The Power Of A No Spend Challenge

I’m currently taking part in a no spend challenge where I’m not spending money on clothing or any sugary treats (such as cake, pie, donuts, candy, etc.). I haven’t set a timeframe for myself because I’m trying to see how long I can last, but it’s been an interesting challenge so far. I’m a big…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 12, 2024

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Find out the power of a no-spend challenge and what it can do for you.I’m currently taking part in a no spend challenge where I’m not spending money on clothing or any sugary treats (such as cake, pie, donuts, candy, etc.). I haven’t set a timeframe for myself because I’m trying to see how long I can last, but it’s been an interesting challenge so far.

I’m a big sugar addict, but I’ve realized that eating a sugary treat every day is definitely not healthy for me. It’s also a waste of money and probably killing my teeth. I’m also attempting to spend no money on clothing because we have no room in the RV! Plus, I don’t need to buy any and I’m saving time as well because I’m not looking for clothing.

I believe that by taking part in these two no spend challenges that I can change the way I think about spending money in these areas, be a little more healthy, have a little less clutter, and save some time.

I believe that taking part in no spend challenges can help others as well.

Below are some of the many great reasons to take part in a no spend challenge.


A no spend challenge can be whatever you want it to be.

In case you are wondering, a no spend challenge is when you challenge yourself to stop spending money (pretty easy to understand, right?).

There is no right or wrong way to take part in a no spend challenge. You can completely say no to spending altogether or you can just limit yourself in the areas in which you do not do so well.

You can do a challenge that is for:

  • No clothing shopping;
  • No food shopping;
  • No coffee spending;
  • No fuel shopping;
  • No shopping with a credit card;
  • No eating out;
  • No Target shopping; and so on!

Some do challenges for a week, a month, a year, and so on. Whatever you think will fit you best!

Some believe that no spend challenges will just cause you to spend the same amount of money once the challenge is over. I disagree with that for the most part and you can read more about why below.


No spend challenges can prevent impulse spending.

We’ve all gone to Target and spent way more money than we originally planned. Going into a store and only needing one item yet coming out with 10 other things is even a norm for some.

By taking part in a no spend challenge, you can prevent yourself from cluttering your life with items you do not need.

I think this is one of the great reasons for why no spend challenges work. By not allowing yourself to go shopping, you are preventing yourself from impulse shopping due to the fact that you will be forcing yourself to think longer about the items you want to buy.


You can find use in the items you already have.

If you are like me, you probably have tons of food in your pantry and freezer that you are not eating. Plus, you may have clothing in your closet that you haven’t taken out of there in forever. This can be applied to many other items in a person’s life as well.

By taking part in a no spend challenge, you may find use for the items you already have instead of letting them spoil or completely forgetting about them. You will also realize what items you probably shouldn’t buy anymore because they are a waste of money.

Related: How To Live On One Income


A no spend challenge can help a person be more motivated.

A good challenge can help anyone and everyone become more motivated. By challenging yourself, you can push yourself and make it more of a game so that you can save more money.


It can make you aware of your spending problems.

Challenging yourself and analyzing your spending can help you be more aware of where your money is going.

You will see how many times each month you almost spent money and think about the ways you can improve your spending behaviors.


It can help you declutter and prevent waste.

By taking part in a no spend challenge, you are still able to buy certain things depending on what type of challenge you are doing, but, for the most part, you are trying to use up the things you already have. This can help you declutter, clear out your pantry, and more.

I’ve done a no spend challenge for pantry and freezer items before and it really helped me save money on food and to also clear out things that were about to go bad.


It doesn’t have to be hard.

There are many ways to take part in a no spend challenge and still have a great time.

Below are some examples:

  • Look for free days. There are many days where businesses will offer items for free. There’s National Coffee Day, Donut Day, Ice Cream Day, and more.
  • Look for coupons for free stuff. Similar to the above, you may be able to find free treats, free movie rentals, and more.
  • Play board games with friends and/or family.
  • Finally complete a DIY project that you’ve been pushing off.
  • Have a potluck.
  • Get your friends to join in so that it is more competitive (plus, everyone can help each other out!).
  • Visit your local library. The libraries in Colorado are even giving away free state park passes! You can also borrow movies, books, read your favorite magazine, and more.
  • Go to free events around your town.
  • Go to a national park when they are free (there are a few days each year when they’re free!).
  • Take part in mystery shopping so that you can get items and meals for free.
  • Explore your town and the outdoors.

