How To Do A Fiscal Fast (A.K.A. 30 Day No-Spend Challenge)

February 17, 2018

The Fiscal Fast- 30 Days Of No Spending, Usin' What You Got, Pioneering Your Way Into Financial Freedom


If you’ve set some big financial goals for the year, to pay down your debts, save for something big or simply have an emergency fund on hand it can be overwhelming to figure out where to cut your expenses. Like quitting smoking or giving up something totally addictive, we know that “weaning off” something we’re psychologically or physically addicted to isn’t an option- to create profound change, sometimes you have to quit your addiction cold turkey.

A Fiscal Fast is a reboot of my 30 Day No-Spend Challenge. For one month, you simply don’t buy anything that isn’t necessary to live or contribute to your well-being. While originally, a 30 Day No-Spend Challenge was to drastically curb impulse buys, mindless shopping and consumerism, a Fiscal Fast requires you to not only stop shopping, but mainly, use what you have for 30 days.

Essentials Of A Fiscal Fast:

For 30 days, you do not buy anything that isn’t necessary to live. If it isn’t food or medicine, you don’t buy it.

-While food is necessary to live, you will reduce your spending on food drastically by making it a point to cut food waste and use up what you can. Go through the freezer, finally cook up those frozen foods. Use up the cans of veggies, the dried pasta and the non-perishables that are collecting dust, doomed to expire. You will still spend money on fresh fruits and veggies, but ONLY if they are needed to complete a recipe with existing foods that you find in the cupboard.

Bread & dairy are also fine, but do your best to get creative with your lunches instead of just packing a sandwich everyday if you have other ingredients for whole meals that are lying around and can be used.

Know that food this month is focused on using up, not creating magazine worthy meals. Your dinner plate will be a hodge podge of random entrees but that’s OK- it’s just a month and you’re using up those random cans and boxes you would have wasted otherwise.

– For 30 days you will declutter, donate and repurpose. Dust-collecting video games & DVDs either should be donated, sold or played. Instead of going out to shop, focus on making space in your life. You will have free time, so free up that closet space. Donate what you don’t use, fix what you can, or pitch it. Go through your closets, pantries, and shelves- even the trunk of your car. You may find that instead of spending the money to buy new doo-dads and organizers, you simply needed to purge and it will feel darn good when you do.

– For 30 days you will make do with whatever you have in the house. Use up those travels soaps and shampoos that are sitting around. Decide if clothes can be reworked or repurposed to new outfits or donate them. What can you bake from scratch? Can you make sugar cookies with existing staples and add in some leftover holiday candy to spruce it up? Can you make your own snack or trail mix with existing ingredients?

– For 30 days you will focus on finishing those annoying unfinished projects since you will not be spending money on entertainment. Your half finished scrapbook will finally get done. That empty recipe book should finally get filled. Any craft projects or household chores will finally get nipped in the butt. Fill up the free time you’d normally spend on shopping, spending money out or entertaining yourself with things that need to get DONE.

– Before A Fiscal Fast You Will NOT Stockpile. It’s tempting to go out and buy a bunch of stuff just for the sake of being “ready” during your fast, but that’s missing the point. You are going 30 days without shopping in order to make do with what you have, reduce waste, make it last or, alas- go without.

That last part is the painful part- probably why you’ll be tempted to stockpile. “Going without” is much scarier than it sounds, you’ll learn to make do. Yes, will it be weird eating up those 15 cans of pinto beans- but that’s the point, use them up and find ways to do it creatively! You may have to come up with 15 different ways to eat pinto beans but you’ll think twice next time you insist on buying more than what you can actually use.

In sum- a Fiscal Fast means you do not buy anything you don’t need. You use up all that you can. You get crafty and finish projects. You declutter and donate. 

In a pioneering spirit, you use what you have around you and make do with whatever you have on hand for 30 days- your home becomes more than just a place to house your crap it’s your entire focus for 30 days. All you eat, enjoy and work on will be found within, not at a shopping mall.

If 30 days sounds scary- start with 7 days.

Build your tolerance by just trying to get through 7 days. No shopping (not even groceries!) for 7 full days and use up what you have. f you build to 14 days or 30 days, you can allow for grocery purchases, but only if it’s fresh or essential…meaning, no chips or frozen dinners but fresh veggies to use for a salad bowl or tortillas to use up frozen meat and cheese and make burritos. True essentials like perishables and medicine..the rest needs to be cobbled together for a month.

If you can get through a Fiscal Fast, your bank account will recover and you will feel lighter and rebalanced…promise!

This winter, my guy and I are doing a Fiscal Fast to rebound from the holidays. Since we don’t have a huge stockpile of non-perishables, our focus will be to make our hodge-podge meals on what we can. For instance, tonight we are using pasta (we have a ton) and meat sauce (way too much frozen meat we got on sale) with frozen kale (Costco impulse buy) and cooking up a bag of carrots. Totally random, but we are using up whatever we can find on hand to create a meal.

