Happy New Year! And welcome to January, the month when we all feel poor because of all the money we just spent on Christmas. It’s also the month when many bullet journalers and planners are starting a “No Spend” challenge to help get back on track with budgeting and wise financial decisions.

I admit that I treated myself to a few too many Christmas gifts — to me, from me. But I did a good job of sticking to my budget and only using cash for the holiday giving season. Cheers for leaving the credit card at home!

Last year was the first time I tried the No Spending Challenge in January and I admit it was pretty tough. I probably made it harder on myself because I threw in a few additional “challenges” alongside the no spending one. But at the end of it, I noticed a fresh new mindset about how I looked at money and impulse purchases (more on that in a moment). So I’m doing it again this January.

To be honest, I almost didn’t do it this year. I really only decided to jump on board the evening of December 30th … and promptly panicked about what I needed to buy before January 1st (like toilet paper and coffee). But even as I was out shopping for a few things yesterday, I realized that the no-spending mindset had already started to take root and I only bought the bare essentials.

Alright, enough jabbering about me, let’s talk about this challenge and what it all means… and how you can do it too.

30 Day No Spending Challenge

So how does this challenge work, anyway? Well…there’s the way everyone else does it, and then there’s the way that Pam does it. Honestly, there’s no right or wrong way to do this challenge.

These are the rules I’ve set for myself during the month-long No Spending Challenge.

It’s a very personal type of thing and you need to figure out what works for you, your family and your situation. Since I’m single and live alone (with two (needy) cats), my challenge will look a lot different than someone who has a large family. I’ve set some rules or general guidelines for myself – feel free to use any that might work for you too.

  • Track Everything

If it has anything to do with money, I’m tracking it. Even if it’s an allowable purchase, I want to keep track of everything penny that goes out of the bank account so I can evaluate my spending habits at the end of the challenge.

  • Essential Spending Only

This is where things can get muddy since “essential” is such a subjective word. For some people, the morning Starbucks run is essential. But for me, this means I’m only allowed to spend money on bills, gas/fuel, church donations, essential groceries, or emergency situations.

  • Pantry First & Grocery Guidelines

I tend to buy too many groceries for just one person so my pantry and freezer seem to be overflowing at times. It just so happens that right now it’s sort of ridiculous. So along with the spending freeze this month, I’m also doing a Pantry First Challenge. The only groceries I’ll buy are perishable healthy foods such as fruits, veggies, and dairy. Otherwise, it’s all from the pantry. However, if I happen to have at least half of the ingredients for a recipe in the pantry, I’m allowed to buy the other half from the store.

  • Track Resisted Temptations

The last time I did this no-spending challenge I was surprised at how often I was tempted by impulse purchases. So I started tracking “Resisted Temptations” and found it enlightening. I’ll do the same this time around. Anytime I almost accidentally buy something on Amazon – or even feel the need to “put it in my cart for later” but don’t buy the thing, it needs to go on the list.

  • Earn Extra Money

While I’m saving all this money by not buying stuff, why not work to make some extra money too? I have plenty of stuff in my house that I don’t use anymore but still has value and could bring in a few extra dollars (or hundreds). During the challenge, I’ll use eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace to bring in some extra money while getting rid of some clutter around the house.

  • Declutter & Donate

While I’m scavenging the house for stuff to sell, there will be plenty of stuff that’s not worth the effort of selling and just needs to be donated to charity. Whenever I make donations to a thrift shop, I keep a detailed log of what I donate and add it to my account at Itsdeductible.com — which interfaces with my tax filing software. Tax deductions are a great way to save money in the long run on taxes, so this decluttering effort fits right in with the spending freeze challenge.

  • Planned Purchases

There are already a few things on the calendar that I know will require me to spend money that would normally not be allowed during a no-spend challenge. I’ve identified those specific instances and listed them in my journal. These purchases will be allowed because they’ve been planned for ahead of time.

No spending temptation log

I decided to track the things I wanted to buy but didn’t. Keeping them on a log helps me see how good I did at the end of the month.

What will I do with all the extra money?

Having a specific purpose for the extra money saved and earned at the end of the challenge is important to keep me on track. One of my big goals for this year is to fully fund my emergency fund (6 months of expenses). So it’ll be nice to start the year off with a large deposit to that account.

How Long is the No-Spend Challenge?

Each person is different and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Some people do no-spend days once per week and amazingly, there are some people who are even doing a no-spend year! Most people tend to do a month or a week at a time.

You’ll notice in the photos that I have the dates set for my challenge as January 1 through February 6. So why did I pick 37 days? This represents the first 10% (the tithe) of the year. The word “tithe” literally means “tenth” – it doesn’t refer only to money, but rather a tenth of whatever the thing is. So in my case, I’m offering the first tenth of my year to financial fasting. It’s a way to focus on the spiritual discipline of fasting, quiet devotion, and responsible obedience.

Of course, it’s also a great way to get them excessive spending of the Christmas holiday under control and start the year off on the right foot.

Spending Log

Tracking exactly what I’ve spent money on is important. Even if it’s an allowed expense, it goes on the list.

More No-Spend Challenge Bullet Journal Ideas

I’ve scoured the internet (ok, really just Instagram) and found some great page ideas for tracking your progress with your No Spend Challenge. Don’t just look at the pretty pictures here, go check out the profiles for these journalers and follow them while you’re there.





Are you taking the No Spending Challenge, too?

I’d love to hear how you’re doing with your own No-Spend challenge. Do you have similar rules to mine? What else are you trying that I haven’t mentioned? I’m always eager to learn new things and try something different next year.

One last thing…

Just in case you thought my job of publishing a blog post was easy, I want to show you how difficult it is to get a decent photo. This is Pounce, she really likes the bright lights over my desk and enjoys lounging under them… even if it means she’s in the way of my photo.

Pounce watching over my progress and making sure I buy cat food this month.