How a no-spend challenge can reduce stress and make you happier
Curb your consumerism with a no-spend challenge, where you pare down your budget to just the essentials.
Looking for a simple way to reduce stress? A no-spend challenge may be the solution.
What’s a no-spend challenge, you ask? The idea is pretty self-explanatory — challenge yourself to spend $0 beyond the absolute essentials for a set number of days. It’s like hitting the pause button on your spending.
The temporary exercise can help you prioritize your finances and figure out the most important parts of your budget and what you can live without. By taking a break from your normal financial programming, you get a chance to identify some of your less healthy money habits and hit reset.
It’s not as scary as it sounds. As with any financial goal, it’s really up to you. You’re the one responsible for setting the ground rules, and you can decide what you’re willing to cut out and for how long.
Why choose a no-spend challenge?
The benefits of such a challenge are more far-reaching than you might expect. There’s the savings, of course, but you might even notice a positive shift in your mood.
Here are just a few side effects you might experience on the journey.
You’ll save money
Obviously, one of the clear goals of a no-spend challenge is to save money. It’s a simple equation: spend less, save more. If you stick to your plan, you should notice more funds accumulating in your bank account, which can motivate you to continue saving even after the challenge ends.
More money in the bank also means you can rest easy knowing that if an emergency expense pops up, like a car repair or a broken furnace, you have enough to cover it. Or, you can apply your newfound savings to debt repayment or something fun, like that 2021 vacation fund.
Improve your financial awareness
Spending $0 on luxuries gives you an opportunity to take a step back and assess your finances. By keeping a journal, you begin to identify patterns, like what emotions motivate you to spend, or how you feel after going on a spending spree.
When you cut most of the shopping and dining-out from your lifestyle, it also means less driving and rushing around, fewer lines and, likely, a greater sense of overall calm. Slowing down can help reduce stress and give the body and mind a chance to catch up.
Find more free time
Time is our most valuable resource. So, why not replace 2 hours of shopping with a walk in the park or a nap? Those activities are completely free and they sound dreamy, don’t they?
Now that you know the basics of what a no-spend challenge entails, here’s a step-by-step guide to getting started.
Start with why
There’s no right or wrong reason to try such an experiment, but it’s worth considering what you want to get out of it. What’s inspiring you to take this step? Are you constantly overspending or in debt? Is your house too full of stuff? Do you have a large savings goal you’re working to achieve?
Determining your “why” is important, because it is what will motivate you to keep going when you’re tempted to reach for your wallet.
Set your boundaries
A no-spend challenge doesn’t require you to cut out everything. Obviously, you have to eat, pay your bills and spend on other essentials. Other than those basic bills, it’s totally up to you to determine where you want to stop spending money. Is it ordering takeout, buying clothes or forgoing expensive wine? What you decide will depend on your “why” and the financial goals you’re trying to achieve.
Establish a time limit
Next, decide how long your no-spend challenge will last. If you’re not sure how long you want to test yourself, start small. Commit to a day, a few days or even a week to see how it goes. You might even want to extend the challenge once you begin to see positive results.
Share your plan
Share your plan with those closest to you. This will help ensure that your friends and family don’t unknowingly tempt you to break your “rules.” Plus, once you share your plans, others in your immediate network might even want to join you. You can act as each other’s support system and hold each other accountable.
Keep a journal
Write down how you feel throughout your no-spend journey. If you really want to buy something but manage to resist the urge, jot down a few notes about it.
Are you still thinking about a missed purchase a few days later? Or, are you proud of yourself for sticking to your goals? Record these feelings, too. Revisiting your writing later on will provide a great deal of insight into your spending habits.
Why the no-spend challenge works
The no-spend challenge might not sound like a ton of fun, but it really can be. Even better, it works. Here’s why.
Gamification makes it fun
Gamification is when you apply game-like elements to a non-game environment. Those elements include things like establishing rules and competing with yourself.
The no-spend challenge effectively gamifies the task of saving and, in doing so, increases engagement and motivation. If you’re someone who likes a challenge, this method of saving can be super-effective.
It reduces decision fatigue
Decision fatigue is the result of being faced with too many choices. We only have so much mental energy. When all of it has been spent, our willpower starts to dwindle, which can result in poor decisions — financial and otherwise.
By establishing clear guidelines, like what you won’t spend money on and for how long, you take all of the guesswork out of your spending. There’s no need to make a decision. After a long day of work when you’re tempted to order dinner, you can tell yourself, “No, the decision has already been made.” It’s that simple.
Challenge yourself today
A no-spend challenge is a great way to prove to yourself that you are capable of living with less. It’s a simple and effective way to learn the difference between your needs and wants. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to reset the way you think about your paycheque.
So, what are you waiting for? Set your parameters and see what you can accomplish with a no-spend challenge of your own.