How to use a no-spend challenge to pay off debt and save (with Frugal Friends)

(The following is an abbreviated transcription from a podcast Linda and I recorded with Frugal Friends Jen Smith and Jill Siriani. Please excuse any typos or errors.)

Start a No-Spend Challenge

Today we are chatting with Jen Smith and Jill Siriani (hosts of The Frugal Friends podcast).

Jen is the author of a best-selling book on Amazon called The No-spend Challenge Guide and she ended up using no-spend challenges to not only help her pay off over $70k of debt, but also to learn a lot of deep lessons about herself.

As the book states “you’ll learn how to use No-Spend Challenges to reach your financial goals faster and transform your spending habits to finally be able to stick to a budget.”

This is very interesting to me, because 30 day challenges have been very significant in my life. They have been very powerful in my life, with great impact. So I am intrigued by this idea of a no-spend challenge because I’ve never done a no-spend challenge before. There’s a lot of value in this and we’ll get into that.

Now before we get into the details of the book, I recorded our discussion that you can listen to on our Podcast. But, if you would rather read the full transcription, you can do so here in this article!

The No-Spend Challenge

Bob: So you guys have this book The No-Spend Challenge Guide on Amazon’s best seller list. You have a ton of reviews and it seems like it’s going really well. I want know how this started for you. I’m assuming you both went through no-spend challenges and it must have impacted you to some level that inspired you to write a book about this. I would like for Jen to share her story. And then Jill, I want to hear about your story.

Jen: So I actually wrote and published the book shortly after I met Jill. But I used no-spend challenges to essentially teach myself frugality. So my husband and I had $78,000 of debt between us and we wanted to pay it off. I really thought that I could just side hustle my way out. Like I was already buying the generic brands at the grocery store and I thought that meant I was responsible with my spending.

Bob: Yeah. 

Jen: It didn’t help that on the way home from the grocery store, I was buying Chipotle for dinner. There was a disconnect there. 

Linda: Yeah. 

Bob: Yeah. 

It’s about spending less, not making more

Jen: So I thought I could just side hustle my way out of debt. And two months into that plan, I was working so so many hours that I gave myself shingles from the stress.

Linda: Wow. 

Bob: That’s no fun. 

Jen: It was not. And I still kind of have the nerve damage from that. So when I get stressed, my body kind of reminds me to slow down. 

Linda: Wow. 

Jen: So a blessing and a curse, I guess. 

Linda: Yeah. 

Jen: I realized I had to figure out how to spend less. But I really didn’t want to give up the things that I loved. But honestly, I couldn’t tell you what I loved and what I didn’t love. I wanted to spend money on anything I wanted whenever I wanted. I’m an adult.

So I decided if I’m going to go in on something, I go all in. So I was like, okay, I will spend a month just not spending money, besides like on bills and debt payments and all that stuff. I will cut out everything and just put all the money towards debt from what I save.

I didn’t go into it thinking that I would find what I value and what I want to spend money on guilt free. And what I am spending money on that I didn’t realize, like the Chipotle trips on the way home from the grocery store. 

Bob: Yeah. 

Jen: I didn’t go into it thinking I’d discover those, but those were the long term benefits of the challenge. And frankly, much more beneficial than maybe the couple hundred dollars I saved by doing the actual no-spend challenge. And so I did several of those during the two years we were paying off our debt. And I was like, this has been eye opening for me in the long term benefits of these things. And then figuring out how I can still have what I value while not spending money, like forcing myself to get creative.

Bob: Yeah. 

Jen: And so, that’s why I wrote the book. And that challenge was an inspiration for the early episodes of the podcast, when we started it just maybe six months after.

Permission to spend

Bob: Yeah, that’s cool. All right. So Jill, tell me, have you done any no-spend challenges? Like have they impacted you at all?

