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Living on $20/week: What I learned

Could you survive on $20 per week for one month?
$20 for EVERYTHING?  Gas, food, clothes, entertainment, emergencies?  (The only thing excluded would be the cost of housing, utilities and the cost of commuting to work.)

Back in January I did.

I previously blogged about the nitty gritty of the challenge, and you can read about my adventures here:

The Rules of the Challenge

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4 

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Not only did I survive during the month of January, I also kept up my DIY blogging adventures on a budget of pennies:

Low/No Cost Projects During the Month:
New Life to a Crystal Chandelier
Ikea Expedit Makeover
Hallway Update
Paint Chip Valentine's Day Garland 
Veggie Stamped Gift Wrap
A Valentine's Day Mantle Vignette  
Milk Glass/Jadite on a Budget 

I never got around to posting a follow up to this challenge.  How I felt about it once I had the chance to go back to my regular spending.

What I learned from the challenge:
  • Costco is the best place to buy milk. Hands down.
  • When you only have enough money to buy food for a week at a time, buying grains/cereals m bulk bins and shopping the sales are a MUST.
  • Once you tell yourself you cannot have something (eating out, manicures, trips to the mall)NO MATTER WHAT it is much easier to resist the urge for them.  I found it was much harder to pass up things I didn't really need when I wasn't on my budget.
  • Unexpected expenses are always going to throw you for a loop.  When your budget is tight and you something comes up, you need to get creative to figure out how to accommodate the unexpected.
  •  When you are restricted to what you have in the pantry, meal planning can be difficult but fun.  I was pretty happy with the meals we had over the entire month and was very pleased with the recipes I found on Pinterest.
  • When you don't have a lot of money you need to think outside the box.  From scoring free meals to home improvement projects and decorating, it is amazing how much you can do for free or almost free when you are forced to.
Lastly, I wanted to share these photos.. The before and afters of my pantry and fridge:

Being a coupon user and having a good stockpile of groceries is one of the ways I was able to get through the month.  By the end of the challenge we were having a pretty tough time putting together meals that were balanced and appetizing. 

It was a great way to save up a couple thousand dollars (which we actually used to take a family vacation to Disneyland!) and it cleaned out the pantry.

 In hindsight I now realize that it was a good experience.  It really did get me to appreciate just exactly where all the money goes.  Would I want to live that that forever?  No way! I love my Starbucks iced coffees too much, but I am at least a little more frugal about how I spend my money.

Every penny counts!

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