It's a well-known fact that living on Long Island is expensive, but does it have to be?
What would happen if a typical Long Island family cut their discretionary spending to the bone for a month, spending only on necessities?
Newsday reporter Daysi Calavia-Robertson decided to find out, embarking on the so-called No Spend Challenge and bringing her family along for the ride. Daysi has chronicled her journey both on Newsday.com and via her Instagram handle @presspassdaysi.
Gearing up for not spending
I’ve never been a big spender.
Let me put it to you this way: The dollar store is actually one of my favorites. At other stores, you can usually find me happily rummaging through the clearance aisle. Still, since moving to Long Island three years ago and becoming a mother of two, it seems as if all I do is spend.
The scenario goes like this: I think about all the things I “need” to buy ...”a new coat for Carolina, and maybe one for me, too, something stylish;” then spend more than I intended to — after coming across some other items I just had to get; complain about how much I spent and the high cost of living here and how expensive day care is, and then press repeat.
For my husband, Matt, who works as a coffee roaster and takes great pride in his beard, it’s the online “deals” that get him. Just knowing he can have a new beard comb or a new scent of beard oil delivered right to our door in a little over 48 hours is enough to make him “add to cart.”
Sometimes I blame my spending on our schedule. After a full day working, I’m too tired to even think of preparing dinner, and the same is true for my husband.
With apps like Uber Eats and GrubHub downloaded on both of our phones, ordering in is too easy. And if our thumbs get tired, we can fall back on the five or six fast food restaurants that are on our way home. I hate to admit it, but when our 3-year-old points at the big yellow arches and yells, “I want chicken nuggets!” ...well, we may be complying way more than we should.
I went through my September bank statement to add up charges for lattes, lunches out and food delivery and was completely taken aback by the total — $645.75! Exactly. I know because I checked it three times. No charge was higher than $20. It was all $11.93 here and $4.98 there. Now, I know where all our money is going. For the most part, we’ve been eating it. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since Carlos over at Dunkin' knows my name.
So, now what? Now, we take the No Spend Challenge for a month.
The No Spend Challenge is a commitment to spend money only on necessities — i.e. mortgage or rent, utilities, groceries etc. — and on nothing else for a set period of time. Some people take the challenge, popularized on social media, for as little as a week, while others extend it for a month, six months or even a full year. During the challenge, there’s no dining out, no clothes shopping, no trips to the movie theater. No Target “just going for milk and returning home with everything except milk” runs. No undisciplined spending. Period.
Though there are many versions of the challenge, personal finance experts advise it’s best to start by creating a list of essentials. Deciding what’s on that list is up to you, so if you consider going to yoga or the gym essential that’s fine, but you’ll definitely have to put your passion for ordering from Amazon Prime on the back burner. The point is to develop a realistic no-spending plan that makes sense for you and to commit to it.
While it’s unclear who came up with the No Spend Challenge, Canadian blogger Taya Knight outlined a version on her blog Simply Frugal as early as 2010. It was the same year that Denver-based blogger Anna Newell Jones, of And Then We Saved, first did what she calls a spending fast.
Newell Jones said although the challenge may seem extreme to some, it was her way of regaining control after hitting a “financial bottom.” With a fiance who cited her “shopping problem” as the reason he refused to share a bank account with her, and $23,605 in debt, she decided not to spend any money on nonessentials — for a year.
“Not spending money on things I didn’t need allowed me to tackle my debt,” she said in an interview. “It took a lot of discipline and sacrifice, but 15 months later I was so proud of myself. I was debt free.”
On Instagram, nearly 12,000 posts include the hashtag #NoSpendChallenge. And on Facebook, there are dozens of No Spend Challenge support groups, each with thousands of members.
Cary Carbonaro, a Huntington Village-based certified financial planner and author of “The Money Queen’s Guide: For Women Who Want to Build Wealth and Banish Fear,” said anything that gets you to focus on your finances is a valuable exercise.
“If it’s shining a light on your spending habits and making you question them ... it’s a positive thing,” she said in an interview.
I hope so. Wish me luck because I have a feeling it’s gonna be a loooooong month!
Day 1: What was I thinking?
It’s been said that the first day of anything is the hardest. The first day of school. The first day at a new job. The first day starting a diet. In my case, my first day giving the #NoSpendChallenge a go was certainly trying but I’m sure it’ll be an easy ride from here on out, right?
Yeah right! I know that won’t be the case. I mean, I do have two toddlers at home, so who am I kidding?
Honestly, I’m not sure what I was thinking when I committed to spending only on the essentials — rent, day care, groceries, gas, car and utility bills — and nothing else — for a full month.
Sipping a caramel latte in the car by myself is sometimes the only thing still keeping me sane. This month is certainly going to be interesting. And if the first morning was any indication, it will also be hectic.
Not being able to make a pit stop at Dunkin' for my beloved egg and cheese breakfast wrap meant I had to wake up an hour earlier and spend half of it whipping up my own version of a breakfast sandwich. It meant chewing fast and gulping my coffee as I yelled over at my children (yes, with my mouth full of food!) to “Share!” and stop flailing at each other with toy trucks.
With my hands full of blankets, book bags, and my own bagged lunch, I hurried us all out of the apartment and down the stairs. Of course in all the rush, my precious iPhone slipped out of my hands and took such a hard fall even Siri said "ouch!" I screamed, too: “Oh no, my phone!” to which my son sweetly looked up at me and said nonchalantly, ‘It’s OK, Mommy, I’ll just buy you a new one.”
Sigh … bless his heart.
Only 29 more days? Bring it on #NoSpendChallenge.
Day 3: No spend? No sweat (but keep the chocolate coming)
So far on my No Spend Challenge, I've been coasting.
There's free coffee and hot chocolate at work — just two of the many perks of working at Newsday. One of my sweet colleagues who said she'd go crazy if she couldn't visit the vending machine for an afternoon snack thoughtfully gifted me with not one, but three, bags of different kinds of chocolates. And if you know me then you know just how much I love chocolate! I can give up spending, but I can't give up my M&M's.
