04 June 2009

The No-Spend Challenge ~~ A Guest Post

I'm thrilled to welcome Amy Clark from MomAdvice.com. MomAdvice is packed with money-saving advice, recipes, home management inspiration, and creative parenting ideas. In other words, it's awesome!

In light of the current economic situation, I asked Amy to share her experience during her month-long No Spend Challenge.



This February our family decided to embark on a No Spend Challenge for an entire month. When I say that we did not spend money, I only mean that we bought the necessary items needed to keep us fed for the month and our budgeted amount for gas in our cars. Anything above that was considered spending and was not allowed for our family’s No Spend Challenge.

I realize that a No Spend Challenge is not a unique idea. Many personal finance advisors encourage families to take a break from spending to shed light on your spending patterns. I have seen other bloggers take on the challenge for longer lengths of time or even part of their yearly routine. Still others are forced into No Spend month because of the loss of a job, a low paying job, or have no spouse to rely on to get you through those lean times. When my husband was unemployed our No Spend Challenge went on for years it seemed and that was not by choice, but because it was simply necessary.

How lucky am I that I can choose to not spend money for a month? How rich is my life that extra spending has even been a part of my life? I feel quite blessed to know that I can make this choice and I approached our challenge with enthusiasm and excitement.

Was the No Spend Challenge difficult for us? I will admit, it was more difficult than I expected… but also very rewarding. I discovered so much about myself, my spending habits, and the strength of my family to see a challenge through.
Let me share with you a little bit about what our family learned through our No Spend Challenge.

  • I am more resourceful than I gave myself credit for. Committing to stay within our grocery budget was more difficult than I had expected. I did not realize how often I ask my husband to stop off at the store for one or two items for dinner. I found that many times I could whip up some really great cooking substitutes for the ingredients I needed or I was able to make those items I would have bought.


  • Cooking every night is harder than I thought. I love working from home, but it can be challenging to get all my work done and get dinner on the table. Often I am in conference calls or working on a project until my husband gets home. I do love to cook, but I also love the occasional break so I can just relax. I realized during this month how often we actually do eat out. Trying to be inventive in the kitchen every single day was a challenge. I discovered that a box of macaroni or sandwich night was a wonderful way to still give myself a night off without spending money. I also learned the art of stretching a meal as far as it could go, reinventing it, or even double-batching meals helped give me the nights off I needed when I was working.

  • I can still give to others. Do you ever feel like you can make very little impact on someone because you don't have the money to do it? I can admit that I feel that way often. There are so many around me that are affected by job loss, medical problems, and depression. Many times I feel so helpless to these situations because I don't have the financial means or connections to help someone out of these situations. It has been weighing very heavy on my heart these days. That is why I am so proud to tell you that I was able to provide five meals for others during this month and hosted countless engagements at my house caring and serving my friends and family. You don't have to have a lot to make a positive impact on someone else. What seemed like small gestures to me means a lot more to someone than you might think. We are so hurried, so busy, so tired. I know I often feel like I have nothing to give anyone. I realize now that a woman of small means can still give with her whole heart and make a big difference to someone else.

  • My social calendar needs some revising. I never realized how many of my social engagements centered around spending money. Meeting up with friends for dinner, grabbing lunch for a play date, sharing coffee with a girlfriend are just some examples of things that are typically on my calendar. I will admit that I was a little bummed to miss some of these activities, but I was determined to approach this challenge creatively. We hit the library, we went to our friend's houses for play dates, we packed our lunches, and I hosted my friends at my home instead. What I found was that I had a deeper connection with the people in my life when I could sit at my kitchen table and our children played at my house than I would have at a play area where I am running around after my kids and dealing with crowds.


  • I feel more grounded when I am home and not spending. Since we weren't out spending money, we ended up spending a lot more time at home. I suddenly had the time to tackle all of those projects I didn't think I had time to do. In fact, I had time for things that I loved to do. I haven't read a whole book in probably a year and during this month I read four entire books in one month. I baked bread. I weeded through things that needed organizing in my house. I actually got caught up with laundry a few of those days. I hung out with my children. I finally felt centered. I felt like a calendar addict who was just given permission to take four weeks off. That first week I felt the withdrawals, but by the second week it began to feel wonderful. I used my “No Spend Challenge” as my excuse to detach myself from anything and everything so I could just relax and do the things I truly enjoy.