Related: How To Have Frugal Fun

Have you ever taken part in a no spend challenge? Why or why not? Do you believe they work?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Since I started to have a budget I needed to change a lot my spending habits and then I tried to have shopping ban period, now for example I try to don’t have takeaway coffee if I’m alone drinking my coffee at home make with my moka, I buy coffee only when I have my real weekly meeting with friends and/or collegues…keeping always my budget under control…but I’m agree sometimes a no shopping period into a determined field can help a lot to understand better our spending habits and improve our savings (resisting to temptations)!!!

    1. Yes, temptations can ruin a budget!

  2. I think I want to do a no-spend challenge in the near future. At the moment I’m doing a no restaurant food (and no takeout) challenge for the month of October, which is the first challenge like this that I’ve ever done, and it’s been so eye-opening! I’m realizing that it is actually possible to change my habits without feeling deprived, and having a “challenge” mindset makes it fun. I don’t buy a ton of stuff anyway, but it would be interested to do a total no-spend challenge sometime in the near future.
    Thanks for the post! 🙂

    1. Good luck with your no restaurant challenge!

  3. I love your simple examples for how easy it is to create a no-spending-day. It isn’t really a challenge at all 🙂

    My advice is to treat all those activities as vacation time. That means plan your day or half-day of free (or close to free) activities at home or close to home in advance. Make a plan, write it down, and share it with who’s going. Whether you host a friends and family pot-luck, read that talked-about novel at the library, take advantage of free food events around town, or follow a trail map at the state or national park, you can be “on vacation” with the right mindset.

    Just make sure to leave your chores at home and your stresses at work. Your work-life-vacation balance will thank you.

  4. Now this one came right on time! I have a major sweet tooth too! I have been low carb, high fat since around July and recently had one little Reese’s cup that has caused a MAJOR binge. It’s so major that I have consumed the majority of 6 12 oz bags in the past week! It’s crazy. Not only am I going on a no spend challenge for sweets, but I’m fasting from them again as well. It’s the only way to build up my resolve. I’ve been able to stick to my guns before when it comes to sweets and my only weakness is cheating. There are certain things I can cheat with (ice cream) and it will have no affect on my ability to handle myself accordingly, but candy…that’s obviously going to have to be a no-zone for me.

    Thanks for sharing because I definitely needed this in my life right now, lol:)

    1. Haha I have work to do as well. I had some baked goods yesterday :/

  5. Best of luck to you on your challenge. I kind of think the harder they are, the more likely you are to be targeting a real problem area.

  6. I’m always interested to hear how much spending is eliminated versus deferred in one of these challenges. Many people will skip buying groceries for a week, and use stuff that they have. This is great but at some point down the line, I would think that inventory might need to be replenished. So while I think no spend challenges can be great, I’m curious how much they save in the bigger picture?

    1. I think the key in that situation is that it helps with food waste 🙂 The average family wastes around 40% of their food so it helps to lower that.

  7. Reelika @Financially Wise On Heels

    I have to say that I am a spender, however, I always plan it ahead, especially what comes to bigger purchases. Another thing that helps me is to make extra money for my spending. Therefore I still stick to my budget and I don’t have to feel guilty. Once in awhile I try to do no-spending weeks as well and those typically help to avoid emotional spending.

  8. Her book sounds interesting, I’m going to have to check it out!

  9. Sarah

    I did a no spend challenge at the start of this year and it was pretty eye opening about how much money we waste and how how much we could save if we plan (lunches and snacks for the kids when we’re out, for example). It was also kind of surprising how much we were able to go without or use what we have when we really tired. Our Christmas shopping is finished, but I think I’m going to wait until the new year to start another no spend challenge.

    1. Yes, no spend challenges can be so helpful.

  10. Nice! I’ve heard great things about her challenge.

  11. Esteban

    Cool Idea. I think I am constantly doing a no spending challenge subconsciously. I don’t remember the last time I treated myself except with going out and drinking last weekend 😛

    Cool Idea though


  12. Oh my gosh I need to jump on board this!!! I have been spending like crazy lately since we moved into our house. I’m not using a credit card, but it needs to stop!! I feel like the more I spend, the easier it is for me to justify spending even more! The holidays are always tricky, and we have company in town twice before the year ends. However, I need to start limiting myself at the very least. Spending can be fun, but there’s a time and a place!!

    Thanks for the encouragement, Michelle!!

  13. Our lives (read: health problems) are too unpredictable to stick to a no-spend. But I do periods of not eating sugary stuff. Like you, I have a huge sweet tooth. It really adds up! I broke it for my birthday and during FinCon. It took me awhile to get back into the groove after the conference — and there was a brief break during a very sad week earlier this month — but I’m more or less back to normal.

