On a No-Spend Challenge? Behaviors to Watch Out For

No Spend ChallengeWith a new year underway, many of us are working on financial resolutions.

I don’t make a lot of financial new year resolutions, but I do try to improve my money situation each year.

One of the things I like to do is consider my spending, and figure out whether or not it matches up with my priorities.

Over time, unimportant things tend to creep into my spending habits, and soon I find that my money is being wasted on things I don’t need — and maybe don’t even want.

In order to combat this state of affairs, I know a number of people that go on “spending diets” at the beginning of the year. A no-spend challenge can be a great way to re-focus your budget, as well as to get over the spending glut that so often comes with the holiday season.

As you embark on your no-spend challenge, though, watch out for these behaviors that can derail your efforts:

Rationalizing a Want into a “Need”

When participating in a no-spend challenge, exceptions are usually made for paying bills, and buying needed items, like groceries. Where it’s easy to trip up, though, is when you start rationalizing something you want and turning it into a “need.” It’s important not to make this basic money mistake.

Anymore, things that were seen as luxuries 15 years ago are considered routine “needs” in today’s society. This can creep into your no-spend challenge if you aren’t careful. Take a step back.

  • Do you really need to upgrade your cable TV account?
  • Is another bag of chips a need?
  • Do you actually need another smaller appliance for your kitchen right now?

Chances are that you don’t.

Buying Something Because it’s a “Great Deal”

Do you see something you want on sale? If you are afraid that you will miss out on this “great deal” if you don’t get it right now, you might be tempted to fudge a little with your no-spend challenge. Now is the time to stay strong, however.

Chances are that the item will go on sale again in the future. And, even if you don’t buy it, do you really need it? Or do you think it might be fun to have?

If you can’t afford something in the normal course of things, and if you haven’t been planning to make the purchase, don’t throw over your challenge just because something is on sale.

The “bargain” argument is a common one for spending money that you don’t intend spend — even when you aren’t on a no-spend challenge.

However, the fact that something is on sale right now is just another excuse that you use to justify a purchase that you probably shouldn’t be making in the first place.

Giving Up the Challenge Because of One Mistake

We all make mistakes, and it’s easy to slip up during a no-spend challenge. However, making one mistake doesn’t mean that your challenge is over. You can get back in the game tomorrow. One mistake doesn’t mean that you should give up on your efforts.

The important thing is to realize that financial freedom is a process. You want to make progress.

If you slip up in your no-spend challenge, immediately start over again. Don’t become disheartened and figure that you can spend like crazy because it’s all over anyway. Instead, decide that you are going to start up the challenge again in the next minute.

It’s impossible for us to be perfect, and we all make money mistakes. If you find yourself struggling to keep with your no-spend challenge, step back, adjust, and then start over again. Your no-spend challenge shouldn’t be seen in terms of pass/fail. Instead, it should be viewed as an opportunity to progress with your finances. Consider it a way for you to review your previous spending habits, and identify areas that can use improvement.

Your no-spend challenge should be more about raising your own awareness of how you spend money. Use it as a way to help you become a savvier shopper, and a more conscientious spender.

Do you have tips for making a no-spend challenge successful?

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Comments | 6 Responses

  1. says

    While I haven’t done it yet, I love the idea of a “no spend” month – whereby I pay my bills, mortgages and groceries… and nothing else! I’ve set a goal to have two “no spend” months this year. We’ll see how it goes…

  2. says

    Taking a “no-spend” challenge is a great idea, but doing it for a year will probably set up a lot of people for failure. Do it on a month to month basis. Maybe see how you did one month for cutting expenses, and then see if you can do better the following month. Make it a gradual process. It may be difficult in a relationship where one person likes to spend money.

  3. says

    I’m not buying any new clothing this year. I’m doing well so far and haven’t been tempted yet.
    The key for me is to avoid advertising and shopping. I’m pretty busy so it’s not too difficult to avoid the mall.

  4. Mel @melgaudart says

    Always wanted to give no-spend month a go. Make this a national movement (Australia) and it could be fun. I’ve tried a $20 Simple Savings challenge and it was an eye opener.

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