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Although I’m a cautious spender (or at least I’d like to think that I am), I still had SO many times when I let money leak through the cracks.
Tiffany bracelet for $360? Sure, why not? I can afford that!
Prada bag for $2,000? Look at how effing gorgeous it is, buy!!
Another #thirstythursday night out with friends? Yeah, “once in a while” won’t hurt! I mean, who doesn’t want to celebrate Friday’s arrival?
$3-5 on a cup of coffee or latte at Starbucks? It seems little at first, but those few dollars eventually (and surprisingly) adds up to over $1,200 per year!
Luckily, something called Swagbucks – my favorite money-saving resource that is free to use – always gives me the opportunity to earn those FREE $25 to $100 gift cards to many of my favorite shops such as Starbucks and Amazon. Getting them for free allows me to save money on my coffees and lattes every month. Who can’t say no to free Starbucks drinks? I love those sweet sweet gift cards! 🙂
⭐ Important: Don’t forget to confirm your e-mail from Swagbucks once you sign up for a free account here because you’ll get a $5 welcome bonus today!
You can also check out my honest Swagbucks review here to see how I earn free gift cards.
Whether we’re good with money or not, we all have those craving moments, right?
Today, I want to talk about my “no spend” challenge that I started 11 months ago. By “no spend,” I really mean saying bye to the impulse splurges and the frequent night out with friends and coworkers. Basically, the stuff I thought was making me happy, but really wasn’t.
From this challenge, I want to share with you the 11 lessons I learned.
But before I go on, there are some questions many people ask regarding the no spend challenge. I want to address them here to help you:
What is the no spend challenge?
The no-spend challenge is a self-set goal to avoid non-essential spending for a certain period, like a day, week, or month. It’s meant to help people become more aware of their spending habits, save money, and understand the difference between what they need and what they simply want.
During this challenge, you only spend money on basics: rent, utilities, and groceries. No eating out, no entertainment, and no shopping for extras.
I’ve done it and learned a lot about my own spending. For instance, I found out I was often buying things just to feel better, not because I needed them. If you’re curious, I’ve written more about this in my post on stopping unnecessary spending.
It’s not just about money; it’s about understanding yourself better and living with purpose.
What is the 30 day no-spend challenge?
The 30-day no-spend challenge is a personal financial experiment I undertook.
For an entire month, I limited my expenditures strictly to essentials: mortgage payments, utilities, and groceries. Everything else, from dining out to impulse shopping, was strictly off-limits.
The objective was to recalibrate my spending habits, set aside savings, and discern between genuine needs and mere wants. Throughout this process, I gained significant insights into my financial behaviors and recognized the value of mindful spending.
Beyond the monetary aspect, this challenge offered lessons in self-reflection and purposeful living. I highly recommend giving it a try if you’re looking to gain better control over your finances.
What counts as a no spend day?
A no-spend day is a day when an individual refrains from making any non-essential purchases. This means only spending on absolute necessities, such as bills that are due that day. Discretionary expenses, like dining out, entertainment, or impulse buys, are avoided.
As mentioned earlier, the goal of no-spend challenges is to be mindful of one’s spending habits, save money, and distinguish between needs and wants. It involves a deliberate effort to pause, reflect on consumption patterns, and practice financial discipline.
Related articles on how to save money:
- 65 ways to save money fast even when you’re broke
- How to save $10,000 in a year
- How to save $1,000 per month
Lessons from My No-Spend Challenge Experience
Before delving into the lessons I learned from the no-spend challenge, I want to share my initial mindset—the reasons I hadn’t previously recognized for my excessive spending.
I’ll also discuss how and why my perspective on spending changed while participating in the 30-day no-spend challenge.
My Sad Corporate Life:
Update: I penned this article when I first launched this blog, nearly 6 years ago. I’ve chosen not to modify this section to preserve its original context, allowing me to reflect on my growth since then. You can also read my other article about how I transitioned from a 9-5 job to become a full-time blogger, and how I built my first $1,000,000 in net worth by age 33, which let me enjoy a better work-life balance and the freedom to travel the world after realizing there’s more to life than just spending on material things.