    For people who can’t handle absolutes, the best thing to do is to set an indefinite goal. When you want to break it, you realize that you can definitely break. But then ask yourself whether today is the day you want to break the streak. It kept me honest for around 9 months.

    1. Sugary stuff is just so yummy 🙂 haha

  14. pigbitinmad

    I’m starting a “no spend” campaign where I refuse to buy any product made by a Fortune 500 company (and in the case of things where I have no alternative, I buy as little as possible). I especially want to do this at Christmas….like ZERO DOLLARS on gifts. And I tell everyone not to buy me anything. If millions would do this it might have the same effect as a General Strike (a spending strike if you will). It’s what all these corporate managers deserve for causing so much damage to the economy, jobs lost, outsourcing etc.

    It’s not illegal that’s for sure.

  15. Definitely going to share this with my readers, too! I love this concept, especially how you brought up that it doesn’t have to be hard. I’ve always been on the fence about mystery shopping, but getting some free stuff during a no-spend challenge would certainly be a strong incentive to try it!

  16. Jaime Lila

    How do you always come up with such great articles?

  17. We really don’t spend a ton of cash that’s unnecessary these days, but one area where we do spend between $60-$120 a month is on eating out. Maybe we’ll do a no-eating-out challenge. BTW, LOVE the RV – gorgeous!

  18. Amy @ DebtGal

    Don’t hate me, but I’m eating a fun size Twix as I type this… 🙂

    I love the concept of these challenges, but haven’t done one yet, myself. I’m building up my courage to do a no grocery spending challenge for two weeks or a month, because it would really help me use up some odds and ends I have on-hand. Plus, I struggle with sticking to our grocery budget almost every month, so this would be a great way to force myself into it!

    1. It’s okay, I actually caved in and ate a few of Wes’s Snickers yesterday. Ugh!

  19. Hi Michelle, I love that you still do challenges like this having read your recent income reports!! It sends a fantastic message to us millennials xD

    1. Thanks! I think that no matter how much money you make, a person can still learn a lot about their spending habits.

  20. Dee @ Color Me Frugal

    I have never done a no spend challenge, but I think I should! Lately I think we’ve been eating at restaurants too much, which isn’t healthy for our waists or our wallets. I have been in major decluttering mode this month, though, and I’ve been able to get rid of a ton of stuff plus find use for items I’d forgotten I had! But you’ve inspired me for a No Restaurant Eating month- I think we are going to have to challenge ourselves to that in November!

  21. I have added your blog to my favorites, hope to live the day when I will make an income from my blog also.

  22. I call the no spend challenge a “financial exercise” and it’s one that I practice a few days a week and I have a number of clients who have to exercise it a few times a week. The great thing about the no spend challenge is that you are controlling what you can control so that when unexpected expenses arise, they aren’t as damaging because you weren’t spending as much as you were.

  23. I just recently completed a no spend challenge and am in the process of finishing up writing my experience on my blog. I love doing them. You find creative ways to do things that you didn’t think of before.

  24. Lindsey

    I’ve done a mini no spend challenge before. When money was tight because our credit bill from the previous month was high, we had a limited budget for that month. We spent money on gas, food, bills, and a few birthday/baby shower stuff and that was it.

    We did ok with this challenge, there were a few extra purchases, but overall we were able to get rid of most of our debt that way.

  25. Hi Michelle,

    I’m new to this terminology but I think it’s a great idea. I also agree that it can be useful in helping people utilize what they already have and pinpoint areas where they may be wasting the most money.

    I didn’t know it had a name but I’ve definitely had to put myself on a no apparal shopping challenge many times.

  26. Jen

    It’s so true…when we are mindful of not spending for a period of time years back, it actually became easier to NOT spend. But once off the wagon, it became easier TO spend. My husband & I were able to do some major payoffs with the snowball approach years back (like $30,000 in 10 months time) brought togetherness to us financially, made us more goal oriented & we felt freer than before.

    I always look in my pantry for unused items while making out my weekly grocery list & meal chart to chop our $200+/week food costs (I have food allergies & must have high quality/organic). Most months, there’s one week I can get away with less than $50 in ‘fillers’ (organic milk for kids, some fresh fruit & veggies, etc). You’d be amazed if you tried it for a month.

    As far as the sugar cravings…research shows sugar is more additive than cocaine…it chemically alters your brain chemistry to need it more. Not to mention that sugar fuels cancer cells . For real. I challenge you to rid of it will take at least 2 solid weeks, but there is life on the other side! 🙂 Thanks for the great articles! Love them.