And for lunch, well, I've been dutifully bringing it from home. Today I had a Lean Cuisine and some cottage cheese. Boring but No Spend Challenge approved.
Truthfully, so far it hasn't been awfully hard. But I haven't made it through a weekend yet. Or, I should say, I haven't made it through a weekend with my kids. Now that will be the real test.
This Saturday, I'm planning to take them to a free Paw Patrol-themed trick-or-treating event hosted by none other than Target. Yes, the event is free, but it's still in Target. It's a trap, and I know it's a trap. But I want the kids to have fun, so I'm just going to brace myself.
Denver-based blogger Anna Newell Jones, of And Then We Saved, who did the No Spend Challenge nine years ago, shared a helpful tip in dealing with little ones who've come down with an ugly case of the "Mommy, pretty please buy me this."
When her 6-year-old son Henry wants her to buy an item for him, she tells him she'll take a photo of him with the item instead. Come Christmastime she tells him he can review the photos to source items to put on his list to Santa. Genius? I think so. Sometimes the photos are of Henry with toys, "but it's mostly pictures of him with a really large bag of shredded yellow cheese," she says with a laugh.
Hmmm ... maybe he feels about shredded cheese the way I feel about chocolate. I don't know, but I'm hoping this photo trick does the job for me this weekend. And don't worry — you'll know soon enough if it does or doesn't. I'll make sure to keep you posted on just how colorfully it all goes down on Instagram @newsday and @presspassdaysi.
Day 7: Becoming an 'is this free?' person
My first week on the No Spend Challenge was crazy. But not crazy in the way I imagined. And the weekend? The weekend was actually pretty priceless ... oh yes, pun totally intended!
The Paw Patrol-themed trick-or-treating event at Target was a bust, which I hate saying because, c'mon, it's Target, and what's not to love?
But aside from two tables, where employees were giving out Paw Patrol swag — a Halloween bag, temporary tattoos, a printout of Chase, the dog, to color at home — and a handful of candies, there was not much else to do there — other than, of course, torture the kids by parading them through aisles and aisles of toys, which I can't buy.
So, when I heard the first "Mami, look! That's cool. I want it," I knew it was time to jet out of there. What next? I did what any mom who can't spend money would do: I Googled "free halloween events for kids Long Island."
Soon, I was on the money: I found out that the Town of Oyster Bay was hosting a free fall festival at Marjorie R. Post Community Park in East Massapequa.
I gathered the troops, an enthused 3-year-old red Power Ranger, an unimpressed 2-year-old Minnie Mouse (sans the ears because she refused to wear them) and my spunky 26-year-old sister, Gina, who I called in from Brooklyn as reinforcement in case of tantrums, and off we went!
Once at the park, which was beautifully set up with a mini maze, a slew of games for kids including mini golf, ring toss and bowling (with a pumpkin in lieu of a ball), among many others, I became that person.
The "Hey, is this free?" person.
We all know a person like this — if it ain't free, they don't want it.
Thankfully, the answer was almost always yes. Aside from the games, the event also featured free bounce houses and inflatable slides and children were given Capri Sun juices, cotton candy and popcorn. And for the adults, Moe's Southwest Grill was running a "spin and win" at their booth. I have never screamed so loudly for a free quesadilla before.
Actually, now that I think of it, I've never screamed so loudly for any quesadilla. My sister won five Moe's dollars and donated them to me, so I'm basically rich now.
What can I say? I was in No Spend Challenge heaven. It made me wonder, can not spending become as addictive as shopping can? Hmmm ... a penny for your thoughts, anyone?
Day 8: Tweaking a family tradition to save money
Today could have been a total disaster.
There could have been crying. There could have been screaming. There could have been kicking of the back of the seat (yes, this happens sometimes).
It could've turned into a full-blown toddler tantrum because, you see, today is the one day out of the month that my 3-year-old has an hourlong vision-therapy session at a pediatric optometrist's office in Merrick. When he started vision therapy at the start of the year, he hated it. But because he is my son, I knew I could bribe him with food.
"If you don't give the doctor a hard time today ... if you just behave and try your best, Papi and I will take you to IHOP for chocolate chip pancakes after," I told him. Worked like a charm. So much so that this IHOP bribery thing became something of a tradition.
This morning when I told FDR, "Today we're going to Dr. Sherman's office," he grinned his biggest grin and yelled, "Yay, pancakes!"
Yep, I'm the same parent who potty trained him by giving him a Hershey's Kiss every time he went in the potty. What else should I expect? Am I ashamed of myself? Only slightly.
Anyway, I knew that because of no-spend month, there could be no IHOP trip today, so I planned ahead. When I shopped for groceries, I bought pancake mix and, earlier today, I asked Matt to run by the supermarket and grab a bag of M&M's and a can of whipped cream so FDR could put the toppings on his pancakes himself.
When I buckled him in his car seat after the eye appointment, he looked at me through the rear view mirror and asked, "Now, IHOP?" I said "No, now, you're gonna go home and make your very own pancakes with Papi. It's going to be so much fun!"
And, though I had to return to work, my husband tells me that it really was.
I think one thing that's important to note about this no-spend challenge thing is that the goal of it is not to suffer. The goal is not to be deprived of all the things we want. The goal is to try to make do, try to make ourselves happy without spending so much money.
At Dr. Sherman's office, I noticed a sign hanging in the waiting room that couldn't have been more on point for today. It read: "The best thing you can spend on your child is time."
Well then, lucky me.
Day 9: Appreciating the little things
Instagram post from Daysi:
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It’s the little things that are the really big things! Here are my two little angels admiring the free pumpkins 🎃 they got at the U-Pick that was part of the #TownofOysterBay ‘s #fallfestival Matt helped the kids carve them and light them. The joy of being a child. The joy of #Halloween. Can’t wait to take them trick-or-treating tomorrow! Can’t wait for all that free chocolate 🍫 ...I mean variety of candies 🍭 lol 😆 #NoSpendChallenge #DaysiNoSpendChallenge #LongIslandMoms
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Follow Daysi on Instagram @presspassdaysi.
Day 10: No spend meets no clean clothes
I really have to tell you this No-Spend Challenge is a mixed bag.
