Woman budgeting and calculating her expenses

How You Can Have A No-Spend Week

Let’s get down to business to defeat… to defeat… well, there is no rhyme for Huns, but we definitely gotta defeat reckless spending during a pandemic! That is why I am suggesting that you try out a no-spend week. I’ve seen people do no-spend days, no-spend weeks, and even no-spend months—but let’s hit the middle ground here and do a week without spending any money.


Discuss it with a friend, your partner or a group of friends to spur each other on to complete a week without money flowing out of your wallet or bank account. It’s going to be tough for some but trust me, it is worth it!


1. Set a clear goal

As with everything, you need to know why you are doing a no-spend week. I do no-spend weeks so I can use the money saved for a type of giving (mission homes or a donation program), a special occasion (a family member’s birthday), clear my debt (credit card or loans) or savings (a great way to start an emergency fund). Then, work out an estimate of how much you spend in a week and put it aside. This will be channelled into your desired goal after the week has ended.

Woman budgeting and calculating her expenses

You also need to know what breaks your no-spend week. For example, needing to go to the doctor because you are sick; don’t delay just because you are on a no-spend week, it is not worth it! Then, it is important to note it down somewhere visible, so you won’t pass a boba tea shop, wander into it, and oop, there goes RM20! Get an accountability partner to check on you and ensure you are not spending – yes, sometimes it takes a community to reach a personal goal.


Also, be sure to pay off your bills before you start on this quest. You would not want your internet, water, mobile plan and electricity cut off in the middle of your no-spend week.


2. Clear your fridge

If you look at the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, the most essential at the bottom of the rank is your physiological needs. You need to plan how you’re gonna get food and water without spending money. But no GrabFood? No FoodPanda? How? Ah, this is the time you scavenge for food in your fridge and pantry.


I recently did a pantry clean up and organisation and found out that I had many packets of instant oats, sachets of food seasonings, instant noodles and biscuits. If you also did a pantry clean up, you’ll find that there might be enough stash to last you two to three days. Having a plan on when you’d like to consume these old ‘new finds’ will help you to navigate the week better.

Person prepping food in the kitchen to save money

Now, the second place to tackle is your fridge. If you cook often, you might have loads of condiments and items you have bought, chucked into the fridge or freezer and have since forgotten about. Sometimes, it could be leftover broth, frozen food and meats in the freezer that you can use but have not because food delivery is just a call away. You might have stale bread, dried fruits, sauces and tubers (potatoes, carrots and the like) in your fridge too. Ah, this is when you can get creative with your food. Don’t think of it as a hassle, think of it as a challenge! Stale bread can be made into croutons, bread pudding, or to coat meat and vegetables for frying. I sometimes use leftover instant noodle seasonings to season my chicken, fry my day-old rice or make soups.

If you are out of ideas, simply key in the stuff you have at home on Supercook, and it will list down the types of food you can make with the stuff you have, along with recipes.


3. Exercise at home or around your area

Don’t think of this challenge as something that inhibits you. Look at the opportunity it brings. Consider exercising at home instead of paying for classes; and if you are contemplating signing up for a gym membership, hold that thought and try a method that does not incur costs first. You can download workout apps on your mobile or get moving with workouts on YouTube (there are soooo many!). I don’t like doing the same kind of workout every day (because variety is the spice of life) hence, I do different kinds of workouts almost every day – who says saving up has to be boring?


Alternatively, you can always run or do a brisk walk around your neighbourhood. If you have a bicycle, hop on and whizz away! I believe there is an adventure waiting when I walk out of my door. You might meet people, find a new path, spot something new along the way, and get fresh air.


And it does not cost a thing!


4. Swap stuff instead

When you are on a no-spend week, you are kinda limited to things you can do at home. No shopping indoors (you probably gotta uninstall the Shopee app for a week) or outdoors, no buying items to satisfy your hobbies, no this, no that, no everything 😭.


But have you ever tried swapping stuff instead?


I live in a very pleasant neighbourhood where we give food items to each other, just because. It kinda works like a swap. Just the other day, I gave a few slices of cake to my neighbour and the next day, I got a tub of homemade tom yam paste. Just last month, I passed some biscuits to my next-door neighbour, and the adorable lady gave me a bowl of tang yuan (a winter solstice dessert). Of course, this is voluntary, but if you get to know your neighbours and are willing to strike up something with them, you might start having food swaps. Personally, I love it because of the variety; and I can cook extra and share the love too!


Alternatively, you can always join swap groups on social media. In fact, I just did a plant swap today. YAS, new plants for free! You can join book swaps and clothes swaps on platforms like Facebook too.


5. Travel for less

Instead of burning petrol in a traffic jam or paying ridiculous amounts of money to park your car (not to mention circling the parking lot to find an empty parking space), consider using up your Tough n Go credit to ride on the train. Sure, it might not be as convenient, but hey, there is that goal you are trying to achieve.

People taking the train to save money

Also, if your workplace is not too far away, you can opt to walk or cycle there. You get a workout towards your destination.


If you are accustomed to ride-hailing, check on your points. It is time to cash it out or use up the remaining credits you have in your app. Alternatively, you can always carpool to your destination. Either walk, cycle or Grab to your pals’ place (be sure that it is not further from your destination or it defeats the purpose) if your location is a little out of the way for them to pick you up.


6. Save it all up!

Once you are done with your no-spend week, evaluate what you went through. There will come a time during that week that you feel, “Urgh, this challenge is stupid, I should not have started it” or “I think I will go hungry tonight” but don’t give up just yet. You will get through it as you learn how to adapt and be creative with the things you do and eat at home.

I must say that it is easier to do this challenge during a pandemic as we are required to travel less now (a blessing in disguise), and most of us have stocked up on canned food and other edible materials just in case another MCO is called.


Food Donation Drive

Source: Indy 100


With the money you have saved for a particular goal, use it or save it. What I usually do is put it in a savings account or channel it to an investment account. I use StashAway because I don’t have to put in a large sum of money. That way, the money I saved continues to work for me!


Ultimately, the no-spend week is not to starve yourself or inconvenience your daily routine. It is to enlighten you on how you can live without some luxuries in your life that you might be a little too dependent on, but creates a dent in your budget. You gain perspective! I am always up for gaining a little perspective in the things that I do, and my sincere hope is that you will benefit from it too when you complete your no-spend week.

A concoction of oxymoronic attributes, Rachel Yeoh is a lazy overachiever. She writes for a living, sings when the sun goes down and runs a homemade granola company with whatever is left of her time. Always planning for something to do while procrastinating on her bed - she is quick to be on her feet at any chance to travel.

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