How to Prepare for a No-Spend Challenge

A No-Spend challenge is exactly what it sounds like: an intentional choice to opt-out of the patterns and habits that often govern our financial choices, limiting purchases to essentials only. It’s a fast from mass marketing and consumption.

With all we’ve had going on around our house, we’ve noticed that our finances are fueled less by the intention (and attention), and more by reaction (and mindlessness).

Because we’re always up for crazy challenges as a way to promote lasting change for our family, regardless of the skepticism and doubt from our community (for example… our $100,000 debt pay off in just over 2 years), enter the No-Spend month. Now, I realize going an entire month without spending will feel crazy town to some people. No problem. You could try and do a no-spend weekend. Or, a no-spend week. Or, a no-spend lunch hour. Whatever it is that would feel like a bit of a stretch, I challenge you to try it.

I love changing things up in my life. It gives me a sense of aliveness and renewed vigor for achieving those Big Picture Dreams of ours.

I do think that a no-spend month takes a clear strategy to be a useful vehicle for transformation. So, here are 5 ways to prepare for success with your next No-Spend challenge:


Talk to each other and decide on your Big Why for the No-Spend challenge. Do you want to use the extra money to pay off debt? Or, maybe you’re saving for a vacation coming up. Or, maybe you’d like to use $100 of the money and go out to an amazing restaurant together in March? Figure out why you both would like to do this and post it up somewhere visible so you can remember.


Set your own rules for the No-Spend challenge. Decide what is OK to spend money on and what is a definite No Way! Write these down and post them with your Big Why – research shows, time and again, that it’s critical to have systems in place to handle questions and the fundamental ambiguity of life BEFORE the questions arise.  

Here are the rules we’re going to be abiding by:

  • Always check the pantry and freezer before making a menu plan for the week and base the menu off what we already have.

  • It’s OK to buy groceries. We have 6 people in our household and entertain often. We plan to always ask our guests to bring a dish – more of potluck style than pure entertaining.

  • OK to buy things that are absolutely necessary – like doctor visits or car repairs necessary to keep the car running!

  • DO NOT BUY: clothing; dining out (no matter how much the kids are whining); anything that is not a NEED. No toiletries. Definitely no Target runs. No new fun things for the house. And no to stuff for my business.


We will continue our meal planning procedure in order to make the most of the food we have at home. If you want to see how we make a meal plan every week, with an accompanying grocery list, check out my video here!

Aside from a meal plan, also make a plan for packing lunches and giving yourself time every morning to make and eat breakfast. This will avoid any desperate trips to Starbucks. “Fail to plan and you plan to fail.”


Hopefully, you’ve already discussed this with your spouse and you’ve both decided on your Big Why for doing a No-Spend month. But, don’t forget about the kids.

I’m excited about having a discussion with my kids about the inspiration that is calling us to this choice. Our decision to return to intention so that we can get closer to my dream of being a successful creative entrepreneur as well as our shared 10-year Big Picture Dream

We have talked to our kids about that Big Picture Dream in the past, and they get really excited about it. Sharing your Dream with them and see how they respond. It might motivate them as well. They might want to add some of their ideas to the Dream!


This might be the MOST important preparation for a No-Spend challenge. The power of positive thinking is real, and will not only help you get through the month but will be your best friend in rocking your no-spend month. Like Mary says: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.” Find the fun, friend.

Put it in perspective, AND make sure your perspective is in line. Yes, this month is going to be a challenge – any disruption to habits and behaviors is – but think of how it will feel on the other side. You will have a new depth of awareness about your budget, you’ll likely have extra money to go towards whatever your goal is AND you will have accomplished something really hard.

That’s awesome. You can do this. It’s only a month (actually 28 days) – and you’ll be financially stronger on the other side!

Are you in?!