I failed a No-Spend Challenge and here’s what I learned

Hello! Welcome back to Millennial Money Journal!

In today’s edition, we’re not going to be talking about any successes, but a recent financial failure I’ve encountered. Or maybe a roadblock if you will.

In October, I started a No-Spend Month Challenge. As the name suggests, it’s a challenge where aside from basic needs of food, shelter, utilities and anything else important for surivial, one doesn’t spend money. You get to decide what is necessary for your surival and the rest is out of the window. Some people do this for a week and some for a month. I went full hog and decided to do it for a month.

I’d started the challenge by deciding that apart from groceries, my sessions with my therapist, and some money allotted for discretionary expenses, I wouldn’t spend anything. I’d also made my final debt payment on 30th September, so after everything, if I’d stuck to it I should have been able to save close to 25-30% of my month’s pay.

The first 15 days were solid. I barely spent any money. In fact, for some reason I didn’t even have to spend much for my groceries. It was super smooth. However, the house of cards started falling from the 16th day and in the last few days, I’ve gotten completely off the rails. While I’m still in the green and not taking on debt, I can probably no longer categorise October as a No-Spend Month. 

That’s because I didn’t factor something very crucial when I decided to deem October as a No-Spend Month. In this post, I’m going to talk about some of the lessons I’ve learned by doing this challenge. 

Discipline is hard

Discipline with anything is hard. While this is hardly the world’s biggest newsflash, I do concede to the fact that even though hard, it’s necessary. Especially when you have all this stimulus around you, just egging you on to spend.

In my case, a large portion of my derailment started due to the fact that October saw the start of festival season in India with the nine-day fiesta of Navaratri. Festivals mean joy, celebration and of course, new purchases. It’s easy to get sucked into all the joy and celebration and let go a bit. We let go with diets, don’t we? Our budgets and financial challenges are like diets for our money. So yes, I spent a chunk of money on new clothes and accessories for me.

Even though I did scour for deals and got a lot of value out the money I spent, I do feel like I could have been just a little more disciplined and put a cap on how much I could spend. That way I would have been able to enjoy the festival and felt less of a pinch when it came to my goals and money.

Planning Helps

October-November is festival season for us. It happens every year and it’s not really a surprise. That being said, financially it’s always a surprise to me because I never plan for it. For instance, I spent close to Rs 8000 in these 8 days getting traditional wear. If I’d planned for it over the last year and even set aside a Rs. 1000 each month, I’d have enough in the bank to knock the festive season shopping without disrupting my challenge. Rs. 1000 is not too much of a hit on a monthly basis and setting that aside would have given me the cushion and not disrupted my monthly savings goals.

Timing can be key

In a separate post, I’m going to talk about some of the financial challenges I do to save chunks of money for specific goals. What I’ve come to realise is that there is such a thing as a ‘wrong’ time for a challenge. While there’s no right time to become disciplined, there is something like a time to let loose a bit. So maybe next time, I wouldn’t do a No-Spend month smack dab in the middle of festival season. I’d look for a lean period where I can get ahead and stick to my challenge to build up the blocks for my financial goals.

Live and Learn

I’m not perfect. I’m always going to have times where I lose control and fail. That doesn’t mean I give up trying. I know I failed October’s No Spend Challenge. So now I’ve learnt never to do a no-spend challenge in the midst of festival season. I pick up the pieces and move on. Maybe I’ll try a No-Spend again in November. Or maybe December. I know that a No-Spend month once a year or so would be helpful to my finances and so I will keep trying to do it.

I don’t regret spending this money one bit. I’ll be able to celebrate the festival season with gusto and joy. And bonus: I’ll have a lot of pictures now too! I am also cutting myself some slack because I’ve just started out on this journey. I didn’t know a year ago that I would plan for future expenses and I didn’t know 3 months ago when I was aggressively paying off debt that I’d need money for clothes in October. Now I’ve learnt! So, yay!

The reason why I’m sharing this story is to make you realise that everything in your road to financial freedom and independence will not be perfect. Making mistakes is natural and even necessary in bits. Making mistakes makes you realise what you truly value about what money has to offer. It helps you eliminate the feeling of deprivation by always accounting for that which brings you joy. So make those mistakes and learn!

I hope you enjoyed the post! Do let me know some of the mistakes you’ve made and what you’ve learnt from them, in the comments below!

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