March Challenge: 10 No Spend Days

This month, I have challenged myself to go at least 10 days in March without spending a single penny.

No Spend Days are common among the personal finance community. A lot of us try to have at least one or two each week, and for me personally, it has helped me curb my impulse shopping. I see the benefits (which is why this is one of my March goals), but to someone who isn’t a PF blogger, doesn’t read PF blogs, or doesn’t care about tracking every dollar they spend, this idea might seem silly. But this challenge is guaranteed to reveal just how frequently we let money slip through our fingers every day, without even realizing it. Whether it’s plugging the parking metre, grabbing a coffee from Tim Horton’s, or buying an app for our iPhone – it’s no surprise so many of us have no idea how we end up over-budget by the end of every month. Small purchases add up quickly if you’re not careful!

Now, with this challenge, I’m not talking about putting off paying your bills, or not paying your rent/mortgage – those are regular fixed expenses that need to be dealt with when they come up. But that’s even more of an incentive to challenge yourself not to spend money just a few days a month. Fixed expenses cannot be controlled – but discretionary spending can.

Going 10 days this month without spending a single penny will encourage you to plan ahead. When you can’t spend any money, it’s going to require a different way of thinking. If you don’t already own a monthly transit pass, how will you get to work every day? What do you have in your kitchen that you can bring for snacks and lunch? What can you do to entertain yourself during the evenings?

Knowing that you can’t buy breakfast or coffee on your way to work will force you to get up 20 minutes earlier to make food at home. Not being able to buy a Kindle book for your bus rides home might make you consider heading to the library to take a book out for free. By not planning ahead, you will almost always spend more money than necessary.

This is not about deprivation – it’s about empowerment. As soon as that idea clicks in your head, everything instantly becomes easier. Instead of “I can’t spend money on X because I’m in debt,” it becomes “I’m choosing not to spend money on X because I want to better my life.”

Making a conscious decision not to spend money  just one day a week will help you become more aware of how you spend your money during the rest of the week. Not only that, but with the extra money you are now keeping in your wallet, you might have more money to pay down your debt, invest in your future, or save for your dream vacation.

Take it one step further: If you feel like really challenging yourself, impose a transaction fee on every purchase you make during the week. Every time you buy something, log into your online bank account put an amount equal to what you spent into your savings account or onto your debt. Not only will you think twice about every discretionary purchase (because it’s now costing you double the money to buy that latte!), but your wallet will thank you too. :) I found this to be an extremely effective way to get myself out of debt. It curbed my impulse shopping, I was able to get a grasp on my wants vs. needs, and it also helped me get out of debt that much faster.

Would you be willing to commit to 10 No Spend Days this month?

About Krystal Yee

I'm a writer, personal finance blogger, and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I'm a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner's Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I'm not working, you can usually find me running, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.

37 comments

  1. If you pay a bill online on a certain day but don’t buy anything that day, does it qualify as a no spend day or not?

  2. Good luck with your goal in March! I could probably do 10 no spend days if I would just stop myself from that daily coffee!

  3. Good idea. I’m going to hop aboard and do this challenge with you — I’m at two no-spend days so far this month :)

  4. I would love to do this as well. I think with upcoming purchases I need to make it will be a good investment.

  5. I’ve been doing this for years and it’s gotten me out of the buying coffee and convenience store stops habit! All those $2 and $3 here and there add up.

    Good luck! I set mine at 20 no spends this month just cuz it’s a long month!

  6. Hey! Great idea with the ‘transaction charge’ I like that a lot!

  7. This is great! I need to do this also.

  8. Great post! I usually get about 10 or 12 no spend days per month. Sometimes I just implement one when I feel I’ve had to put too many transactions down in my records lol I hate having to keep track of dozens of purchases. A no spend day gives me a day when I don’t have to worry about writing anything down.

  9. I do something somewhat similar to the transaction fee; I round up all of my purchases. ie; If I spend 1.50 at Timmies, it gets entered as $2 on my food ledger. This also helps on my ledgers as there’s two less decimals to do math on. :)

  10. Whatever helps you achieve conscious spending. I prefer to itemize my purchases and then analyze areas of my budget carefully to find waste. Whether I pay my cell phone or buy gas on one day or another is, to me, irrelevant. My concern is whether the purchase is necessary, within budget, and isn’t wasteful. I guess for somebody coming off a consumer high of shopmania, it might be useful just to cool your jets for as many days as possible. But when your budget is extremely rationalized, is it logical to make it harder on yourself to make essential purchases?

    • It’s not about making it harder on yourself to make essential purchases, it’s about cutting down on the everyday things that bleed our wallets – going out for lunch, grabbing a coffee in the afternoon, going to the vending machine, buying an album or app on iTunes etc.

      • Have you ever done a forced no-spend day? I’ve left my credit cards, debit cards, and cash at home (not that I use them most days anyway), and only taken my health card, driver’s license, 2xTTC tokens and a $20 US bill for an emergency. I stopped doing it when, after I stayed at work late one night, I realized I’d lost my token, so I was left trying to get home with $20 US lol I was right; it certainly made spending $ inconvenient.

        • LOL why would you bring a U.S. $20 with you? :P I’ve done forced no-spend days at home, but living abroad, I don’t feel comfortable leaving my credit card and cash at the apartment. I feel like I always need to have all of my important stuff with me – cash, cards, passport, etc. for a *just in case* emergency scenario. :)

  11. It’s a bit more difficult for me because I tend to only buy enough groceries for 3 or 4 days at a time, but I still manage to have no spend days fairly often. I had five last week :).

  12. At first, I was going to say 10 no spend days? I can definitely commit to that!

    And then I thought about the last couple weeks and realized that I barely hit one no spend day a week. Which would work out to about 4 a month. Crap.

    I think I’ll try to hit 5 no spend days this month…and inch my way towards 10. Good luck with your goal!

  13. Funnily enough I am having one of these today!

  14. I’m in even though we are going on vacation this month :)

  15. That sounds like a great goal! It’s kind of like a money diet =) Except instead of “no junk food days” you’re shooting for “no spending days” =)

  16. I don’t follow strict no-spend days, but I do keep an eye on how much I am spending, and I try to delay my non-essential spending until the end of the month. By that time, the things I wanted at the beginning of the month might already be sold out.. or I might have already gotten about them!

  17. What a great idea! I’m actually going to try this once I settle into my new place and get a bus pass so I can start bussing to work. I’m still driving to work because I need to go BUY random things for my apartment and the reno before and after.

  18. No spend days sounds a good idea. But, does it then just mean doubling up the day after on what you spend? Still, as you say, it might make a person think ahead a bit more, and planning is always useful.

    • I don’t think it means doubling up the day after. For example, if you decide to not go to Starbucks in the morning one day, it’s not going to make you double up on your Starbucks intake the next day. You’re going to realize that you can save $4-5 a day by drinking the coffee in the break room, or bringing your own flask of coffee from home.

      It’s not about cutting out needed expenses, it’s about cutting out the small purchases that we think don’t make a difference.

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