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What can you really achieve with a no-spend challenge?

Summer Fanous
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No-spend challenges are remarkably common. From Ad Buster’s annual Buy Nothing Day to No-Spend Month, to one blogger’s well-titled Fiscal Fast, there is no shortage of options for anyone looking to challenge themselves to save a few bucks.

Just because no-spend challenges are common, though, does that mean it will truly change anything? We asked people who had completed no-spend challenges and financial advisors for their takes, and for any tips they may have for those who wish to complete a challenge of their own.

Lasting effects

Hemal Patel is founder of KB Studio, a marketing consultant firm in Tallahassee, Fla.  As a business owner and recent homebuyer, he decided to take on a no-spend challenge as a way to store extra change from work so that he and his wife could better furnish their new home. 

To start, Patel listed out all of his expenses to help him more clearly visualize just what the challenge was going to look like. He then went through each expense and reduced or completely crossed out anything else he possibly could.

“Whatever other bills I had, I made sure I was reaping the most benefits from them by paying them on my credit card to get airline miles for an upcoming trip,” he said.

The experience was so positive and the game so successful that Patel is still excited about the results when sharing now, months later.

“It worked out so well, I implemented half of the strategy for the following months, and still do it today,” he said. 

Creativity counts 

Judy Williams’ no-spend challenge taught her valuable lessons that, like Patel, she continued to drawn on weeks and months down the road.

In Williams’ and her husband’s minds, they already lived frugally. The Marketing Coordinator at Emergency Fire & Water Restoration and her spouse took on a month-long low-spend challenge simply to see what else could possibly be changed in their budget. 

Shortly into their month of only spending ten dollars a week on fresh produce, the couple quickly realized that imagination and creativity were key. 

Instead of buying new clothes for winter walks, for example, Williams wore already-purchased gym leggings under jeans.

Williams explained, “what I learned was that it is a mindset, we get so much in that mindset of ‘spend’ that we aren’t always aware of how much money we can easily fritter away”.

“That month has resulted in us continuing to think in terms of creativity first when it comes to spending,” Williams concluded, noting how much fun it was to come up with out-of-the-box solutions.

The many benefits of a simple game 

There are many reasons why individuals like Williams and Patel have found luck with no-spend challenges according to Harrine Freeman, a financial expert, speaker, author and CEO and owner of H.E. Freeman Enterprises.

No-spend challenges, Freeman says, provide an incredible awareness of your money while simultaneously forcing you to rethink consumer culture.

“[They] force you to become accountable with your spending, each dollar you spend is accounted for,”  says Freeman.

“[It] helps you clearly specify how you will spend money—when, where, why, and the frequency.”

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, author of the blog Making Sense of Cents, agrees with Freeman.

Schroeder-Gardener has participated in no-spend challenges herself, and enthusiastically encourages others to join the movement. 

“Analyzing your spending can help you be more aware of where your money is going,” Schroeder-Gardner said. 

“By not allowing yourself to go shopping, you are preventing yourself from impulse shopping,” she added, “forcing yourself to think longer about the items you want to buy.”