Frugal living at its finest: the No Spend Challenge

No Spend Challenge – Kick-starting the year with frugal living!

My wife and I were talking the other day about the importance of frugal living: saving money, paying off debt, and building our lives together. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to any of you that we spend a lot of time talking about this subject. When we made the decision in late September to begin aggressively paying off our debt, we never imagined we would be where we are today!

Related: How we have paid off almost $10,000 in debt in only 10 weeks!

I stress about it often, though. I promise, this won’t be a depressing post – I have a ton of hope for our situation, but I want to explain how we came to our newest decision. Anyway, I try to imagine a world where we can pay off almost $200,000 in debt and it seems impossible (read about how we racked up so much debt HERE). It seems like there is no way that we could ever reach our goals. It’s discouraging to think that even through the most frugal living we can handle, it will still take us YEARS to pay off our debt. And after that, we’ll be even farther behind in our goals to build a retirement, save up for a down payment on a house, and save up for TTC treatments so that we can have kids one day. But you know what? It’s not impossible. There’s hope for us.

I have no concerns at all that we will reach our goals and live the life that we always imagined, but even more importantly: we are living our lives to the fullest right now. In the here and now, in our every day lives, we are working to reach our goals and making changes that we never expected! We created a budget that has worked phenomenally for us and are using the cash envelope system to get even more from each dollar (I’ll write more on this soon). We have come up with creative ways to save money, such as making our own homemade pasta, saving money on gas, creating meal plans, de-cluttering our home, and selling our stuff. We find ways to get free food (I’ll write more on this soon), we come up with creative things to do that are free, and we cut back on all of our expenses as a whole.

Related: Paying off debt & saving money

We’ve even started working extra on the side to try and earn as much money as we can to put toward our loans. We work side jobs around town (I’ll be writing more on these soon) and we work hard to make money online through various different efforts such as Fiverr, Beachbody, Fronto, Ebates, ePantry, Advocare, Freelancing, and Blogging (more coming soon too).

Related: Make Money Online Series

Yet despite all of these frugal living efforts, my wife and I still feel like we could be doing more to pay off our debt sooner and begin our debt free lives. That’s when we made the decision to create a challenge for ourselves for the month of January: one harder than ones we have done in the past.

frugal living

  • For October, we did a “month of adulting” challenge – where we worked hard to keep our house clean, de-clutter, and start cooking more at home. It’s also the month that we implementing our new budget which has helped us greatly. It wasn’t a tough challenge, but it started us off.
  • For November, we did a “self-care” challenge – where we focused on taking care of ourselves, hygiene, spending time outside, and relaxing. It was great for our physical and emotional health and got us to where we needed to be.
  • For December, we are just focusing on keeping our heads above water and replenishing our emergency fund (will write more about this soon).
  • But for next month, January, we wanted to do something REALLY spectacular. Something that would truly help us to reach our debt repayment goals. Something that would change the way we look at money. Something that would change our lives. What did we decide to do? We created our very own No Spend Challenge. We will be competing against ourselves to save as much money as possible, put as much money toward our debt as we can, learn more about frugal living, and all while not spending a dime as the month goes on!

The No Spend Challenge Rules

The challenge is fairly simply, yet fairly intense as well: Throughout the entire month of January we will not be allowed to spend a dime. Why did we choose this challenge? Simple: so that we could change our lives and our spending habits by jump starting the new year with no spending at all.

frugal living

Here are the rules:

  • No spending money on groceries, fast food, restaurants, clothes, books, fun money, etc. Generally we set aside hundreds of dollars twice per month for these expenses, so the entirety of this money will be put toward our debt repayment goals. The one exception will be the books I need for my graduate classes that begin in January. However, this expense will come from the student loan fund and not from our budget.You are probably wondering what will happen if we run out of food. We made ourselves a deal: as long as there is some sort of food in the cupboards, fridge, or freezer, we have no need to buy any food.We are going to live off of what we have. If we get to the final days of our challenge and are absolutely out of ALL of the food in our house, then we will allow ourselves a small amount to pick up some food from the store (in moderation). We don’t see that happening though – we have stocks of canned goods, frozen meats, and plenty of food to go round.
    Plus, we’ll go shopping at the end of December in preparation and we’ll pick up some essentials such as eggs, milk, butter, etc. Don’t worry – we will only be allowed our regular December allowance for this purchase, which means we’ll have to be skimpy on the second half of December as well to prepare. We don’t want to spend extra and ruin the purpose of this whole frugal living challenge! We’ll make a post about it too – so keep checking in.
  • No spending money on gas – with the exception of gas to get to work. Because my wife works too far away to walk to work or ride her bike (and it’s freezing out) we will need to spend money on gas for work. In theory, we should be able to make it almost the entire month on one tank of gas if we cut out trips to the store, to the park, or just driving around for fun.
  • Bills will still be paid on time (perhaps earlier). We will not cut out our bills for the month – it’s not worth taking the extra late payments that will occur. Instead, we will utilize this month to work toward paying all of our bills early and putting extra toward our debts.
  • I had a question about medical and healthcare costs: anything such as these that is considered a necessity should not be put off for a month to save money. If you need medicine, medical care, or items for healthcare, make sure that you don’t cut these out. Just ensure that when you pick up your meds you don’t pick up other things you don’t need (a new blanket, Subway, etc.).

