Could you survive a no spend challenge?

Once upon a time, a group of friends in San Francisco agreed that there is too much consumerism in the world and that we all spend far too much money on things we do not need. They decided to try living for a year without spending money on anything that is not absolutely essential. By essential they meant accommodation, transport, bills, basic food, drink, toiletries, medicine and underwear.

The group called themselves The Compact and paved the way for a growing money saving trend of giving up spending for a fixed period of time. But is this really possible? Could you survive a no spend challenge?

If your finances need a complete shake up then it is worth trying a no spend challenge for at least three weeks. This is  long enough to start forming new habits and help you reflect on what you are spending and why. Who knows – maybe this could be the start of a completely new chapter for you and your finances?

If you want to do a no spend challenge then you do need to plan it carefully. There are three steps that we recommend you follow to achieve success:

Plan your food

If you tend to impulse buy, then plan your meals carefully for a few days in advance. You can then buy exactly what you need and ensure that you do not start adding in lots of other things that you don’t really need. This will not only help you to spend less but also to reduce waste: use everything that you already have before buying a load more stuff. There are various websites – such as Love Food Hate Waste – and apps that can help you make delicious meals from all kinds of combinations of ingredients rather than let them go to waste.

Find alternative sources of goods

If there is something that are not on your essentials list but that you find you do need during your no spend challenge, avoid just going and getting it. First of all, give yourself 24 hours to decide whether you really do need it. What would be the consequence of not getting it? How much would it cost if you did?

If you do still need it then try to find an alternative way of getting it rather than just getting out the plastic. Could you borrow from a friend or perhaps swap with them for something of yours that they need? Check out local free sites such as Freecycle or auction sites such as eBay where you may be able to get it much cheaper.

The key thing here is to get into the habit of not spending unless you really need to, and when you do need to then try to get the best possible price.

Social life

Socialising is where we can really spend a huge amount of money without realising. When out with friends we can feel uncomfortable saying that something is too expensive. We can get carried along with the crowd and end up spending far too much.

However, doing a no spend challenge doesn’t mean not going out and enjoying yourself, it’s more a case of finding different ways of doing that. Ways that don’t necessitate more spending. For starters we have listed some ideas below but you can probably think of many more:

  • Free film screenings (yes really: Google it!)
  • Free TV show audience tickets – try SRO Audiences
  • Visit a free museum or art gallery
  • Have friends round for dinner: everyone brings one dish
  • Picnic in the park or on the beach
  • Long country walks
  • An evening of board or card games, or video games
  • Take up a sport
  • Movie evenings at home

It can really help if you have a friend who is also doing a no spend challenge so that you can find creative ways together of having fun without a price tag attached.

A no spend challenge is also a good opportunity to reflect on your lifestyle. If you are always out and about – and spending money as a consequence – perhaps it may be time to spend more time at home? There are many useful and interesting things that you can do. These range from organising yourself – for example sorting out all your photos or music or clothes – to more creative activities such as art or sewing or cooking. You might even get out and do some gardening! Or perhaps there’s something you’ve always wanted to do such as learn another language or write a novel: maybe now is the time to get started?

Good luck with your no spend challenge!  We hope that it works for you and enables you to move forward with some new money saving ways of doing things that will help you make further changes long term. If you need any further help to rescue your finances in the short term then do get in touch with us at Loans2Go to see how we can help.