I don't want you to think it's all rainbows and dollar signs — though, yes, it is true that I've been so good at this that I may just never spend again.
Ha-ha, totally kidding: "Starbucks Java Chip Frapp with extra whip, come to mama!"
Jokes aside, of course, it has its benefits.
For one thing, my family and I have not had a single bite of any fast food in almost two weeks, and no one has cried ... well, not about that, at least. So we're unintentionally eating more healthfully, which is a great perk!
On the downside, Matt and I have both been so busy at home — him cooking and meal prepping and me cleaning more dishes than I have ever cared to — that we've forgotten to do laundry.
This morning I realized I didn't have any clean underwear left. Can you imagine? Now, I won't lie: This has happened to me once or twice before, and what did I do then?
I just told myself, "Don't panic, quickly run to Marshalls and buy some."
But this morning, because of the No-Spend Challenge, that wasn't an option. Plus, as you know, today's Halloween, and I had to get the kids to day care in time for the start of the day's festivities, so I had no time.
Luckily, I found a pair of old Spanx at the back of a drawer and made it work.
But let's end this on a much more positive note: Today is payday.
Payday is a day both Matt and I anxiously await and think of way too often.
We're both constantly stressing about which bills need to be paid with our upcoming checks...are we paying the rent with this one? did you pay the credit card? Oh, and don't forget day care, what about this? Can it wait till the next check? It's always a juggling game.
And with the Chase app on my phone, I'm constantly checking the account. It can become mentally and emotionally exhausting.
But not this time. This time, I almost forgot what day it was. Not a care in the world. And that's all thanks to this little trick called No-Spend Challenge. Go figure.
Day 15: When is it time to press 'pause' on the No-Spend Challenge?
If I could describe this weekend in one word, it’d be: “fan-FREEking-tastic!”
On Saturday, I took the kids to another free family fun event. This time at the Village Green in Farmingdale.
The scene was a rich one — at one booth a man in a cowboy hat had his hands full making animal-shaped balloons for a long line of excited children, while at another booth two women were all brushes and paint, coloring orange and blue butterflies and black spiderwebs on kids' faces.
FDR and Carolina cared more about the real animals, the small horses that gave rides and the goats, ducks and donkey over at the petting zoo. We made the line two times, and FDR was able to ride two horses, a white one and a black one. Carolina was amused by the animals but preferred to admire them from afar.
As great as the event was, it did have one small flaw ... there were toy vendors there. I know! Can you believe it? Don’t these people know I’m doing the No-Spend Challenge? Ha-ha, I’m sure they didn’t, but they do now.
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How was my weekend you ask?! Fan-FREE-kingtastic. I took the kids to another free family fun event. This one at #VillageGreen at #Farmingdale. Seeing these two this happy is everything to me and knowing I was able to take them out and watch them have fun without spending a single $ #priceless There really are so many free events and outings for kids, all it takes is taking a few minutes to search for them & if you start at Newsday or Newsday.com you’ll find everything you need. I’m loving this #NoSpendChallenge #DaysiNoSpendChallenge #budgetbabe #presspassdaysi #newsday #longisland #journalist
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When FDR pointed at the cart full of PJ Masks figurines, bubble-blowing guns, swords and princess dolls, and said, “Mommy, can you buy me something?” I stuck to my own guns and said, “No, baby, sorry, but no toys today. You only get toys on special occasions.” At first he said, “Aw man,” frowned and looked down at the ground. Then he whispered, “Special occasion?” — and then it hit him. He looked up at me and asked, “Is my birthday a special occasion?”
Oh no! I thought. “Oh yes!” I said.
“Yay! Mrs. LaTasha said my birthday is on Tuesday. I’m gonna get a toy and a cake!”
And that’s the story of how tomorrow, I, Daysi Calavia-Robertson, on the No-Spend Challenge, will have to do the “S” word. Spend. Spend on a small toy and a large cake. Do we file this under "need" or "want," or a combination of both?
Day 16: Not free, but a priceless birthday party
I had to do it. I had to shake the dust off my wallet and dig in for some dollars to spend.
I caved to the pressures of a blond, gaptoothed, red eyeglasses-wearing, Power Rangers-loving, now 4-year-old. That's right, my precious son, FDR, turned 4 yesterday.
Luckily, all he wanted for his birthday was a Power Rangers cake and, of course, "a toy, Mami, a toy!"
It didn't dawn on me that he'd even know it was his birthday but, alas, he's growing up. I have to face the fact that he's no longer a toddler. He's entered the world of temporary tattoos, goody bags and day care parties. There's no going back.
"The other day it was Seven's birthday, and we all got cupcakes and juice and candy," he said excitedly. "It was so much fun, Mami! I want all that stuff for my birthday. Can I, Mami, can I?" Who could say no?!
But I did do the next best thing to not spending — in my book, at least. Can you guess where I went for all my party needs?
Yup, the dollar store.
FDR's day care class has 18 kids. I got all that was needed for his fiesta — two bags of balloons, three packs of birthday hats, four bags of candy, a 20-pack of goody bags, a tablecloth for the cake table, popcorn, plates, candles, and even a few superhero puzzles to give to him as gifts — for a grand total of $23.81.
If you do the math, that's about $1.32 spent per guest. It's not free, but it's not breaking the bank, either.
Seeing such big grins on those little faces — especially on FDR's — was, for me, truly priceless. We all had so much fun jumping up and down and throwing balloons in the air inside the classroom. And they all loved the cake.
Now, the cake, which I ordered last minute at Uncle Giuseppe's, cost $38.75, but my sweet mother, who lives in Miami, sent me money to cover it. She also threw in another $50 (yes, $50!) for FDR's "one toy."
She said a puzzle is not a toy. What can I tell you? She spoils them.
"What are grandmothers for?" she asked. To spend when Mami can't spend? "That and so much more," she replied.
She's a wealth of wisdom, that woman.
