I completed a no buy challenge that ended up lasting nearly 3 years! Yep, you read that right! What started off as a 30 day spending freeze turned into a multi-year spending fast! I really was looking to stop overspending at the time and needed a “no shopping” challenge to do it. Of course, I didn't spend $0 and the name “no buy challenge” can be a bit misleading if you're taking this on for longer periods of time. What I really did was a”low buy challenge” but we'll talk more about setting yourself up to successfully save money with either a no buy or low buy experience!
Table of Contents
No Buy Challenge: How To Successfully Save Money
- What is a no spend challenge (aka a no buy challenge)?
- Why do a no buy challenge?
- “How do I not buy anything?” Getting started…
- No buy rules
- No buy challenge budget
- No buy challenge timeline
- How can I have no spending days?
- How can I get a no buy year?
- How my 30 Day No Buy Challenge went
- Benefits of a no buy challenge:
- Motivation for your no buy challenge:
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What is a no spend challenge (aka a no buy challenge)?
A no spend challenge or a no buy challenge is an exercise in financial discipline where you do not buy any non-essential items. You can choose the rules, allowances for spending categories, and timeline for the challenge based on your financial goals.
Why do a no buy challenge?
A no buy challenge is an excellent exercise to recover from overspending. At least that's why I started mine (more on that later!). It completely changed my relationship to money and how I spend it.
It's a also useful tool for reaching financial goals and either jump starting or bringing you to the finish line on money saving journeys.
It adds a layer of gamification to saving money (who doesn't love a little competition?) and can provide additional accountability if you've been struggling to make progress or change with your spending.
Lexington Law has some great tips for taking control of your finances using “mind over money” philosophies here.
“How do I not buy anything?” Getting started…
“How do I not buy anything?” Is typically the first question I get asked when I talk about doing a no buy challenge.
Of course you can take this to varying degrees where you truly don't buy anything, or you can give yourself a little breathing room and only buy a list of preapproved things within a predetermined budget. Depending on how long you choose to do your no buy challenge will dictate how literal you can be with the phrase “no buy.”
So we'll look at: creating your own no buy rules, setting a budget for things you need to buy, and creating a timeline.
No buy rules
Start by creating a list of rules you plan to follow for your no buy challenge.
This should include a list of things you are allowed to spend money on and things you are not allowed to spend money on.
For me, that meant no clothing and no home decor/houseware. I could buy groceries and 1 meal out each week – but no stopping for coffee or picking up a quick snack.
Here's a list of rules for a no buy challenge to get your started:
- no new clothes
- no food from restaurants
- no to-go coffee/snacks
- no beauty products
- no home decor
- no books / magazine / movies / concerts / etc.
- Pay bills
- Pay rent/mortgage
- Refill toiletries / personal and household care items
TIP: Write your own list of rules for a no buy challenge and set it down. The next day come back to it and try to scratch off at least 1-3 things. Then give it to your most honest friend/family member and ask them to widdle it down at least 1-3 items too.
Let's get this as bare bones as possible!!
No buy challenge budget
Unless you are either:
- Doing a no spending day or
- A no buy weekend or
- Have already paid off wherever you are living/what you're driving and all your debts
You will most likely need to create specific allowances or budgets for the things on your “approved” list.
“Why” you're taking this challenge on, can make a big difference in your budget, so take a moment to get clear on that.
For instance, when I did my no buy challenge, I just wanted to stop overspending and start saving some money. I didn't really have a specific goal in mind, I just knew I needed to cut back.
So I decided to keep my food spending relatively the same but intentionally only ate out once a week and cut out coffee trips or any other quick to-go snack pickups I'd typically be tempted by.
I have a friend who was aggressively paying off debt to start saving for a home, so she stopped all forms of eating out and put a cap on her grocery budget.
Budget strategy 1:
One way you could tackle your no buy challenge budget, would be to see how much money you need to reach your financial goal, and then divide that by the timeline you'd need that money to come up with a monthly saving number. You'd then deduct that saving number from your budget and allocate the remaining money towards your “approved” areas.
Budget strategy 2:
If you don't have a specific timeline or dollar amount based on a financial goal, you could just say, “I want to save $500 a month” and then deduct $500 from your income and allocate the remaining to your approved budgets. Then if you go under your approved allowance, that's just more money that goes towards saving!
Budget strategy 3:
(This is what I do)
I'm going to just save as much money as possible. No budget allowance. Just truly zeroing in on essentials and delaying gratification – even when it comes to that bag of new flavored chips at the grocery store!
No buy challenge timeline
When I first started my no buy challenge I set out to do it for 30 days… it ended up lasting 3 years!