Jill: Oh, my whole life is a no-spend challenge. There’s something to explain here. I think that certainly when people think about the word frugality, it can oftentimes get associated with cheap and deprivation. And I definitely don’t want to spread a message of something that’s not attainable. But, I also want to recognize all of my my hoarders, my money hoarders and savers out there.

And the people who are like, I’m not going to spend if I don’t have to. That has been developed and cultivated in me sometimes. Well, out of necessity from previous experiences, but then just adopted as a lifestyle in many ways. And so I think for me, my journey of frugality and an understanding that has come out of not spending is a permission to spend. Which is similar to what Jen is describing. We just got there by different modes of transportation.

Jen is the brains behind The No-Spend Challenge Guide. She solely authored that. The only thing we’ve co-authored together is is a workbook. But yes, I have done no-spend challenges. Although that’s not necessarily my issue. My issue is permission to spend. And permission for my partner to spend.

Bob: Yeah. 

Jill: But of course, paying attention to where the spending is, or the lack of spending is, has definitely informed me about myself and my values. Like Jen is saying with the no-spend challenge. And then creating that permission of, but now how do I want to utilize this resource of money. And where do I want to save? And if I’m saving, what’s the best place to be putting that money. And if I want to spend, where’s the best place to spend that money. So my journey has been more of the where can I spend with guilt free? 

Linda: Yeah. 

Bob: Yeah. 

Spending money and your spouse

Linda: We should talk a little bit more about that because that is something that I think a lot of people listening to a podcast about money are probably leaning a little bit more on the side of needing to give themselves and their spouse, specifically, permission to spend. I would love for you to talk a little bit more about that. I mean, this is not my problem. I’m like, yeah we can spend money all day long. I have no problem there. 

Bob: She’s right. 

Linda: Like, I think it’s interesting because there can be that tension of, I feel like you just don’t want me to ever spend money and I have always have to ask permission. Right? So, yeah, expand on that. 

Jill: Oh, I can talk to this. Jen has had firsthand observation of this very conversation. My husband is amazing. I really hit the jackpot in all of the layers and levels. 

Linda: Congratulations. 

The spending habits

Jill: Yeah. He’s so great. I have such great things to say about him. In my opinion, he spends a lot of money on shoes. Like I think he’s shoe obsessed. He denies this. He does not agree and digs his heels in. Not only does he not agree that he’s not shoe obsessed, but he claims that I have more shoes than him. 

Linda: Have we counted? 

Bob: This should be easy to figure out, guys. 

Jill: But the thing is… 

Jen: They need a third party.

Jill: His shoes are also everywhere. I feel like I have to whisper cause he is in the house. I can’t get an accurate count because I’m still discovering them. There’s some in the trunk and then there’s some in the garage and then there’s some out on the patio… 

Bob: All right. Fair enough. Fair enough. 

Jill: Yeah, okay. However, it came to this conversation recently where I was kind of poking at it. I don’t really care, we’ve got money for the shoes that he wants to buy. But for me, I don’t get it. If I’m going to buy a pair of shoes, it’s going to be functional. It’s got to be that a pair of my shoes just broke. Or, suddenly I decided to become a runner and I need good running shoes. Like there’s got to be a reason it’s going to be form and function. 

Bob: Yeah. 

Jill: And we’re not just buying things to just buy them. 

Linda: So funny. 

Realizing that your spouse “just likes it…”

Jill: But it occurred to me, as we were having this conversation, the connection that really helped me to create space and permission was he just likes it. He just likes shoes. There’s not many other things that he’s going to spend frivolously on…

Bob: Yeah. 

Jill: …other than on shoes. I think that’s why it strikes me like, yeah, you buy construction stuff. That makes sense because we’re building a house. And, we’re doing renovations. Or, you buy music equipment because you’re writing an album. That makes sense to me. 

Linda: Mm-hmm. 

Jill: But why do you just need another pair of shoes? Like, what shoes is this going to replace? Or, what problem do you have now with your shoes that this is going to solve that problem? And he’s just like “… nothing. I just like them. I think they’re really cool.” And something clicked with me.

