The 30-Day “No Spend” Challenge.

don't spend money hand

A friend told me the other day that he can’t go a week without spending money. At first I laughed because, well, it’s funny, but then I realized I used to be the same way. In fact, I couldn’t have gone an entire day without spending anything! So one day during the good ol’ Catholic season of Lent I decided to give it up – for an entire 40 days.

And when I say “gave it up” I mean I didn’t spend a dime on anything at all non-essential. I could pay the bills, and get groceries and what not, but that was it. No shopping online or trips to Best Buy. No treating myself to all-night benders or fancy restaurant dinners – nothing. Unless, of course, I conjured up ways to do so gratis ;)

Now you may me asking yourself what the point of all this is, and the answer is simple – to see if you could do it. As untemplaters we’re always trying to hack the rules and live on our own terms anyways, so why not take on another challenge? A challenge that will truly help you understand your spending habits and help grow your appreciation for the free things in life. It’s crazy, and you’re gonna get some shit for it when out with your friends, but whatever. If you could rock this you’ll be that much closer to financial freedom.

So with that, I, J. Money, challenge YOU Mr./Mrs. Untemplater to a 30 day “No Spend” challenge!

You can tweak the rules to better apply them to your specific situations if you’d like, but the concept remains the same – NO SPENDING on anything non-essential. Things like:

  • clothes/accessories
  • electronics
  • lunches/dinners out
  • online purchases (Amazon, Woot, Guilt)
  • iPhone apps, lottery tickets, any other $1-$2 finds
  • Craigslist adventures

And on and on. I’m sure there will be things you’ll say you can’t avoid, but again use your own judgement and do what you have to in order to give this a shot. It was by far the most INFLUENTIAL thing I ever did to get my finances back on track, and I promise you it could only help.

Budgeting & saving is sexy, but there are just some things you really can’t realize until you’re in the thick of it all. So don’t let any barriers hold you back friends – make it happen! At the very least, you come away with an extra lump of savings at the end of the month.


Unconventional Guides

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris March 8, 2010 at 7:15 am

Why would anyone want to do this? So stupid. Life is about getting the most out of it, having fun, friends, family… living! Sadly these days, this often means you need to put your hand in your pocket. Not spending a dime in 30 days means you will miss out on some good stuff…. and who really wants to miss out on good stuff?

*unless you take hand-outs from friends – but what good friend does that?


Kelsey March 8, 2010 at 10:41 am

You can live a perfectly full life without spending money on unnecessary stuff. I’ve limited myself to 5 “unnecessary” purchases per month since November, and some months I don’t even make it to 5! It’s really all about your mindset. I’m actually *more* social and get out more often than I did when I used to buy things.


J. Money March 9, 2010 at 3:17 am

So you’re saying you can’t have fun w/out spending money? Interesting…This is def. not for everyone, just an idea for those who want to work on cutting back and getting a better game plan on lock. A month won’t kill ya.


Sonicsuns March 16, 2010 at 11:51 pm

I know what you mean, but there are ways to have fun without spending money. Part of the point here is to see if maybe the non-money options are actually more interesting than your normal routine.


Matt Cheuvront March 8, 2010 at 7:28 am

Great advice here – I haven’t done this for 30 days straight – but even going a week at a time without spending is good practice, or eliminating spending during the week and limiting yourself to only weekends – all good practice to save a little cash. Although, as you said, easier said than done… :)


J. Money March 9, 2010 at 3:18 am

yup! all about getting into the habit of it….not easy, but do-able if you care enough to give it a shot :)


Financial Samurai March 8, 2010 at 8:33 am

I do this once a year. It’s the month of Samurai September. Good to save up, spend less before the BLITZ that is holiday season!




J. Money March 9, 2010 at 3:19 am

Haha…as long as you don’t forget about my birthday I’m all for it ;)


Meg March 8, 2010 at 10:34 am

I need to get back to doing my “no spend days.” I doubt I could go 30 days without it, but I really don’t need to either…. I would always shoot for 15 or so in a month.

Actually, I will be this summer when I have no income of my own to speak of. ;) Can’t spend what isn’t there! (My motivation to get jump-started on freelancing for sure.)


Kelsey March 8, 2010 at 10:43 am

On a similar note, I make less than $1000 a month, and I find that I live just as full a life, if not a fuller one, than my boyfriend, who makes closer to $2500 a month. When you don’t have money, you don’t spend money, and you also become more creative in finding ways to enjoy yourself that don’t involve spending money.


J. Money March 9, 2010 at 3:20 am

yeah there you go!!! i mean, as kids and poor college students we still had fun doing whatever and hanging out, right?


J. Money March 9, 2010 at 3:22 am

@Kelsey – exactly! i mean, it’s okay to spend money and have fun doing whatever with it, but it’s not necessarily *needed* to have fun…all about the mentality.


Elke March 8, 2010 at 8:28 am

I do this once in a while as well. It helps me see that that shirt, book, game, I dont really need it. And it helps me to save a little more too of course!


