Monday, August 22, 2011

No Spending Challenge

I am the kind of person who can become completely fixated on a topic. For example, I actually watched 13 episodes of Friday Night Lights in one day (it was a sick day and don't judge me until you've seen it), and I have stayed up into the wee hours of the night cleaning my bathroom. Sometimes this personality quirk can be fun, such as when I became friends with the waitress at a nearby sushi bar because I eat there so often, but it can also lead to unnecessary worry if I become fixated on a negative topic. This can be especially true when it comes to money.

Worrying about money is stressful. As an adult, it is something we all face and have different ways of approaching. In order to relieve some of the stress, I participate in fun, money saving games. My friend Sarah introduced me to one game a couple of years ago, and I try to take part in it a couple of times a year. It is known as the No Spending Challenge and you have to go an entire week without spending a single penny!

It is definitely a challenge, so here are the rules:
1. Do your best to prepare beforehand (i.e. pay bills ahead of time that may be due during the week, buy the groceries you will need before the challenge begins, fill your gas tank, etc.)
2. You can redeem previously purchased gift certificates, but you cannot purchase gift certificates in preparation (use what you already have available)
3. You cannot fill your car with gas; if you start to run low, get creative with public transportation
4. You can pay co-pays for already scheduled doctors appointments or emergencies
5. You may not have someone else buy things for you (i.e. sending a hubby or roommate to the store for milk)
6. The point of the week is to be resourceful with what you already have, so get creative!

My initial thought when Sarah described this was, "You're out of your mind"! There is no way I would be able to go an entire week without spending any money. Unfortunately, this was the case the first time I attempted the challenge. I can't remember what I bought, I just remember I failed. Since then, I have tried again and succeeded, so I know you can do the same.

Here is a bit of what I've learned along the way:

I spend small amounts of money throughout the week.
Whether I’m buying a hot chocolate from Starbucks or a quick bite to eat at lunch, little bits of money have a tendency to fly out of my wallet everyday.

When I’m not spending money I can’t help but think of money.
Once the week started, I couldn’t help but think of all the items I wanted to buy, ranging from home goods to clothing to mouthwash. It was as though the purchases I had been putting off were being pushed to the forefront of my thoughts.

I have too much food in my pantry.
Not once have I gone hungry during the No Spending Week. This is because I have a stockpile of basics in my pantry that I normally push aside while I'm "looking for something to eat."

I can get by with much less than expected.
When I only allowed myself the bare minimum, I continued to live the same quality life I had before. It definitely put necessity into perspective.

Along with getting by with less than expected, I learned some valuable lessons in moderation. I found myself being much more intentional with my limited resources. I thought really hard about when I wanted to use the left over gift certificates I had, if I wanted to use them at all.

Don't give up.
If you slip up and make a purchase mid-week, don't get discouraged! We all make mistakes, so just pick up right where you left off. Your week doesn't need to start over, but you don't need to beat yourself up over it either.

Although the week is challenging (it is in the name after all), it can be really fun; especially if you rope a friend into doing it with you! Get creative and don't forget to have fun!

Have you participated in a No Spending Challenge? If so, do you have any tips and tricks? Are there any money saving games you like to play?


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