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.