Value based spending

Jill: We talk all the time, but of course I can be a little bit dense of values based spending. And understanding where our values are and how our spending and decisions and actions can align with that. And for me, it clicked when I realized he just likes it. This is fun for him. He finds it beautiful in his own way.

It’s something that he would enjoy spending money on, enjoy wearing. He just likes it. It might not form a function. It might just be form. And permission, I kid you not, it’s like a flip switch to my mind. And I thought he values that and I value him. So I’d love for him to be able to purchase those shoes.

Now it’s not like sky’s the limit. He can’t like buy all five of the shoes. He’s got his eyes on right now. 

Bob: Yeah. 

Jill: But I think when it comes to these money conversations and getting our partners to, or not to, when we can bring it to that deeper level of values.

Linda: Mm-hmm. 

Jill: And when we can honor the other person and the needs that they represent and the uniquenesses that they represent, it becomes a much different conversation than just how do we want to spend this $50? Can you click that buy button? It becomes, well, what does this say about you and how does this connect with maybe some of your needs wants and desires and values? And how can I honor that in you before we even get to the buying conversation? 

Linda: Yeah.

Bob: I love that. That’s good. Yeah, that sounds very familiar.

Questioning your spouse’s decisions

Linda: Yeah, I’m the one that just wants another pair of shoes. And he’s like why? Bob basically just went through his wardrobe the other day. And got rid of half of his clothes

Bob: It was really half. 

Linda: And doesn’t want to replace them. He’s like, I just have too many. 

Bob: No, I want fewer things. I went from like 10 pants down to three pair of pants.

Linda: I’m like, dude. 

Bob: And I’m happier. 

Jill: But I also realize that we want freedom. And we talk about this all the time on our podcast. That our financial journeys, there’s so much freedom in it (here’s my checklist to financial freedom). It’s not a one size fits all.

And something that I also realized is my goodness, if he questioned every decision I make and some of the ways that I question him, that would feel so stifling. And so also checking my own self of… he never questions me if I want to buy something. Usually it’s because like, I’m not hardly buying anything, but in other areas… 

Bob: He’s like applauding you. 

Jill: Oh, he put a pause on our credit card account one time, because they thought it was an odd charge that something was bought off of, and they called him. And he is like, no, no one. I didn’t and my wife never buys anything, so no. He canceled the card.

I’m like, what happened to our credit card? He’s said there was a weird Walmart charge. And I told him, that was me. He’s like what?! You’ve never purchased from Like that one time I did…

Linda: You need to give him a heads up when you buy something.

Jill: Exactly. So he doesn’t cancel all of our cards (here are my credit card recommendations). 

Bob: That’s great. 

Jill: But again, back to that freedom. Where can I create freedom for him? How would I want to be treated, right? Just back to that golden rule of …

Linda: Yeah. 

Bob: Yeah. 

Jill: I don’t want to stifle him and I don’t want to be stifled. There is freedom here and where we can value each other.

Linda: Yeah. 

Bob: Yeah. That’s good. All right. Linda, do you have something to add here? 

Frugal vs. cheap

Linda: Yeah. So you mentioned this here, but you also in something that I read about you guys. About how frugality isn’t cheap. And they are two different things. I would love to hear more about that and your views on that and how that filters, maybe your buying decisions.

Bob: Well, yeah, because so many people, they are synonym. 

Linda: Right. 

Jen: Yeah. 

Jill: Mm-hmm. 

Bob: I want to hear your take on it. You have frugality in your name. So, I’d just love to hear how you guys define those two terms. 

Linda: Mm-hmm. 

Jen: Yeah, that is one of our core missions. To remove that synonymous… synanonymity, if that’s a word, between frugal and cheap.

Bob: Yeah. 

Jen: Before I was paying off debt, I thought I was spending soundly by buying generic products at the grocery store. Or buying the $3 clearance clearanced shirt at Target and doing stuff like that.

