated in our no-spending challenge (or if you’ve ever taken a similar challenge), I’d love to know what you thought/learned at the end.

And if you’ve never done anything like this, I’d like to challenge you to pick a day, a week, or a full month and give it a try. What’s the worst thing that could happen?

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17 comments

  1. Stephanie

    06/03/2013

    This idea hit me this month. I think Crystal from Money Saving Mom calls it a spending fast. I didn’t full out join you, and I didn’t set rules, but there were probably around 10 different times this month that I thought I should check this out at the store, where I looked online for it, etc. Because your post was in my mind it made me much more intentional with my money.
    Yes I still bought fast food once or twice, I went over my grocery budget, and I treated my husband and his coworkers to milkshakes once too. But I didn’t buy that new pair of heels I wanted, I didn’t buy my kids more clothes.
    Last week I decided that no matter what I wasn’t going to go get groceries. Monday I had to buy coffee ….. but I was resourceful at home and made it through the week without a lot of normal supplies in my house. I look forward to my grocery trip this week for sure though.

    You bring out good points that any no spend time would be a good thing, more than anything it makes you plan “budget” for the month and encourage you to stick to it. That is a rewarding feeling no matter what, even if you had to break it or forgot about something.
    Enjoy June but don’t splurge now, k? :)

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  2. Jen

    06/03/2013

    We decided to give this a shot this month. We are allowing spending for already-planned birthdays and Father’s Day, and a house project we HAVE to do this month, but we chose a budget for those things. I’m really excited to see how we do. Thanks for inspiring us!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Sounds like a good play — have fun!

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  3. Shay

    06/03/2013

    I love this! I’m not sure if I could do a full month (I’m a true amazonholic LOL), but I think if I could at least start with 2 weeks and work from there, I could try.

    I always love the tips and tricks you have on your site! Thank you so much for always sharing! I learn something new every time I “read” here :)

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  4. Catherine

    06/03/2013

    A couple years ago, I gave up mindless shopping for a month (maybe a little longer?). I just woke up one day sick of how often I made excuses to stop at stores for little things that I “needed” and how those stops led to not only a waste of money, but also a waste of time.

    I told my husband that I was “rethinking retail”. Why am I shopping? What do I truly need and what am I buying for the shopping high or the intention to do something with it later (that never gets done)?

    When I saw your no spending month, I was reminded of how nice it felt to not feel tied to shopping and spending money. There’s a lot that needs to happen around this house that we think we can’t afford. But what if I stop adding groceries or crafting supplies that I don’t need to my cart? Could we afford the home improvements then?

    Thanks so much for sharing your journey! I’m glad to see it was so successful.

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  5. Kristen Costantini

    06/03/2013

    My family did this in January 2013 with not purchasing any takeout food or going out to restaurants or drive through’s of any kind. We saved $500 just in this one month alone! It wasn’t easy, but it sure felt good to have additional money at the end of the month. We now do this regularly with certain life categories on a month to month basis and it works great for our family!

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  6. Libby

    06/03/2013

    We did one week of fast food fasting. Doesn’t compare to a complete no-spend month, but we were still shocked at how much money we saved! That menial dollar or two for a soda/coffee at the drive thru really adds up. What did we learn….that if we planned ahead, we didn’t NEED to stop for food. Thirsty, bring a water bottle. Want a treat? Ice cream is at home. Coffee? Don’t we own a coffee maker? lol.

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    Andrea Reply:

    It’s a start Libby — and I’m a huge fan of “starting small”! Maybe next time you can do 2 weeks :)

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  7. Janet

    06/03/2013

    We’ve needed to cut down on shopping for quite some time. Between physical limitations & treatment costs, Social Security,etc. cutting back – not an option. Tough at times, more at times for one or more than all 3 of us, but appreciating the difference between want and need much more.

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  8. Kim

    06/03/2013

    A friend of mine did something similar. They chose a dollar amount that they could spend for the entire month, including groceries and bills. I forget how much it was, but she said it really helped them pinch their pennies and re-think their spending priorities.
    We’re already very money-conscious, but I think we’ll give something like this a try once we get past gardening/preserving season. (I know, another excuse, right?) We buy and grow a lot of produce to freeze and preserve during the summer months and then live off them all winter long. If we didn’t spend the money now while the produce is fresh and prices are low, we would end up spending much more on groceries during the winter months, which kind of defeats one of the purposes of a spending fast (saving money).

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    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Kim, Just keep in mind that you could easily do this challenge and just not include expenses for preserving your food… just an idea :)

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  9. Luba

    06/03/2013

    What a wonderful idea! I need to talk to my husband about this (or do it alone). We are both frugally minded, and I can’t tell you the last time we went to fast food or the last time we ate out without a gift card.

    Last week, when we exchanged furniture with some relatives, I thought we were going to have a ton of space in our room. Are you kidding? We have enough, but not as much as I thought. With this fact in mind, why on earth do we need to buy more stuff–especially clothes?

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  10. Carrie

    06/03/2013

    Another option to curtail spending is to write down every penny spent…actually seeing every cent written down is enough to rethink extra purchases.
    This can also be used as a diet plan. Writing down every morsel of food and the time of comsumption can be enough to rethink your eating habits.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes Carrie — we already do this :) I’ve actually been doing this every year since I was in college and it does help.

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  11. Katie P.

    06/04/2013

    I tried a no-spending challenge once for clothes. I used to work as a nurse in the hospital setting, so the only clothes I really needed were scrubs and whatever I wanted to wear on my days off. Then I started a job this fall in an office setting where I needs to wear “business casual”. I really did need clothes at first, but then I just sort of got into the habit of wanting to “round out my wardrobe” and shopping all the time — especially when I got compliments at work… I had to keep that up, right?! I had to stop cold turkey and remind myself that I really had all and more than I needed. Since then I have been able to keep within our clothing budget, and can even share with my husband that I’m way under at times! I’ve enjoyed trying to challenge myself that if I’m in need of an item, to try to find it at a yard sale or thrift store first. That saves a ton of money!

    We have also “creatively cooked” only with what we had at home to stay within our grocery budget a handful of times, for as long as 10 days. Although we could have said, “well, food is a necessity, therefore, we need groceries” we decided to take the challenge to save the money! Of course, we were able to use up some things in the back of the freezer, etc that needed to be used anyway.

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  12. Morgan

    06/05/2013

    Hey Andrea! You inspired me to do a similar challenge for the month of May, but a mini-version. I did a no clothes buying month (read about it here! http://www.charlestoncrafted.com/2013/06/05/no-buying-clothes-check-in/ ) and was surprised that it was a lot less hard than I imagined- the main thing was, as you said, to avoid stores!!

    Now, I’m going to try to go June without going out to lunch. Which sounds small, but my office culture involves group lunches almost daily. It will take a lot of preparation and will power to say no, but I agree with you, no excuses, theres no good time to do it, just go for it! I’m hoping I can create some habits and put super extra $$ towards my student loans this month!!

    Thanks for being an inspiration! Morgan

    [Reply]

  13. No-Spending Challenge | Aprons and Cammies

    06/05/2013

    [...] recently came across Andrea Dekker’s No Spending Challenge and thought that it was a fantastic idea! The Mr and I are about to sit down for our quarterly [...]

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