About five years ago, things were great when I was three and a half years into my career. I was (and still am) working in the financial services sector. I was networking and building relationships with a lot of people in my area.
Overall, my friends and family had the expectation that I was going to do well in this area. (Pshhh, yeah right)!! 😂
Anyway, I didn’t think much about it because I always knew that I never wanted to stay. Despite the great pay and benefits, I knew that “the office” wasn’t my cup of tea.
For that reason, I started saving and investing for my future self in my 20s, after graduating from University. But I didn’t get SUPER serious about it until recently, and that was exactly 11 months ago.
Lack of passion
I was okay with my job. There was a point in time where I enjoyed it because of the awesome people I worked with.
But after things changed and I didn’t love what I was doing at my job, but I didn’t hate it either. It was certainly bearable (until much later on).
Alongside, I was searching for my passion while working my day job, but I didn’t have it figured out
It wasn’t until the 4th year into my career that I started to hate everything about the corporate work life. Stated simply, I wanted to find a job where I could work alone, not having to deal with people, politics, and rat race culture.
Overall, I felt so desperate to get out. I even spent over two years researching on a business that I wanted to pursue, but unfortunately, this didn’t work out. Maybe I’ll leave this story for another time.
Because I’m six years into a job I dislike, I started taking my money more seriously to the next level.
Again, I always knew that corporate life wasn’t my thing, so switching jobs wasn’t a solution either.
To improve my situation, l decided to accelerate my savings and earnings, so that I could build a bigger cushion to leave sooner and figure things out.
As a result of my seriousness, I started googling about wealth and happiness almost a year ago.
Despite my very basic knowledge about finance and investing, I knew there was so much more I could learn.
During that time, I googled silly things like “how to become a happy millionaire” or “how to free yourself from the rat race.”
Based on those searches, I realized that we can increase our chances by:
- cutting expenses
- increasing earnings
- increasing savings
- investing our money
The challenge is on!
By focusing on savings, I challenged myself to not spend on stupid sh!t for 1 month. This 1 month eventually turned into 2, 3, and now 11 months.
By “stupid sh!t” I mean the things that only gave me temporarily satisfaction. For example, I was constantly shopping for “deals” at HomeSense or Ikea to decorate my home. Or, the time when I made an impulse purchase on a Prada bag, along with some other pricey bags, just to make myself feel better from a bad day of work. I don’t even use those bags anymore. I only use 1-2 that I really love.
Being 100% honest with myself, I admit that I was only spending on “nice” things to temporarily make myself feel better because I was always self conscious of myself.
I thought by having a beautifully decorated home to show for was going to make me happy; that bringing nice bags to work (at the jobs I didn’t like) was going to make me feel great. But no, none of this was a solution to happiness. I was too preoccupied with materialistic goods and that’s where I made mistakes with my money.
After going through this challenge, this is what I learned from my no-spend challenge.
1. You become more productive
I spent most of my time thinking of ways to earn more as I restrained myself from blowing my money. I was very motivated and determined to get the f*ck out!
As a side gig, I picked up a skill at refurbishing furniture. With limited time due to a 9-5 job, I was surprisingly able to do more within a day. Compared to when I knew I had all the time in the world just to “chill” and spend money, I was more productive with less time in mind. This motivated me to plan and stick to a schedule.
To learn and improve my personal finance situation, I also developed money management skills by reading and educating myself on finance topics.
Aside from doing those things, I also started this blog as a hobby to document my financial journey to teach readers like you how I budget, save money, and make extra money. So far, this blogging journey has been so rewarding because I’m earning extra income on top of my full-time job and my furniture side hustle!
I feel much happier and productive once I shifted my mindset away from spending to trying different hobbies that earn me extra money!
Generally, when you know you’re challenging yourself to cut back, you tend to find more meaningful and fun things to do with your time
Personally, I think finding ways to make extra money to increase your net worth is fun, lol.
⭐ UPDATE: I was earning as high as $5,000 per month in extra money ON TOP of my full-time job with this small and personal blog! Today, I’m earning over $10,000 per month blogging which allowed me to quit my job so I could spend more time with my family and focus on my blog.