Kari March 9, 2010 at 7:41 am

This is interesting, because the majority of my non-essentials spending goes toward eating out. It’s the primary way I have to socialize with people. Dropping so much money on food is getting really old though, these days I keep trying to encourage my friends to let me cook for them, instead. We tend to have more fun that way, to be honest, and half the time it tastes better anyway. I definitely believe you can have fun for free.

Instead of buying tickets to see a movie, it’s cheaper to gather at somebody’s house and choose a film from someone’s collection. Instead of going to the mall, I like to go discount, warehouse, or bargain store hopping — but only if I’m actually looking for something I need. My boyfriend and I go buy groceries together and then cook a meal. I’ve been going swimming lately, which costs about $3, but now that the sun is coming back out, a walk is free exercise that lends to socialization quite easily. Instead of going to a chain bookstore, I prefer to go to the library and hang out there among the books, or to a used or discount bookstore. I’m trying to get set up with a chess set and some board games so that no matter who I end up socializing with, fun can be had that doesn’t cost a play ticket or the price of a dinner. I am a musician, and a jam session is one of the cheapest ways to have fun that I know of.

I love my friends, but I have very little income right now, and have to be original about having fun.


J. Money March 9, 2010 at 7:32 pm

love board games! just played Settlers of Catan for the first time the other night w/ some PF bloggers – def. fun and def. free. Friends don’t really care if you have money or not, they just like hanging out.


Early Retirement Extreme March 9, 2010 at 1:07 pm

I did this for half a year once—I got a streak going, but at some point I just “needed” something nonessential (if that even makes sense). However, I do 30 days on a regular basis without even thinking about it.


J. Money March 9, 2010 at 7:32 pm

6 months is great man! No way I could pull that one off ;) I’m impressed.


Kelsey March 9, 2010 at 8:53 pm

When I switched to working part time, my income became so low that I pretty much had no way to buy anything other than necessities without using a credit card, and so I got really used to just…not buying anything. In fact, I got so used to this, that my debit card actually expired in November and I didn’t even realize it until mid-February! My boyfriend and I have a card that goes to a joint account that we only use for necessary expenses (groceries, rent, etc), and I realized that I had literally not bought anything of my own since November. I didn’t miss it.


Adam@RabbitFunds March 10, 2010 at 12:51 am

I love this idea! My wife and I have spent a lot of time cleaning up our finances and will be in a much better financial position in about a month or so (finally!*?) To solidify our new habits, I love the idea of 30 days of no non-essential spending. Thanks J.


J. Money March 11, 2010 at 12:15 pm

yeah dawg, you really can’t go wrong giving it a shot. really opens your eyes on where your money is going – even if you go back to it once the month is over ;) but at least then you’re consciously doing it!


Jill Felska March 15, 2010 at 12:52 am

As someone who just quit my 9-5 a month ago to start my own business, I love this challenge! I have been cutting back in many different areas, but I have decided to really stick to “no spending” for the next 30 days – I’ll let you know how it goes!


J. Money March 15, 2010 at 9:49 am

Congrats on starting your own biz!!! That is awesome, I really admire that in people…. still trying to grow the balls to do it myself ;) Def. let us know how the challenge goes! I bet you can do it for sure.


Ruth October 13, 2011 at 11:51 am

I have had to live very frugally all of my single life. Divorced early with a baby to raise, it was very hard and money was always very short. At times there was not enough to pay bills and I had to do without to take care of the necessities. But we made it somehow. I appreciate every kindness, every gift, every person, that understood along the way. I went to used clothing stores but found nice things for my daughter and myself. I made use of the free entertainment, took my duaghter to the park, used coupons, made something special out of next to nothing…when I could not stand it any more we would go to a store and buy something small for each of us that was not on sale, stopped for a cheap fast food meal (that was out eating out) and go visit some ducks in the park feeding them crackers and called that a great day. Usually I always looked for the sales and clearence items and actually learned to be quite good at all of it. There is no shame to doing what you have to in a decent way to live and provide for yourself and family you have. When I would get my tax return I would put it in the bank ,so that there would be money for emergencies; fixing the car, a doctors visit, etc. Opened a Christmas account at the bank so that I would have money for holiday gifts. It was hard, it was sad, but I had to, so I did it. We came into better times with a better job, but we are back to having to watch things closely again due to this economy and we know how to. My daughter has learned with me to be carefeul with spending and respect what we have and do not have and why. NO, it is not easy but it builds charactrer and we don’t waste. We have learned to share where we can to those that are struggling too and to be proud of the will in us to succeed no matter what! One learns to appreciate the good in life and not take anything for granted. The world can be a harsh place, but there are many good people that reach out with love and that makes up for all of it!! Giving it back to others in need makes it better too!


Helen January 6, 2015 at 9:48 pm

We have started budgeting and is very hard as saying goes easy to spend but hard to save. But I can suggest this to my partner I like to give it a try we’re getting our finances back on Track


Sydney January 6, 2015 at 11:23 pm

It’s easy to spend way more than we realize. Having a strict budget or a no spend challenge can be really eye opening. Best of luck in getting control of your finances! I also recommend opening a free account with Personal Capital to monitor all of your accounts in one place. It makes tracking your finances way easier than in spreadsheets or across multiple logins. Automation is super helpful these days when we’re all short on time.


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