Everyone loves the holidays, but if you’re like most people, you might find yourself worrying about money. Gift shopping alone could leave your wallet feeling pretty thin. In fact, industry experts predict the average American will spend $920 on holiday gifts in 2019. 

Factor in other expenses like staying on top of bills and keeping groceries in the fridge, and your finances may be stretched thin by the end of the season. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to stay in control of your money during the holiday rush. 

This post outlines different saving techniques you can use to control your spending, particularly before and after the holiday season. From skipping the weekly Target shopping trip to cutting back on morning lattes, we’ll help you achieve your saving goals as you dive into a no spend challenge. 

What Is a No Spend Challenge?

A no spend challenge is a period of time in which you choose not to spend money. Also known as a “spending freeze,” a no spend challenge can involve allowances for certain areas like grocery shopping and paying bills, but restricts any personal or nonessential spending. 

There are many reasons why a no spend challenge is great for your wallet, including: 

  • Identifying areas where you spend too much money
  • Learning to control impulse purchases 
  • Saving money you would have spent otherwise (like on restaurants, coffee
  • Putting saved money towards important items like retirement, college funds, etc. 

Whether you’re doing a no save challenge for one or all of these reasons, cutting back on spending is a great way to improve your finances during the holidays.

How to Prepare for a No Spend Challenge

With a bit of planning and preparation, you can set yourself up for a successful no spend challenge during the holidays. Here are a few tips to get started: 

  • Set a savings goal. The point of a no spend challenge is to save money! Depending on your current spending habits and how long you plan to challenge yourself, a savings goal is a great way to motivate yourself. For example, you could save over $100 in one month by not getting that $4.00 cup of coffee every morning before work. 
  • Plan, plan, plan. A no spend challenge isn’t always as simple as hiding the credit cards and not buying anything –– you do have to eat, after all. A few days before you want to start the challenge, take time to map out your normal spending habits. You’ll need to plan ahead for things like paying bills, grocery shopping, and other necessary spending. Set aside a budget for these things and purchase them ahead of time or during the challenge if needed. 
  • Establish your rules. The great thing about a no spend challenge is that you can set your own rules. Whether you want to go cold turkey on all spending or make a list of off-limits items, you can create a no spend challenge that fits your family’s needs and lifestyle. 
  • Keep your family in the loop. It’s important to let your family and friends know that you’ll be doing a no spend challenge. It’s much easier to avoid the social pressures of spending when your friends know you won’t be coming out for drinks during the challenge. Instead, have a night in with snacks and drinks already in your pantry. In addition, be sure to explain the challenge to your little ones to help them learn good spending habits. 

Whether you’ll be challenging yourself during the holiday season or any other time of year, planning is the key to a successful no spend challenge!

No Spend Challenge Ideas and Printables

When it comes to the holidays, money plays a huge role. After Christmas has come and gone, your wallet may feel a little thin. In fact, studies show that some shoppers rack up over $1,000 in holiday debt. Whether you plan to use a no spend challenge to prepare for the holiday season or to recover from it in the new year, there are plenty of ways to incorporate a spending freeze into your daily life.

Below, we’ve listed 21 ways to tackle a no spend challenge and get your finances back on track for the new year. 

Printable: Credit Card Sleeve

For those of us with a tendency to shop till we drop, whipping out a credit card becomes second-nature. Research suggests that people are willing to spend twice as much with a credit card as they are with cash. With that sobering stat in mind, a temporary lock-up of your credit card could help you limit extra spending. 

Instructions for folding

  • Cut out the card sleeve template along the dotted lines.
  • Fold inwards along the solid lines to create the sleeve. 
  • Secure the folds with clear tape. 

Once you’ve finished making your credit card sleeve, slide your card in and tuck it back into your wallet. Every time you pull out your card to make an impulse buy, you’ll be reminded that your credit card is off limits.

Click the button below to download the printable credit card sleeve. 

Printable: Spending Reflections

It’s important to understand your spending habits and how they affect your life. Sometimes, the best way to get your finances under control is through a bit of introspection. Do you spend too much money on clothing or eat at your favorite restaurant more than once a week? Money stresses people out more than anything else, but identifying your problem areas is the first step to getting your money under control.

This printable will help you identify why you spend money on impulse purchases and unnecessary items, giving you the insight you need to curb any bad habits and successfully complete a no spend challenge. 

Click the button below to download the spending reflections printable. 

Printable: Money Tracking Activity for Kids 

Research shows that parents who discuss financial topics with their kids are more likely to have kids who say they are smart about money.

Here’s a printable your kids can do to learn about spending and saving. Print out the activity sheet and, with your little one, fill out the goal your child would like to save for. Whether they want to buy a new video game or visit a theme park, setting a goal helps kids visualize the saving process. While you’re saving money with a no spend challenge, your kids will learn valuable skills that will become more important as they get older. 

Be sure to talk with your kids before starting the activity to explain basic financial principles like income, expenses, and savings. 

Click the button below to download the kids’ money tracking printable. 

To download all the printables, click the button below.

More No Spend Ideas

A no spend challenge can be as creative and fun as you want it to be. To help you plan a challenge that fits perfectly into your family’s life, try incorporating some of the ideas below. Whether you do all of them or just a few, they will help you cut back on spending and save money during the holiday season.

  • Skip the rideshare service if you’re going out –– driving yourself will help you minimize spending on drinks, too.
  • Go car-free altogether and ride a bike or walk to work instead. You’ll save money on gas, get in a great workout, and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time. 
  • Put a hold on any hobbies that require you to spend money on supplies. Instead, commit to using your current supply up before buying more.
  • Go a month without eating at a restaurant, getting fast food, or ordering delivery. Be sure to plan ahead for grocery shopping.  
  • Pause your subscriptions (beauty boxes, personal hygiene products, streaming services) for a month or two and put the extra cash into savings. 
  • Try a water-only week and skip other beverages like sodas, coffee, and alcohol. Your body and your wallet will thank you! 

How to Occupy Your Time During a No Spend Challenge

You might think a no spend challenge means no fun, but you don’t always need to dole out cash to please your family.

  • Entertain the little ones with board games, pillow forts, and trips to the park instead of spending money on movie tickets, theme parks, and toy stores. 
  • Take the family to the library for the afternoon to encourage young minds to read and learn as much as possible. 
  • Stay on top of your health by hitting the gym, going for a run, or taking a long walk. Cold weather takes its toll on the body, but exercise will keep you feeling healthy.
  • Plan a future vacation for your family, including flights, hotels, excursions, and sites you’d love to see. 
  • Create a budget for the new year –– be sure to include upcoming expenses and the extra money you saved during your no spend challenge. 

Tips for Living Frugally

The idea behind a no spend challenge is that you learn to become more conscious about your spending. As a result, you might find yourself wanting to be a bit more frugal, even after the challenge is over.

  • Hold a yard sale with your family to make some extra cash for the new year. 
  • Use a discount airline and pack light for the cheapest travel when visiting family. 
  • Meal prep for the coming week to minimize the temptation to order takeout when there aren’t dinner plans.  
  • Use coupons, discounts, and free shipping to get the most out of your holiday shopping

Whether your no spend challenge lasts a few days or a whole month, taking a break from spending money can make a huge difference in your holiday finances. Stay on top of your budget by planning ahead, using your credit card wisely, and taking advantage of shopping deals whenever possible. 


Magnify Money | American Psychological Association


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