Lynn is a mother of two always looking to save a few dollars and constantly researching new ways to improve her and her families lifestyle.
Whether you're recuperating from holidays or a vacation, or just trying to get a jump start on your savings, participating in a "No Spend Challenge" will help. You can choose any amount of time you want: a day, a week, a month, or even a year.
What are the rules? Well, this is up to you, but the idea is to cut all spending except for necessities.
When I first heard about this little nugget, I was intrigued but doubtful. I convinced my sister to do it with me; this way if I needed to complain I had someone to tell me to suck it up.
We started off choosing a no-spend week (baby steps).
How to Prepare
It's not as if a perfect storm is coming, but a little preparation is needed. You will want to try and save as much as you can. This means spend as little as possible on groceries and pay only necessary expenses.
- Pick a Day to Start and Stop: This can be any day that works best for you. Decide if you are doing a no-spend weekend, week or month.
- Take Inventory: Do a complete inventory of what you have available in the refrigerator/freezer and cabinets. This will help you see what you can possibly use for dinners or lunches and lower the cost of your grocery bill.
- Make a Shopping List: You will need groceries; remember it's a need list, not a want list. This will keep you from overspending or having to make a run to the store during the week (you can't!)
- Fill up Your Gas Tank: Gas is a necessity; you do have to get to work and if you're not in walking distance than your in trouble.
- Pay Bills That Are Due: Pay your regular scheduled payments. You want to keep all payments made on time so you keep (or improve) your credit score and are not charged late fees.
- Clean Out Your Wallet: Remove all your credit and bank cards from your wallet or purse. You can make your own rule on this one. We just wanted to remove all temptation. (Our Rule: we leave a single $20 bill in the wallet for emergency use and it goes into the bank at end of the challenge.)
- Free Activities: Make a list of all the free things to do in your area. Here are 50 ideas!
Break the News to Your Family
This could possibly be the hardest part. I explained to my children that there would be no extra spending. To be honest, their faces did drop. My daughter who is 16 was the most shocked. I think it went something like:
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"Really, how am I supposed to go a week without going out with my friends, do you hate me?"
I replied the same way my parents would have: "You want money? Get a job."
My husband wanted to know if he had to stop using his cards or was this just something I was doing. Umm!
Once everyone understood completely and was on board, we were all set to begin, and so we did.
How Did Our Week Go?
We survived and we were able to put a decent amount into our savings.
During the first couple of days, we questioned our decision. We reluctantly drove by the coffee shops and did not stop at Target. However, by Friday, when it was usually take-out and a Redbox rental, we were on a roll. My daughter made a fun appetizer with what we had on hand and we found a Netflix movie.
By the end of the week we realized there is a lot to do in our area for free. We visited parks, took advantage of free festivals in our area, and actually visited the library.
We never realized how much we actually piddled away on things that were unnecessary.
Although we are not brave enough to try a "no-spend month," we have decided that once a month we will have a "no-spend week." Even my daughter is on board.
All the best and may your savings grow!