Giveaway: Can You Challenge Yourself Not to Spend Money?

Spend Money

I remember the day just like it was yesterday. It was just like any normal day. I went to work, came home and ate dinner, did a few things around the house, and then went to bed. Truly nothing spectacular by any means. What’s missing though is that I had no money to do anything. I had amassed massive credit card debt and was now reaping what I sowed over the course of several years. I was a recent college grad (sadly now 16 years ago) who thought that I would have bright prospects when I left college. This was not the case. My days consisted of eating a frozen Lender’s bagel for lunch and if I was lucky, a tasty Totino’s Party Pizza for dinner. This period lasted for several months and I do not share it as a means for you to feel sorry for me, but to explain where I am coming from. The situation was not caused by credit cards, it was not caused by someone forcing me to do something I did not want to do, but it was caused by my insatiable desire to buy more and more stuff. Essentially it was my lack of contentment and my inability to say no that brought me to this situation. It was ALL on me.

Is a No Spend Challenge Possible?

During my bleakest days I had at max $100 to my name each month after I paid for my rent, paid for utilities, bought a few groceries and paid towards my massive credit card debt. What my choices led to was a forced no-spending challenge. I had months where I had no choice but to not spend money. If I did, then I would not be able to eat the following week. It’s amazing what you’ll sacrifice in order to eat. I was not perfect. I made choices at times that would result in me scrambling to know where my $15 for groceries for the week would come from. I did creative things like sell my TV or sell plasma so I could make it another week. What I soon learned was that it is entirely possible to have days where you spend no money. Sure, it might mean that you don’t leave the house that day, or say no to friends who invite you to go out. These options may not be desirable, but the point is that it is possible to not spend money. In fact, I even had weeks where I would challenge myself not to spend money. I was not always the most successful at these challenges, but it instilled in me a desire to become more disciplined with my money.

What is the Underlying Cause?

Thankfully, I have come a LONG way over those 15 years. I could sit here and wax poetic about how it really was not my fault and blame the system or blame someone else. That simply would just result in me not taking responsibility for my actions. No one held a gun to my head; I made each and every purchase on my credit cards knowing full well I did not have the money to spend. The salient point was that I was not content and I was not living a disciplined life. The issue came down to that I was living a life beyond my means while giving no regard to the future. The situation forced me to not just sit idly by, but it forced me to take action. If I sat there and did nothing then the best scenario would have resulted in bankruptcy. That simply was not an option to me as I am the one who caused the situation and no one else. Thankfully, a kind individual introduced me to the idea of budgeting and tracking my expenses. Many years removed, I can now see that that person changed my life and I now find that I love budgeting.

If you find yourself in a situation like this, I implore you to take action now. Stop spending money and look for ways at how you can cut your spending or even give yourself a no spending challenge. Try it for a day and see what it does for you. The idea is to help you become more financially prudent and starting down a road to financial recovery. As a way to help you out, I am taking part with several other bloggers in a $100 PayPal cash or Amazon gift card giveaway. It may not seem like much but it can help you do such things as start or pad an emergency fund or do a little something for yourself. Good luck! Just follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget below and you may be your way on to scoring a cool $100!


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Photo courtesy of: Foxumon

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I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. I'm also a freelance writer, and regularly contribute to GoBankingRates, Investopedia, Lending Tree and more. If you're wanting to learn how to monetize your blog, check out my blog coaching services to see how I can help you take your site to the next level.


  • So happy we can co-host another giveaway together!

  • I do a no spend challenge practically every day of my life! Nice giveaway!

  • Laurie says:

    John, thanks for an encouraging and motivating post. And I have to reiterate that you are right on when you say “Try it for a day and see what it does for you”.

    We made a decision that Jan 1st of this year would be the day that we chose to take action and dig ourselves of out the massive debt hole we’re in.

    It’s only been 16 days of no spending, and already, the stress of our debt is melting away simply because we’ve made the decision to do something about it, and stuck to our budget.

    John’s right: Now is the time to take action. You won’t regret it!

    • John says:

      Thanks for the kind words Laurie!

      Awesome that you have started down that path! I find that why we fail so many times is because we don’t have a plan and we don’t take action. Those two are VERY powerful together.

  • I think we all assume our job income will be there or we can always get another job. Plan for the worst and expect the best. Do you still eat a Totino’s just for the nostalgia now and then?

    • John says:

      Exactly Kim! That’s how I view it as well. You know, I have not had one it at least 10-12 years. I don’t think I’d eat one on a bet right now.

  • Pauline says:

    I have more no spend days than spend days, it is just a matter of habits. Even when I was working I didn’t get coffee on the way and brown bagged my lunch. But change is very hard if you had ready food every day, the habit won’t go away easily. I joined the grocery challenge with mr CBB and I have $8 left to shop until the end of the month, being accountable to other people is a great motivation.

    • John says:

      I am the same way Pauline. It really just has become a habit and simply being happy with what we have. It is very freeing not to feel the “need” to spend.

  • There are many days I spend no money at all and I’d venture there are some weeks as well. For me, it just delays spending though because I don’t buy a ton of descretionary things on a daily basis.

  • I don’t do a formal “no spend challenge”, but basically most weeks for me are no spend Monday-Friday. The only time I really have to spend is the weekends (which is definitely a good thing!).

  • Catherine says:

    I’ve been especially good at not spending because I’m at home with baby and no way to get around to the stores since hubby is at work with the car and then when I do spend money I start feeling guilty about it…

  • When I was working on getting out of debt, I found that staying at home was my best friend. Yes, lonely at times, but I didn’t have temptation to spend money. That is the only way to get ahead. Great story John!