Being frugal

Jen: That’s what I interpreted as being frugal, or being like conscious with my money. But what we’ve really discovered through this journey, and actually just having lived life, is that when you buy quality, that you buy less. And so that kind of led us to not only does quality stuff lasts longer, but it’s often also made more sustainably. And the human interaction from the source to our house is less and better.

Being cheap

Jen: And so for us, we’ve discovered that cheap is really poor quality and it’s inconvenient. So maybe frugality isn’t always the most convenient option, but it’s definitely not inconvenient. It’s not like spending hours clipping coupons to save $3. So cheap is inconvenient, it’s lesser quality. It’s at the expense of other people sometimes.


Frugal people can be looked at as moochers. And we’re definitely not that. So it’s taking all that away and putting that on cheap and viewing frugality as just being wise stewards of our resources

Bob: That’s good. 

Jen: And stewarding these resources as well as possible.

Linda: Mm-hmm. 

Shortsightedness vs. longer term thinking

Bob: Would you say that being shortsighted is in alignment with being cheap? Specifically in terms of the value idea of buying this cheap thing . That if you would’ve spent $15 more, it would’ve lasted five years longer type of thing. So would you say that shortsightedness is part of cheap? And then longer term thinking falls a bit more in line with frugality? 

Jen: Yeah. Well, some of our resources aren’t just money. It’s also time. And so if you are having to buy new things more frequently, that’s a waste of time. Or you’re having to repair things more frequently, that’s waste of time.

And so looking into the future and thinking about your future, giving up that short sidedness that craves instant gratification is definitely part of the definition of frugality. 

Linda: Yeah. 

Bob: Great. 

Linda: Our last house, when we moved to that house, we had pretty much gotten rid of all of our furniture and we were refurnishing this house. And so there was this tension of, okay, we need to budget this money so that we don’t spend half of it on a couch or whatever, which you could very easily do. You know, you walk into Restoration Hardware, you want it all. You know? And you can buy one thing there, or you could furnish the rest of your house.

But I remember we were going to put up these curtains. I had this specific vision in mind of what I wanted. And I found them at Anthropology. I was like, oh Anthropology, you guys know it’s not cheap there. But I was like, this is exactly what I want. And I remember trying to find them several different places, trying to find something similar.

I found some at Target that would work. And I thought, but I’m going to hate these in about a year because I’m going to be mad that I didn’t get the ones I wanted. And it was one of those moments. We still have those curtains, they’re still beautiful. They look amazing. Don’t you think? 

Bob: Yeah.

Linda: It’s like we would’ve probably replaced them two or three times by now, had we not just gotten this one. So yeah, it was one of those times where it made a little bit more sense to buy the nice more expensive item instead of buying the cheap one. 

Bob: Yeah, I think that’s the tricky thing is identifying those things because sometimes it’s not super clear on the front end.

Linda: Yeah. 

Bob: And I think, especially with you with clothes. Because like you’ll find something that you’ll wear the heck out of for 5-10 years. And then other times where you think you will, but you just won’t. 

Linda: Then I don’t. 

Bob: And, I think that applies to a lot of different things.

Linda: Right. 

What a no-spend challenge looks like

Bob: Yeah. So I want to come back to the no-spend challenge. I want to talk about this a little bit, because I think this is just a really interesting idea. I’ve used 30 day challenges to really implement some significant changes in my own life.

And I know the power of that, you know? I think Jen might have been talking about this. But there have been times where I have actually found it easier, maybe in regards to sugar. Like something that I like a little bit too much. I’m like, I’m just going to cut back for a month. And I actually really struggle with that. But if I just completely cut it out and have none, it’s actually easier. Which is so counterintuitive and doesn’t make any sense, but at least that’s the way my personality is wired. I’ve found that to be true.