So here's the thing with timeline: you can either set your no buy challenge as a definite date/time frame OR you can set it until you reach your goal.
A word of caution if you choose the latter:
Motivation has a half life. Thus it's important to acknowledge how motivated you are. It's easier for more people to “will power” through a challenge for 30 days or 3 months than it is until you reach a goal whose finish line you can't see.
Personally, I like a definitive timeline. If you're feeling good, you can always move the goal post.
You may be wondering, “How can I have a no spending day?”
And if that's where you're at, start there! Just one day!
If you feel a little more confident, go for a no spend weekend! Here's some great staycation ideas that won't cost you anything!
If you really want to step things up, I'd suggest a 30 day no buy challenge or a 3 month no buy challenge!
Personally, I think the third week of a no buy challenge is the hardest. It's sort of the transition from “oh this is fun!” to “oh this is becoming a habit.”
If you can push through that inevitable wave that comes around 21 days, I think you can make it to 3 months without a problem!
Now if you really want to step it up, you can always go for a no buy year!
My 30 day no buy challenge ended up lasting almost 3 years! If I set out to do a year though, I don't think I would've made it because of a mental block; instead I just moved the goal post without even realizing it….
As you may have noticed, my no buy challenge was fairly lax (no clothes, no home stuff, only eating out 1 time a week). Meaning that it was a sustainable lifestyle change for me. I wasn't cutting back on my grocery spending and I didn't need new clothes or things for my home or makeup. Before I knew it, it'd been years since I bought clothes, home decor, or beauty products!
Best time of the year to do a no buy challenge:
In my opinion September is the best month to do a no spend challenge. It's just after summer and the back to school shopping, right before the holiday spending picks up, and is a perfect month to cut back on spending to pad your bank account or your financial needs.
With that said, anytime you feel motivated is a great time to start!
How can I have no spending days?
You can have no spending days by simply having some food in the fridge and pretending like you don't have credit cards or cash in the drawer.
Go for a walk in the park, visit the beach, read a book, get a library card, spend the day with friends or family, organize your closet and pantries to shop your own stuff, the list goes on and on.
How can I get a no buy year?
You can get a no buy year in by simply setting your mind to it and creating rules that are sustainable. Meaning they inform a frugal living lifestyle, not deprive you.
Another option for tackling a no buy year is to hone it down to a single item. For instance, a no buy year of beauty products.
Meaning you don't buy any beauty products that year. Just be wary that you don't start spending the surplus of cash in your account on home decor or clothes. We don't want you to trade shopping addictions!
Lastly, if you want to take on the literal definition of a no buy year you'll need to set yourself up for success by truly reducing your cost of living to zero. You can do this by paying off your living situation or trading living arrangements for work. You'd likely need to either pay for a year in advance or go without health insurance, cell phone, internet, or any other regular “bills.”
How my 30 Day No Buy Challenge went:
Like I said, my 30 day no buy challenge ended up lasting nearly 3 years. It radically changed my relationship to money and spending. I went from being a chronic overspender to living affordably on the fly.
Benefits of a no buy challenge:
- Delay gratification to stop overspending
- Jump start your retirement planning. Lexington Law put together this helpful guide to getting started with retirement planning here!
- Increased gratitude by focusing on what you already have instead of what you don't have
- Increased financial discipline
- Develop new skills with less money going towards travel, concerts, or other ways you typically entertain yourself, you'll get creative with developing new skills like learning a new language, dance, graphic design, or who knows! You can learn basically anything for free on Youtube. Including how to make repairs around your house!
- Make progress on financial goals like paying off debt, stacking your emergency fund, improving your credit score, saving for your first home purchase, or saving money for a baby
The benefits of a no buy challenge are truly endless though in my opinion. Even doing it just for one weekend each month, you're opening yourself up to a beautiful butterfly effect of change.
For instance, no spending for a weekend allows you to pay off more debt and improve your credit score which in turn, allows you to get better interest or premiums and reach financial goals faster. Everything is connected. Which is why I suggest contacting Lexington Law here for your FREE credit report consultation.
Motivation for your no buy challenge:
Like I said, motivation has a half life!
I'd suggest following these hashtags so you can keep seeing what's possible with a no spend challenge and as little reminders to keep going: #NoBuy, #NoBuyChallenge, #NoSpend, #NoShopping, #ShoppingBan, #SpendingFast, #SpendingFreeze, and #YearOfLess
It can be great to find an accountability buddy or tell people what you're doing too. Sometimes friends and family aren't supportive with our financial goals or don't have the skills to help us with them.