The #YearOfNo Challenge

What up what uuuuuuup!

Got another idea for y’all today: a mixture between a Depth Year that we fell in love with last month, and a No Spend Challenge which we fall in love with pretty much every other month, haha…

It’s called the #YearofNo, and a blogging friend of mine just completed her 2nd year of it, paying off over $24,000 of debt now (!!) and completely changing her spending habits in the process.

All with 5 kids, too!

One day her husband sarcastically wrote it next to a bunch of goals on their wipey board, and the next minute they were going around the house saying “hashtag Year Of No” to each other haha…

So what is a #YearofNo? It’s when all decisions to spend money starts with a strong “NO”, and then you have to convince yourself otherwise, instead of the other way around like most of us tend to do… There are no “Maybes”, no “We’ll See’s”, and especially no automatic “Yes’s”. If it doesn’t hit a list of the acceptable areas you put forth *before* taking the challenge, it remains a NO and you move on.

For my friend Jamie and her family, it was saying NO to all the “extras” in their life:

“Our family refused to buy any extras at all for an entire year. That meant no book fairs, no fast food, no drinks from the concession stand, no replacement furniture, nothing. We forced ourselves to use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

Hard to do, but what a habit to get into! She came up with a list of questions to help keep her on her desired path too:

  1. Is this purchase a requirement for life or good health? (Food, shelter, necessary clothing)
  2. Will putting off this purchase require us to spend more than double or triple the cost in the long run? (Home and car repairs and maintenance)
  3. Is this a once in a lifetime opportunity that I can pay cash for? (Events for family members)

If it doesn’t check out, it doesn’t get bought – pretty simple! This line here summed it up pretty well, haha… “If you have to speak more than one simple sentence to justify a purchase, you don’t need it.” :)

And again, the #YearofNo can be put towards *any* areas in your life – not just money. Maybe it’s saying NO to taking on more projects or responsibilities so you can focus on what’s most important to you (like with Depth Years), or maybe it’s not taking on anymore debt again or complaining 24/7 or even hanging out with people who are toxic in your lives!

The applications are endless, but unlike No Spend Challenges or Freezes, it’s more focused on helping you form long-term habits than quick wins (although admittedly, a month was enough to shock MY finances straight when I did a No Spend Month years ago…):

“Don’t confuse the #yearofno with a spending freeze. Sure, you can challenge yourself to a spending freeze for a week or even a month. But most people just hold their breath through the freeze and buy the things they wanted once the freeze is over. That does nothing but delay spending. Instead, #yearofno makes lasting changes.”

So there you have it – The #YearofNo! Anyone wanna give it a shot? Anything in your lives right now that could use a healthy dosage of No’s?

Something to think about, especially as we’ve still got plenty of months in the “new” year to do something impressive ;) I’ll even allow you to cheat and do it for only 10 months if you commit to it today! Haha…

Even better, pair it with our Financial Empowerment Game™ and turbocharge your motivation even further! Because nothing says “I’m a bad ass with money” moreso than *knowing* you can buy anything you’d like in a store, however *choosing* not to… It’s the best game you can ever play with your finances, and it’s all yours, absolutely FREE!

Remember: Freedom > Money > Stuff

And then there’s always sex and chocolate, but we leave those for the #YearofYes’s ;)

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  1. [HCF] February 19, 2018 at 6:04 AM

    I started it before it was cool :) After reading a lot about “value your time” and the “power of no” lately, I decided that this year I will say NO to those time-consuming things which just simply does not worth doing them. You, know, the “Oh, you are a programmer, then you can fix my computer and reinstall my operating system?” and similar things. My experience showed me that these occasions often generate complicated situations and in the end, no one is truly happy with the outcome. Maybe this will make me a little bit less charming person, but I’ll take the risk :) #YearOfNO rulez ;)

  2. Mrs. Adventure Rich February 19, 2018 at 6:25 AM

    Trying to make sure I am prioritizing spending, especially when it comes to the “little things” ($5 here, $20 there), is a constant struggle. But I find I am most successful when I just have “No!” in my mind to begin with. The results from the #YearofNo are pretty amazing. I like the fact that this isn’t a temporary challenge, it is about reprioritizing and creating a new habit/way of life :)

    1. J. Money February 19, 2018 at 6:45 AM

      yup!! And how amazing will those outcomes be too, over the years! I succeeded with two items over this weekend but failed on my 3rd attempt haha… So I’m right there trying to be better at it all too :)

  3. Mr. Tako February 19, 2018 at 6:31 AM

    Setting good habits is a huge part of creating financial independence. A lot of that is knowing how to say ‘no’.