When I first started this blog, I had NO idea what I was doing but I eventually learned a lot of great things! Blogging brings me so much joy compared to binge shopping and has definitely changed my life. If you’re as excited as I am, I would love to teach you how to start a money-making blog too.
You can join my FREE 7-day e-mail course here that teaches beginners like you how to start your blog from scartch. NO tech and NO writing experience required – join to find out more!
2. Experience is more valuable than your “stuff”
Being able to travel and see the world with the people I love is more valuable to me than a whole wardrobe full of designer clothes, or a home of Martha Stewart’s designs.
What’s your priority?
3. DIY can make and/or save you money
Here, I’m going to mention my love for designing second-hand furniture. Not only do you add your own personal touch, but you also develop a skill.
Recently, I’ve been flipping furniture during my weekends to earn extra income. The best part is that I absolutely love it!
Not only did I stop spending money — instead I’m earning more now! 😍
Aside from refurbishing furniture, you can also attempt to fix your broken things. This includes your stove, faucets, toilets, walls, etc.
Forget about hiring the so-called pros. Unless it’s a major job that requires major plumbing or electrical work (you don’t want to cheap out on this), you can always befriend Google or YouTube if fixing things interests you.
4. You can consider buying stuff in excellent or even brand new condition!
I used to be very close-minded about this as I wanted everything from the actual retail store.
I never liked the actual physical thrift store, and to be honest I still don’t. Given the suggestion by frugal bloggers, I tried it a few times to be open about the idea and I would never go back.
However, Kijiji and online apps make thrift shopping easier and more convenient today!
There’s definitely a lot of treasures you can find when you keep an opened mind while browsing online. I like hunting for items with the original tags on! You’d be surprised to see many people buy stuff and they never end up cutting off the tags to wear or consume the items!
You can also find almost anything from home decor to furniture in lightly loved condition. No one will know whether you purchased it brand new or not, and the reality is you saved more than 80-90% compared to its original retail value. I love hunting for these treasures to flip and design second hand furniture which allows me to earn extra money doing something fun. I just love the idea of being creative!!! ❤️❤️❤️
I also arranged a no-spend weekend with my boyfriend to declutter the stuff we don’t use. We sold off our gently used items to earn some money back. In total, we earned close to $4,000!
5. Out of sight, out of mind
When I see something I’m interested in, I wait at least a week to see if I’m still thinking about it.
If I don’t, then that means I don’t love it enough to buy it.
Walking away gives you the time to assess whether you really need or want that Tiffany Bracelet or Bose speaker that was on sale. If you don’t need it nor love it, then the saying goes “out of sight, out of mind,” right?
I know most people talk about fighting consumerism using the 24-hour rule. So, basically waiting 24 hours before buying that particular item that you “loved at that moment.” That helps too, but I personally prefer my one-week rule. 😉
6. Time spent with friends and family is what makes you happy
When I sit back and think about my happiest times, I realize it’s not the glamorous materialistic goods I have. I admit I love that stuff, but it’s not what makes me permanently happy. Neither is the idea of making more money at a job I don’t like (just to spend more).
Instead, it’s spending time and forming meaningful relationships with family and friends. This is priceless to me, you can’t buy that with money.
Also, time only moves forward which means you won’t be able to buy it back. With that said, today is the best time to start spending it with the people you love before it’s too late.
Numerous studies revealed that moments before peoples’ deaths, they said their biggest regret was not spending enough time with their loved ones.
According to The Guardian source, this article mentions the top five things that they wish they had done:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
As you can see, not everything is about money and fame. But most people get too caught up with “other things” that they miss seeing the things that do matter.
7. Retailers are more of a rip off than you think
This no-spend challenge led me to research and learn more about how companies make money from consumers. I recall learning this in my consumer behavior courses during my University years, but reading about them online reinforced these facts.
These companies invest a lot of money into studying psychology and consumer behavior to get you spending. Even when the item is marked “50% off” they still make a huge profit from you, but understandably they need to in order to stay alive and serve people. They also love to use the line “limited time” to make the promotion look scarce, but it really isn’t.
