A great way to boost your savings is with a “No Spend Challenge” or for beginners a “No Spend Weekend Challenge.” The idea is simple: for the given time frame you don’t spend money on anything but necessities. So, if you’re not spending money what is there to do for free? I’ve provided a list of 100 things to do for free on a no spend weekend below.
What Counts as a Necessity?
- Mortgage or Rent
- Utility Bills like your power bill
- Gas for your car
What to Avoiding Spending On
- Restaurants/Take Out Food
- Entertainment like going to the movies or a paid event
- New Clothes, shoes, or accessories
- Toys and games
- Making purchases to “prepare” for your No Spend Weekend
The lists above aren’t all-inclusive but you get the idea, if you can live without it then it’s not a necessity.
Why Do a No Spend Challenge?
No Spend Challenges are a great way to begin focusing on the things that really matter to you. Try to go out of your comfort zone during the No Spend Challenge and try giving up something you would’ve never considered before. Participating in a No Spend Challenge is a great way to start saving up your initial emergency fund.
How Long Should Your No Spend Challenge Be?
If you’re new to the frugal lifestyle committing to a No Spend Challenge that’s too long can make you feel deprived and have an added negative effect of causing you to binge spend after it’s over. I suggest starting with a simple No Spend Weekend first and then after you’ve done that successfully move up to a week, then a month, and so on.
100 Things to Do for Free on a No Spend Weekend
- Outside Activities
- Rainy Day Activities
- Organizing & Cleaning Activities
- Learn Something New
- Make Extra Money
Outside Activities to Do for Free on a No Spend Weekend
- Go for a walk – a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association in May 2019 noted that mortality rate in women decreases 41% with just 4,400 steps a day.
- Gardening/yard work – Working in the garden is a great way to relax with the added bonus of making your home look nicer.
- Go for a bike ride with your kids – See if your area has bike trails or take the kids to the local park for a ride.
- Go hiking on a local trail – You can often find nice local hiking trails complete with markers. In upstate New York you can try to hit all of the Adirondack peaks to earn yourself the title of being a “ADK 46-er“.
- Go on a picnic (with food from home) – Make some sandwiches, grab some snacks and head to the park for a picnic.
- Wash your car and detail the inside (teach the kids too) – I used to love washing the car with my dad when I was a kid, teach your kids how and pay them to wash your car each weekend in the summer.
- Learn how to check and change the oil in your car – Learning basic car maintenance is a great way to save money while also learning how to make your car last longer.
- Go geocaching – This is a great way to explore the area around you and find cool things along the way.
- Play PokemonGO – The summer PokemonGO came out was magical, people were wandering around the local parks and working together to catch rare Pokémon for their collections.
- Make an obstacle course for your kids – Grab some boxes out of recycling and whatever else you have laying around and create an obstacle course with your kids in the backyard.
- Play yard games (if you have the equipment already) – Who doesn’t love a good family game of volleyball, badminton, or bocce ball? Dig out your yard games and get a competition going.
- Check your local newspaper for free weekend events – In the summertime many communities offer tons of free events around town including having bands that offer free shows in parks and along the streets of downtown shopping areas.
- Look for free museum tours – Occasionally you can find free tours of museums and some memberships also have a museum perk with them.
- Attend a dress rehearsal (they are often free) – Many productions need a night or two of practice before the first live show, look for listings of local dress rehearsals.
- Go to an art gallery opening – Often when there’s a new show opening they have a night or two that’s free much like a dress rehearsal.
- Check out your local visitor’s center – This is a great place to find additional free activities and local events to do on the weekends.
- Take your kids to a playground – When was the last time you took the kids to the playground and actually played with them?
- Attend your kid’s school functions (plays, concerts, talent shows) – My high school used to put on a lot of great productions of famous plays and what’s better than listening to a bunch of small children sing their hearts out?
- Visit a National Park with your kids – Did you know that children in 4th grade can get a free pass to National Parks?
Rainy Day Activities for a No Spend Weekend
- Read a book – Did you know that you can check out kindle books from the library? Grab your favorite book, a blanket and cuddle up for a day of reading.