I’m going to finally use up those gazillion beauty samples I get in my subscription boxes and finish the little household projects that have been lingering through the holidays. I bought plenty of supplies to get them done, but haven’t (sound familiar?) so I’m actually excited to not go shopping for 30 days so I can use up what we have and finish the home projects I ventured to start but didn’t completely finish.

Through the last few years, I’ve done No-Shopping Challenges and Fiscal Fasts and it always make me feel renewed. I feel productive and empowered- those nagging projects get done, that unused food doesn’t nag at my conscious and of course, saving money and knowing the need to shop can be weaned feels great. I HIGHLY recommend trying this!

Need a Bit More Guidance?

The No-Spend Challenge Guide: How to Stop Spending Money Impulsively, Pay off Debt Fast, & Make Your Finances Fit Your Dreams is a great book available on Amazon. The paperback copy is less than $7, the ebook is $2.99, or read the ebook for free with a free 30-day trial of Kindle Unlimited. The author Jen Smith has tons of great tips and tricks to make your Fiscal Fast extra productive.


Have you ever done a Fiscal Fast or No-Spend Challenge?

What did you learn? (It’s okay to fail too, it’s all data!)


Additional Resources:

47 comments so far.

47 responses to “How To Do A Fiscal Fast (A.K.A. 30 Day No-Spend Challenge)”

  1. moneystepper says:

    I did a €10 in 10 days challenge last summer, which highlighted to me where I spend money that I don’t really need to spend.

    I played tennis at the free courts rather than spending money playing squash.
    I ate in every day and night (other than one night – where I spent my €10).

    In 10 days, the challenge wasn’t too bad. However, I imagine after 30 days, it would start to get tricky!

  2. love this idea! After grad school it took me a few years to get a decent paying job so I lived like this out of necessity. Now, I still think for a while before I buy anything to make sure it’s a need, not a want, and it has helped me to save a ton (well, small ton) of money.

    • Shannyn says:

      Totally! Grad school is either a time to sink or swim for most people- either you rack up the loans to get by or you really bunker down to make it work on a teeny budget. I’ve met people who have had to do a bit of both, but you learn a lot!

  3. Justine says:

    doesn’t look to hard! <3

  4. What a great idea! It’s a little scary, but it’s definitely a great challenge!

  5. Cynthia Richardson says:

    I like this idea and will give it a try!


  6. Sally says:

    Awesome idea!! Thanks I am going to try it!! <3

  7. Lily Lozano says:

    Will definitely try this! <3

  8. Kate says:

    I’ve been doing a fiscal fast since the 13th, but now I am mulling over some possible spending. The two things I am thinking about are:

    • Buying a $120 yoga pass. Yoga feels like it’s essential to well-being. Buying a pass means it will cost me $8/class instead of $15. But it’s true: I could live without it.

    • Getting a haircut. I really need one and didn’t have the time to get one before I started this fast. I think I would compromise and get a cheaper haircut than usual, going to a place that charges only $20 instead of the $40 I usually pay. A haircut isn’t as essential to my well-being. If I wait until this fast is over I will feel pretty shaggy, especially at work where I try to maintain a professional image. But it’s true: I could live without it.

    What is your opinion?

    • Shannyn says:

      Hi Kate! I would say while you’re doing the fiscal fast, try some at-home yoga with a DVD or Youtube video. I’m not sure if you’re a diehard yoga fan but if you’re even a wee bit not-habitual, this will determine if you’re going to get out there and use the pass as much as you think you will. It took a year and a half of running before I signed up for a gym since I was worried about spending $26-50+ a month that I may not use.

      As for the haircut, listen to your gut. I know myself that if I let one thing slip, the spending starts to slip and things easily get justified. You could also experiment with doing a 1 week fast, then moving to two or three weeks on up. A full on fiscal fast can be a huge commitment at 30 days, so maybe try 15?

  9. Stephanie says:

    I did a “no-spend November” a few years ago. I wasn’t super strict about it, and so I did end up buying stuff I didn’t really need during the month. But it did get me to think more about bringing lunches to work instead of buying at the cafeteria. I think it’s a pretty good idea to help you find money short term, or push you out of your comfort zone enough that you find new ways to do things on the cheap.

    Excellent post! I think I need to join in again for another fiscal fast, I think I get too lazy and stop realizing all the good stuff I already have around me!

    • Shannyn says:

      It’s so true Stephanie! I know even as a frugality obsessed maven like myself, I still slip up… the small things add up really fast or I forget what I have in the closet or pantry and end up buying what I don’t need.

      A fiscal fast, even for 15 days can really be a solid reset!