    • John says:

      Thanks Grayson! I know exactly how you feel. If I am not going anywhere then I can’t really spend anything, especially if I stay away from Amazon. 😉

  • I also find it amazing that it is possible to not spend money when you really need to. It forces a lot of creativity. Unfortunately I’m still doing that time to time when my freelancing career stalls. Believe me, I’m trying to get ahead of that so I have the money. But I should also mention I DO have an E fund, but I try everything first in my power not to touch it. Glad you’ve come such a long way!

    • John says:

      It really does Tonya. I know that somehow got by, but thankful that I did. I can completely understand the freelancing aspect as we still get a bit of that ourselves. Having that E-Fund puts you well ahead of the curve. 🙂

  • I’m guessing I was in a similar situation for years, but without any credit card debt, nor any huge student loans. I did borrow a bit of money to invest in some equipment for my business, and I continue to this day borrowing for business purposes.

    But after a while, 15+ years of denial have worn me down and probably broken me from many PF bloggers perspectives. Perhaps some of you might like to do a PF blogger intervention! Could be an interesting topic(s) across many blogs.

    Essentially I’m like the addict who won’t swear off drugs… But my vices include eating well and espresso coffee (made at home of course!).

    • John says:

      I can understand it being difficult to continue to deny things. Life is meant to be fun and not constant denying of oneself. Here’s to hoping we all have a good balance.

  • Lena @ WhatMommyDoes says:

    Sell plasma?!?! That’s serious! Fortunately, I can’t identify with that, but I love to hear that it was entirely possible to live on such a small amount of money. You’re right – we’ll do anything to get food!

  • Oh, I love the backstory. Thanks!

  • Mackenzie says:

    Great post John. I am getting better at “no-spending” but when I think about all the money over the years when I was younger that I spent…Ugh, it makes me ill.

  • Happy to be co-hosting with you!

  • Leslie says:

    I unconsciously have days where I don’t buy anything but I no longer challenge myself to no-spend days. I found that when I was aiming for no-spend days, I would just spend more money on the off days! Now I don’t think about spending in that way anymore and look at it at a per-purchase basis.

    • John says:

      That’s a great way to look at it Leslie! That balance can be hard to have, but in the end it’s what you’re spending overall that makes the difference.

  • I find working from home versus working at my old jobs makes it alot easier for us to not spend money all the time. We only take one day off a week to do groceries and errands and make sure we only buy the stuff we need based on our lists. A big change from the way we use to live

    • John says:

      I know exactly how you feel Sicorra. Working from home definitely helps in this area, especially if you’re not tempted by Amazon like me. 😉

  • Very encouraging post! Glad to co-host this with ya.

  • Do or Debt says:

    I try to also do no spending Mon-Fri. Of course, sometimes things come up that are unexpected, but typically I try to plan on not spending any money. If I do, I try to keep it to $5-10 max. Thanks for the inspiring post!

  • Jason Clayton | frugalhabits says:

    I’m with you John. Many times I try hard to make the whole week a no spend week. The key is to plan ahead and put yourself in situations that make it possible.(like making my lunch in the morning, before work)

    • John says:

      Great point Jason. Without a plan, you’re likely to fail many if not most times. I always found making my lunch the night before was immensely helpful.

  • Lakita says:

    It is almost impossible not to spend money especially for basic necessities. However, you have proven a good point. Cutting down on spending drastically may help consumers at least for the purpose of building on our personal savings.

    • John says:

      It is almost impossible, but it can be done…although I would not prefer to. Having food becomes very important when you can’t afford anything else.

  • No spend challenges are actually helpful ways of assessing what it is that you NEED to spend money on, and where you are overspending. I have done a couple, and they are usually very successful. It’s not all about saving those extra dollars (though that is a bonus), but it’s very helpful to know where your weak spots of temptation are.

  • I think the key isn’t to do a “no spend” (although it is not a bad idea) but I just prefer to do everything in moderation and stick to a budget. That way there is no need for the “no spend” mentality.

    • John says:

      Very true Glen. However, there are certain situations where it’s important and needed. If I did not do it, then I don’t know how I would have made it. Thankfully I have learned the importance of moderation and budgeting.

  • John says:

    Yes they were Veronica. I don’t like talking about it much, but it fit up well with the theme of the giveaway. It has shaped so much how I view things today and look at needs/wants much more differently now.

  • Suzanne says:

    I insisted on a no spend year three years ago (my husband has learned to grin and bear it). The results were pretty amazing because we ended up with five figures in cash to put away. Of course the next year we had a few pent up demand expenses like small home improvement projects that couldn’t be put off anymore, but at least we had the cash to pay for it. No spend challenges are great. I love a challenge!

    • John says:

      That’s AWESOME Suzanne. Being able to save up five figures for cash is absolutely nothing to sneeze at. How cool you could cover the projects with the saved cash!

  • I haven’t necessarily gone on a no spend challenge but I do consciously try to get my average daily expenditures down. I spent $2k less in 2012 than in 2011 and this helps by giving me more gap to invest and less expenses I need covered from my investments.

    I have been thinking of trying to get my food budget extremely low for one month. I’m thinking that’s going to be a challenge I’ll try in February.

  • CF says:

    Yay! Thanks for co-hosting. When I was younger, I used to give myself $400 a month in spending money! :S I can’t imagine spending that much now, when many days, I don’t spend any money at all.

  • I give myself $50 a week ‘fun money’ which I receive in cash each week from my side hustle (the rest goes straight in the bank). Often it will get to the end of the week and I will still have the full $50 still sitting in my wallet, but if I don’t take it to the bank and instead build up a few hundred dollars in my wallet I usually manage to blow it on a big purchase. I think this method works reasonably well as at the end of the day I know that whatever I spend today won’t be there for the rest of the week and I might need to give something else up – for example I’m reluctant to eat out on my lunch break by myself because I might want to have lunch later in the week with a friend.

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