Within our day to day lives, we get so caught up with consumerism and the ability to purchase things instantly on the internet–whether we have the money or not–that we never have to do without.
This often leads us to become very soft and fragile when it comes to hardship. Our lives are so simple, easy, and wonderful that whenever someone says “no,” we feel like it is the end of the world.
Well, what if we voluntarily started saying “NO”? What if we went an extended period of time not indulging our inner voice screaming for that new gadget, that shiny thing at the mall, or that dessert our waistline certainly doesn’t need. I will tell you right now, all of these situations would certainly not be the end of the world if you went without. As much is it may seem like it–you can do it, I promise!
This is the whole idea behind the no spend challenge: go for an extended period of time without spending any money. Now, I’m not saying don’t pay your rent or your credit card bill, but stop all voluntary consumer decisions for a set time frame and see how your spending habits change. This could be a week, or even a month or two. Whatever you feel like you could successfully do.
I personally have done a number of these “no spend challenges” and it has completely changed my life. No longer do I find my paycheck evaporating out from under me the minute I get it. I use to be a latte buying, magazine reading, glitter loving, compulsive consuming member of society. After a few weeks of absolutely no spending, I have eliminated that underlying desire to purchase whatever is being advertised in front of me.
Here is how I did it:
1) Decide how long you want to do it: One day is pretty easy, but two to four days is more than doable for your first attempt. Once you get further down the rabbit hole, try a week or two at a time.
2) Make sure you are prepared to go that length of time: For example, If you have absolutely nothing in your fridge you likely aren’t going to do very well at this challenge. I’m not advocating for you to go out and stock up on everything in your fridge and pantry, but at least give yourself a fighting chance.
3) Stop spending: Hit start on your countdown clock or whatever you want to signify your commitment, but you are officially in. Don’t be afraid to spread the word and tell all your friends and family that you are challenging yourself.
4) Record your thoughts and feelings during the duration of the challenge: You will find that many of your purchases are driven or associated with specific emotions.
5) Finish the challenge and reflect: You can start to determine if your purchases are things you truly need, things you can live without, or simply the result of great advertising.
6) Plan your next challenge and try to push yourself for longer and longer periods.
I found out a number of things out about my spending habits after my first challenge:
The first was that I have a lot of food in my pantry. I could probably survive for a month of so off my stockpile of goods, and that I will no longer be making special trips to the supermarket when I can simply shop in my cupboards.
Second, I really don’t need that morning coffee or breakfast, and although I feel like my world will end without my latte, I suffice just fine!
Finally, if there is a specific product that I really want, and if I truly need it, I will want it just as badly a month later. Products that I don’t need and are impulse decisions don’t last longer than a day or so, maybe a week at most.
The no spend challenge really keeps me honest. Plus, you wouldn’t believe how much money I have saved! Before these challenges, I would wonder where all my money was going and why I couldn’t save much each paycheck. These days, I’m able to pay myself a lot more, which is a great feeling and makes me so excited for the future.
All in all, these challenges are a fantastic way to clean up your life and finances. It brings you back down to earth on what’s really important in life. So, go ahead and take a challenge. I guarantee you will want to do another one.