So for somebody listening who’s like, all right this idea is intriguing. Give me some visuals. What does this look like practically? What did you do Jen, as you’re going through this? Of these 30 day challenges, are they one week? Are you having a cheat day? Like how is it laid out? How is it structured? Will you just go through some details for me?

The radical middle

Jen: Yeah. Well, first off I think it’s much easier to be extreme in wherever you are. And that’s why on our show, we’ve coined the term “the radical middle.” Because in any space, like to get popular, you kind of have to have this extreme view. To debate or to write on, or to get interviewed on. Being in the middle and figuring out what’s right for you and your unique situation is not sexy. And you know, nobody really cares.

So, to an extent it’s easier when you’re getting started to have these seasons of extreme living. And that’s kind of what the no-spend challenge was for me. It was a season to not have to think. Like at the end of the day, after I’ve made decisions all day, decision fatigue definitely sets in. I could have been good all day and at night, I just have no more energy and I’m ordering takeout.

Setting up the challenge

But if I set myself up for a month long challenge, and you could do it at whatever time fits you. Sometimes people are like, “oh, but I have a wedding in three weeks. So I can’t do a month long challenge.” Well, that’s fine. Then like skip that one day. You know you’re going to have to spend money on a wedding gift or whatever, like don’t cheap out and not get the wedding gift for your friends.

Like it’s not an excuse. But you can make certain exceptions and plans in your no-spend challenge. You could do it for a week, a weekend, a month, whatever suits your need in your season.

Getting creative and learning to say “no, but…”

And then just say no to everything. I think my favorite term is “no, but…” Because it’s like, no I can’t spend money, but let’s get creative and figure out how we can accomplish the same thing without spending. So do you want to go out to dinner? No. But do you want to come over and we can see if I have a frozen pizza? Or do you want to go shopping or get our nails done? No, but do you want to come over? We can paint our nails at home. We can watch Netflix or whatever.

So it gives you the opportunity to get creative to try and recreate all the things that you love while you’re spending money, but not spend money on them. 

Bob: Yeah. 

Jen: For me, community is one of my core values. So I made it a point to find as many free activities during my no-spend challenge so that I could just fill my time either with side hustling or doing free events.

That was my goal. Anytime that I might be tempted to spend money, I would just fill it with free activities that really spoke to my values. We live in a city that thankfully has a lot going on, so that was easier for me. But it could also just be like finding people that maybe you’ve wanted to get to know, but haven’t had the opportunity to. And now’s your chance to start forming some new relationships. So strategically, I just like to fill my time as much as possible intentionally without spending money. That way I don’t give myself the opportunity to accidentally spend. 

Linda: Yeah. 

Expenses allowed in a no-spend challenge

Bob: Okay. I’m trying to paint the picture. Just to be clear for myself, and also for anybody else. So what this looks like for you, as defined by you, this no-spend challenge. You’re not buying stuff on Amazon. You’re not going out. You’re not ordering food out. But you are buying groceries, right? You’re still paying the bills. 

Jen: Yeah. 

Linda: Or toilet paper. 

Jen: Some people like to do a pantry challenge on their no-spend challenge. So they have enough stockpiled where they’re like, I’m actually not going to buy groceries for a month. I’m just going to eat out of my fridge, freezer and pantry. I’ve never kept that much on hand. I’ve always lived with smaller kitchens. So I would always buy fresh produce. But I would really try and dig into things that I had, like spices and stuff I’d have for a long time. And I try to dig into all those things and the freezer that might be in there a little too long. 

Linda: Yeah. 

Jen: But no, I’d always buy fresh produce. 

Should you celebrate at the end of the challenge?

Bob: Okay. So if you do this for a month, like after that month, do you take a vacation of some sort where it’s like, all right, it’s time to celebrate. We just kicked butt for a month!

Jen: Mm-hmm.

Bob: Now we’re going to go out to dinner. How do you handle that? 

Jen: So… 

Jill: That’s where a lot of people can get definitely… 

Linda: A little too crazy? 

