9 Steps To Not Spend Money for a Week

A beautiful black woman with white curly hair makes coffee.
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Could you go an entire week without spending any money? Those who have previously participated in no-spend months may feel confident accepting this challenge. Others may view seven days without spending as an eternity and struggle with it starting Day 1.

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If one of your resolutions for this year is to go one week without spending money, what can you do to set yourself up for success? Follow these steps to make a week without spending a rewarding experience to you and your bank account.

Ask Yourself Why You’re Doing This Challenge

Before diving into a no-spend challenge, you should know why you are doing it. Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com, recommends outlining your motivators ahead of time. Some of these may include, but are not limited to, reaching the following financial goals:

  • Boosting your savings
  • Making up for overspending during the holidays and getting back to your budget
  • Resetting spending habits
  • Being mindful about what you buy

If you find your motivation starts to wane over the next seven days, Ramhold said you can remind yourself of the concrete reason you’re doing this challenge and sticking to it.

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Plan Ahead for Routine Bills

There is one type of cheat you’re allowed in a spending diet situation: Paying for high-priority debt. If you start a no-spend challenge on the first of the month and rent is due that day, obviously you would have permission to pay your rent.

Those who truly want to commit to spending no money for a week will plan ahead with their monthly billing statements. Kyle Enright, president of Achieve Lending, recommends planning to pay for necessary items. Put your attention toward making payments on rent or your mortgage, utilities, credit card statements and child care. Those who plan ahead to pay their existing bills also might want to set up automated payments.

Think Twice About Grocery Shopping

One of the general recommendations for participating in a no-spend challenge is to go grocery shopping beforehand. This is helpful to participants for whom the cupboards are literally bare, but what if you already have plenty of food at home?

Maggie Tucker, co-host of the personal finance podcast friends on FIRE, said it’s fine to pick up a few staples to set yourself up for success during a no-spend week. Just don’t do a full grocery shopping trip with the intention of doing a pantry challenge at the same time. 

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A pantry challenge, Tucker said, is where you focus on eating what you already have in your pantry, fridge and freezer. Most people get creative with their recipes or find themselves eating meals that weren’t their first choices. What they eat allows them to clean out the pantry and save money. 

When preparing for your no-spend week, rely on eating what you already have at home.

“It’s easy to adjust your spending for one week where you pay bills or do grocery shopping in advance,” Tucker said, “but I’d encourage you to focus on practices that reduce your spending versus just shifting it from one week to another.”

Change Up Your Routine

Many of our daily routines put us right in front of things we can buy, like grabbing a latte on the way to work. Going cold turkey on this habit for a week is harder than it seems. With this in mind, Ramhold recommends revamping your routine before accepting a no-spend challenge.

If you’re used to grabbing coffee on the way back from your walk, take a different route around a park or walk around a neighborhood where there are no stores to stop and shop at. You also might find yourself adjusting your wakeup or bedtime to brew coffee from home during a no-spend week. 

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Making these adjustments to your routine is beneficial to a no-spend challenge and your lifestyle once the challenge ends.

“By adjusting your routine now,” Ramhold said, “when the challenge rolls around, you’ll theoretically have more time to devote to cooking for yourself, making your own coffee and avoiding other conveniences that cost you money.”

Plan for Fun Things To Do With Kids

Those with children need game plans to ensure they don’t wind up accidentally spending money. 

Luckily, Enright said, with a little online research, you can plan ahead for plenty of fun, free activities for kids. Get started with a few of Enright’s suggestions:

  • Make a list of nearby parks or trails you could visit and explore together  
  • Get out board games and books for game night and reading before bedtime  
  • Let kids channel their inner chefs by baking cookies or bread.

Host a Potluck Party

Do you already miss happy hours and dinners or brunches out with friends? Bring the fun to your home. Tucker recommends hosting a potluck party where you dine on and drink what you have in your home and get creative with your potluck theme. This saves everyone money.

Find an Accountability Partner

In the event you feel persuaded to spend money, having an accountability partner can ensure you don’t break your promise to the challenge. 

Tucker recommends finding an accountability partner and creating some rules with them. You may tell your partner, friend or a family member about the no-spend challenge. Make sure they know you cannot spend any money without talking to them about it first. 

“This barrier to spending will likely create just enough space between the urge and the purchase that you will question the decision yourself,” Tucker said. “As a backup, your accountability partner will question it for you.”

Be Prepared for an Emergency Expense

You may be participating in a no-spend challenge, but life won’t halt for it. If a true medical emergency or other household emergency comes up, Enright said to take care of it.

“This doesn’t mean the no-spend week was a failure,” said Enright, who recommends continuing to adhere to all other no-spend practices.

Share the Journey on Social Media

Sharing the story of your no-spend week on social media platforms, Tucker said, can further help hold you accountable for not spending any money. Plus, friends and family will naturally want to cheer you on until you cross the finish line with $0 spent for the entire week.

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About the Author

Heather Taylor is a senior finance writer for GOBankingRates. She is also the head writer and brand mascot enthusiast for PopIcon, Advertising Week’s blog dedicated to brand mascots. She has been published on HelloGiggles, Business Insider, The Story Exchange, Brit + Co, Thrive Global, and more media outlets. 

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