Day 19: Know your 'why'
For the last couple of weeks, my husband Matt and I have managed to not spend any money. Yeah, our wallets are full. Full of $1 bills but still full. We've been doing the No Spend Challenge: a commitment to spend only on necessities — i.e. mortgage or rent, utilities, groceries etc. — and on nothing else for a set period of time.
We decided to give it a go for a month but before embarking on this spending diet, I spoke to a couple of personal finance experts and bloggers and scoured the internet in search of the best tips and tricks to make it through the month without losing our sanity or giving in to a spur-of-the-moment impulse buy at the check out line.
1. Figure out why you're doing it
Knowing what you're looking to take from a No Spend Challenge is important and can help you stay the course. Whether it's saving for a dream vacation, a home or to pay down debt, knowing and focusing on why you're doing the challenge will help you get through the tough days, 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.".
2. Decide how long you want to do the challenge for and set your rules
While the exact origin of the No Spend Challenge is unclear, it's been around since at least 2010 when Canadian blogger Taya Knight outlined a version on her blog Simply Frugal. Since then some people have been taking the challenge, which became popular on social media, for as little as a week, while others who are more ambitious extend it for months or even a full year. There's no right or wrong answer here, just decide what amount of time makes sense to you.
Next, set your rules. Though there are many versions of the challenge, personal finance experts advise it’s best to start by creating a list of essentials. Deciding what’s on that list is up to you, so if you consider spin class or the gym essential that’s fine, but plan on saying adiós to your dear friend Amazon Prime cuz clicking "add to cart" while on the challenge is a no-no. Listen, the point is to develop a realistic no-spending plan that you're comfortable with and committing to it.
3. Use this time to eat the stock of items in your pantry, fridge and freezer
We're all guilty of this. We buy cans of tuna, or corn, or some other type of green canned veggie like peas and then never eat them. These goods seem to just linger so long sometimes you forget you even bought them ("Wait, did this come with the house?") The good thing is the shelf life on certain canned foods is ridiculously long, so pick up that can and put it out of its misery. Check the expiration date first though; I don't want to be liable if you get sick. But you most likely...probably...seriously, won't. Anyway, yes, groceries have the green light while on this challenge, but what better time to eat foods you already bought.
4. Research free entertainment for yourself/kids/family
Now, this...this is an important one. I mean what are you going to do while on the No Spend Challenge? You can't go to Starbucks to have a coffee. You can't go to your favorite place on earth...Target...and treat yourself to a new anything. You can't go on a date (unless you're 100 percent sure the other person is paying) and if you're married and your spouse is doing No Spend, well then, you're completely...like me...out of luck.
You basically can't do anything, right? So, what can you do? What's really worked for me is looking for free community events I can go to with the fam. One great place to start your search is...ahem...shameless plug: Newsday.com. Seriously, though, I never realized how many genuinely fun and totally free fun community events there are. Many museums have free admission days, too. And of course, there's always the park. Gazing up at the stars. Reading a book. Jump roping. Running. Running to the library to read my No Spend column while using the facility's internet, all free, baby. While you're there, also check out Facebook and Eventbrite; you're sure to find tons of free events there. And if all else fails, host a game night at your place. Just remember the only money you're allowed to spend is monopoly money. See, it all works out!
5. Keep a "wish" list
Whenever you get the urge to buy something, write it down, advises Denver-based blogger Anna Newell Jones, of And Then We Saved, who in 2010 did a spending fast for a full year. Keeping a wish list of sorts is helpful because once your challenge is over you can refer back to the list and see if you still want to buy the items on the list or if most of them were simply impulse buys.
While on her spending fast, Newell Jones often daydreamed about a pair of boots she wanted to buy once it was over. "In my mind, I had made them up to be these perfect pair of boots that in reality didn't live up to my expectations," she said. "The truth is I enjoyed them way more before I bought them than when I actually had them so in the end, I returned them." The same can be true with many purchases so it's important to try to gauge just how badly we really want an item and if that item is really all that we're cracking it up to be.
6. Move $$$ you "would've" spent into a savings account and use reward points & freebies
One way to measure how much money you're truly saving while on the No Spend Challenge is to deposit money you "would've" spent into a separate savings account. So, let's just say if your morning routine included dolling out $6 for a latte but now, you're brewing a cup of joe for yourself at home, deposit those six bucks into a separate savings account and do the same with other "would be" purchases. By the end of your No Spend Challenge, you're sure to see just how much green you were able to retain.
Also, if you have any type of freebies, a gift card, in-store credit, or some type of rewards points, this is the time to use them. Believe me, I won a free quesadilla from Moe's Southwest Grill at a community event that had a spin-and-win, and it was the most delicious free quesadilla ever.
Day 22: Savings so far, $621.88
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!
Day 23: Inspirational reads for 'No Spend' challengers
When you set off to do something as extreme as the No Spend Challenge and suddenly stop spending money on all of the "fun" things you used to, on all those things you didn't even realize were luxuries — a cinnamon latte here, a new pair of earrings there — you can start to go a little crazy.
The good thing is that the challenge also presents you with the perfect opportunity to dive deep into the fascinating world of personal finance, saving and living that No Spend life to the fullest.
One easy way to do that is to sink your teeth into the following books. Some of these reads were reader suggestions, while others I found by perusing Instagram and Facebook.
P.S. I'm not suggesting that you buy any of these — try the good ol' library!
1. "The Year of Less" by Cait Flanders
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If you read my last post, you will know I had trouble sleeping last night... and I still can't find the words to describe how I felt when I woke up this morning. I have been dreaming of this day for months... and now it's here! January 16, 2018 is here! It's a real date! And THE YEAR OF LESS is out! The early response to the book has been incredible. Aside from the pictures you've shared using #theyearofless, I've also seen some amazing reviews published on @goodreads. And the most exciting news I can share right now is that @voguemagazine has listed The Year of Less as one of the nonfiction books that will help you change your life in 2018! I can honestly say I am totally overwhelmed in the best way possible. And I am continually learning that a book isn't only made by the author. It is brought into this world by an entire village—and you are all part of mine. If you'd like to support the book, you can order a copy now, or ask your local bookstore or library to carry it! It's currently available in hardcover, e-book and audiobook (which I narrated!). 🙏🏼 If you've read it, I would be forever grateful if you wrote a review on Amazon. This helps authors more than I realized! 🙏🏼 And if you want to share your thoughts here, I would love to see the book out in the wild! Post a picture and tell us your story, including #theyearofless. All the links + information about buying + reviewing the book are in my profile. There is so much good work to do today, friends... but for just a few minutes, I'm going to enjoy my coffee and simply be. xoxo
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"Have you read 'The Year of Less'?" one reader asked me via email. In the book, which is a Wall Street Journal bestselling self-help memoir, author Cait Flanders goes on a No Spend Challenge herself and documents it.