Jill: …derailed. Because I think a big point of the no-spend challenge is to jump start some savings.

All of it is a learning process

Jill: Of course, there is always a lot of learning and discovery that happens, even if we don’t do it perfectly. And we won’t. Especially if this is your first, second, third time trying.

There will be days where you make a mistake and you buy something. But all of it is learning. All of it is useful and beneficial to helping us understand ourselves. So at the end, it’s just as important to have preparations for the back end as it is for the front end. Right?

Deciding what to spend money on

So before you go into a no-spend challenge, you’re going to consider what are the things that are okay to spend on. Hopefully your mortgage (if you have one), your bills, the things that are necessary for survival. And what are you not going to spend on. People come up with all sorts of rules. There’s freedom and flexibility in it. But certainly if it’s your first time, consider your discretionary spending. Cut your subscriptions. Feel free to slice and dice as much as possible.

What is your “why?”

Jill: But then also consider what’s going to happen at the end. If you have a why for the no-spend challenge from the beginning of jump. Do you want to start saving or learn about your spending habits? Or maybe putting “X” amount of dollars away for your “why,” that is going to really help on the back end to not derail all of the progress and learning.

End of challenge action and reflection

Jill: And so the next step is going to be, do the thing that you had hoped you could do at the onset of this. Was it a savings goal? Was it to learn about your spending habits? Is it to put a certain amount of money away for the holidays? Then do that and utilize all the things that you just learned in your no-spend challenge to celebrate. Challenge yourself, to celebrate for free. Or already have set aside a little bit of cash to be able to go out for dinner, decide ahead of time what that’s going to be.

Don’t let yourself be surprised by an impulse decision where now everything that you just worked so hard for is completely down the tubes. So at the tail end be sure you’re reflecting. And we often forget that with anything that we do. To pause, reflect, look back, consider what we learned. It is hard work, but that is part of the challenge.

What did you learn?

Jill: Once you’ve done it. What did you learn? What did you learn about yourself? Even in the areas where you might have considered it to be a failure. None of it is a failure when we’re looking at this, as far as personal growth, even if you failed the entire thing. What does that show you about yourself? 

What do you now know? What would you want to do different in the future? So that reflection piece is huge. Definitely celebrating, but not in a way that’s going to sabotage you or not be beneficial for you overall. 

Rewarding yourself

Jen: Personally, I would get a nice latte after I completed a challenge. That’s just my thing though. I love like getting coffee, like lattes out. 

Linda: Me too. 

Jen: And so that would be my reward after a month of being really good. I would get my latte. And it would be more special than just the mindless lattes I would get, because I drove past the coffee drive thru. 

Linda: Mm-hmm. 

Jen: Then it was like really special after not spending money on one for a month. And I was like, I want to feel like this all the time when I get a latte that I really like. And I don’t want to waste my time getting lattes I don’t like. I want to get the ones that, even if they’re a little more expensive, are from the really good coffee shops. So that’s how I came out of my challenge and what I learned from it.

First time tips for doing a challenge

Bob: I love that. So I’m just, I’m processing. I’m thinking through all these pieces on this. This is really good. Okay. Let’s answer this. What tips do you have for someone doing this the first time? Who’s like, I don’t know what this is going to be. Like. I don’t know how hard this is going to be. I don’t know what to expect. Like what would you tell to somebody in that situation? 

Jen: Yeah. So planning is essential. Like you don’t just listen to this episode and be like, oh, I’m going to start a no been challenge today. Because it will not go well. So plan, it will not go the way you think it will go.

Linda: Right? 

Jen: Yeah. So planning is definitely essential. If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t want to buy groceries on the challenge, make sure that you have enough food. Or if you want to buy some groceries, make a meal plan for the whole month. You can do that because you know, you’re not going to be getting takeout. Give yourself a lot of grace too, in your planning.

