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No-Spend Challenge, Day 22: Savings so far, $621.88

The reporter's son, FDR, 4, gets to know

The reporter's son, FDR, 4, gets to know a sheep at the petting zoo at a free family fun event earlier this month in Farmingdale. Credit: Newsday/Daysi Calavia-Robertson

Hey you! Yes, you! I know a secret that will help you keep money in your wallet. Just don't spend it. Sounds easy, right? C'mon, I challenge you. 

For the last 22 days (yes, I'm counting!) that's exactly what my husband, Matt, and I have been doing. We've been on the No-Spend Challenge: a commitment to spend money only on necessities i.e mortgage or rent, utilities, groceries, gas, etc. — and on nothing else — for a set period of time. 

Some people take the challenge, which became popular on social media, for as little as a week, while others are more ambitious and extend it for as long as a full year. 

Because we're No Spend novices, we settled on taking the challenge for a month.

We started on Oct. 21 and since then have been spending solely on needs and tightening the purse strings on wants, meaning no lattes from Starbucks, no movie theater dates, no dining at restaurants with friends or grabbing drinks with colleagues after work.

Clothes shopping? Canceled, too.

No undisciplined spending. Period. 

I know! It sounds crazy! But what's worse ... it sounds hard.

And it is!

But I can't deny that right now, I'm feeling pretty proud. 

So far, compared to what we used to spend in a typical month,  we've saved $322.88 by forgoing burger joints and coffee shops, $100 by taking our kids FDR, 4, and Carolina, 2, to free family fun events instead of Chuck E. Cheese, $139 that I'd normally spend on clothes and shoes for me and the kids at Marshalls (even though they seem to be missing the $139 badly because they keep emailing me and trying to tempt me with their shoe sales!) and another $60 Matt usually spends on beard care products to add to his growing collection.  

That's $621.88. And the month is not over yet! 

But we weren't always this savvy about saving. In October, after reviewing a couple bank statements — and realizing we were spending more than $600 a month just on food delivery, fast food lunches and lattes — we decided enough was enough.

For Matt and me, No Spend has been a way for us to break from thoughtless spending and reassess what we'd prefer to spend our hard-earned cash on. 

"We could save money for a vacation," we've both beamed. "Or for the down payment for a small house." 

"Yes, if we just continue cooking and meal-prepping and spending less money dining out..." 

But eating tuna at home every day is not fun unless you have a goal, said Cary Carbonaro, a Huntington-based certified financial planner and author of "The Money Queen's Guide: For Women Who Want to Build Wealth and Banish Fear." 

"You can't not spend forever, but you can be conscious about how you spend," she said. "Ask yourself what's my goal? And how does this bring me closer to achieving it? 

"How does the No Spend Challenge make you feel? What is it that you're not missing? And what are those things you can't live without?" Carbonaro said. "Figure out what's important to you, and make a financial plan you feel comfortable moving forward with once the challenge is over." 

Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at financial site Bankrate.com, said the No-Spend Challenge can be an effective way for people to get back on track financially, because it forces them to think about their discretionary spending and lets them rein it in for a period of time. 

"However, creating permanent spending habit changes, though possible, would require a tremendous amount of discipline not only during the challenge but even more so after the fact," he said.

"The ideal thing would be for the challenge to serve as a springboard for people looking to make longer lasting adjustments to their personal finances. Otherwise, you can just think of it as if you were to cut out all sugar from your diet for a month. Well, that's great. But what good is it if you go on a candy binge once the month is over?"  

Good thing that for now, we're both still sneaking into the kids Halloween candy stashes for our midnight Twix and KitKat cravings. And though less sweet, McBride's words are definitely something to chew on. 

I'll be documenting the rest of my No-Spend Journey at Newsday.com, on social media @newsday and on my own account @presspassdaysi on Instagram. I hope my challenge will inspire some of you to take it up as well. And if you do, please email me your stories — both triumphs and failures. I'd love to hear your two cents! 

No Spend Challenge:

Allowed spending

Mortgage or rent

day care

utilities

groceries

internet/phone

insurance

gas

medication/ health care

Not allowed spending

Activities

eating out, coffee, drinks

clothes

Uber/Lyft

hair and nail services

anything else that's a want (not a need)

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