  • The best things in life really are free. Comfort food. Homemade bread. Fresh clean towels. A delicious little library book. Giggling with my friends over coffee. Playing those dusty board games. Helping others around me. Snuggles from my sweet children. Good music. Dancing with my kids. Knitting. Soaking in the tub. Warm gooey brownies. A good movie. Snuggling up with my hubby on the couch. All free and all wonderfully perfect moments.

Although my No Spend Challenge is over, I look forward to repeating this challenge each February and making it a priority to get our finances in check. I did have readers who worried that I would overspend to make up for my month of not spending. I was happy to assure them that the first thing I indulged in was a $1 Diet Coke from McDonald’s and a $20 trip to Hobby Lobby to replenish my yarn supply so I could knit some gifts.

I encourage you to start your own No Spend Challenge today. Visit our No Spend Challenge for a little inspiration today!

Thanks Amy! Your article is inspiring. Is anyone else feeling pulled to take the No Spend Challenge? The idea has been nagging at me for a while. I'll let you know what I decide. I'm pretty sure that The Hubster will do cartwheels around the yard if I decide to go for it.


Here is just a small sampling of my favorite articles from MomAdvice:
Finding Beauty in the Ordinary
The Only Corn on the Cob I Will Ever Make Again
World's Greatest Homemade Slushies
Sponge Ball Fun

I'm linking this post to The Inspired Room for A Beautiful Life because I think not spending could help make my left more beautiful.

37 comments {Click here to leave a comment}:

Jen - Balancing Beauty and Bedlam said...

Thanks Amy...I remember when you did this challenge and it was so fun to cheer you on. We're pretty much living a no spend challenge till my hubby finds a job (well, almost). I was fortunate to know it was coming and put a bunch away in my yard sale budget. :)

Heather's Home (aka Chez Hez) said...

What a wonderful post and I loved the accompanying pictures, too! It's so very hard to keep up with everyone and still find the time to keep grounded and centered within your family....but, it sounds like you're doing a great job! Let me know what you think of Ms. Meyer's books. ;) Great job!

Adam and Hayley Peterson said...

My husband and I put in offer on a house, and were suddenly kicked out of our apartment, forcing us to move in with my parents. We decided to try and save for a down payment, rather then 100% financing, so we did the No-spending challenge. I'm happy to say, though it was difficult, we saved enough for a down payment, a new SS refridgerator, and livingroom set in two months! This experience definitely made us look at our unnecessary spending and how much we could save by spending a little less.

Sandra said...

We haven't done an entire month of no spending, but we have decided not to eat out the month of June. I'm looking forward to seeing how creative we can be!

Songbirdtiff said...

This is a fantastic testimony to the fact that spending does not equal happiness.

Thanks for the wonderful article!

FOR THE SAKE OF TIME said...

What a wonderful and inspiring piece. Bringing our lives back to center is a real challenge. Sometimes we become so overwhelmed with what don't have that it becomes difficult to remember what we do have. Thank you so much for sharing Amy's experience with all of us.

Charla

Still Learning said...

We are on a "forced" no spend challange. We are self employed in a feast or famine business & right now it has been a famine, ha ha. But I must say, only spending money on the necessities of supplying our needs has been kind of fun & has taught me how to be even more resourceful.

Tired of staying at home but have no funds to go out? Cook dinner, pack it up and head to the local park for a picnic. Fun stuff. I learned all kinds of free things to do to spice things up. Including our free movie under the stars that our local county parks put on. I don't think I'll ever spend like I used to.

Have a great day,

Jennifer

Mrs_Faz said...

Thanks for posting this. I think my hubby and I could stand to do a no spend challenge. I think it would be fun and cause us to really think outside the spending box.

Amy said...

What a lovely surprise this morning, Kimba! Thank you so much for sharing my post with your readers. It means so much and I am so honored to have you as my friend!

mommy4life said...

Thank you for this! I have to second every point in this post!

Meredith said...

This is wonderful Kimba - thanks for having her share with us!

DeAnna said...

Amy - thank you so much for sharing. What a blessing to discover the simple life is the good life! We have traveling coming up, but after that I think I may take up your challege!

Nancy said...

Kimba, thanks for sharing Amy with us today and her thoughts and ideas on no spending. I have been trying really hard to cut down on my spending because I've finally realized how much I spend on things because I think they are cute, nice, fun, etc. but not necessarily things I truly need. Amy's thoughts are inspiring me to take it a step further and do a no spend challenge. Thanks so much for the post!

Nancy

Kat said...

Oooooo. I love this. Dare I try it myself?

