Tips for doing a successful no-spend challenge

Looking for a way to give your savings a boost? You might want to consider completing a no-spend challenge. We take a look at how it works and offer tips and ideas for success.

There are plenty of challenges out there that can help you save money. There’s the Coke bottle challenge which involves popping any $2 coins that come your way into a Coke bottle. There’s the 52-week challenge where you save $1 in week one and increase it by $1 each week. At the end of week 52, you’ll have saved $1,378. And then there’s the no-spend challenge, which has been growing in popularity over the past few years

What is a no-spend challenge?

Despite the name, a no-spend challenge doesn’t mean you can’t spend any money at all – after all, you still need to eat and make sure the lights are turned on. The idea is that you don’t spend money on unnecessary items such as new clothes or make-up, takeaway meals, books or entertainment activities. Some people try to limit their spending on the essentials too, but this is something that you may want to work up to. Essentially, you can decide what you can and can’t spend money on during the challenge.

You then pick a time period – it could be a weekend, a week, a month or even a year – and the challenge begins…


Woman holding calendar
Source: Could you go one month without spending money? Syda Productions (Shutterstock)

Tips for a successful no-spend challenge

There are a number of things you can do to increase your chances of being successful. Here are some suggestions.

Set a goal

Think about why you want to complete a no-spend challenge. It might be because you want to save as much money as you can in a particular period or maybe you want to reduce your impulse spending. Knowing what you want to achieve can help you stick to the challenge. Also think about what you will do with the money you save. You may want to use it to pay off debt, stash it in a savings account or start investing.

Write down your rules

It’s a good idea to write down a list of what you are allowed to spend money on during the challenge and what items are off-limits. Having this all in writing will help keep you accountable so that you aren’t tempted to ‘cheat’.

Start small

If you are worried it will all be too hard, rather than scrapping the idea altogether consider starting small. Maybe you don’t aim for a month right off the bat. Try a weekend first. Or, rather than eliminating all unnecessary spending, focus on one particular area  – maybe it’s no takeaway meals for a month or no new clothes. Ideally choose something that will actually be a challenge. There’s little point saying you won’t spend money on new makeup for one month if it’s not something you’d normally buy anyway.

Find a buddy

One way to increase your chance of success is to have a friend or family member support you. It needs to be someone you know will be tough on you. For example, if you’re tempted to buy something you should be able to call them and they will talk you out of it. They can also be there to help you celebrate your successes along the way. If you find someone that will do the challenge with you then that can be even better.

Unsubscribe and unfollow

Unsubscribe from newsletters from your favourite stores and unfollow them on social media so that you aren’t tempted by what you see. The same goes for anyone else you may follow on social media.

Stay away from the shops

Don’t visit the shops unless it is a necessity. If you have to go, then simply take enough cash for anything you need and keep your credit or debit card at home. If you normally use your smartphone to pay consider deleting the app that you use to do this.

Make a wish list

If there are things you really want to buy during the challenge period then write them down. There is a good chance that you will no longer want them after the time is up. If there is something you still want then you can consider buying it. Think about it carefully though because you don’t want to undo all your hard work.

Ideas that may help if you feel tempted to spend

Let’s face it, for most of us a challenge like this won’t be easy – particularly if you are aiming for one month. There will more than likely be times that you are tempted to buy a new outfit, want a new book to read or feel like a night out. Here are some ideas on how to stick to your no spend rule.

Use any gift cards you have

If you have any gift vouchers lying around then consider using them. Make sure you really want the item though. It can be a good idea to wait a couple of days before making a purchase.

Make the most of reward points

Another option is to take a look at any rewards you have built up through your credit card or loyalty program such as Flybuys. Do you have enough that you can redeem to buy the item you want?

Borrow items from friends or family

Reach out to family and friends to ask if they have what you want and are willing to lend you. This could be anything from an outfit to the latest best-selling book.

Check out swap sites

You might be able to barter or swap goods or services. A good place to start your search is the Community Exchange System Australia website. There are more than 50 Australian exchange groups registered and you can try to find one that is close to you.

Look for free stuff

There’s plenty of free stuff up for grabs online. If you’re on Facebook you can join Pay it Forward groups. People post items they are giving away and you can also post asking for items you’re looking for. It may also be worth checking out Freecycle and Ziilch.


Man reading ebook
You may still be able to read new books without spending any money. Source: Antonio Guillem (Shutterstock)

Have a plan for various situations

It can be a good idea to think about what your options might be to get you through a range of situations without spending a cent. Here is some inspiration.

When you want something new to read…

Paying a visit to your local library is an obvious solution but you might be surprised to hear that you may be able to get some ebooks for free. Amazon Australia, for example, offers a selection of ebooks for free. Enter “free kindle books” in the search field on the website to see what’s on offer. Watch out for those that say Kindle Unlimited as they are only free if you have a Kindle Unlimited membership, but there are still plenty of books to choose from including a range of popular classics. You will need to download the free Kindle app to read them.

Apple Books also offers a selection of free ebooks, which you can find using the ‘Free Books’ tab in the Book Store section of the app, and so does Google through its Play Store. You can also get your hands on free ebooks at Booktopia and Project Gutenberg Australia.

When you want something new to watch…

Most of the streaming services offer free trials which is one way to watch something new without spending any money. Stan and Amazon Prime, for example, offer 30 day free trials, Binge has a two-week free trial period, while Apple TV+ is offering seven days free. While Netflix doesn’t offer a free trial you can watch a selection of shows for free online.

Don’t forget to cancel your free trial so that you aren’t charged when the free period ends. Some providers will allow you to request the cancellation as soon as you sign up and let you still use the service for the remainder of the trial period. If not, set a reminder to be alerted a day before it ends.

When you are looking for something fun to do…

Having fun doesn’t have to cost you any money – there are a plethora of free activities you can enjoy. If there’s a museum or gallery you want to visit, find out if they have free entry days. Keep an eye out for local events. And then there are the simple things like taking a walk on the beach, having a picnic at the local park and playing board games with the kids. You can also find plenty of inspiration for free activities online.

When you want something new to wear on a night out…

If you have the skills consider altering an existing outfit to give it a refresh. Alternatively, look for clothes swapping events happening in your area.

When you want to catch up with friends for dinner…

You can still have dinner with friends – it just may look a little different. Get everyone to pitch in and have a potluck dinner where everyone brings a plate of food. Or, if you’re feeling more adventurous (and your friends live nearby) try a progressive dinner. The idea is that each friend prepares a course and you go from house to house to eat. So let’s say there are four of you in the group – the first person serves entrees, the second person takes care of the main, the third does dessert and you might go to the fourth person’s house for after-dinner drinks.

When you feel like a treat…

Sometimes you may just want a bit of a treat –  maybe a coffee or a doughnut. Some stores offer freebies if you sign up to their loyalty program or if it’s your birthday, so it can be worth checking out what’s on offer.

Cover image source: Vladimir Sukhachev (Shutterstock)

This article was reviewed by Editor-at-Large Effie Zahos before it was published as part of our fact-checking process


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