No-Spend Challenge Review

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Well my first monthly money challenge is over and it turns out it’s really tough to not spend money!

Overall, I’m pretty happy with how I did. My goal was to cut out non-essential spending and pre-plan what spending I would do. I ended up spending on 7 of the 31 days (not including gift card spending).

I expected to spend at least 4 days of the month since I have a pre-arranged Chick-fil-A breakfast date with Little Go From Broke. We did manage to use gift cards and reward points to make it a no-spend occasion a couple times though.

The other spending was a mix of planned and unplanned expenses, with some emergency spending thrown in for good measure. I wasn’t really surprised that would happen, but I was surprised by my attitude and awareness at times.

On two occasions I was completely unaware of breaking my no-spend challenge until I checked in with myself that night. It’s a bit concerning that I found myself absentmindedly buying things when I typically pride myself on spending deliberately.

At least they were things we needed (and had budgeted for) or were time-sensitive, but it still opened my eyes to an aspect of my behavior I need to work on a bit more.

Also somewhat surprising to me was that my motivation through the month seemed to wane. It became harder not to spend later in the month.

I expected things to get easier, but I had planned on the possibility of resenting the restriction. This led me to binge spend in the past so I gave myself permission to use gift cards as needed. But I still tried to restrict myself to pre-planning those purchases to coincide with other planned spending.

Here’s a breakdown of how my month went:

Note: I’ve included spending on gift cards, even though I still consider those no-spend occasions

Jan 1 - $0
Jan 2 - $0
Jan 3 - $0
Jan 4 - $0
Jan 5 - $0
Jan 6 - $0
Jan 7 - $0
Jan 8 - $0 - Chick-fil-A (planned, gift card)
Jan 9 - $17.99 - school binders and lotion (unplanned)
Jan 10 - $0
Jan 11 - $0
Jan 12 - $0
Jan 13 - $0
Jan 14 - $0
Jan 15 - $26.94 - Cub Scouts Pinewood Derby materials (planned), $0 - Chick-fil-A (planned, gift card)
Jan 16 - $0
Jan 17 - $178 - Concert tickets for bday gift (unplanned)
Jan 18 - $0
Jan 19 - $0
Jan 20 - $0
Jan 21 - $355.49 - vet visit (unplanned emergency)
Jan 22 - $9.63 - Chick-fil-A (planned)
Jan 23 - $0
Jan 24 - $0 - Amazon (planned, gift card), $0 - Taco Bell (planned, gift card)
Jan 25 - $0
Jan 26 - $0
Jan 27 - $0
Jan 28 - $462 - vet (unplanned emergency), $40.24 - pizza (unplanned)
Jan 29 - $13.08 - Chick-fil-A (planned)
Jan 30 - $0
Jan 31 - $0

This turned out to be a more interesting experiment than I expected.

I’ve learned some things about my mindset and discovered some areas I can still work on. Those absentminded purchases opened my eyes to the fact that I need to be more mindful about every purchase, even if it’s a necessary one.

Also, I’m not a cold turkey kind of gal. While I’m ok with limiting my spending, I need to allow myself some wiggle room via planned or gift card spending.

I am a little curious how my motivation may have been affected by the government shutdown. Specifically I wonder if my normal spending urges may have been tempered since I didn’t know when we’d get paid again. That might also explain my motivation waning during the last week of January when that uncertainty was lifted (at least for the short term).

I also caught myself anticipating the end of the month so I could spend again. That’s not really a mindset I want to embrace, but I think it ties in to the feeling of being overly restricted. I wasn’t just wanting to run out and spend money for the sake of it. I was wanting to finally buy things I had been planning to get before I started the challenge.

I love my budget because it’s our plan in action. Restricting spending on things I’ve already planned and budgeted for isn’t really necessary. It was only for the sake of the challenge so it just became an exercise in patience really.

Overall, I’m happy with the experiment and I feel like I’ve made some good progress on recognizing and adjusting my habits.

So I’m curious, if you were trying out the no-spend challenge with me, how’d it go? Did you find it harder or easier than you thought? Drop me a line or leave a comment and let me know!

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2 thoughts on “No-Spend Challenge Review”

  1. This. Is. AMAZING! I LOVE how you tracked & itemized your spending for accountability & then shared it all. It’s such a good exercise to take a minute to think before spending – great advice. I’ve started adding things to Amazon wishlists for future gifts (especially for the kids) rather than impulse buying – it helps a ton.

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