Recently I came across several posts and YouTube videos talking about the no spending challenge- and how you can use them to save money. They ranged from not spending money on certain days of the week or trying to not spend anything for 30 days.
So what is the No Spend Challenge? The idea is that if you’ve been struggling to save money you could assign a few days a week to be no spending days and challenge yourself to not spend anything on these days going forward. Or you can take it further and not spend anything for the entire month.
Lockdown the credit card and don’t spend any money over whatever challenge you set yourself. The day starts, you spend nothing during the entire day, the day finishes. That’s it. Simple. Now you’re on the road to FI… right?
Why I don’t like the No spend Challange
The “no spend day challenge” is portrayed as some sort of frugal enlightenment, where you erase all of your daily consumption habits. No morning coffee, no lunch purchases, and no online shopping when you get home.
I really don’t like this idea- and think that- yes- in the short term it might help you save some money- but in the long term it’s not going to help. It’s like extreme dieting- you might lose a lot of weight. But what happens when it’s over?
Many people who have gone on extreme diets might know that once you finish them you tent do go back to your old way and that weight comes back. The crash diet followed by a binge.
That’s the problem with no spend challenge- going from one extreme to another is not a good way of forming a habit. I think you have to bring in small changes over time and give them enough time to form into a habit.
No spending Challange isn’t what you think
Digging into the no spending challenge- its actually less of a challenge than I thought- the challenge is normally set at 3 different levels depending on how hardcore you are.
Level 1: You challenge yourself to forgo something specific, you select something that you think you are spending too much on and then for the next month you don’t spend anything on whatever it is- be it a hobby, or something that you regularly spend money on like a daily coffee.
Level 2: You challenge yourself to not spend money on a whole area of your life– like no shopping for clothes. Or, you can choose not to go out for dinner for an entire month. That means you’ll have to cook dinner every… single…. night… for an entire month. Oh, the horror I know. Are millennial’s really going out to eat that often? For me, it would mean giving up the occasional night food market- and possibly buy the odd takeaway. Other than that I’d say about 80 to 90% of the time I’m cooking at home- or going to pot lucks and BBQs at friends houses.
Level 3: Then if you’re hardcore- you can try not to spend at all. Yes, that is what some of the videos have been saying. I mean at this stage it’s gone too far. Can anyone really spend nothing for 30 days? Sure you can stockpile food and sustain yourself for a month. But what about the mortgage payment or bills? Are you going to be late on all you bills to win the challenge? At this stage it’s absurd, more self-inflicted deprivation than a challenge.
Am I out of Touch?
That got me thinking- am I out of touch? is this really a challenge? Does the typical millennial’s life revolve around purchasing something every day? How often do people go and buy home decor and cloths or tech gadgets? Is this a weekly occurrence?
Sure the no spending at all will be a challenge for me! And I think it would be for everyone. Given that if you weren’t mortgage-free- then you’d be spending on interest payments, or if you are renting you’ll be spending on rent. Even beyond that- you’d be hard-pressed to not spending anything on food or transport.
When I look around at our city’s it doesn’t surprise me that this has become a challenge. Shopping has now become more a source of an entertainment, rather than going out to acquire resources to make our lives better. Just look at the shopping cathedrals being built. There seems to be a new shopping mall opening all the time.
It might sound like I’m bragging that I spend so little- but in reality- I spend what I choose to spend. Throughout the week I don’t typically spend anything. I go to work and come home. We buy all our food on Sundays, and anything fresh is usually available in the garden. Occasionally we will go out on a Friday or Saturday.
But that’s just me! I don’t particularly enjoy coffee from a cafe more than the coffee I get for free at work. I don’t have the desire to buy new things or go clothes shopping at the weekend. But it finds if that’s what you want to do with your money- it’s your money after all. Just be deliberate with it.
Saving is not suppose to be a challenge- you have to plan for it.
Make a goal for what you want to save- set up an automatic payment to save the amount you need to achieve your goal. Stick to the automatic payments- and forget about it. Spend whatever you have deliberately set aside to spend- rather than going on a crash “no spend” month to try and save. You’ll probably end up spending extra next month.
Are There Any Benefits?
So the idea of a no-spend challenge seems strange to me- but I do think there are a couple of benefits in doing it. It makes you reflect on what you are actually buying and using. So if you challenge yourself not to spend any money for a period of time, you will be more in tune with what you are actually spending money on. Or you could just track your spending- either manually or automatically with something like Pocketsmith
Then you can go and decide if spending money on that particular thing is really bringing you value in your life- and make adjustments accordingly.
So what’s your opinion on the fade of doing a no spending challenge?
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2 thoughts on “Is the “No Spending Day Challenge” a thing?”
I’m in agreement with your thinking. I much prefer setting up good habits in the first place that don’t need require going too extreme for a short time. Small consistent changes for a long duration will make a much greater impact that large changes occasionally. And it won’t feel like a sacrifice
Fully agree, Rohan.
Your analogy to dieting is right on the button. Short term gains to risk big long term backward steps.
Better to cultivate smaller longer term habits that are sustainable.