Approaching the end of a challenge

Jen: Know that near the end of the challenge, you are not going to be wanting to make recipes from the feed. You’re going to be doing quesadillas, grilled cheese spaghetti with cheese on top, like many cheese. 

Jill: Lots of cheese. 

Jen: Lot of cheeses. 

Jill: So much cheeses.

Jen: Yeah. So like near the end, you’re going to need that comfort, real easy comfort food. So give yourself grace, don’t expect more from yourself than you can give. And if you go in with your low expectations, you will be pleasantly surprised. It will still be super difficult. But the meal plan is essential. Making sure that you’re stocked on household stuff.

So make sure you’re not at the end of your toothpaste. And you’re like, oh no now I have to buy toothpaste on my no-spend challenge. So just pay attention to the things around your house. And then while you’re on the no-spend challenge, give yourself grace when things pop up that there’s no way you could have planned for. Like, when your kid comes up with a permission slip and be like, I need $20 for this field trip today. And I’ve had the permission slip for three weeks, but I’m just giving it to you the day before. 

Linda: Right. 

Jen: Give yourself grace for that. That is not a failure. That’s just life. Life just happens. And it’s going to happen while you’re on your no-spend challenge. So when you go… 

Linda: Or you tell that kid, forget it. You’re not going. 

Jen: Right? Then they will love your no-spend challenge. They will be totally on board with all your other financial endeavors. It will be flawless. 

Bob: Yeah. 

Jen: So yeah, the planning and the mindset. The realistic and grace mindset, I think are the two most important things that I would take into it.

Make the rules

Jill: And then making rules. I think what can be really helpful for first timers is to look at what are the things you do typically spend money on. And again, you’re going to want to keep the things that keep the lights on. You’re going to still be paying your electric bill your water, bill, your housing, some sort of food. Again, if you’re not buying food, then have a plan for food or have an amount of money that you’re okay with spending for those 30 days on food. And from there cut everything else. So we’re thinking non-essentials versus essentials. Some of the way that you can get a handle on that is by looking back at your spending and your bills.

Out of all of that, decide what am I going to cut? And start to think, what am I going to replace that with that’s free? Doing a no-spend challenge there’s not longevity in this. We are not saying, oh, then this will become the way that you live your life. Again, it’s to jumpstart savings. It’s for learning it’s for identifying habits . And so engaging in it for that time, for the purpose that you’ve set out to accomplish.

Bob: Yeah. 

Discipline is important

Linda: I posted this on our Instagram feed, it says, “nobody wants to tell you why discipline is so important. It’s the strongest form of self love. It is ignoring current pleasures for bigger rewards to come. It’s loving yourself enough to give yourself everything you’ve ever wanted.” And I just thought that was so interesting. 

Jen: Yeah. 

Linda: You brought in this element of learning things about yourself. If you couldn’t make it the whole time. Or what did you miss the most? I mean, there’s something there about learning things that you didn’t ever realize before, because you’d never been put in that position. That I think brings you to, all right what’s really important to me? And how can I do more of that and cut out some of the other things. 

Jen: Yeah. 

Linda: And where do I need to just tell myself “no” more often, you know?

Rice and beans

Bob: It reminds me of, I remember Tim Ferris talking about this stoic idea of, and I think Tim still does this, where he like takes three days out of a month and just eats rice and beans, just to remind himself that he can do that. And it’s actually empowering to be reminded that I can survive on that. And so like all the extra is just extra. I think that’s a healthy thing to just kinda be aware of that. 

Linda: Yeah. 

Results of Jen’s no-spend challenge

Bob: But anyway, all right. So I want to talk numbers a little bit. So Jen, what did this look like for you?

I’d love to hear some numbers in terms of when you first started doing this. How much were you saving that first month? Was it more or less than you thought? Because you paid off like what, 70 something thousand dollars? And this was the big part of it, right? 