- Play a board game with your family – Start a family game night tradition and blow the dust off your board games. I still get together with friends once in a while and play board games.
- Call one of your older family members and chat – Older family members love hearing from you and chatting, give one of them a call.
- Play free games on your phone – Now that the app stores have been around for a while it’s very easy to find quality free games to play. I personally love playing puzzle games like Plants vs. Zombies.
- Watch movies you liked as a kid on tv or a streaming service – I use the app “Just Watch” to find movies I loved as a kid on my streaming services. The app aggregates your selected streaming services into one giant list and even tells you how much it would be to rent (or you could use your Amazon credits to rent for free…).
- Help a family member around their house – Even though our family members don’t ask for help doesn’t mean they don’t need it. Offer to help them occasionally or show up and surprise them by doing their yard work for them.
- Start a journal in GoogleDocs – GoogleDocs is one of my favorite free things on the internet, Google has their own suite of programs you can use completely free and store them on your own Google drive. As an added bonus it’s easy to share these documents and work together with a friend on a project. This blog started off as a bunch of journal entries in GoogleDocs.
- Watch YouTube videos to learn something new – You can learn just about anything for free on YouTube from how to make a grilled cheese to how to play in instrument. Bookmark you favorites and come back to them on a boring rainy day.
- Listen to your favorite music – When was the last time you sat down, put on a pair of headphones and just enjoyed a good album? I used to lay across my bed and listen to music for hours when I was a teen. I love all of the free options available and I currently use Spotify daily to immerse myself in music.
- Host a potluck or BBQ – Call up friends and family and ask everyone to bring a dish.
- Meditate – Meditation has been a wonderful thing for me, there are many free apps for guided meditation. This is a great thing to do to unwind before bed each night.
- Try yoga (Yoga with Adrienne is a good free one) – Many smart tvs now give you the ability to use YouTube on them. Start a free YouTube account, save your favorite videos, and then log into YouTube on your tv.
- Play hide and seek with your kids – When I was a kid we used to gather up all of the kids on our street and play hide and seek once it was dark at night. See if you can be the hide and seek champion.
- Practice taking photos with your phone – My best friend takes some of the best photos and often they are done with her phone! Try out taking pictures of different things and try playing with the filters and options on your phone (and to think a couple of decades ago the idea of taking photos with your phone was absurd).
- Write a short story – Share your favorite story with the world, or write something personal to pass on to your kids.
- Try drawing – Drawing is a nice way to relax, if you want free lessons you can check out YouTube or check out “How to Draw” books from the library. My step son loves checking out all of the different drawing books at the library, I think he’s checked out each one at least 3 times.
- Take a nap – I love taking naps on the weekend, I usually tag team clean the house with my wife on Saturday mornings and then crash after lunch time.
- Cut your spouse’s or children’s hair – This takes some practice but my wife has been cutting my step son’s hair for years, use your judgement on the difficultly of haircut.
- Give yourself a manicure and/or pedicure – Break out the clippers and files and give yourself a manicure or pedicure. I’ve deemed every Sunday as “self care Sunday” and I spend time carefully clipping and filing all of my nails. I also try to take good care of my feet and use a basic pumice stone on my heels along with foot lotion. If you’ve got nail polish get that out and paint them too.
- Take a long bath – Light some candles and draw yourself a nice hot bubble bath as part of your own “self care Sunday”. Slow down, feel the warmth of the water, and relax.
- Go through your old yearbooks – Read all of the funny things your friends wrote and peruse all of the pictures, nothing like a trip down memory lane.
- Teach your kids a game they’ve never played – Grab a deck of playing cards and teach your kids different games you know (my friend and I used to play Bullshit (or “bologna”) in study hall in high school) or grab a piece of paper and play MASH (we used to love making up scenarios with MASH).
- Teach your kids how to cook for themselves – Free up your time and teach your kids how to make some basic meals for themselves but also teach them how to clean up when they’re done.