  10. Liz says:

    Wow 30 days sounds pretty tough. I think it sounds like a good way to be conscious of your spending. However- I feel like whenever I tell myself I won’t spend any money today- that always ends up being the day I find something I “must have”.. similar story for eating junk food – I tell myself I won’t be eating any junk food but end up eating a candy bar and a Coke!

    • Shannyn says:

      I feel you! Sometimes being conscious of what you spend makes it that much harder! I would say though- staying away from temptation really helped me.

      For one month, I avoided Target entirely. I used to shop at Target for groceries as well as the other stuff and for a month, I had to shop at local bodegas (which didn’t carry the stuff I normally bought) but it helped me sidestep the triggers that got me to spend when I was trying not to! Good luck!

  11. I love this idea, but I’m pretty sure I’d have an unhappy husband if I implemented this without about 30 days notice! Maybe I can get him to agree to this for March…

  12. Heather says:

    GREAT idea, and of course, one thinks of it, but you lay out some great points (the clearing out of food…I have bags and boxes of different dried foods, rice/pastas that I stare at month after month lol I found PRAWNS in the freezer! I’m up for the challenge. Thanks!!

  13. Thank you so much for writing this…I’m doing this right now for February! Wrote a blog post about it:

    It’s already helped me realize how much time I waste online shopping (but rarely purchasing things) and I just know it’s going to help me save. Love your blog!

  14. Allie says:

    Oh man I love this idea but it totally terrifies me! I want to try, but I will definitely have to start with the 7 days. I don’t know if I’d make it 30….I am definitely a shopaholic…and I also don’t have much in my pantry but it would be exciting!

  15. Carl says:

    In the midst of yearly fast. Going string looking for new ideas to keep it going.

  16. Mary Sabo says:

    I love this!! Would it be o.k. if I re-blogged this and did the challenge for myself with documentation? Let me know how you would like me to post this so as for all people to be redirected to you and make sure you get credited correctly.


    • Shannyn says:

      Hey Mary, if you want to talk about the concept and link me, go for it! Google doesn’t like reposting content (like press releases that are word for word reposted several times) so just be sure not to copy/paste it in or just use snippets. Thanks!

  17. sirrah says:

    What about soap? or personal care items?

  18. Tammy says:

    I did a 30 day financial fast last year which was very hard at first but became easier towards the end. Very enlightening. It helped that I had my circle of friends doing this with me (no one was inviting anyone anywhere where we had to spend money!!) Since it ended up being the same month as my birthday, they ended up throwing a pot luck surprise birthday party for me which was great.

  19. Samantha says:

    What if you don’t have food already stockpiled? Hubby and I rarely have a ton of extra food on hand as we don’t stockpile shop. We pretty much always buy about a week’s worth of groceries at a time, and get what we need as we need it. Usually we end up with about one extra meal, because we will eat out on a day we had originally planned to eat in… But definitely never anywhere near 30 days’ worth of food to use up. So would you still say not to go out before hand and stock up on food for the 30 days?

  20. Beks says:

    I think I’m going to try this for May. I need to really curb my habits, and reel it in, and since I get three paychecks in May, this might be the time to get things in gear.

  21. Roxann says:

    Any good apps to help with this challenge?

  22. Jess says:

    I am on day 13 of a 14 day no spend challenge. I started small and made my own rules. (I am allowed to spend on food and entertainment but no stuff). It is my way of easing into something that I feel I can build upon in the future to save more money and get rid of the “stuff” that clutters our lives. Follow my journey at
    Good luck everyone!

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  24. Emmy says:

    I just came across your website and love this idea. I will do this for the month of November. Having just bought my first house and doing lots of work on it and buying all furniture etc my bank account is pretty much empty right now. A month like this will really be helpful in seeing where my money goes and what I can do without.

  25. Kav says:

    I am putting the idea to use. we don’t spend much, but we are hoarders and need to asap use up everything in our pantry!
    I am going to make a 30 day list of all that i can cook and empty out. too many half don home projects lying around the house too!
    thank you for your idea! Challenge accepted!

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  27. Kathrin says:

    I will start preparing now by taking inventory of food and writing a list of all the projects I need to complete. This is a perfectchallenge for me because I buy crap all the time and wonder…”why am I always so broke?” Duhhh! This year Santa brought me a sewing machine and as a teacher I typically receive lots of small gift cards for gifts. If I want to spend it must be gift card purchased! I plan to do this for lent! 40 days can be done with a lil prep! Wish me luck!!!

  28. Amarilys says:

    Hey! I am actually doing a “no shop” challenge for the first time this month! Basically, I realized I spend money on clothing way too often, considering I’m in grad school. Even though I make sure I get things at a deep discount, I realized it is nevertheless unnecessary spending. The experience is helping me focus on one specific area of unnecessary spending – so the no-spend is less of a shock – and helping me see just how much I have, the many different and new ways I can use the wardrobe I have, AND the items that no longer have a place in my closet. All in all, a nice baby-step toward a full out 30-day spending fast!

