The One Month No-Spending Challenge

A one-month no-spend challenge is where you only spend money on necessities like rent, utilities, transportation costs, and groceries. It avoids spending money on anything outside the necessity category for one month. Anything outside your predetermined needs must wait until the challenge is over. This challenge can help you identify your spending habits and find ways to use your money more wisely. 

Before starting the challenge, determine which items are essential (like groceries) and decide how strict you want to be. The goal is not to purchase anything unnecessary.

We have done this multiple times in our lives. At other times, we have done “food money fasts,” which included no food for one month. Some have extended it beyond one month because it worked so well, and we could've kept going. 

We did the first one in the summer because we figured we had a garden, and people gave us stuff from their garden. But after that, we did a several-month one in the winter, which worked just as well. They're pretty fun and exciting, not drudgery. It was like always looking for what blessing is around the next corner. In many ways, it was a relief. It greatly simplified our lives by reducing decisions that we had to make.

During the no-spend challenge, you will still need to pay for your rent or mortgage, gas, utility bills, insurance, groceries, and essential personal care items. To get started, list items and services you consider essential. Review the list and ask yourself if all of your essentials are important or if some are unnecessary or impulsive. You can give yourself some room to decide what’s essential for you.

Before starting the challenge, decide in advance which expenditures you will avoid. You may determine that certain exceptions will be made, such as "no gifts" except for your sister’s birthday or beautician appointments except for a needed haircut. 

The following should definitely be off the spending list:

  • Eating out
  • Clothing, 
  • Home decor and furnishings
  • Personal care items or services
  • Gifts (make something, give coupons, regift if you have to give gifts)
  • Hobbies
  • Entertainment (movies, concerts, streaming services, etc.)

Think about the most difficult part of the challenge and create ways to cope. If your social life will be tough to navigate, recruit friends to join the challenge. We had a rule: We told no one, so if they offered something, we took it and later told how they had been part of the blessing to our experiment.

 If online shopping is your budget-killer, unsubscribe from retail email lists and delete shopping apps from your phone. Here are a few additional ways to set yourself up for success: 

  • Unsubscribe from memberships and apps
  • Set aside time during the week for meal prep and bring lunch to work
  • Make your own coffee and skip the coffee shop
  • When you get an urge to buy something, add it to a post-challenge wish list

You don't have to isolate yourself at home to save money. Instead, get creative and look for free activities. You may even find that some free experiences are more enjoyable than you usually spend money on!

Here are eight free things you can do instead of spending money: 

  1. Take a hike: Whether you're walking a mile or seven, hiking is an excellent way to spend time outdoors. You can go alone to connect with nature or invite friends.
  2. Get some exercise: Many great athletes and trainers offer workouts on social media and YouTube. Or you can download one of the many free apps that feature yoga, strength training, and high-intensity workouts.
  3. Dine out in nature: We often did this combined with our bike ride. When we invited others to come with us, they couldn't quit exclaiming over how fun and relaxing it was. Propose a potluck in the park.
  4. Host a movie night: What about old movies or TV shows from your younger days? Plenty on Youtube
  5. Parks and beaches: During the summer, head to the nearest beach. Visit a park near your home that you've never been to before. If you live near a botanical garden, even better. Pack a cooler full of sandwiches and drinks.
  6. At-home spa night: Create a spa atmosphere with candles and music, and pamper yourself.
  7. Visit art galleries and museums: Support local artists by visiting small galleries or check if any local museums have free visitor days.
  8. Create a gourmet meal: Try recreating your favorite meal instead of dining out. Pull up an online recipe or follow along with a cooking show. Take your time, experiment, and have fun with it.

The one-month no-spend challenge encourages better spending habits by limiting purchases to essential items and services for one month. You'll learn a lot about your money habits and may realize that some of your "needs" are not essential.

Make spending less money a game by trying a one-month no-spend challenge. Motivate yourself to stick with it by setting up a reward once the challenge ends. And be sure to track how much you save over those 30 days.