No Spend Challenge: What You'll Learn When Spending No Money


Typically known as a “ No-Spend Week “ spending absolutely no money for a week may seem like a daunting task. Have you ever tried a no-spend week? Well, my friends and I did, and this is how it went.

 

A week of spending no money didn’t seem too daunting to me before starting, which is why I was the one who initially suggested it to my group of friends as our next podcast challenge. However, there were a lot of little things I never thought about until actually starting it.

Our podcast (listen here), is called Better Off Better, and it started with me and my two best friends entering into a verbal agreement that affected my life from then on. We do weekly challenges to test out things that people everywhere seem to think make them better people. Now, we know we aren’t great people, so why not try and fix that though very competitive challenges where we purposely pit ourselves against each other? Doesn’t that sound healthy?

Like every week, I really wanted to win. My dad talks a lot about money, spending, and creative ways of not spending money, so I thought there wasn’t much I could learn from this challenge. So what could be taken from this week? Surprisingly, a lot. Here’s my list of most important things I took away from a no-spend week, and why you should try it too!

1- Wants are very different from needs

During this week I realized how many small things I’d buy on a whim. Whether I wanted a bowl of ice cream and realized we were out, or I just ran out of my favorite tea, every small expense that seems important at the time adds up.

Being conscious of the small expenses you have during the week is actually pretty overwhelming, but it felt good to resist the more trivial wants. After all, it’s just a week. That craving for ice cream will pass, and maybe you can finish off the box of tea you’ve had in the back of your cabinet forever.

I found that most of the impulse items I wanted to buy were just that, impulse items. Almost none of them were things I ended up actually purchasing when the week was through, and that really changed the way I think about items from then on out. Try waiting a week when you want to buy something from an instagram ad and see if you really still want that glow in the dark coffee mug in a week. Chances are you’ll forget all about it, and your bank account will be happy that you did.

2- You don’t need to go to a restaurant for a good meal

Now, for our challenge we didn’t even allow buying groceries, but we made it work. Grabbing an old bottle of wine and making what we already had in the fridge for dinner was actually really nice. Getting creative with ingredients and resisting the urge to buy a meal and grab a drink really didn’t change anything except the price tag.

Even if it’s just one night, saving the money from that trip out really does make a difference. Spending some quality time cooking dinner and getting creative with what you already have is a great way to save money, use up those little bits of leftover ingredients, and (if you’re over 21) polish off a few half-drunk bottles.

Having friends over rather than meeting at a restaurant is much more intimate, and everybody drinking their own almost-empty bottles of wine really spices up the cooking process! (Be safe of course!)

3- The little things add up

I kind of touched on this in the other points, but everything, no matter how small, starts to add up. Even 50 cents to wash your clothes adds up overtime. Saving those small amounts of money where you can is a great way to keep your bank account happy. Also, it’s really worth it in the end.

This week made me see just how many little things I had in my house that I got just because they were cute and “hey, what’s a dollar anyways”. How many of those items do I really use? Probably one or two. I think after the week of no spending, I think more before I buy something, and if I still want it after a week or longer, then I look into buying it.

Budgeting also falls into this. As someone who loves to buy little sculptures and crafts, I like to set goals before I buy them. Maybe you need to externally make or save that money before you buy. Or maybe every time you get an item you have to sell another. All of these things encourage you to think before you buy. And it’s a great habit to have.

4- Lists are your friend

I know, what does this have to do with spending money? Well, something that I found really helpful during my no-spend week was list-making. I had a list of items I would have impulse purchased, and added to it every time I almost hit that checkout button on amazon.

This showed me plain as day at the end of the week, how much money I saved. And looking back on the items, I had no interest in about 90% of them by the time the week was over. Making lists of items you still want after that waiting period is also helpful, as you can give that list to people for future reference for gift ideas and so on.

The items I did go back and buy after the week challenge tended to be food items. Since the no-spend week I have started making grocery lists much more. Instead of going to the store for an item or two when I wanted it. Planning meals and waiting to replenish snacks until the end of the week has saved me money. Also, it creates less waste of food items being forgotten or unused.

5- It isn’t as urgent as it seems

You may see a video of someone showing off their brand new phone case and think “I need that right now”. But, do you? What difference will waiting to buy that shiny new phone case make? If you’re worried you’ll forget to go back and buy it. Then did you even need it in the first place?

In my opinion, anything you will really get use out of is worth waiting for. Impulse buying is so easy to do these days. Every possible item in the world is right there in your hands just waiting to be clicked on. It’s overwhelming and honestly its awful for us. The amount of items I buy and completely forget about until they show up on my doorstep is testament to that.

So I’ll say it again. It isn’t as urgent as it seems. Things can wait. Think about how many hours of work it will take to earn that money back. Think about how many hours of enjoyment you’ll get from that item. How many uses it has. If you already have an item that serves the same purpose. Then, and only then, decide on if you really need to buy it right this second. I promise you’ll exit out of so many checkout screens and save so much money.

Additional thoughts

1- Meals are expensive

2- Activities are expensive

3- Everything is expensive

4- Remember to pay your rent!

That’s about all I have for you this week!

Make sure to check out our podcast Better Off Better and listen to us struggle to make it through a week of no money:

 

Also, how about the author of this post Jenny Whipple.

And of course, our Youtube channel for video podcasts and other comedy stuff.

Lastly, here’s our list on surviving a no-spend week here