Save Hundreds of Dollars: 30 Day No Spend Challenge

Say it with me; “I have more money than I know what to do with, and all my bills are paid.”

Is it true?

If it is, I’m moving in with you, because I need to soak up your good habits ASAP!

If it’s not, welcome to how 8 out of 10 of Americans currently live-according to this statistic on the debt analysis by Pew Charitable Trusts (who analyze debt through generations).

With over $7,000 in credit debt on average, we as Americans seem to get caught in spending money as a daily ritual.

Perhaps its not racking up your credit cards with your hard earned money on big screened TVs or shopping sprees at the mall every weekend.  Perhaps, you swipe your fat growing shiny plastic credit card when you need to quickly stop for a tank of gas or those two ingredients at the grocery store for dinner that mysteriously turn into a cart-full, or you may even pay for a utility bill with a credit card to get the cash back points (big no no!).

Before you know it, your monthly credit card statement pleasantly appears oh so gently in your inbox to remind you of how much more you need to pay this month, and for the next five years.

It’s enough to make your skin crawl, and it has occured more in my life than I have cared.

Have you ever made the connection that it’s not money that makes us happy, but how we use it that brings us joy?  I know, you’re probably thinking, “well duh!”  But most haven’t actually thought about it and it truly sinks it when you do.  I feel a giddiness over the sense of protection when I check my bank account and see more than enough settling sweetly, untouched, that won’t be going out for bills.

This has happened to me when:

  • I accidentally paid a month’s rent in advance and didn’t realize, only to get it back when I moved out and into our new house (a pleasant surprise!)
  • we received more back on our taxes than we realized certain years
  • we sold random things around the house and from my childhood that were really profitable

But even after I make a purchase on something I really want-like really want, I’m happy for about a second then instantly feel regret and won’t look at my bank account because I hate knowing the number will be lower than it was before.  And that brings me stress.

Money, if all is perfect in the world, brings us a sense of security, comfort, and makes us feel responsible if we manage it well.  But unfortunately, it routinely bring us stress, anxiety, and a sense of dread when we realize how hard we have to work for it, how precious it is when it comes time to pay bills, and how strongly it has it’s nails dug in our everlasting desire for more (or need for freedom).

I recently came upon a hardship where money became tight, and grabbing a frozen pizza at the grocery store for dinner brought me almost intolerable shaking from the crippling anxiety it brought.  Filling up my car at the gas station was necessary, but made me want to cry knowing I had to hand over precious money – or making the commitment of debt that I would be chained to for a ridiculous amount of my life by using a credit card….

Once the incident was over, however, and I regained control, I was left with heartache, anxiety, stress, and fear that has kept me awake through the night.  I needed a month to get back on track before things felt OK again-financially, but getting through this particular month was going to be tough.

My options were to continue putting everything onto credit cards or to ask for a loan from family.

The first choice I denied because I absolutely hate being in debt, and have been trying to find a launching point to getting out as fast as possible.

The second choice was also not acceptable because I promised myself the last time I was helped financially by my family was the last I’d ever take it.  I don’t mean to be prideful, but there are family issues that reside and this was a personal and conscious decision that I’d rather keep private.

So, I created a third option!  A 30 Day No Spend Challenge.

I decided that the only outgoing money would be from what little money I had in the bank at the time directly to my bills, mortgage, necessities like groceries, toiletries, etc., and no amount would go for anything luxury.

Luxury items: this included not spending any money on things like:

  • makeup
  • clothes
  • entertainment
  • decorations and home decor (I love buying new pieces for my new home and decorating for the seasons!)
  • books
  • etc.

Necessities: things that I need to pay that are essential to the modern life I live:

  • mortgage
  • utilities (phone, garbage, water, electric, etc.)
  • gas
  • groceries
  • car payment
  • etc.

My obstacles:  (Everyone has them; it may be going for luxury coffee stops at Starbucks several times a week, ordering food in almost every night, or buying magazines every time you go into the grocery store-does anyone still do this last one?)

  • TJ Maxx.  I freaking love this store, and I will go in weekly to check out new clothing, grab essentials like skin care and candles (yes, candles are essential to me), and to devour their home goods.  I love a good deal, I find loads of good deals in this trap of a store…
  • Starbucks.  Yes, I’m guilty of handing over $6+ dollars for a grande soy latte, double, with one pump mocha and one pump cinnamon dolce when I’m feeling depressed and need a pick me up.
    • Side note: Grabbing four coffees a week at $6 a pop (or coffee, if you will) will cost you $96.  Um, thats $1152 a year, that could otherwise be used for:
      • a nice dinner out twice a month for two people
      • an incredible and much needed massage every month
      • a mini spa day of a facial, mani, and pedi
      • a new Mac Book computer at the end of the year
      • paying off your car a little bit quicker
      • vacation fund!
  • Grabbing lunch at work.  I procrastinate, there I said it.  I hate spending any extra time more than necessary on thoughts about work, and when I know I need to plan my meals for the workday in advance, I am less than unsavory to be around-and this goes with all thing work related.  Therefore, I’ve had to spend $10 on lunches and food during the day and then I’m even more angry… If I bring my own food, I save this $10 per lunch and that adds up to a lot.
    • $10 per lunch for 5 days per week (and per month) = $200 a month!  Um, what???
      • You could use this money to put towards your house payments, a new camera, going to a show with a friend…etc.  $200 is a lot of money if you buy lunches out every day for the month.