"At every stage, I learned that the less I consumed, the more fulfilled I felt," writes Flanders on her website. "The Year of Less will leave you questioning what you’re holding on to in your own life — and, quite possibly, lead you to your own path of less."
Her book sold more 100,000 copies in 2018 — its first year in publication — and ranked on the top 10 most borrowed lists at libraries in cities in Canada and Australia. The book has been translated in eight languages.
2. "The No-Spend Challenge Guide: How to Stop Spending Money Impulsively, Pay Off Debt Fast and Make Your Finances Fit Your Dreams" by Jen Smith
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Stop scrolling and get my book for free! This isn't a drawing. 15 authors are giving away our books for FREE today and tomorrow only. You can get my book, The No-Spend Challenge Guide in addition to Amazon best selling books on self-discipline, habits, achieving goals, ending procrastination, basically everything you need for a debt free journey! Head to ModernFrugality.com/BookSwap or the link in my bio to get em while they're hot! 🔥 And tag a friend who could use these books! . . . #freebooks #debtfreeisthenewsexy #debtfreejourney #debtsnowball #debtfreedom #debtfreecommunity #debtfree #debtisdumb #debtfreeliving #debtslave #debtfreelife #daveramsey #financialpeace #financialpeaceuniversity #debt #studentdebt #studentloans #studentloandebt #onabudget #budgeting #personalfinance #payoff #loans #savemoney #babystep2 #budget #zerobasedbudget #totalmoneymakeover
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It seemed only fitting to suggest a book with "No-Spend" in the title as you attempt your very own No Spend Challenge. Author Jen Smith, creator of debt freedom blog ModernFrugality.com, went from not being able to stick to a budget for more than two weeks to paying off $78,000 of debt in less than two years.
The slim (89 pages) 2017 book has been described by hordes of Amazon reviewers as a "quick," "relatable" and "fun" read, and has a 4.5-star rating on the site. Among the things you'll learn in this book is how to pay off debt fast (while still having fun) and ways to do for free what you’ve probably been wasting money on.
3. "The Spender's Guide to Debt-Free Living: How a Spending Fast Helped Me Get From Broke to Badass in Record Time" by Anna Newell Jones
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Thanks for posting, @readingwithchampagne, and for sharing your amazingness with us. You are taking control of your life and we can’t wait to cheer you on as you get out of debt!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ …⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ @readingwithchampagne "@annanewelljones is my IDOL! #andthenwesaved #spendingfast" ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ …⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ If you’d like to be chosen as #SpendingFasteroftheWeek and have your awesome self-broadcast far and wide over the #DebtFreeCommunity socialsphere, please post a pic of yourself with my book to your public Instagram account (extra posts for creative/fun shots), tag me (@annanewelljones) and include the hashtag #SpendingFasteroftheWeek! Thank youuuuuu!!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ...⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The Spender’s Guide to Debt-Free Living: How a Spending Fast Helped Me Get From Broke to Badass in Record Time⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ •⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Available on Amazon (paperback, Kindle, and audio book) & everywhere books are sold! Link in bio⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #spendingfast #andthenwesaved #spendersguide #debtfreecommunity #debtfreejourney #getoutofdebt #spendersguidetodebtfreeliving #getoutofdebt #atws #debtfreeliving #wealth #budgeting #savingmoney #debt #debtavalanche #financialfreedom #personalfinance #goals #saving #debtfree #budget #savings #budgettip #debtfreedom #debtfreegoals
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In 2010, Denver-based blogger Anna Newell Jones, of And Then We Saved, first did what she calls a "spending fast." Newell Jones said although the challenge may seem extreme to some, it was her way of regaining control after hitting a “financial bottom.”
With a fiance who cited her “shopping problem” as the reason he refused to share a bank account with her, and $23,605 in debt, she decided not to spend any money on nonessentials — for a year. “Not spending money on things I didn’t need allowed me to tackle my debt,” she told me in an interview. “It took a lot of discipline and sacrifice, but 15 months later I was so proud of myself. I was debt free.”
The Spender’s Guide to Debt-Free Living takes readers through a detailed step-by-step plan on how to do a spending fast and get out of debt, including creating a custom "debt-free life pledge," finding additional income sources and generating side gigs and re-integrating spending into your life once you're out of debt, so you can stay debt-free.
4. "The Naked Truth About Your Money: Straight Talk About You and Your Finances" by Bill DeShurko, C.F.P
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One of my ALL TIME favorite money books. I checked this book out at the library and loved it so much that I bought my own copy on eBay so I could make notes & refer back to it. This book is perfect for people who recently graduated college or just getting started in your “money” journey. It touches on buying a house, car, how to invest in your 401k and daily money principals to live by. In my honest opinion, this is a great book to prepare yourself for a life of wealth. It’s practical, informative and straight to the point. I’m such a finance book nerd! I think I’ll start doing these little reviews as I finish books. Would you find that helpful? Also - what money/finance books do you LOVE?! #debtfreecommunity #prerichcommunity #thenakedtruthaboutyourmoney
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This 2007 book was ahead of its time as far as No Spend Challenges are concerned. But many personal finance experts and bloggers swear by it. I found out about it while scrolling through @thebudgetbees, a debt-free community Instagram run by husband-and-wife bloggers Nia and Morgan.
Nia said she loved the book so much that after checking it out from the library, she *gasp* bought her own copy on eBay. "It's practical, informative and straight to the point," she says in a September 2018 Instagram post. In "The Naked Truth" financial expert DeShurko doesn't pull any punches on buying a house, how to invest in your 401(k) and smart money principals to live by. It's best for people in their 20s and 30s who want the 411 on dealing with college loans, building good credit, buying a car or financing their first home.