    After a few years it eventually becomes second nature…. I can say “no” to all the extraneous stuff in life and I don’t feel bad about it and don’t feel like I’m “missing out” on life.

    It worked for me! Good habits ftw!

    1. Jamie | Medium Sized Family February 19, 2018 at 10:01 AM

      Exactly! I was worried that we were holding our breath until we could start spending again. But in reality, a #yearofno just highlights how much of your spending is wasteful. Now when we go into a store, it’s easy to see impulse buys as a few seconds of misplaced happiness and nothing more.

  4. Accidental FIRE February 19, 2018 at 6:35 AM

    I like the year of no complaining idea. I’ve been really bitching about people lately – mostly related to driving. As a cyclist it comes easy because they just see us as an annoyance. They’re all speeding, swerving, using cell phones etc. I just need to stop complaining and get over it and realize that that’s the way it is. Complaining about it won’t prevent me from being taken out by a careless driver.

    Great post!

    1. J. Money February 19, 2018 at 6:48 AM

      Ugh yeah, drivers are horrible just in general. Can’t even imagine if you’re a biker! Test this out for a week or two and see if improves your mood :) It’ll seep into a handful of other areas too which makes it even better.

  5. Lily | The Frugal Gene February 19, 2018 at 6:39 AM

    No is my favorite word, ask hubby. Of course I’m in support :) PF bloggers are masters at long-term challenges. We had the 40 day Adventure Rich challenge and now we’re going the 40 day Lent one with Ms.99%!

  6. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies February 19, 2018 at 7:11 AM

    Well, if it comes with a hashtag, it has to work, right? There’s real strength in saying no. What is that saying? Saying no allows you to say yes to what matters. Something like that. That is so true for our money and so many other things. I chronically over commit when it comes to my time. Since I decided that priorities would be my theme/resolution/whatever you want to call it, I’ve been much happier. I still wish I had more time to play with my little guy, but I’ve found time in places that I didn’t expect!

    1. J. Money February 19, 2018 at 9:47 AM

      It’s a beautiful thing :)

  7. Cubert February 19, 2018 at 7:29 AM

    I feel like I’m in the middle of a “year of no” in other departments. Man, better get my romance game on…

  8. Bryan February 19, 2018 at 7:41 AM

    I’m going to give it a go! This one struck close to home, because I’ve been teetering on re-doing my living room (I go through this every winter when I’m stuck in the house). New couch, chair, paint, furniture, art, drapes, etc. It add$ up. Is everything in there already clean, comfortable and functional? Yes. It’s just looking a bit tired. But every time I plug in the $5,000 or more I would spend into the investment calculator…I hit pause. Now…I must hit stop.

    1. J. Money February 19, 2018 at 9:49 AM

      Good idea!! Or just replace *one* thing every winter so you get the best of both worlds ;) I also find that reading lots and lots of books helps distract you too from the antsiness haha…

      1. Bryan February 20, 2018 at 6:43 AM

        Awesome! I’ve definitely been hitting the library hard. I just finished “A Guide to the Good Life” Trying to stir my inner Stoic. Onto “The Importance of Living” .



          1. Bryan February 21, 2018 at 6:38 AM

            Powerful and elegant article. Loved it. Thank you. And thank you by the way for responding to comments, that’s really cool I appreciate it! For me, I never did Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and earlier this year I deleted FB and Cable TV. I read somewhere, maybe here, that before you do something ask yourself this: Will this move me forward? Scrolling through the mindless pictures and echo chambers of FB or watching the latest shootings on the local news…No. Taking an hour to READ a finance, art, or literature book ….YES. Not to mention having a cup of coffee with you, MMM, and ERE for a bit each morning.