My point is if you don’t need the item, don’t fall victim to their marketing tricks! Only buy things you need, will actually use, or value in life.
Here are a few articles that explain how retailers use psychology to lure you in. In some cases, they adopt unethical practices, so beware!
- L.A. prosecutors are accusing four big retailers — JC Penney, Sears, Kohl’s and Macy’s — of tricking shoppers
- Bagged a bargain or been anchored?
- Decoding the hidden cues that make you buy
- Christmas music makes us spend more
8. You start to appreciate the small things
When you frequently eat world-class food or dine out a lot, you transition yourself into this lifestyle.
Eventually, all the “finer” things in life won’t mean anything to you.
In other words, most things won’t spark any joy because you have it most of the time.
For example, there was a period when I was spending at least $10 on lunch every day, and dining out with friends more often. Not only did this sidetrack me from my financial goals, but I was getting bored of dining out. On top, it led to unhealthy eating habits.
To fix this, I developed a healthy balance by cooking at home and eating out less often. For example, I would eat home prepped meals on Mondays to Thursdays, but treat myself out during the weekends.
As a result, I found myself enjoying and appreciating the small indulges. Not to mention, this also made me look forward to my weekends!
9. Saving money is not as difficult as it seems
At first, it felt intimidated to increase my savings and earnings.
To be honest, I thought putting myself in this challenge was going to kill me. But it turns out I’m still alive and I don’t even think about it anymore because I enjoy pursuing these money-making hobbies where I feel so happy when my customers and clients are happy with my work!
In fact, it feels great knowing you can stretch your dollar. And no, it’s not called being cheap… it’s called being smart by being able to find the best value!
Overall, this “no-spend” game challenged me to find creative ways to preserve capital and to earn more.
For example, I picked up wood pallets and brand new ceramic tiles (for free) to craft home decor items. To my surprise, this up-cycled stuff looks better than what you can find at your local HomeSense store! Guests who come over would think it was bought from the store. This is where Pinterest comes to the rescue!
Not only do you save money by being creative, but you can also earn money by selling this stuff on Kijiji or Etsy.
I’ve even gone as far as picking up free stuff (on Kijiji and Letgo) to flip things for a profit. For example, I’ve picked up free furniture to fix and sold them within a few weeks!
This may sound crazy to you, even I thought I was nuts, but creating wealth almost feels like a hobby now! Not just for the sake of earning money but for pleasure and seeing that people appreciate the hard work and effort I put into the things I create for them. ❤️
10. Financial freedom is closer than you think
Time flies, doesn’t it?
It has almost been one year since I put myself on this no spend on stupid sh!t challenge. Not just that, but it has also been over six years since I started saving and investing. It surprises me how much I learned and accomplished within these years. But of course, I’m still learning and I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way which I’ll blog about in many future posts.
I can tell you, for a fact, that this journey becomes easier if you stay positive and determined. Sounds pretty cheesy, but it’s true.
Needless to say, do not become too preoccupied with “financial freedom” every second of your life — I personally made this mistake. It will drain your mental energy and cause stress.
Instead, set small goals for yourself and achieve them in baby steps. Challenge yourself, stay determined, and have fun!
Believe me, everything will eventually fall into place.
By the time you know it, a year will have passed and you’ll notice a significant improvement. After that, it’s time to move onto the next year. 😉
11. More Lessons Learned Along the Way…
Aside from these lessons I learned during my “no spend” phase, I also went through a year of reading some motivational and inspirational books and blogs that kept me on track with my financial goals.
Like my old self a year ago, you probably don’t know where to start. Or maybe you’ve started and you’re making great progress! But sometimes you hit a bump, and I know… $hit happens! So I understand that you need someone to lift your spirits up during your financial journey!
Over to you
I hope these 10 lessons along with my other posts inspire you to get serious with your money.
Let me know how your no spend on stupid sh!t challenge goes! It’s inspiring to hear about people’s progress, so feel free to drop your comments or email me personally!