And while these are just some suggestions, there are plenty more page-turners where these came from. Stay tuned to @newsday and @presspassdaysi on Instagram, where I just might share more #NoSpendChallenge-friendly reads.
Day 24: Unexpected expenses don't have to be scary after all
We've been paying our rent and our utility bills. We're paying for day care, which could easily be mistaken for another rent payment, and we've been buying groceries at the supermarket, where the list often includes more boxes of diapers than we'd like but we're potty training now, so we're working on it.
And that's it — that's where the buck has been stopping.
So many people have asked us what we're going to do with all this newfound money, all that we're saving now that we've given up lunches out, dinners with friends, manicure appointments and beard trims at the barbershop ... now that we've stamped a big fat 'no' on any type of impulse buy?
Oh, what to do with it all? Sigh ... pay bills, because ... life. That's the truth. More than half of the $621.88 we saved so far by doing the No Spend Challenge went toward paying an unexpected $400 PSEG Long Island bill. And the rest of the money? We used it to make $100 payments to two of our credit cards.
This is all good news! It means we had enough money in our bank account to cover an unforeseen expense and had enough left over to make two credit card payments that were much higher than the minimum required.
What would we have done otherwise? We would've had to dip into our wallets and grab a credit card to pay the power bill, accruing more debt.
If I'm able to continue on this path of financial willpower, restraining my every urge to run into T.J. Maxx, and my husband is able to do the same by closing his laptop and logging off his Amazon Prime account, then before you know it ... we won't have any debt at all.
Okay, so maybe that's a little over-the-top, because my dear husband came with student loans. But you know what I mean.
Having enough money set aside to cover unanticipated expenses or to tackle existing debt are two reasons why the No Spend Challenge appeals to so many people. And if you happen to live in a high-cost living area, like we do, the challenge starts to look really sexy.
On the first day of the challenge I thought, "What was I thinking?" Now, I'm thinking, "Why didn't I think of doing something like this sooner?"
Day 25: No Spend Challenge reminds us how rich we are
Lately, I feel like I'm Snoop Dogg — "with my mind on my money and my money on my mind."
Of course, I'm sure he has a lot more to think about, since the balance in the bank accounts of a rap star and a newspaper reporter are different in that his surely ends in many, many zeros and I'm thankful if mine stays at about one or two.
Another difference is that I'm not "laid back sippin' on gin and juice." Heck ... I'm not sipping on gin and anything. The only thing I'm sipping on is the free hot cocoa in the newsroom. And I'm not laid back at all. Instead, I'm pensive.
These days, I'm thinking about money more than ever before — and that's a lot of time spent thinking about it because I've said, "I'm so sick and tired of thinking about money" on many occasions. But the fact is, the No Spend Challenge has made me come to terms with my financial privilege.
The mere fact of being able to do a No Spend Challenge means that this entire time I've been able to afford making purchases, in many cases, on a daily basis, that were completely outside my family's basic needs.
When my mother's father, my only living grandparent, was a child growing up in Nicaragua, he often didn't have shoes to wear. From his own lips, I've heard the stories of those hard times while sitting around the dinner table so many times I can probably recite his memories word for word.
His mother, who was a seamstress, became a widow when my grandfather was 2 years old. He was the youngest of five children. He recalls days when some rice and beans, a piece of bread and a glass of milk were the only sustenance he and his siblings had. "And we knew then, we were blessed," he said.
At age 12, he got his first job working at a movie theater, where he was tasked with holding a large sign that announced the titles being shown that day. Throughout his life, he's had many different jobs, but the one thing that's always remained the same was the motivation behind his hard work — to provide "more" for his family. And he has. He always did.
The fact that I'd submit myself to something like the No Spend Challenge is puzzling to him: "Why would you want to do this? You went to college. You speak English. You are beautiful and bright. You work hard. You make good money. You deserve nice things. What's wrong with that?"
"Yes, abuelito, I know. Lo quiero, abuelito."
My father's upbringing also shaped his thoughts about money. When my sisters, who are 11 months apart in age, were born, my father, whose family was not wealthy when he was growing up in Zaragoza, Spain, vehemently told my mother, "I don't ever want you to dress up Gina in Pilar's hand-me-downs."
He went on to explain that when he was a boy, his parents, my Yayo who held two jobs — one as an electrician and another as a janitor at a hospital — and my Yaya, a homemaker who could not work outside the home, could only afford to dress him in his older brother's hand-me-downs.
"I never got to wear any new clothes," he said. "That won't happen to my girls."
In my own home, my husband, Matt, who grew up in North Carolina, has long forbidden me from buying generic foods at the supermarket. Back when we were dating, he professed his love for Coca-Cola and his disdain for "all those other wannabe Cokes."
"What are you talking about?," I asked, confused.
"You know, all the 'Dr.Bob's' " he said. "Dr. Who?," I asked, still confused.
It turns out, there's some no-name cola brand his parents routinely bought at the grocery store called Dr. Bob. Dr. Bob was not Coca-Cola and Matt has never forgotten it. The same thing goes with the bag-o-cereal. Loopty-O's do not Fruit Loops make.
"And my taste buds have never forgotten it," he said. "So, no thanks. We won't be springing for the cheap stuff any time soon."
Meanwhile, I'm perfectly content discovering "the cheap stuff", generic food products at stores like Aldi. I find it fun.
But I never drank Dr. Bob, or ate Loopty-O's, or wore hand-me-downs, or knew what it was like to not have shoes to put on my feet. So yes, being able to do this challenge and knowing that I do have money for extras, because that's all they are — extras — is a luxury, and I'm 100 percent aware of it.
In response to my last No Spend update, one reader commented: "Well, I actually think you're very lucky if all you have to do is stop having manicures and going out to lunch to have extra money every month. Maybe, I'm alone on this, though."
She's not, and that is not lost on me. I know now, I am blessed.