            1. J. Money February 21, 2018 at 6:43 AM

              You know it man!

              I deleted all my personal facebooks and social channels too. Realized I always left them less happy than when I got there and don’t miss them at all… Same with watching the news – so toxic.

  9. Chris @ Duke of Dollars February 19, 2018 at 8:26 AM

    Great idea! This is like the mindset of you are saving all of your income, but each thing you spend money on reduces your savings, versus trying to only save at the end of each month.

    Thanks J. Money!

  10. Mrs. Groovy February 19, 2018 at 9:16 AM

    This is sort of like the “hell yeah!” decision making paradigm in reverse. I don’t know who started it, maybe Derek Shivers, but if it’s not a hell yeah, then it’s a no. Here, it’s a no, unless you can prove it’s a hell yeah!

    1. J. Money February 19, 2018 at 9:50 AM

      Yup! Derek Sivers! That line alone has helped me shut down and/or *not* start at least 10 projects over the past two years since I’ve heard that line haha… so good.

      (here’s the post btw: )

  11. Dave @ Married with Money February 19, 2018 at 9:29 AM

    I love this idea. We’ve already failed in the first 50 days of the year but hey, we can always pick something up now and carry it on for the rest of the year! Jan1 is just an arbitrary start date. :)

    1. J. Money February 19, 2018 at 9:51 AM

      100% true – do it :)

    2. Jamie | Medium Sized Family February 19, 2018 at 10:04 AM

      Yes! Who cares when your personal January 1st is? I used to be a big “I failed, no use in trying now” kind of person. The #yearofno taught us to dust yourself off and keep pressing forward.

  12. Joe February 19, 2018 at 9:34 AM

    Sounds like a good plan for them. If you have debt, this is the way to go.
    If you’re already comfortable financially, then you can relax a bit.
    Saying no to everything all the time gets old after a while. You need to have some moderation.

    1. Jamie | Medium Sized Family February 19, 2018 at 10:06 AM

      This is true if you already have your priorities in place. If you’re living a YOLO life and throwing money away on everything that tickles your fancy, you probably don’t know what your true priorities are.

      Now that we’re out of our #yearofno, we learned that certain things like “controlled splurging” on family activities and updating our old house are priorities to us. Fast food and obligatory spending (like school pictures or gifts for your cousin’s dog catcher) not so much.

  13. Mike @ Balanced Dividends February 19, 2018 at 9:57 AM

    Cool concept – I like this idea a lot.

    The 3 questions look to be really simple but effective.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Jamie | Medium Sized Family February 19, 2018 at 10:08 AM

      The simplest things are always the most effective in my own life, for sure!

  14. lisa February 19, 2018 at 10:39 AM

    Yeah, my husband learned how to say No to spending about 25 years ago. I had a job that required suits/nice clothing and now that I am out of that job, I don’t buy clothes anymore. I would like to sell those suits and such but DH said he doesn’t want me to get rid of the suits! I haven’t worn them in years……Anywho, I don’t spend on clothing anymore and only necessities are what we do. As we age, our need for material things decreases as well.

    1. J. Money February 19, 2018 at 5:47 PM

      why doesn’t he want you to get rid of the suits?? haha… cuz they look hot on you or something?

  15. My Sons Father February 19, 2018 at 10:41 AM

    Challenge accepted. I’ll add it to my 5 million step challenge and hopefully will have quite the productive year.

    1. J. Money February 19, 2018 at 5:54 PM

      I would say so :)

  16. Ms. Frugal Asian Finance February 19, 2018 at 11:04 AM

    Interesting concept and challenge! Hubby and I usually don’t buy what we don’t need except for eating out.

    Hubby refused to pay $26/mo for gym membership. He needs it only for the weekends since he can work out in his office buildings on weekdays. I don’t want to pay $18 for a yoga class. Not sure if we are being cheap, but we decided not to spend the money anyway.