- Use your Amazon Prime credits to get free kindle books and movies – I love picking out new books and movies and using my credits to get them for free.
- Write your partner a love letter – Give your partner something they can treasure for years to come and write them an old fashioned love letter.
- Help your kids with their homework – Many kids won’t ask for help when they need it, offer to help them with their homework. If you’re not sure how to do something check out Khan Academy. My wife has taught herself a lot using Khan Academy and she uses it to learn for her college classes too.
- Go to the library – The library offers many free resources, librarians are always happy to explain all of the wonderful things the library has to offer. Sign up for a library card if you don’t already have one and save your self thousands every year.
- Teach your kids to write a letter and have them write to their grandparents – My wife’s grandmother was a wonderful writer and used to send us beautiful little cards and letters on stationary. Letters make others feel special and show that you truly care about them.
- Make a gratitude jar – Set out a mason jar or whatever you have available with a stack of small pieces of paper and a pen next to it, each time something good happens write it down and add it to the jar. At the end of the year dump out your jar and go over all of the positive things that happened throughout the year.
- Teach your pets a new trick – Through repetition our pets can learn new tricks, my bird knows “kisses” now and makes a big kiss sound and says “Kisses, I love you!” We say this to him all the time and he just picked it up from hearing it over and over.
- Have a special movie marathon day – Grab your favorite series of movies and host your own movie marathon. Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are some of my favorites.
- Build a huge blanket fort with your family – Grab pillows, chairs, and blankets and make a huge blanket fort in your living room. Let the kids have a sleepover in the fort on the weekend.
- Listen to podcasts – I have learned a lot from Podcasts over the past couple of years. I find it’s best to listen to a Podcast when you’re doing something that doesn’t require a lot of abstract thinking like driving to work, cleaning, or going for a walk. If you want to double up on your time investment work you way up to listening to them on double speed (it sounds weird at first but eventually you barely hear a difference).
- Watch TED talks on YouTube – If you haven’t seen a TED talk you’re missing out. TED talks are a showcase of speakers sharing new and unique ideas through 18 minute speeches. The topics of TED talks vary widely and are often referenced in many academic publications.
- Try to find interesting houses like this on Zillow or Realtor.com – One of my friends got me hooked on this interesting hobby of trying to find houses that just have that special something hiding in the photos. (Make sure you go deep into the photos on the linked home to see what I mean, you won’t be disappointed!)
- Sign up for a free trial of something – Have you tried a meal kit yet? Many of them offer free signups to try out their service just don’t forget to cancel before they charge you.
- Bake dessert – Search for popular recipes using what you have and see if you can come up with a new family favorite.
- Start a book club with friends – Discuss a favorite book each month with friends (check books out of the library).
- Explore blogs on topics that interest you and subscribe to a few to keep up – Blogs provide a wealth of information in plain terms everyone can understand. I have learned so much in the past few years by reading and subscribing to several blogs. A great way to keep on top of your favorites is to use the free version of the Feedly App. Feedly takes all of your favorite blogs and aggregates the updated ones daily, it’s much like reading a morning newspaper for me.
- Hold your own talent show at home – Give everyone one hour to come up with a “talent” for the show. Encourage your kids to think out of the box, if a talent show seems too difficult then have them do a show and tell.
Use Your Time Well Without Spending a Dime: Organize, Minimize Clutter & Clean
- Clean out your closet – When was the last time you went through your closet and got rid of the things you weren’t using?
- Try on all of your clothing and get rid of anything you don’t wear – As you clean out your closet try on clothes and check them for stains, rips, and missing buttons. If you can’t honestly see yourself fixing these garments today consider cutting them up for rags or making something else out of them. For help letting go of the things you don’t need anymore I suggest checking out Marie Kondo’s methods.
- Have a fashion show with anything silly you found in your closet – My wife and I once used “why is this still in my closet” as the theme for her birthday party with friends one year. It was so much fun seeing all of the things people held onto.
- Delete apps you don’t need from your phone – I often download apps with the intention of using/playing with them and then completely forget, go through your apps once in a while and free up some space.
