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I’ve got some bad news to share… 33% of all American’s have zero in a savings account. And, of the two-thirds who do have a savings account their balance is less than $1,000; a far cry from the amount financial experts (including me) tell you to have.
If this sounds vaguely familiar, then a successful no spend challenge experience might just be a kick in the butt your wallet needs.
How To Have A Successful No Spend Challenge Experience
By definition, a no spend challenge is “a commitment to spend money only on necessities: gasoline, groceries, rent, utilities, etc.” and are intended to jump start savings or replenish funds that have been drained due to overspending. Most people who attempt a no spend challenge are also hoping to see long-term changes in spending habits although most experts agree it takes more than one month of no spending to radically alter someone’s spending patterns.
However, a successfully structured no spend challenge can help participants identify triggers to unnecessary spendings such as eating out, take out, trips to Target that result in nothing of NEED being purchased and the like.
And, just like diets, no spend challenges are restrictive and well challenging. To start out successful with a no spend challenge consider following these suggestions:
Don’t Go In Without A Target In Mind
All no spend challenges offer participants one thing in common – the opportunity to refrain from spending money for a set period. But that doesn’t mean every participant wants to get the same thing from the challenge.
If you decide to embark on A Debt Free Mess Free Life’s No Spend Challenge, sit down and think about what you want to get out of the process. Everyone will have a different goal depending on where they are in their financial journey. Here are some of the types of outcomes one might get for a no spend challenge:
- Ability to prove they can refrain from spending
- Save money
- Learn more about personal triggers
- Learn more effective ways to fill unmet needs besides spending money
- Develop a budget
- Harness some self-control
No matter your goal, sit down and get clear about what you want to achieve from your participation.
Remember, you’re going to be giving up something you no doubt enjoy and that can really be tough particularly if you don’t fully understand what you want to get from doing the challenge in the first place.
Don’t underestimate the impact of what occurs in a no spend challenge. I know it sounds odd to have to plan for not spending money but understand most of us are on auto-pilot. When we need something, we readily and easily go to our debit cards to get what we want. You’ll have to stop and think it through before you resort to your old patterns of behavior, and that can be tough.
Consider clearing your calendar, so you’re not tempted to break your promise and spend money. Depending on the ground rules of the challenge you participate in will determine what you allowed to spend money on and what you are not allowed to spend. Food will always be a big factor in a no spend challenge and so depending on the parameters you might have the urge to run out and stock up on a few things. Resist the urge to do so. The whole idea behind any challenge like this is to learn to make do with what you have.
Let The Creative Juices Flow
With the commitment to refrain from spending comes the opportunity to get really creative with using what you have on hand and finding ways to entertain yourself with free events and activities.
Browse your town or city’s website for free upcoming events, like art walks, festivals, and grand openings. Your local library likely has story time, workshops and other activities for you and your family to enjoy at no cost. An unexpected benefit to this challenge may be discovering all the local events you can enjoy for free.
It never fails, you decide not to spend money, and the universe begins to put all your favorites in front of you. The meal at your favorite restaurant just went back on the menu, tickets to your favorite artists go on sale in the middle of the challenge. It’s just a test of your resolve. You must be prepared for this to happen because it will or at least it will seem like the universe has conspired against you.
You can set yourself up for success by insulating yourself against these triggers. Stay off the internet as much as possible, don’t open emails from your favorite retailers (better yet unsubscribe from them), leave your debit and credit cards at home and carry a reasonable amount of cash with you for an emergency, leave yourself reminders around the house that your in the midst of a no spend challenge. Post them all over to help reinforce what you’re doing.
Develop a mantra to help solidify this goal and keep it in the consciousness of your mind. My favorite mantra for a no spend challenge is “I will happily refrain from spending because I have everything I need and nothing I want. Repeat as often as you need to to stay away from temptation.
Once the challenge is over take some time to look over your budget and make adjustments to your spending. Whatever you end up realizing and taking away from the challenge regarding savings can now be funneled to other saving or debt reduction goals.
No matter how you plan on making the most of this or any challenge, remember setbacks and slip-ups are inevitable. Just forgive yourself and move forward so you can continue to learn the lessons you set out to uncover from not spending for a month.