  17. Menard Solve February 19, 2018 at 11:33 AM

    Psychologists say that sensations in your body can be signals on when to say no. For example, if saying yes makes you uneasy or you start feeling tightness in your chest you shouldn’t say yes. It goes the opposite way too– when it feels great, you should say “Yes, Yess, Yess!”.

    1. J. Money February 19, 2018 at 5:56 PM

      I believe it! Especially for making major decisions… My heart almost never steers me wrong, despite me not believing it sometimes, haha…

  18. Debbie February 19, 2018 at 11:45 AM

    Just curious, what do these people do for entertainment? Playing board games or doing puzzles 52 weekends a year gets old fast. What if someone invites you to a birthday/holiday party? Do you make an excuse & not go so you don’t have to buy a card/gift? What if a neighbor asks you to buy a box of Girl Scout cookies? Tell her you’re diabetic? Just curious how you handle situations like this?

    1. Kristen February 19, 2018 at 1:28 PM

      Over the last few years, I’ve had to examine when I was going to parties and/or making purchases out of guilt instead of actually wanting to. For me, if I legitimately like the people and maintaining those relationships is a priority, I’ll spend money on parties and celebrations. I’m also at the age (and possibly social circle) where gifts don’t really matter but showing up does. I’ve gone to a lot of not-fun stuff out of guilt and usually wished I was home on my couch reading a book.

      I’ve also found that most people don’t care why you can’t buy or go to something or at least they’re too polite to ask. A simple “I’m sorry, I’ll have to pass this time, but thanks for the opportunity!” is usually all it takes.

      But Thin Mints are occasionally worth the highway robbery prices those Girl Scouts charge. I’m on the frugal-with-self-grace side of things, so feel free to judge ;)

      1. Debbie February 19, 2018 at 2:55 PM

        We were invited to a neighbor’s 15 year old daughter’s bday & bought her a card & gift. She’s a sweet girl & because she’s homeschooled has very few friends her own age. Reading this post, I think it must be harder with people who have kids & it’s only natural they want to participate in social events with friends & often that costs money. It must be challenging to find things to do 52 weekends a year that are free.

        1. J. Money February 19, 2018 at 5:58 PM

          Is it bad that I’m reading all this as I shovel Samoas into my mouth? ;)

          1. Debbie February 19, 2018 at 11:21 PM

            Pass the thin mints please. YUM!

          2. J at Their Money Goals February 20, 2018 at 6:26 PM

            Whaaaat? Is it Girl Scout Cookie season already?! *stalks my nearest Girl Scout*

    2. Jamie | Medium Sized Family February 19, 2018 at 3:00 PM

      I usually have enough Swagbucks to buy a small gift for kids. These days, kids are so swamped with toys they don’t even notice one in the pile, anyway.

      Some situations were more delicate than others, but by the end of the first year, everyone we know well knew they’d get a no from us. If they wanted to be offended, that was up to them.

      For fun, we spent a lot of time a parks, fishing (the kids can go for free), etc. The library has tons of free stuff. Yeah, it did get old and boring sometimes. The hope is that the kids will remember that feeling and associate it with debt.

      1. Debbie February 19, 2018 at 11:16 PM

        Good luck to all who try this challenge for a year. Not me! I’ve found that too much or too little of anything isn’t healthy for me. Life is way too short. I know this first hand as my former husband died young of cancer. I’m grateful we took a few vacations & did some fun things before he passed away.
        2 weeks ago my current husband & I went antiquing. Packed the cooler with sandwiches/bottled water. He bought a train for $50 & resold it 3 days later for $100. I bought nothing but we spent the whole day browsing & had fun. I guess we could have saved $5 gas staying home but instead we took a chance & actually made money. No way I can sit home knitting 52 weekends a year to save every penny but to each his own. It would be a totally boring world if we were all the same with the same lifestyle.

        1. J. Money February 20, 2018 at 6:31 AM

          I’m pretty sure Jamie and family still has fun ;) They just find ways to do it without spending much – not unlike your recent adventure actually! You had tons of fun antiquing without buying anything right?? It’s all about being more *conscious* with your money which it seems the two of you are great at.

