zero day challenge budgeting

Are You Ready for the Zero Day Challenge

If you’re ready to take the zero day challenge, go for it! But if you need some convincing or want to learn a little more about why I started, read on, there’s another link at the bottom.

Do you try really hard to stay within your budget, only to come up short every month? You aren’t alone. Creating a budget that works for you is tough, but actually sticking to it can really be challenging. Why is that? The answer is simple: spending money is easy.

Why is spending money so easy? We all carry cash and credit cards. Note the plurality of credit cards. Some of us have access to tens of thousands of dollars in available credit right at our finger tips. Of course swiping $10 for a sandwich, soda and chips for lunch is really easy. “My credit limit is $15,000 so this small purchase is nothing!”

We are also losing a war with advertisers. You can’t go anywhere without seeing some type of product that you are urged to buy. I started pointing out all of the subtle advertising around us to my fiancée. It’s seriously really scary.

A few months ago, I was getting bagels when a young family walked in. There was a 4-year-old girl with them. She noticed something that I didn’t: a small 25-cent candy vending machine. It was perfectly placed so only children would notice it. The second she saw it, with the vibrant red and yellow cartoons of fruits, she had to have some. After some crying and yelling, her mother purchased some for her.

We are targeted for advertising since the moment we are able to recognize shapes. We are conditioned to associate spending money with happiness. So what chance do we have? When we try to stick to a budget, how can we contend with decades of our learned spending behavior?

I’m an Impulse Spender

I’m not going to lie to you. I’m an impulse spender. But I just recently discovered this. I’ve always been responsible for my finances. As an “adult” in my early twenties, I thought my skills were like this.


Unfortunately, I was an “adult” in my early twenties. So I was completely wrong. Indeed, I was not invincible, I was not the smartest, I was not the best at investing, and I was actually terrible at saving and budgeting.

As a teenager, I always worked summer jobs, and spent most of my money. This behavior transitioned into college. In my first year of college, I spent more than $7,000 on food, booze and travel. Pretty much all the money I saved during High School.

After I graduated, this continued. I lavishly ate whatever I wanted. Bought fancy DSLR cameras and whatever other toys I wanted. I continued to spend 100% of my post-tax income.

The thing is, this is completely unsustainable. Last year, I spent about $57,000 on… stuff. I can name a few of the things I purchased, but I can’t explain $57,000. One of my goals is to reach financial independence and retire early. With this kind of spending, that is impossible.

I Needed to Change

I needed a way to take control of my spending. I obviously could not control it, so I needed a system that would both control, and encourage me to want to control my spending.

This lead me to create the Zero Day Challenge. The Zero Day Challenge is a simple yet effective way to control your spending. At its core, the Zero Day Challenge is a long-lived no-spend challenge. You track your spending daily, and count the number of days where you spend $0.

It’s really that simple. Every day/week/month, you go through all of your spending, and you track it. You then count how many days you spend $0. These are called zero days. As you are tracking your spending, you try really hard to make today a zero day.

After you finish your first week, you try to get more zero days the next week. And even more the next week. As this continues, as you decrease the number of days in which you spend money, you will see that your spending goes down.


This strategy takes advantage of the fact that people are competitive. The Zero Day Challenge gamifies not spending money. It creates an artificial reward associated with not spending money. It forces you to evaluate the actual value you get from spending money.

“How happy will I be if I buy this Kit-Kat bar? Or what about that lottery ticket?” This internal monologue becomes commonplace. Every time you decide to spend money, you will evaluate whether or not the purchase is worth it.

Not only will this decrease your spending, but it forces you to evaluate why you spend money in the first place. In the first month of my Zero Day Challenge, I realized I was buying things because I was sad and lonely. But buying things made me happy, at least momentarily. Whenever I was unhappy, I would swipe my credit card to get some food or useless stuff.

Change Your Spending, Change Your Life

The Zero Day Challenge has changed my life. Seriously. What if you could decrease your spending by 10%. You could take that 10% and invest in yourself, stocks and bonds, even a business or pay off your debts faster.

What if you decreased your spending by 20%? You could pay off your consumer debt very quickly. Your investment portfolio would grow extremely quickly.

In my first six months of the Zero Day Challenge, I managed to decrease my spending by more than 30%. In total, my yearly spending is projected to decline by $18,432. This amount of money is life changing.

Do you know what I’m doing with it? I’m saving and investing. In 15 years, I will have saved an additional $400,000. This is enough to push me over the financial independence and early retirement hill so I can accomplish my dreams.

Are You Ready to Change Your Life?

I’m asking you a simple question: are you ready to change your life? Are you ready to escape the constant cycle of building and paying off debt? Do you want to get more happiness out of your life?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you are ready to take the Zero Day Challenge.

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