- Clean out one of the appliances in your house – Appliance cleaning and maintenance is something that’s often overlooked. I watched this video on how to deep clean my dryer vent and the amount of lint I pulled out was astonishing (lint build up is also a fire hazard)! Lookup things like how to clean your oven and dishwasher too and spend a day on the weekend cleaning them out.
- Learn to actually fold a fitted sheet – Mom this one is for you, I still can’t fold a freaking fitted sheet, that’s some kind of dark magic.
- Rearrange the furniture – Want to feel like you’re in a new home without having to buy a ton of stuff? Try rearranging your furniture, my wife and I rearrange our living room at least three times a year.
- Make a home inventory for insurance – If something were to ever to happen to your home do you have a record of your valuables? Go through your home and make a video and compile all of your receipts, manuals, and serial numbers. Having all of this information handy can speed up your claim because you can prove everything you owned and it’s condition with minimal effort. Store the documents and the video on a thumb drive in a fire proof box or at a family member’s house. (This applies to for renter’s insurance too.)
- Clean out your important papers & shred sensitive documents that you don’t need – You only need to keep the last 7 years of tax returns, it may be helpful to also scan them into a cloud drive like Dropbox. Many communities offer a free shred day if you don’t own a document shredder of your own, do not just recycle these documents without censoring your sensitive information in some way.
- Fix something that you’ve been meaning to – Have a creaky step, a running toilet, or need to touch up paint? Lookup how to fix it YouTube and get it done.
- Check your smoke detector batteries and make an alert to do so annually – It’s crucial to make sure your smoke detectors work properly, push the test button on each one and add batteries to your Amazon cart on the spot if you need them. Working smoke detectors save lives.
- Organize the junk drawer(s) – I don’t think I know anyone that doesn’t have at least one junk drawer in their house, you know the drawer where you toss the little odds and ends that don’t seem to have a proper home? Go through the drawer and toss anything expired or broken. Use small boxes from things like your cellphone to create small dividers to keep everything tidy.
- Clean out your email – Digital clutter can weigh you down just as much as physical clutter. Unsubscribe to things you no longer want to receive (it should be at the bottom of the email) and setup folders in your email to organize the things you’d like to keep. If an email requires an action from you that will take less than two minutes just do it now, if not then flag it with a reminder to do at a later date.
- Delete photos you don’t need from your phone & computer – More digital clutter, get rid of all of the photos of the inside of your pocket.
- Groom your pet(s) yourself – Give Rover a bath or brush the cat, even basic things like cutting their nails helps.
- Add all of your friend’s and family’s birthdays to your calendar on your phone – Wish everyone a Happy Birthday with a phone call or voicemail instead of the traditional Facebook post, not everyone is on Facebook.
- Add your anniversary to your calendar – This is the perfect time to write that love letter mentioned earlier and make your partner feel special.
- Sell stuff you’re not using on Ebay – The app for Ebay has made it super easy to list items for sale, clean out your old collections and list them with a few photos and a catchy description. If you’re not sure how much to list your items for searchin for your item and then add filters for “sold” and “completed” listings. When you’re getting started Ebay often offers you free listings, take advantage of these and they will take minimal fees.
- List stuff you’re not using on Facebook Marketplace – Similar to Ebay but more like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace will allow people local to you to find your items. Always meetup someplace public and use your instincts if someone seems shady.
- Cut coupons – You don’t need a newspaper to cut coupons now, you can either add digital coupons to your frequent shopper cards or print them out from Coupons.com and cut them out. Invite a friend over for coffee and clip coupons together on a Sunday, swap if you each have coupons you’re not going to use.
- Add items to your IBotta list for your next grocery trip – IBotta is a great way to make a little extra cashback while grocery shopping. Sign up, add the things you’ll be buying, some stores instantly give the rebates if you hook them up to your loyalty cards or scan your receipt with your phone. Join my Ibotta team and we can save more together!