For the above obstacles where I spend most of my money, for 30 days I did not be spending a dime.

30 days.  That’s all you need to get back on track without adding more unnecessary debt to your life…

My point with this is to not save up tons of money to spend on something ridiculous or go on a trip to Italy, which is usually something I read often on blogs when they’re trying to save money.  My goal hits a little closer to home in that I just need to get back on track with life, and that’s something I feel a lot of people need.

Sure, we’d all probably love to use the money you save to go out of the country and backpack around for months on end, but my reality is not the reality we are presented as the ideal reality…if that makes any sense.

I have bills.  You have bills.

I have debt.  You probably have some type of debt.

I have a job.  You probably have a job.

I am tied down at the moment, and while I’d love to be free of the ties that money creates, the fact is I’m not free, and you may not be either.

And that’s OK, because I’ve set my goals, and there’s no reason you can’t commit to make a tiny baby step in the right direction.

If you have goals to be free of debt, to have enough money to travel or start your business, or to just have a clear conscious, then take action, and don’t waste another minute allowing yourself to worry sick over money.

Try spending on nothing but necessities for an entire month-or week if you want to start small, and make a step towards a less-debt future you’d rather live, instead of living the way you are right now that is bringing you worry and anxiety.

Here’s what to do for a 30 DayNo Spend Challenge:

  1. Write down all your bills that are necessities (mortgage/rent, utilities, groceries, gas, daycare, etc.)
  2. Write out all of your income streams that occur consistently (paychecks, babysitting money, etc.)
  3. Figure out how much money left over you have that does not need to go elsewhere other than your necessities
    1. If you want to give yourself a small allowance to keep you sane for the month, give yourself a number (like $100) that you are allowed to spend, but stick to this limitation!
  4. Decide where all the extra money is going to go (savings, paying bills, building up your bank account, traveling, etc.). Use this a motivator to keep your determined to follow through.
  5. Just do it already!
    1. Don’t start next month, or even wait until Monday (like our diets…) Do it right now.  Start your 30 day no spend month today, and finish it 30 days from now.  It doesn’t have to be November 1st to make it happen.  You can start today, and by November 8 (30 days from now) you can have extra money, a bigger savings, more money in your checking account, more bills paid, or a down payment on a trip that you want planned!)

What you will learn:

  1. Luxuries are just that-luxuries.  You don’t NEED coffee every single day, or glass of wine every night.  Make these a special treat.
  2. Your habits become very enjoyable if they’re sparse.  When you don’t hit up Starbucks every morning, grabbing your usual coffee on a rainy Saturday before heading to the bookstore becomes a really pleasurable experience.
  3. You learn that you’re stronger than you realize.  You may think you have no willpower, but once you complete a milestone in this short 30 days, you become aware that you are solely responsible for handing over your cash or swiping a card.  When you say no to yourself and temptation, you give yourself the power that you otherwise hand over when you spend willy-nilly.
  4. You enjoy other tasks that cost nothing.  I began to read more-I haven’t “had time” to read because I was just “oh so busy” but that was me getting in my own way-but that’s another topic for another day.  Instead of going shopping or grabbing coffees, I was able to sign up for a free trail of unlimited Kindle books on Amazon where I found audible and printed versions, and was able to listen (and learn a lot!) to books on my hour-long commute to and from work each day.  And I didn’t have to pay anything.  I’m not sure if I’ll keep my membership, but I’m enjoying the free trial while I’m on a no spend plan 😉

If you happen to slip up and buy some things or go out to dinner with friends, don’t throw in the towel.  You have to live, and unexpected things happen all the time.  Forgive yourself, and make the commitment that you’re sticking to your goals, and move on.  Continue forward like nothing happened.

Because even if you save money for 20 out of 30 days, you’ve gotten further than you would have if you didn’t even try.  Small progress is still progress.

You can do this!

*Side note:  Whether you choose to do this as a spending cleanse, a way to save money to make a large purchase, or get a handle on debt like I did, the choice is yours.  I will go on to do another challenge and it may be for a different reason next time.  The point being, do what works for you, and how you want to live your live 🙂




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