Jen: Yeah. So we paid off $78,000 in two years. Which was less than half the time we thought it was going to take. We thought it would take five years. And I really do think this mindset shift and this lifestyle shift did help in speeding that up. And it also gave me more time to pursue things that would earn me more money.

Bob: Mm-hmm. 

Jen: Whereas I would’ve been out spending money, instead I spent my time making money

Bob: Yeah. 

Jen: So that it just had this dual impact. I can’t remember the numbers, like specific numbers off the bat. But because of this, we were able to transition to living off just one income. And that’s pretty much how we’ve lived our life. Ever since then we’ve always lived on one income. And it was because we, just like said no to lifestyle inflation and tried to be intentional with the spending.

Savings results of a no-spend challenge

Bob: Yeah. So, for somebody listening and they’re thinking, all right, I’m wondering if I do this, am I going to save like a hundred dollars this month? Or am I going to save closer to a thousand dollars this month? In your experience, average middle class American family, like what are they closer to?

Jen: Well, gosh, I know different studies have said different things about the average American, like what they spend in non-essentials every month. And sometimes it’s over like a thousand dollars. So it could be, I mean, if that’s what you’re spending, then that’s how much you can save. But I know a lot of our listeners are living on smaller incomes and they’re looking towards frugality to be something to kind of help them over the hump. 

Bob: Yes. 

Jen: So then in that case it could be a couple hundred dollars. But I think as a percentage of your income and spending it could be massive if you’re talking percentage wise. Because I think, most of the time, we kind of try to live at 50%. Or at least that’s what the 50, 20, 30 budget kind of recommends (check out our Real Money Method budgeting course!). I mean, you could kind of predict it to be something around there if you want to kind of get a ballpark prediction. 

Bob: Yeah. 

Linda: Mm. 

Buying the book

Bob: Yeah. That’s crazy to think about. All right. Well, that’s really powerful. So yeah, this is really great. And people can find out a whole lot more about this whole idea by grabbing your book, right? 

Jen: Yes. 

Bob: The No-Spend Challenge Guide over at Amazon and probably other places, right? 

Jen: Yeah. Over on Amazon. And. it’s the only one named that long name. So it’s not hard to find. 

Bob: Great. Oh, go ahead. 

50/20/30 budget

Linda: Wait, let me just ask the question that everybody else might be asking. 

Bob: Okay. 

Linda: What is 50, 20, 30?

Jen: Oh, sorry. The 50, 20, 30 budget is a method for budgeting where you spend 50% on essentials, 30% on non-essentials and then I think 20% on savings. I might be mixing the 30, 20, but I’m pretty sure that’s it. And it’s not my favorite budgeting method, because I think incomes vary so widely that… 

Linda: Mm-hmm. 

Jen: It’s maybe if you’re at the average or median American income it might be feasible. But if you’re in a high cost of living area, that may not be right for you. Your essentials may be closer to 60 or 70%. So it’s just kinda like a standard guideline that’s given. 

Bob: Yeah. 

Linda: Gotcha. Okay. 

Bob: That’s great. 

Linda: All right. So sorry about that. 

The Frugal Friends

Bob: Well, yeah, I was just saying, yeah, so people can find you at your podcast, Frugal Friends Podcast, right? 

Jill: That’s correct anywhere you listen to podcasts and Frugal Friends Podcast on Instagram and Facebook, we’re all over the place. 

Linda: Everywhere.

Bob: Awesome. Love it. All right. Well, I appreciate you guys coming on. This was a great conversation. Enjoyed this. I think we need to figure out… we need to put No-Spend Challenge. That’s what we’re going to do. Sound good? 

Jill: We love it when our spouses recommend what we need

Bob: Exactly. 

Linda: Oh my gosh. 

Bob: She’s got plenty of challenges for me. Don’t worry. 

Jill: I don’t know if we left you with the right takeaway, but I’m glad to be here. Thanks for having us. 

Jen: Yes. Thanks for having us. 

Bob: Yeah. All right. Take care. 

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