  19. Chris @ Mindful Explorer February 19, 2018 at 11:59 AM

    I like this one as it helps you develop a good habit for an analytical evaluation process. Purchases and spending is ok as long as it falls in line with your criteria you have laid out for your life. The Power of Habit and avoiding impulse is such an important duo in getting a handle of your personal finances.

  20. Kris February 19, 2018 at 3:53 PM

    This challenge is a great start for those that have debt. Once you say no to those costs that you don’t really need like cable tv or that gym membership you pay for but don’t go to the gym you will get into the habit of saying no to more stuff.

  21. Mrs. Picky Pincher February 19, 2018 at 4:29 PM

    I like this a lot! I’m guilty of saying something is a necessity or an “investment” to justify expenses. I’m okay with buying treats every now and then, but the frequency really needs to be monitored.

    1. J. Money February 21, 2018 at 6:32 AM

      Haha yup – so easy to just pick up a “few things” here and there and then it adds up to like 27 things by the end of the month :)

  22. Rocky February 20, 2018 at 3:02 PM

    I’m already using this strategy when someone invites me to something that involves leaving my cocoon haha. This is an awesome mindset!

  23. J at Their Money Goals February 20, 2018 at 6:39 PM

    “Remember: Freedom > Money > Stuff” <– THIS. I think we often prioritize the stuff because that’s what society teaches us to value. We don’t even give it a second thought.

    I love the idea of a #yearofno. I recently read the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown, and it completely changed the way I approach everything in my life. The book discusses how our lives are jam-packed with events/tasks/activities that other people want us to do or expect from us and teaches that we should whittle these non-essential things away until we’re left with what truly matters to us. When we focus on that one essential thing, we can make much more progress than when we spread ourselves too thin doing a bunch of things that don’t really matter to us.

    Great read!

      1. J at Their Money Goals February 21, 2018 at 8:42 AM

        Yes, J, yesss! Great taste and excellent write-up. I’ve been telling everybody and their mama about this book. I had heard about it before, but it really hit home for me this year. I bought it on the spot when it came to my attention again last month.

        1. J. Money February 21, 2018 at 11:54 AM

          I think that’s the key right there – you have to be open and *ready* for something like this to really do the trick. Not unlike wanting to get your $$$ straight or lose weight/stop smoking/etc :) Gotta really WANT it bad enough and be ready to make moves or all the reading is pointless!

    1. J. Money February 26, 2018 at 7:02 AM

      I think that is 100% valid, haha…

  24. ZJ Thorne February 25, 2018 at 11:04 AM

    I like this! It’s such a great sounding reset. Needing more than a sentence to justify a purchase sounds like prevaricating.

    1. J. Money February 27, 2018 at 4:07 PM

      Prevaricating! Now that’s an SAT word!

  25. Susan February 27, 2018 at 1:21 PM

    Great advice….my Dad was wise…he knew how to say NO, and I have appreciated that response so much through the years. No is easy to say, but most parents can’t handle saying it to their kids (then they wouldn’t be Bestest friends)..Respect for your parents because of their wise decisions is much more admirable than being bestest friends & being given stuff or $.

    1. J. Money February 27, 2018 at 4:25 PM

      Oh man, I was afraid I’d be a big softy around this myself when I found out we were having kids… But nope! Turns out it’s not too hard to say NO to them :) At least at this age (5 and under)… Let’s see what happens as they get older and more convincing – hah.

  26. Pamela VanDeursen May 7, 2019 at 8:07 AM

    Here’s a little flip to the financial empowerment game. Last year I walked in to a Fred Meyer department store and looked out over a sea of dresses, shoes, belts, hats, bathing suits, appliances, lawn furniture, outdoor games… you get the picture. And suddenly, I realized that it was all destined for a landfill eventually. All. Of. It.
    And just like that, I didn’t want to buy anything.

    1. J. Money May 7, 2019 at 6:09 PM


      And scary too, but yes – that can be one helluva hack from consuming so much for sure if made a point to remember with each shopping trip…

      Really like this a lot and adding to my list to share later on the blog – thank you!