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Could you do the no-spend day challenge?

Could you do a day where you spend no money – at all? All you need is to be able to plan and use resources you already have. We tried it for ourselves and also challenged a couple of our guest blogger friends to do the same – here is how we got on.

Spending money is easy to do. Everyone has to eat, for example. But there are ways you can be smart with your money that means you don’t have to end up spending when you don’t really mean to, or need to.

A no-spend day is a great way to see where your friction points are with your spending, and to try and think of ways you can avoid doing so in the future. Who knows, maybe you could make it a weekly thing?

No-spend day challenge – how we did it

Thrifty Lesley, author of low-cost food inspiration website Thrifty Lesley

“Each Friday I have a regular meeting with a group of friends. We have a coffee in a church hall in the middle of the town. The coffee is only £1, but today was a No Spend Day, so not allowed. I met my friends as usual and just had a glass of tap water. The reason why resulted in interested queries and a stimulating discussion - a nice side effect of the challenge.

After our gossipy chat, I usually pop in a charity shop or two, or the local little supermarket to pick up whatever we need. Today, I went to one of the charity shops, but only to drop of a bag of donated clothing resulting from my ever ongoing decluttering project.  Then I quickly left again before I could spot something I 'needed'.

Which leads me on to my top tip for saving money - don't go to the shops unless you really have to!

I would have bought a couple of things in Sainsbury's but instead I rejigged my plans for dinner and we had something else instead. We could survive for weeks if not months on what I have stashed away in the cupboards and freezer!”


Jenni Hill, author of Can’t Swing A Cat, offering tips for saving a deposit for your own home –

“Since I'm currently on a money saving mission, my day-to-day expenditure is already pretty low. However, I do spend quite a bit of money on public transport. Constantly travelling between my parents' house, my boyfriend's house, and work, I'll usually buy a £14 bus pass every Monday and on top of that I'll spend between £3 - £5 per journey on the tram. 

However, when The Money Advice Service set me the challenge of having a No Spend Day, I decided to brave the treacherous British weather and walk to work instead. While this isn't something I can do every day, it made me realise how little exercise I usually get on a day-to-day basis. By skipping public transport from time to time I can save money, keep fit, and get my morning off to a good start. 

If you decide to give this a go, I'd definitely recommend downloading a podcast or two on your phone before you leave the house. It will help to keep you occupied and make the time fly by!”

Florence Buswell, Money Advice Service blogger–

“Although I don’t spend a lot day-to-day, I’m fairly guilty of invisible spending – spending money on small things without even thinking about it. Although I often bring in soup for lunch, I also supplement this with supermarket snacks (healthy or unhealthy, depending on how my day is going).

Before my No-Spend Day, I bought some of my favourite snacks in bulk to keep in my desk (Nutri-Grain bars and popcorn, in case you’re interested). These have lasted me pretty much the whole week, so I’ll definitely be doing more of that – sometimes buying more from the outset can save you money in the long run.

Monday is when I usually go swimming at my local pool at £3.50 a pop, so instead I went to the gym. After a workout I often treat myself to a magazine afterwards as a reward (more invisible spending)… but this time I phoned my Mum on the train ride home instead. Not sure if that counts as a ‘treat’ really though…

My tip? Really thinking what you’re spending can help a lot. Even a pound here and there really adds up.”

What do you think?

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  • kevin / 10 October 2017

    We can always use budget template to do this challenge:

  • Pamela / 8 April 2016

    Since I stopped working I have really restricted my spending. I plan my visit to shops once a week. I don't go into charity shops any more. Now I need to restrict online shopping to once a month!

  • B Flash / 7 April 2016

    I have spent several periods of many weeks, without spending any money. Sometimes this was because I was refused "supplementary" benefit: why it was called this totally eludes me. I never had any other income to .... supplement! For some years, I had only a tent or a small boat to call home; but neither is considered a fixed address: hence no benefit. Catch 22: no address so no benefit, and no chance of becoming employed. There were times when I only ate berries and roots; but sometimes I'd find good items thrown out by supermarkets, because they had just passed a sell-by date.
    Spending just one day "spend-free" is absolutely no challenge at all; I could easily do a week with only a loaf, some beans, and carrots, for instance.
    I wouldn't want to revisit those extended times of true hardship, forty years later, though!

  • Linda highland / 7 April 2016

    I'm well aware that I spend money on coffee etc
    I live alone, have no friends here and use a trip out to at least see another human

  • Janice / 6 April 2016

    11am and have the dilemma of no bread and milk already. Cooked lovely alternative to bacon sarnies, bacon chilli and rice.. Late afternoon have found half a loaf in the cupboard and am considering a bread pudding. Also have a tin of condensed milk, why I don't know. Barter had come to mind for the milk, glass of wine anyone? Husband bought milk, but I am not drinking this til tomorrow's cup of tea because I wanted to go a day without spending cash. More than anything I am incredibly grateful for my life. Six hours of caffeine withdrawal and I am having a religious experience! I would recommend doing this just so you know what you can live without.