Day 29: A wedding challenge for the No Spend couple
No Spend Challenge on a wedding weekend? Truth or dare?!
Truth: We dared. It was my sister-in-law Callie’s wedding weekend in North Carolina, and we couldn’t and wouldn’t have miss it for the world. No Spend Challenge or not.
Weddings, especially those that take place out of state, have the potential to be a high expense experience not only for those hosting, but also for guests. For Matt and me — groomsman and bridesmaid — the opportunities and temptations to spend were heightened even more.
After all, there were bridal brunches, groomsmen gatherings, last-minute toasts and rehearsal dinners to attend. In my old life, B.N.S (that’s “Before No Spend”) I would’ve NEEDED to go shopping for all new outfits to wear during the trip — at least one per outing and maybe a couple of backups just in case I wound up not feeling like wearing the ones I bought. The same applies to the heels.
Sounds a bit over-the-top? Maybe, but I’ve been described as being “extra” too many times to count. I’m choosing to believe it’s an abbreviation for ”extraordinary,” though it could be short for “extravagant.” Anyway, on this occasion the only extra was the money in my account; I drove past all my favorite stores and “shopped” my closet, rediscovering dresses and jumpsuits I could rewear and accessorize to create fresh new looks. Once I got to my mother-in-law’s house in Charlotte, I shopped her closet, too. No shame in my game.
Most wedding-related events were, thankfully, covered by the families of the bride and groom, so there were many delicious and free — though not fat-free — lunches and dinners. My dress and Matt’s suit had been custom-made and paid for months ago. The kids' outfits for the day, paid for by Yaya Phillis, had also been hanging in the closet for a while. And the gift was paid for long in advance, as well.
But, of course, as these things go, there were still several things that we weren’t able to cover ahead of time. This meant I couldn’t have my nails or my eyebrows done. I couldn’t take the kids to get haircuts, and Matt couldn’t buy a new beard oil scent to wear at the wedding for the first time as he likes doing on special occasions (though he was adamant about getting a fresh cut and beard trim before the wedding, which ran us $25 plus a $5 tip). And I, because I was in the bridal party, had to pay for professional hair and makeup for the day, which totaled $105.
But the most important part of it all isn’t what we spent on and what we didn’t spend on. The most important part is that we enjoyed such a wonderful love-filled time together with family.
Matt looked handsome. I felt beautiful. The kids were happy. Matt’s sister Callie, the bride, was glowing and beaming just to have us there to share her special day alongside her and her groom, Aerris.
That’s one thing about this exercise in personal finance betterment, this No Spend Challenge, that I find invaluable: Learning what you don’t deem worthy of spending your hard-earned cash on. That, along with learning when, where and for whom you shouldn’t hesitate to bring out your wallet. This weekend was without a doubt a magical one. There just aren’t enough dollar signs that can represent the value of spending quality time with our loved ones.
Day 30: Friends, goals and a little willpower are key to 'No Spend' success
The end of my No Spend Challenge is so near, I can almost taste the tiny, delicious, chocolate chip crumbles in the tall, Starbucks Java Chip I'm going to order as soon as it's over. And, no, this doesn't mean I'm going back to my old ways. I'm not planning to hang out at Starbucks so often the barista becomes my new best friend.
The frappe will just be a treat for doing so well on this No Spend Challenge, my commitment to spend money only on necessities -- i.e. rent, utilities, groceries, etc. -- and on nothing else for a set period of time. Because it was my family's first go at it, my husband, Matt, and I decided on a month.
Now that it's coming to a close, I'm feeling accomplished but also generous, so I'm sharing tips on how you, too, can complete a No Spend Challenge successfully:
1. Scream it from the rooftops
Set yourself up for success from the very beginning by telling everyone you know, relatives, friends, co-workers -- anyone who will listen, really -- that you're doing a No Spend Challenge. Explain what the challenge entails and let them know how long you're doing it.
This has, by far, been the most helpful for me because of all the support I've gotten. Of course, it doesn't hurt that I'm sharing my No Spend journey with the world by documenting it almost daily on Newsday.com, which has garnered an audience of 1.5 million people, and counting. How's that for accountability?
2. The buddy system
Find support. Try the No Spend Challenge with friends or join support groups on Facebook. There, you'll meet like-minded people also on a quest to save money. Having support from others is crucial because it will help you stay on the bandwagon. "Having the support of your friends and your circle is important," wrote personal finance blogger Kristen Larsen, of Believe in a Budget.
3. Learn to say no
Saying no to friends and family members can be hard, but one way to ease the blow for those who aren't on the same page is to say "not now" instead. For example, you could say, "I would love to go out to dinner with you, but would you mind if we set a date [insert time here when your challenge is over] instead?" Or, if that doesn't work for you, you can always suggest a different and free activity you can both enjoy, like a walk in the park or a game of tennis.
4. Hype yourself up
Get excited about all the money you're going to save. Download and print free "No Spend Challenge" calendars like those found on debtandcupcakes.com. These printables are an easy and visual way for you to track your progress. You can place a green checkmark on each day of the month that you succeed in not spending unbudgeted money and a red x on days in which you slip up.
You can also create a vision board with pictures of your "why." If you're saving for a house, you can fill it with images of your dream home, or if you're saving for a tropical vacation, you can plaster it with palm trees and ocean waves. Visual charts will help you stay focused and motivated on days when you'd rather hit the mall and call it a day.
We saved how much?!?
We did it! We spent 30 days — that’s 2,592,000 seconds, 43,200 minutes, 720 hours — on the No Spend Challenge, and we survived. No, that’s not right ... we thrived!
And the best part? We saved more than $1,000.
For an entire month, my husband Matt and I stuck to the No Spend Challenge, a commitment to spend money only on necessities (i.e. mortgage or rent, utilities, groceries etc. and on nothing else). This means there’s no dining out, no clothes shopping, no trips to the movie theater.
No undisciplined spending, period. So, when it came to wants rather than needs, we opted to “Just say no.”