I know you’re probably wondering if it is possible for frugal living to go this far – and I can tell you honestly: I’m hesitant. It’s going to be tricky. No, it’s going to be downright HARD. But would I try it if I didn’t think it was possible? Absolutely not. I truly believe that it is possible for us to be successful in this challenge and save a ton of money over the course of the month because of it.

frugal living

Join us!

The hardest thing about budgeting and frugal living is doing it alone. And that’s why we want to invite you all to join us on our challenge. Sign up below to opt in to our email community – filled with exclusive tips and tricks to survive frugal living during your No Spend Challenge month.

Follow our rules or make your own! We know that not everyone is in the same situation we are in. Stick with as much or as little of the challenge as you are able in your situation, but don’t be afraid to sign up and come along for the ride!

We’ll be taking the challenge right alongside you – with daily blog posts and exclusive email information and communication, this will be the single, greatest choice to jump start your new year!

Don’t forget: sharing is caring! If you think any of your friends or family members would benefit from taking a No Spend Challenge, saving money, paying off debt, and frugal living – guide them to DIY Jahn! We would love to be in contact with them. Share our posts with them by visiting our facebook page at:

Finally, leave comments below or email me at – if you have any questions at all about frugal living (or anything else). I respond personally to every single comment and email sent. Thank you for reading!

Sign up to join the No Spend Challenge! And don’t worry, as someone who understands how frustrating it can be, we promise to never spam or sell your information!

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70 Replies to “Frugal living at its finest: the No Spend Challenge”

  1. Wow I admire you and your wife so much. I I think I can learn a lot from your experiences. I don’t think I am quite ready to give up spending yet but I will be following with great interest and may join you next year! I love your description about how your living life right now for the here and now, that is my philosophy behind my blog too, a different subject matter but the same principle to life. I love this blog glad I found it!

    1. That’s great, Lisa! I really appreciate your comment – it means a lot – thank you. I completely understand not being ready, but we’ll keep you up to date with how it goes and you can join in for as much or as little as you like. We’ll of course be doing it again next year so that you can try it then if you would like! I’m definitely going to check out your blog – I love it when people work to live life to the fullest! 🙂

  2. What do you do about health stuff? I want to do a no spend month but I have asthma and allergies and my son has eczema and allergies and all I can think is the month I chose not to spend any money is the month I am going to need more medication. Would you set some money aside the month before just in case medication?

    1. Great question, Iman! We have a Flex Spending Acct for our health supplies (my wife is a diabetic) and so we use that for health-related expenses. I think for those who don’t have that option, spending money for required medications and health supplies is definitely not something you should cut out – I would count it as a necessary expense similar to bills. Thank you for your comment! Let me know if you have other questions

  3. wow powerful and i am intrigued!! Can we do it? not sure – we have plenty of food so that’s not the challenge – impulse buying and eating out will be a the main issue here. I am going to challenge honey to do it! woot!

    1. That’s our biggest struggle too – we love eating out and buying things on a whim! I hope you join us – I definitely think it’s going to be a struggle, but it will be so worth it in the end! Thanks for the comment, Kristina & Millie

  4. I admire your solution!! Keep going! What is your budget for these?

    As a small remark, if I were you, I would prefer to cut for 1-3 months the phone or internet or tv or some electrical suppliers from house ( fridge, drier machine, hair drier,microwave, mixer, tv, heating 20% down etc) , or to not use washing chemical products just water etc than to reduce the fresh vegetables and fruits. I started in the last 5 years to eat daily 1-2kg of fruits in the house, and carrots/celery/green salads/rucolla/parsley etc. Now is winter and I dreaming at the greens from my container gardening from balcony.

    1. Thank you! Our budget is around $400 for these expenses that we’re cutting out (a little more when we over-spend and cheat by eating out). So we are hoping that this will help us to really cut down and put extra toward debt this month. As for fresh fruits and veggies – we will freeze some beforehand so that we can still eat them throughout the month – but I think we should start a garden to get them for cheap like you suggested. Thank you for the comment! 🙂

  5. How cool! We did this in September! I ended up only spending $60 that month instead of the usual $600 by only buying cat food and gas once and living off what we had in the pantry. Amazingly, we still had food left after the month. It’s so surprising how much food is actually in the cabinets each time we think we need to go to the grocery store.