    • Shannyn says:

      Love it! Baby steps are great. Not everyone has trouble with spending overall, either. If you just have one or two weaknesses, it’s perfectly fine to put a stop to spending only on those areas. Good luck with the challenge!

  29. Christie says:

    My family has one more week left of a no spend month. We actually started the day after Christmas and will “officially end” it on the 31st. Although I did have to buy some groceries, the amount was significantly lower than usual. We have finished projects, read books, played games, taken walks, purged cabinets and closets and cooked our meals together. The only non necessity spending we have done was a birthday gift for our nephew that I didn’t plan ahead for and we set a $20 limit and kept looking until we found something that worked, and I had to buy lunch ( less than $10 even with tip) once while at a workshop and I couldn’t pack a lunch. We have actually enjoyed it immensely and are seriously considering doing it next month too!! We are pretty frugal by nature but we found even more ways to save, recycle, make do and do without. We have been content!

    • Shannyn says:

      Wow, that’s great, I’m so happy you’ve had success with it! Even more great that you’re considering another challenge! No-spend months have so many hidden benefits, and I think you detailed a lot of them here. 🙂

  30. Janelle says:

    I did my first 30-day fiscal fast 2 years ago in August. The only way I prepared at that time was to make up a couple dozen bierocks to freeze for quick meals. That year we saved around $1200, but had to end it sooner than 30 days due to the untimely passing of my brother-in-law. We bought a bunch of stuff for his fiance and the kids to help them when people came over to visit and I made a couple freezer meals for her, too. This year, I’m doing it again, and we are 21 days into it. I have written about it on my blog listed above, which goes into further detail about my plans. This year I know we will save at least $2000 this month.

    I do like how you incorporate not only doing a fiscal fast, but also in decluttering, donating, repurposing, and recycling things around the home during the 30 days. I’ll have to plan more of that into my fiscal fast next year. I’ve found that I’ve been really good at extending a lot of my food, so I’m going to try to go as far into September as I can without buying meat. I know I’ll have to purchase some milk and probably some sides, but I think I have learned that I can really reduce my grocery bill in the coming months.

    Thanks for the article on your fiscal fast.!

  31. Jayna says:

    Hubby and I started this October 1st! We are expecting our 4th child in March and I’m getting a little nervous about Christmas, New Years and New Baby being so close together!! I stopped working after our second was born and we have learned a lot about our spending habits, necessities, and how to do without since we went to one income three years ago. I am very excited to go through this challenge! I will have to stretch our fresh produce budget more than recommended due to raising three small children but I am determined to try my best! Bananas are cheap here : )

    • Shannyn says:

      That’s awesome Jayna, I wish you the best of luck! It can be hard to have so many major expenses so close together- it’s a perfect time for a no-spend challenge.

  32. John says:

    ” It’s tempting to go out and buy a bunch of stuff just for the sake of being “ready” during your fast, but that’s missing the point . . . This winter, fiancé and I are doing a Fiscal Fast to rebound from the holidays. ”


  33. cassie sands says:

    ok My husband and I are hoping to do this but… we’re almost out of toilette paper… I’m assuming it’s ok to go stockpile up on that right lol? and diapers… and wipes?

  34. eydie sanders says:

    I do this all the time. It’s called “being poor.”

  35. That article was the kick in the butt I needed to change my financial habits! I’m starting a 7 days financial diet TODAY! No spending!

  36. candice says:

    I think I will try this. I have stuff sitting in the pantry and freezer I really should get around to using. As well as decluttering and planned but not started projects. I am in.

  37. You made some really good points. I’ve not considered an extended fiscal fast. I developed my budgeting system over years. At some point I began logging everything I purchased, and periodically did a review to consider what really contributed to my quality of life, both immediately and in the long-term. I then began to provide funding categories to make it convenient to get those things I valued. I admit that I tend to give weight to things that yield continued or future benefit and cut out things that don’t. However, as I frequently point out I don’t enjoy being miserly. I allow myself occasional pleasures. They contribute to a positive mind set which is essential in seeing a positive future. I’m not saying I never break my budget. On occasion, I do—but it needs to be an extreme situation, and over the years I’ve learned that the more I consider and fund for possibilities, the less likely something extreme/unexpected is likely to happen. To this day, I continue logging my purchases which helps keep me on track with my budgeting, and I think the practice serves me well.

    • Shannyn says:

      I like that reframe Douglas- working towards a vision rather than seeing a month of no spending (or ongoing low spending) as deprivation…it’s all fuel and financial runway towards a goal.


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