Last week when I announced that we were having a mini no spend challenge, a reader questioned whether no spend challenges really save money or only cause a delay in spending. My answer is that it is a bit of both.
What Does Our No Spend Challenge Look Like?
To clarify, a no spend challenge for our family isn’t literally no spending. Instead, we decide to cut our spending for the duration of the no spend challenge. For instance, we normally spend $400 to $500 a month to feed our family of five a healthy diet including mostly organic produce. During a no spend challenge, we will try to cut that amount in half. The same goes for our other spending. The categories subject to our no spend challenge are entertainment, eating out, groceries, transportation and miscellaneous spending.
How It Helps Us Save
During a no spend challenge, we do save money. For instance, we had one no spend month in June, which happens to be my son’s birth month. We really wanted to give him a bike, but buying a new one would take up 1/9 of the money we had allotted to spend for the month. Instead, we got creative and found a great, slightly used kid’s bike for $15 on Craigslist. We saved $45 in that case by buying on Craigslist instead of buying it new at Target as my husband wanted to.
We also use a no spend month to use up groceries in our pantry and freezer. If we already have the food, why buy more? Typically during a no spend month we only buy fresh produce and milk. We get the rest of our food from our ample stock. It may mean that I choose different recipes to use up the food we have or that sometimes we are eating a meal we don’t really care for, but we aren’t wasting food.
How It Helps Us Delay Spending
But the reader is right that a no spend month can just delay spending. If we have 5 days left in the no spend challenge and the gas tank is empty, I may only put in $15. True, when the no spend month is over, I will fill up and spend the money I avoided spending during the week on gas.
So, while it is true in some cases that a no spend month often delays spending, it is also true that it can help many families save money by being conscious with their spending and using up what they have. In most cases, I find it a nice way to sharpen my ability to try to save money and be more resourceful. We can all get lazy with our savings methods; this just helps me remind myself that most of the time, we don’t need to buy more food, gas, etc. because we already have what we need, and if we don’t, there are other ways to buy something less expensively.