Want to Save Money With a Spending Freeze Challenge? Get Started Now!

By Myles Leva


Last Updated: October 30, 2023


Are you having trouble getting personal finances under control?

You’re far from alone. According to an October 2021 CNBC poll, 77% of Americans are anxious about their finances.

Of course, not everyone is equally anxious. For some people, financial struggles can be both incredibly difficult to alleviate and a cause of extreme stress. These challenges have even been known to lead to clinical depression and other serious mental health issues.

It’s not always possible to honestly tell people that everything will be ok. But there are some extreme financial changes that have been known to help people alleviate part of their struggling. One extreme option is to go through a no-spend challenge.


What is a No-Spend Challenge?

A no-spend challenge, as the name suggests, is a period of dramatically reduced spending.

It doesn’t suggest not spending at all. Rather, it means you completely eliminate discretionary spending for a set period. For example, you don’t spend anything at all except for a small, strict budget for bare essentials.

An example, you have $15 to spend on food per day and you set aside the money needed to pay for things like rent, transportation, and bills before the challenge starts. Other than that, you go through a strict spending freeze.

By no discretionary spending, we mean:

  • No food over your budget
  • Not buying anything at a convenience store
  • No buying coffee out
  • No driving your car except between home and work (no unnecessary gas use)
  • Using public transportation whenever driving isn’t completely necessary
  • No other spending whatsoever


Why Do a No Spend Challenge?

Doing a no-spend challenge is seldom actually necessary. However, it can be one of the more challenging but rewarding ways to save money or get your finances under control. The most common reasons to do a no-spend challenge are:

  • Dramatically reducing expenses to pay off debt
  • A kind of “boot camp” to force yourself to exercise better financial habits
  • Recovering from a period of excessive spending (this challenge is great after the holidays!)

For some people, there doesn’t need to be a pressing reason for a no-spend challenge. You don’t really need a reason, either. The results of a successfully completed challenge are beneficial for everyone.

If you want to challenge yourself and end up spending less and possibly saving more for any reason, then the challenge is worth it.


How Do I Do a Spending Freeze?

A no-spend challenge requires a few steps.

1. Preparing (Saving Money Rules)

The first step is the planning phase, during which you set the rules. But before that, start measuring your typical spending before starting the challenge. During the 2-4 weeks ahead of your 2-4 week no-spend challenge, simply record all your spending. You will use this information at the end of the challenge.

First, list out what you will need to spend money on. Try to avoid working backward; writing down what you can’t buy leaves a lot of wiggle room to cheat yourself out of the benefits of the challenge. Remember to stick with the necessities alone.

For the spending you must do, make sure you set a strict budget. The only exception is necessary but unpredictable spending, such as utilities. However, using less electricity, water, and gas can be an added layer to the challenge.


2. Track Your Progress

You will want to constantly remind yourself of why you’re going through the challenge. When you track your limited spending, you are positively reinforcing your behaviors. You also gain accountability to yourself, forcing yourself to assess your own behavior.

You can simply write down all your spending on grid paper or type it into an excel sheet. However, there are apps designed specifically for challenges like these that make the process much easier.


3. Keep It Up

Temptation will likely kick in at some point.

You can make the challenge easier on yourself by applying a few changes to your routine. Avoid regular habits you used to partake in that make the no-spend challenge more difficult. Leave your credit card in a drawer at home. Don’t go to the mall. Do whatever it takes to make the challenge easier to keep up.


4. Assess Your Results

This is the part that makes a no-spend challenge worth it.

When you complete the challenge successfully, you will want to measure how much money you have saved. Compare your spending under the no-spend challenge and compare it to the results you found from your preparatory assessment.

Hopefully, this will provide you with the encouragement you need to reach a moderate budget and balance your desires and financial discipline.


Spending Freeze Tips

Try these no-spend challenge ideas to make the challenge as realistic as possible.

  • Prepare yourself. The preparatory assessment and planning stages aren’t for fun. No-spend challenges can be fun (in a strange way), but you will want to prepare.
  • Choose a reasonable timeframe. If it’s your first time, it’s best to start with a shorter period. One week is a good start. If it goes well, you can become more ambitious or simply continue the challenge shortly after. But being too ambitious at the start can harm your chances of completing the challenge.
  • Get creative about entertainment. No-spend challenges can be a lot of fun, if you make them fun. Finding free or very cheap ways to entertain yourself can be exciting. Examples include pulling out old board game sets or going for a jog.
  • Be accountable to yourself. You need to systematize your accountability to yourself alone to make a spending freeze worthwhile.

13 Simple Ways to Save Money in Your Everyday Life


Are You Ready to Do a Spending Freeze Challenge?

A spending freeze is a difficult activity to do, but one that can:

  • Set a current bout of financial hardship in a better direction
  • Establish better financial habits
  • Show you what you’re capable of
  • Help you save some money for any purpose quickly

If you would like to achieve any of the above, starting conservatively with a short no-spend challenge may be a great option. If it works well, you can double down on your next challenge. By then you already know how to save money fast or how to shed off debt quickly.

Photo by Picas Joe


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