For me, respecting the rules meant forgoing my morning pitstops at Dunkin’ and quitting my beloved caramel cappuccino cold turkey. It meant having to text my hair stylist Evani to say “I want you to know it’s not personal … but I won’t be sitting in your chair any time soon.” It also meant an end to those Target runs in which I’d go to the store for a gallon of milk and come home with everything but the milk.
I know I can’t be the only one this has happened to.
What would I actually buy? A new lip gloss, some cute shoes for my daughter and on some occasions what seemed like enough clothes for a whole new wardrobe.
“But it was all on clearance,” I’d reason. “It would almost be silly not to buy all these things.”
For my husband, the No Spend Challenge meant he could no longer go watch the game and grab a few beers at a nearby sports bar with his colleagues after work. It meant he couldn’t add to his growing collection of beard grooming products — and boy does he love his beard — by logging on to his Amazon Prime account and clicking “add to cart.”
And for my kids, FDR, 4, and Carolina, 2, well ... it meant absolutely nothing. They still had just as much fun as they would’ve otherwise. But instead of taking them to Chuck. E. Cheese and shelling out about $60, if not more, in a couple of hours, I searched online for free family events.
At one, hosted by the Village of Farmingdale, FDR was even able to ride a horse — for free.
On other days, I entertained my kids by reading books to them or having them work on puzzles together.
When it came to food, I had anticipated meltdowns over driving past, instead of to, McDonald’s, but that never happened. The kids still ate plenty of chicken nuggets and pancakes. The key difference? The meals were cooked by their “Papi” and enjoyed at home.
We all lived happily ever after and became $1,044.76 richer, saving what we would have spent in a normal month on fast food, clothes and shoes, trips to entertainment venues, and a string of other optional purchases. Of course, very little of that money actually remained in our pockets because we chose to use a big chunk to pay down (and in one case pay off) some of our credit card debt.
And the little that we did have left? Oh, you’d better believe we’re not spending it. From now on, we’re going to be more conscious of when, where and on what we spend our hard-earned cash. We’re planning to save for a house, save for a vacation, save for a date night at a five-star restaurant … the possibilities are endless. But we will save. It’s happening.
An email I received this month from Credit Karma provided encouragement: “Congrats! Your credit score went up by 8 points.”
What’s truly golden about this challenge is how much Matt and I have learned about ourselves.
That’s usually the case for those who try their hand at similar personal finance improvement quests, said financial psychologist Brad Klontz, an associate professor at Creighton University’s Heider College of Business in Omaha, Nebraska.
“No Spend Challenges are great behavioral experiments which can help you become more conscious of your relationship with money,” he said. “The idea is to get you out of your comfort zone, help you gain clarity on the difference between a need and a want, and get you thinking about your financial decisions and the ‘why’ behind them.”
Financial behaviors are often cultural or inherited from our parents or grandparents, said Klontz, author of several personal finance self-help books including “Mind Over Money: Overcoming the Money Disorders That Threaten Our Financial Health.”
Childhood experiences involving money or the lack thereof can have a significant impact on how people think of and handle money as adults, he said. “The more intense, emotionally charged the experience, the more powerful the link between the behavior, whether it’s stinginess, overspending or hoarding.”
These experiences can be traumatic and are usually tied to feeling “less than,” embarrassed or hurt, said Klontz. But once a person becomes aware of the beliefs at the root of their disruptive behaviors, they can take action to modify them and put themselves on a path to healthier financial decisions.
All of this makes total sense when I think back to the stories I’ve heard countless times from my grandfather, my father and even Matt, about different experiences involving money they each had as children.
My father and my abuelito, my mom’s father and my only living grandparent, both recall what it felt like to go without. They both vowed early on to work hard so that their families didn’t have to. And I’ll forever be grateful for the effort and sacrifices they made to make it so.
Throughout my No Spend journey, I came to terms with my own financial privilege. The mere fact of being able to do a No Spend Challenge means I’m able to afford making purchases, often on a daily basis, that are completely outside my family’s basic needs. That’s a blessing in and of itself.
But if you’re deeply in debt — or just need to save for a down payment on a home or for retirement — doing something like the No Spend Challenge can be a saving grace. It can jump-start your progress, said Ronkonkoma-based personal finance blogger Brian Brandow, of DebtDiscipline.com.
In 2011, Brandow, who works as a project manager for an IT company, and his wife, Lynn Brandow, who works in retail, found themselves with $109,000 in credit card debt despite their combined six-figure income.
“We had used the money for eating out, for a series of vacations, to cover emergencies like one of our cars breaking down, for just about everything and anything you can think of ... it was years of overspending. We were chasing our tails,” he said. “At that point, we knew we were in trouble and had to do something to fix it.”
And not just for themselves. The Brandows have three children, a boy and a girl, who are twins and were 11 at the time, and a son, who was 8.
The couple started following tips on how to get out of debt that were offered by personal finance experts they followed online and on the radio, Brandow said.
“We then sat the kids down in the living room and explained the situation to them, going over all the changes we needed to make in order to get out of it. No more going out to eat, no more spending money on any extras … We would cancel satellite radio and GameFly, a video game subscription service for kids, that we had at the time, and so on. Once they understood, they were pretty on board and took the changes in stride.”
In about four years, the Brandows were debt free. The reward? A family trip to Disney World in Orlando.
Unlike on previous vacations, Brandow said, on this one he felt he was really able to let go and have fun.
“There were no worries, no stress, no ‘how are we going to pay for this?’ moments,” he said. “We had planned for it, saved money for it and paid for everything in advance.”
Brandow now shares his journey toward debt-freedom with students in the Connetquot school district, where he’s often a guest speaker and promotes a financial literacy program.
Of the No Spend Challenge, he said: “I would challenge anyone to take it even if it’s for a short amount of time. It will be tough but it will be worth it.”
I second that.
This challenge has the potential to change more than just your spending habits. For me, it’s been truly eye-opening and transformative. It’s made me realize two important things: one, I can definitely live off the free hot cocoa I get at work, and two, that living a rich life has so little to do with money.
No Spend Challenge:
- Mortgage or rent
- medication/ health care
Not allowed spending
- eating out, coffee, drinks
- hair and nail services
- anything else that's a want (not a need)