  • Abinet / 6 April 2016

    It is a treat speaking to your mom ! I wish my was still around !!

  • Julia Dance / 6 April 2016

    It seems that to go out is to spend. I do think local libraries need protecting as they are one of the few warm places you can sit and read without being obliged to buy something to pay for taking up a commercial opportunity. What will the b&b "out until 5o'clock " people do? Also the older population and children who need to use a computer? So many things say apply online or only available online. The libraries are a valuable educational and community asset.

  • Robin Butler / 6 April 2016

    I think that pre-buying a pile of snacks is cheating! If you're having a no spending day, you have to make do with what you already have at home, or do without.

  • Steve in Plymouth / 6 April 2016

    Having read through earlier comments I have come to the conclusion being thrifty can be good for your health, both mentally and physically. It makes you feel in control and can stop you worrying about building up debts. It also can get you more active; walking or cycling rather than relying on a vehicle to get around. Everyone at some stage enjoys the thrill of shopping, but it is amazing how many people lose that thrill as soon as they get the products home, simply putting down the bags, thinking about the next shopping experience. losing interest in the products bought or even worrying and regretting that you have over spent. Nobody likes that set of emotions. Being thrifty can give you a much longer term buzz and help you feel you have control of your life, not others (i.e. banks and retailers)

  • Joyce Phillips / 6 April 2016

    This email came to my dead aunt who was on attendance allowance and as I was her deputy, I received emails on her behalf from the money advice centre. When I received this email I thought the easiest way not to spend money for a day is to be dead. However, she owes me £1400 in funeral expenses so maybe she is still spending today. I hope this comment is nice enough for you but maybe not.

  • Steve in Plymouth / 6 April 2016

    By cooking home made meals and soups that can be batched up for lunch each day, or using left-overs from evening meals (e.g. salads, bread) you can save quite a bit through the week, as well as avoiding impulse purchases buying lunch on the day. It also avoids wasted food at home, which can account for a lot of wasted money in the home.

  • Michael / 6 April 2016

    Although I've spent zero today, a day off walking the dog to the park, some diy on the house and lots of gardening, I've still had to be prepared beforehand. Such as food and drinks in the house (researched supermarket costs) and ongoing running costs for the house (investigated cheapest fuel deals, saved water with shower and water butt) but this excersise definitely makes you think about being minimalist !
    As has been said, good planning is the key.
    For instance ; a work day involves some walking to and from, to keep travel costs to a minimum, an app. on the phone, and paying in advance for tickets helps too. Food is always bought and prepared in advance, eliminating costly forays to shops or cafes.
    So it's possible with foresight and good planning.

  • Kay heywood / 6 April 2016

    I put into my current account only the amount I want to spend, for example, I will have gone onto My Supermarket and made my shopping list from that so I know how much my shopping will be. I will then put enough cash for that and a couple of things from the reduced items into my current account for the shopping. This week I jiggled the shop around while I was in the supermarket and I got a whole chicken for 50p more than the meat for sandwiches cost, more things in the reduced veg that will go into the freezer and bread that was also reduced that also goes into the freezer. This week the supermarket shop it was £4 cheaper.

  • uaa / 6 April 2016

    A zero spend day is often easier to do when you are going to work; leisure days can require more creativity. Planning in all cases is key: Money is time, time is money. Make the most of both!

  • Tom / 6 April 2016

    Exactly Dianne! Maximum enjoyment for minimum outlay.

  • Dianne / 6 April 2016

    I am a spender, especially if something is reduced be it clothes or food. I overspend in Charity Shops, always. Today was a challenge and I felt great.

  • Dianne / 6 April 2016

    I am a spender, especially if something is reduced be it clothes or food. I overspend in Charity Shops, always. Today was a challenge and I felt great.

  • Tom / 5 April 2016

    Most of my life I've been hopeless with money,easy come easy go. Now I've reached a point in my life where those excesses are hurting, and I'm forced to rethink my attitude to spending recklessly.
    What I've discovered is that because l decided to take it as as a challenge to spend as little as I can, have fun with saving money and still live a happy life, it can be very satisfying.
    Outsmarting those that compete for your cash and getting a better deal elsewhere can be quite addictive. Far from feeling deprived and yearning for my old ways I'm enjoying every minute!

  • Kathy / 5 April 2016

    Really like this. I can easily spend something every day, so almost becomes a thoughtless habit.

  • Jimmy buchan / 5 April 2016

    Interesting reading. I took out my weekly allocated amount of cash from the ATM earlier today and im hoping that by going back to using hard cash it will make me more aware of exactly how much i am spending. I used the back of an envelope system from on here for about a year to help me budget and i managed to pay off my £800 overdraft and get back into the black.

  • Franki Mc\lennan / 5 April 2016

    I have managed to not spend any money today due to the fact I was home ill in bed.
    Mostly some days I only spend specific food and petrol when it is needed.
    I am only working 1 hour a week because I am studying and my partner has just started new job last week.
    Living off whats in the freezer.