- Walk through your home and make a home improvement list – Make a list of bigger home improvement projects and prioritize them by which will add the most value to your home for the lowest dollar amount (use the Lowe’s or Home Depot websites to price materials).
Free Learning/Self Improvement Activities You Can Do During a No Spend Challenge
- Try making meals of what you have left at home – Type all of the ingredients you have left into google with “what can I make with ____” and see what you can come up with. I once did a challenge to use up condiments and learned so much about the versatility of condiments.
- Make a meal plan for the following week – Try planning dinner for each night for the next week. Meal planning can save you a lot of money each month.
- Make a 5-year plan with your partner – What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years? Make your goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) and write them out.
- Cut up old magazines and make a vision board – Along with your 5 year plan cut out pictures and words that represent the things you want to achieve and paste them onto a piece of poster board to create a visual of those goals.
- Enter all of your debt into undebt.it and make your first debt snowball – This application has a free version and helped us keep on track to pay off over $30,000 over the last couple of years.
- Write an automated email to your future self – I stumbled across this a few years ago, you can automate an email to be sent to yourself sometime in the future. This is a great place to put those 5 year goals to remind yourself and don’t forget to add a status of where you were in those goals so you can see how far you’ve come.
- Setup a Mint account and review your finances – This takes a little time but it’s secure and safe (Mint is owned by Intuit which owns TurboTax and Quickbooks). You can also setup a budget in your Mint account and have it send you alerts, Mint is great at catching subscriptions that have slipped through the cracks.
- Use your gym membership (or your friend’s if they don’t mind) – If you have a gym membership go workout at a gym or ask a friend if you can go with them for free (some gyms have a “bring a friend free” feature). I see no issue with spending money on a gym membership as long as you actually use it, investing the time and money in your health now can prevent expensive health issues later.
- Learn a new language (look for free apps or videos on YouTube) – This is great to pair with tasks like walking or driving to work. My friend plays foreign language learning CDs while her kids do puzzles to help them learn languages passively (and guess where she gets those CDs? THE LIBRARY).
- Try negotiating one of your bills to get a lower rate – Do your research on competitor services and try out negotiating your bills and credit cards for lower rates.
- Calculate your net worth – If you signed up for Mint already then you should be able to see your net worth instantly. If you’d rather calculate your net worth by hand add up all of your assets (money in the bank, investments, retirement account balances) and then subtract your debt (credit cards, loans, student loans). If your number is negative don’t get upset, a lot of us start off this way and make our way back into positive numbers. Some people also include the equity in their homes but I personally do not because I’m not selling my home at the moment.
Instead of Focusing on Not Spending, Make Extra Money
If you’d like to keep up on what I’m doing to make extra money each month you can check out my Monthly Income Reports.
- Sign up for Swagbucks and take surveys – Check out my Swagbucks Beginner’s Guide for more information on how to generate free money.
- Donate plasma – Search for a donation center near you and complete their registration/health form to get started. This will take a little while to do but you can earn a decent amount each month.
- Have a Yard Sale – Gather up all of the stuff you’re not using and price it to sell, but be mindful people who are out shopping yard sales will not pay top dollar so don’t put out anything you want to get more than $20. The idea is to get rid of things and let go, allow people to haggle and group things up for a deal.
Use Your No Spend Challenge as a Time to Focus on Helping Others
- Volunteer – Check what options there are in your community to volunteer at shelters and soup kitchens.
- Donate blood – Blood is always needed, sign up and donate as often as you can.
- Grocery shop for a family member that needs help – Grab a family member’s grocery list and go grab their groceries for them or place an order online for them and have them delivered.
- Clean out all of your mini toiletries and donate them to Adopt a Soldier – This is a great way to volunteer or you can clean out items on this list and find somewhere local to donate them.
- Donate things you don’t need – Box up things you don’t need that are in good shape and donate them to your local shelter or charity.
The possibilities for things to do on a No Spend Challenge are endless. I find that going without things once in a while is a great way to spark my own creativity. I also find that adopting a minimalist mindset really helps because I never feel I need much to be entertained and happy. I find that a home with less stuff is more relaxing.