    1. That’s so great, Kari! I’d love to hear more about how it went for you if you hope to share – saving $540 is an awesome use of a month! I hope our situation works similarly – especially with having food leftover in the pantry. It’s like you said, we often don’t realize how much food is there. thank you for the comment 🙂

    1. Aww thank you! That’s my number one goal for DIY Jahn – to inspire others to make a difference in their lives. I’m so glad you’ve found that here. Thank you for the comment, Caroline! 🙂

  6. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this. We are also under a mountain (or so it feels to me) of debt, and are supposed to be saving for a down payment for a house, TTC treatments (which are no joke in Seattle, serious $$), and then we just had a car totally break down. Soo…..we need to do this. I love how you took things month by month starting in the fall. I don’t think we’ll be ready to tackle this challenge this January, but I’m going to see if I can talk my husband into doing your other challenges and then work up till this one. Meanwhile, I’ll be following along!

    1. That’s so great, Angie! I mean, not the struggling with debt, house payments, and TTC (though it sounds like we’re really in the same boat, because that’s exactly what we’re working toward). But the fact that you are ready to start the small challenges and work up to the bigger ones! I hope you keep following along with our journey because I would *love* to hear more about yours. As for the No Spend Challenge – I’m hoping that it will go really well. If so, we’ll probably do it around every other month or so, so you can join in when you’re ready! 🙂 Thank you for the comment

  7. I did the no spend challenge back in august. it saved us enough money to get some new furniture (dining set.) i plan on doing it again a few times in 2016, it was truly awesome. plus since we have a gas ran house, we did meal preps that mostly used the crockpot. (our gas bill was cut down significantly for that month since we didnt use the oven nearly as much.) and in the southern heat we had the heaters off too. ive never seen our bill so low. im going to be stocking up on electric blankets and things to help us through next years winter to cut back on the gas bill- i didnt think too far ahead on this winter, so its alittle late. but now im planning on ways to ave us all next year. my resolution is to have no debt on credit cards (we owe about $2000 on them + whatever gets added from my dental surgery) and i’d like to make a huge dent on my husbands truck payments as well. i think its a realistic goal for our family and budget without licking our cupboards from the last crumbs lol.

    1. That sounds awesome! It’s great to hear of someone that made it through a no spend challenge and lived to tell the tale! It sounds like you guys really did a lot to save money throughout the month. 🙂 Great idea to use the crock pot to save on gas. You should join us in January for another to keep chipping away at those debts! 🙂 Thank you for the comment

  8. I love your idea to start a small garden. I don’t know how cold is in your area, but until freezing, the garden can offer o lot of fresh and tasty flavors and vitamins with not too much money effort. Try to see in the neighborhoods if there is a group support to share free seeds and experience.

    For who is not ready for one month no spending, I recommend to try:1 week no spending. I am doing this sometime.

    1. I agree – 1 week no spending can be much more manageable for some people and can get them started in the right direction. For us, the ground is frozen from October – June, but I have considered planting some herbs and small vegetables (like green onions) inside near a window and trying to grow them there. Hopefully they will produce, but if not, at least we tried!

    1. I think that’s great – even small changes move you in the right direction! I encourage you to give a try with less strict rules – you never know what may happen 🙂 Thank you for your comment, Mandi

    1. That can be difficult, that’s for sure. Especially when you’re trying to eat really healthy. We are working on learning how to make items homemade so that we can eat frugally and in a healthy way both at the same time. Thank you for your comment!

  9. I was just telling my husband that we can’t spend any money next month to make up for Christmas, and then I came across this post! Hahaha super cool! So we are going to try and do this! We will still be buying groceries though. I’m hypoglycemic, and need to eat a lot of times throughout the day, plus we eat pretty healthy, but I’m not too worried about it, because we eat pretty cheaply. I have $0 in debt, and my husband only has a $2,000 loan, so we don’t have a lot of debt to pay off. But! We want to be saving money for a down payment for a duplex or other sort of property that we can rent out and make money off of! So our savings will be going towards that! Thanks for the great post that gave me the extra push I needed!
    Good luck everyone!
    -Jessica LaPinta

    1. Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comment, Jessica! 🙂 I really appreciate how open you were. I think a No Spend Challenge is a great idea for you, even if you still buy groceries! The main goal is to create rules for yourself and follow them. 🙂 It sounds like you guys have some AWESOME goals, so now it’s just to put them into process. Thank you again!

  10. This is a great idea! I was doing good with not spending until I bought running shoes. Running helps keep me sane, I used a little of my tax return but the rest is in savings.

    1. Hey, as long as you know where your money is coming from and have a plan that doesn’t lead you into debt, I think you’re doing good! Using a little of your tax return is a great way to get those running shoes you want and you need those luxuries once in a while. Thanks for commenting, Leslie!

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