7 Things to Do Before a No-Spend Challenge

Let’s celebrate! I actually completed a no-spend week without major fails. Yayyyyy!!!

If you’re unfamiliar with no-spend challenges, here’s the gist: Don’t spend any money on things other than necessities, such as bills, groceries and gas. Chips from the vending machine and brunches with the girls don’t count. You can do it for a week, 3 weeks, a month or even a year. And there are tons of benefits to doing a no-spend challenge besides saving money like losing weight and having time for things besides shopping.

About three years ago, I completed the 21-Day Financial Fast under syndicated columnist’s Michelle Singletary’s tutelage. It was life-changing. But I hadn’t done another no-spend challenge until this year under Bola Onada Sokunbi‘s guidance.

In her accountability program, members complete a no-spend week every four weeks. It’s a monthly reset. I failed the first three challenges because I didn’t prepare at all. I just winged it. But I think I’ve unlocked the keys to starting a no-spend challenge on a high note and sustaining that momentum.

1. KNOW AND WRITE DOWN YOUR GOAL(S).

You will hit a wall during the no-spend challenge. You will. You will get stressed at work or school and want to indulge in retail therapy. It helps to know why you’re doing the challenge in the first place. Write it down and go back to that note when you’re feeling down.

Perhaps you want to save an extra $100 or simply stop running to Target every other day (We’ve all been there). Keep a post-it note in your wallet, make a screensaver on your phone or create a daily alert on your phone so you see your goal first thing in the morning.

No-Spend Challenge Preparation Tips

2. KEEP POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS OR QUOTES IN SIGHT.

Reading and reciting money affirmations does wonders. When you write down your goals, scribble down some affirmations, too. Empower yourself with a few of these gems I’ve collected over the years:

  • I control my money. Money doesn’t control me.
  • I am sensible with money and manage it wisely.
  • I am content and grateful for what I have.
  • I have more than what I need.
  • My actions create constant prosperity.
  • Financial success is mine! I accept it now.

3. DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN NEEDS AND WANTS.

Needs vs. Wants: The biggest battle of all time. Ha! That’s what I’ve told myself, but it doesn’t have to be if we get real with ourselves. Natasha M. Campbell, a.k.a. The Wealth Stylist, created a little diddy that’s stuck with me. “Needs sustain me. Wants entertain me.”

Needs sustain me. Wants entertain me.

As much as we like to think a caramel latte is a need, it’s not. As much as we think Happy Hour with our friends is a need, it’s not. Books (Oh, how I adore crisp, new pages!) go in the wants pile, too. These are things we value. They bring joy to our lives, but we could survive without them. If you don’t get clear about your true needs, then you’ll sabotage your no-spend challenge by making excuses and justifying avoidable expenses.

4. LIST AND BUDGET NECESSITIES.

You can’t avoid paying for gas, childcare or housing costs. Write down upcoming expenses you might incur during your no-spend challenge and budget accordingly. If you forget about a certain expense during the challenge, you might feel blindsided and spin out of control. Bonus tip: If possible, fill up your gas tank and create automatic payments for some payments before the challenge and set aside money in a cash envelope for other expenses.

5. ELIMINATE SPENDING TRIGGERS.

Those emails from Target—unsubscribe NOW! Your daily route to work that includes your favorite bakery—change it! If you want to lose weight, you don’t hang out in a food court, right? The same principle applies with money management. Don’t put yourself in tempting situations.

Also, take into account how you feel when you spend. Are you bored? Are you hungry? Are you mad at bae? Consider preempting setbacks by creating an action plan. Write a list of chores or free things you want to do when you get bored and tempted to walk around the mall. If you get hungry at 3 p.m. every single day, bring fruits or pre-packaged snacks to work to avoid hitting up the vending machine. If you feel stressed, go to the park or hit up a free kickboxing video on YouTube. You know what sets you off, so be proactive about how you’re going to handle yourself.

6. MEAL PLAN. MEAL PLAN. MEAL PLAN.

This is a big one! Go ahead and plan every single meal and snack for the week. Buy only those groceries. Cook up your meals and pack your lunch. Oh, yeah. Don’t forget to carry your meals to work. I forgot once this week and had to get takeout. Learn from my mistakes.

Consider making stews and pastas. When you make a big batch, you can ration the meals out and easily put them in containers. Also, consider keeping grilled chicken on deck for salads, tacos and whatever else. Fruits like bananas, apples, pears and oranges are tasty and portable. During your no-spend challenge, you just want to grab and go.

In March, I made a huge investment and bought an oven, rice cooker, pots, pans and other cookware from a teacher who was returning to Canada. BEST. DECISION. EVER. Cooking from home cuts down on your meal budget significantly and can even cut an inch or two from your waist. Win-win!

7. TELL THE WORLD ABOUT IT.

That’s right! Put your friends, family and co-workers on notice. Tell them how long you’ll be on the no-spend challenge, tell them why you’re doing it and ask for their support. A simple text or Facebook message will work, for example.

“Hey, guys. I’m challenging myself to not spend on anything extra this week so I can save some cash. Please encourage me to stick to the plan and don’t invite me to any events unless they’re $Free.99. Please and thank you! ;)”

You might be surprised. You might gain a money buddy who wants to join the challenge. Secrecy doesn’t work. I didn’t tell the folks closest to me about No-Spend Week and they kept inviting me to eat out left and right. I bravely fought off temptation because I remembered my goal, and my friends backed off from asking me out.

With these tips, you’ll be completely prepared for your no-spend challenge.

Are you planning to do a no-spend challenge or have you done a no-spend challenge? How do get prepared? Please share your insights below.

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