Prepare For a No Spend Challenge

Prepare for a No Spend Month!

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Sometimes we go was overboard with our money spending. We don’t have an income problem, we have a money spending problem.

A big one.

Oh, this is cute, I’ll buy it.

You want new shoes to add to your other 42 pairs? OK! That sounds like a totally responsible decision. My little girl inherited my love of shoes…*Eye roll here*

We spend so much money on unnecessary wants and then we’re annoyed when we can’t go out to do something fun as a family, or we have to cancel date night because our bank account told us to settle down.

Instead of saving extra money, we go out for coffee most days of the week. Frilly coffee plus 2 kids chocolate milks several days a week really adds up! Plus I’m startin to put some inches on around the waist… Time to cut back on the sugar AND the spending.

I let my inner lazy girl talk my organized-wants-to-be-healthy-girl into fast food for lunch on my husband’s days off or after the gym with the kids. Talk about counterproductive.

I get bored so we take a trip to Michael’s or Target just to get out of the house. Bad idea. Actually, expensive idea.

There is a big, big difference between want and need. And we all know that.

But somehow, we are able to tell ourselves that the wants are things we need.

We need groceries and electricity. We want coffee, donuts, and workout clothes.

Rosemarie Groner of The Busy Budgeter was the first to introduce me to the no-spend challenge. She’s pretty awesome. Got budget problems? Or just no budget? Head over to TheBusyBudgeter, she’s got a great BudgetBootCamp and some other great tips.

She’s also the reason I started blogging. I’m telling you, she is all kinds of awesome and motivating! I’ve never even met her and I feel like she’s my biggest cheerleader sometimes.

So, after I read what she had to say about doing a no-spend challenge, I knew we had to give it a shot. I brought the idea to my husband and he was completely on board. A little more than I was, honestly.

But I was determined.

No spend means no wants. You’ll still be spending money on groceries, bills, gas, the usual need-to-have-to-live-and-avoid-bill-collectors.

That’s it. Bills, the necessities. No Starbucks. No Target. No extras.

And since you won’t be going anywhere but the places you absolutely must, you’ll be cutting down on gas use. There’s a hidden win.

My husband and I decided our first challenge needed to be 2 weeks if we wanted to succeed. A whole month would have just set us up for failure. Baby steps.

Pick a time frame that suits you. We’ve started going whole months for our no-spend challenges. But we’ve gotten used to what that means. We like staying home and doing “nothing” with the kids more often now. Now that we know what to expect each challenge, we’re getting pretty good and coming up with fun, free things to do.

This does mean that there will be times you’ll have to turn down an invitation to a girl’s night out to painting and wine.

But that doesn’t mean you’ll miss out. Invite the girls in for painting and wine. Or something just as fun that you already have. They may say no, but they may also be relieved to have a cheaper, just as fun option!

You may have to turn down an invitation to a birthday party if you don’t already have a gift on hand.

No one likes to tell friends they can’t afford something. We all have that little bit of keep up with the Jones’ mindset. And that’s exactly what we need to break.

My husband and I want to buy a new truck and trailer so we can take the kids camping and traveling. We want to buy a piece of land and to build our dream home.

None of that is going to be possible if we keep blowing the money we could be saving each pay check.

Don’t get me wrong, the no-spend challenges are extremely tough for us at times. We try to make excuses but we are able to hold each other accountable.

I can’t tell you how good it felt when we finally got out of debt. Our only debt is our house and my car. We’re working on paying off my car now.

It’s fun to have all the latest and greatest stuff; new clothes, coffee with friends. But aren’t your long-term savings goal more important?

Wouldn’t it be so much more satisfying to lay out by your new “forever pool” (that’s what my daughter calls in ground pools), than spending hundreds to go to a hotel to do the same thing for only a day or 2?

Go write down your long-term money goals. Just jot down the things you want most for your family.

I’ll wait.

Done? Now think about what it will take to make those dreams happen.

The first step toward those dreams is training yourself to know the difference between want and need, and to make yourself stop splurging on all the wants.

There is some prep work to be done before a no-spend challenge, though.

Prep work doesn’t mean you binge spend at Costco, stocking up on all the expensive cuts of meat and all those bulk items that shoot your total into the oh-crap-do-we-have-room-on-the-Costco-Visa-for-all-this? range.

It means you look around your kitchen, figure out what you’re working with, meal plan and prep, and stock just enough toiletries and laundry supplies to last you through the challenge.

Talk with your spouse.

It’s extremely important that you talk to your spouse about the no-spend challenge. Lay out the ground rules and come to an agreement on what the necessities are. If you don’t talk ahead of time, there’s a lot of “I thought this was something we needed!” Or, “you didn’t tell me this wasn’t an approved purchase!”

Even if they aren’t on board right away, they may come around after they see the money that you saved by sticking to the plan.

Meal plan!

This is a little different from regular, on a budget meal planning. This is scrimp-and-save meal planning.

Go through your cupboards and fridge and get creative! I call this the Mother Hubbard Phase. Use what you have! Chicken dinos and waffles will be a big hit with the kids!

You may have to make a run to the store a time or 2 to get milk or fruits and veggies to add to the meals. But that’s it.

Don’t get sucked in by all those goodies at the check out lanes.

Toiletries and laundry supplies!

I am notorious for letting our toilet paper and ALL laundry detergent run low. It’s so annoying, I don’t know why I just don’t knock it off.

Usually the day before we start our no-spend challenge, I make a Walmart run if we are low on these things. I check our toothpaste, toilet paper, body wash, shampoo, and laundry detergent.

I buy only the things we need. No cheating.

I always do this the day before so I don’t have time to wander the store and pick up any other things we “need”.

The first time we did a no-spend challenge, it was rough, I can’t lie. We both ended up going to Starbucks once during the time period.

But it also taught us what was really important to buy and what the things were that we could live without.

My biggest lesson was that I am an impulse buyer. I see it, I like it, I buy it. Things for the kids, things for me and the hubby, anything. I have a major spending problem.

Without trips to the stores, there was nothing for me to buy. I saved quite a bit of money.

I don’t need new clothes every single time I go to a store. Yes, it’s nice to get something new every once in a while, but watching our savings account grow is even nicer.

Even the kids have a good time during our no-spend challenges. They enjoy staying home and playing with their toys. They don’t need to constantly be toted here and there. They don’t always need to be entertained by something that costs a lot of money. I’ve never met a kid that liked being on the go every day.

Our next no-spend challenge is coming up and I plan to do a bike-park tour with the kids. Our neighborhood has parks everywhere! Why not take a bike ride to a new one each day? My daughter is thrilled with the idea!

Each challenge period brings on its own, well, challenges. But as soon as you get serious about it, you find solutions or you just do without.

It gets easier each time.

Check out some of the other ways I try to save some money around the house!

Give it a try!

Have you already done a no-spend challenge? What are you favorite freebie things to do with the kids? How did you survive?