Kristen, The Pajama Mama said...

LOVE this idea! What a great challenge-great post!

Laretha said...

Hubby and I are doing this very thing this month. June is tough for us. We have 2 birthdays, 2 kids going to camp, a class reunion and a womens conference. However all the above have been paid for. I like doing it in Feb though - less days! :-)

Thanks for the encouragement. I am printing and putting on the fridge!

Stacey @ The Blessed Nest said...

What a great post, I'll be adding it to my inspiration file! I was just talking with Hubby about this an hour ago!! We are trying to pinch pennies and have also decided to stop any unnecessary spending. I'll be showing this post to him later! Thanks!! :)
Stacey

Lynn said...

Awesome!!! We did the same thing this past Feb. You can read about our no spend month here:

http://preparednessnibblesandbits.blogspot.com/2009/03/real-life-living-it.html

I could truly relate to EVERYTHING you said. Thanks for sharing!

Gina said...

Thanks Kimba and Amy-I love this idea and would love to give it a try willingly! We've had seasons where we've been forced to do this-those are great lessons learned!

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

Great article!! Thanks for sharing it with us, Kimba and Amy. :) I am trying VERY hard to not go crazy this summer. No amusement park passes, etc. We did FREE story time at the library this morning, and it was great. :)

Jenny@ L.O.T.s of Love said...

We did no eating out for a month but no spending?! Oh...that would be hard! Although, my budget would love it!

Southern Fried Gal said...

I totally need to pray about a no spend challenge. I'm like you - I have probably been pulled to this more than I think. We live somewhat frugrally for the most part but it is so easy to waste money in the smallest places. Oh well - at least I decorated my door on a budget today - hee hee!
Can't wait to see what you decide!

Kasey Hunt said...

You are amazing. Thanks for your great example.

Holly said...

I am feeling pulled to try the challenge! I am not sure my hubby would do cartwheels. . .maybe for my piece of the challenge, but not for his! I am going to think about it, and pray about it, and talk to hubby about it. . .

Magic Brush said...

How funny.... our family did the EXACT same thing in FEBRUARY also. Thank goodness it was the shortest month. We only made it to the 22nd before we broke down and went out to eat. It takes ALOT of discipline and food planning in my opinion. But it was a good wake up call to what we would normally spend $ on without even thinking about it.

Great post!

Rona's Home Page said...

I also enjoyed reading this post. We're terrible with spending especially when one thinks about the free rent, utilities and mileage that we receive per our jobs.
I'm planning on a no spend for July so we'll see how our family does.

white flower design said...

I am in love with this concept. I am all for the "less is more" life style. Great post. Frugally yours, Lori

Mary Jean, also known as "The Dough Nut" said...

I soooo need to do this! I feel out of control some months!

Terri said...

Excellent post! This is our lifestyle... not by choice. But it does bring out creativity, and an appreciation for the ways the Lord provides! We take a lot less for granted, that's for sure. Blessings!

Tara said...

This is an awesome post!! i so need to hear this...we've been thinking as a family on ways to re-ground ourselves and this would be a perfect idea! thank you for sharing this!!

Living With Lindsay said...

This is so timely for me. We have had some very big expenses recently (medical bills, car repairs, etc) and have just taken a look at our finances. If we cut back on most of the unnecessary stuff and follow our first-ever budget, we can have our car paid off in less than a year AND save a ton more a month. We're trying it this month to see how it goes. Thanks for helping me to feel like there's someone else out there!

vickysplace1 said...

I like the idea. I will share the idea with my husband and hopefully we can do! I love treasure hunting for my business and me. The me part will be a sacrifice. BEST WISHES VICKY

Missie said...

Thank you for sharing your experience. With the economy and government spending constantly in the news, I find myself desiring a more simplistic lifestyle and looking for enjoyment in the little things. Your article is an inspiration.

Nicky said...

Beautiful post.

As I prepare to go to grad school on a budget, I was thinking today of how to continue to make my life beautiful without buying extra "stuff". This post reminds me that I could.

Kim @ Everything Etsy said...

What a great post! I know I spend on some of the same things. Maybe we'll try this sometime.

~Kim

ImagineCozy said...

What a wonderful idea. It is amazing what other things we can fill our time with --- and how creative we can be when we are not spending money. Thanks for the reminder.

Ashley @ Domestic Fashionista said...

I am taking on a minimal spending summer. It is hard but like so much of what Amy said is true. The perspective and boundaries is a good thing. Great post!