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How I lived on a Weekly Budget of $20 (Flashback Friday)

Welcome to another edition of Flashback Friday.   Long term readers of my blog may remember this challenge since it took over my life back in early 2012.  I spent an entire month living on a mere $20 per week. 
 
 This winter I actually considered repeating this project in 2014 and seeing if I could reproduce my success.. but I realized that now I have more (and older) children.  One is still in diapers.  That alone would cost me a week's budget.  Plus things like gasoline and milk have increased dramatically in price in the past 2 years. I probably couldn't do it again unless I included a budget adjustment for inflation.  

Back in 2012 it was already REALLY hard.. and now it would be even harder!  So instead I decided to feature it in a Flashback Friday post since I'm not really looking for ways to make my life more difficult.

Would you be able to go an entire month and only spend a TOTAL of $80? ($20 per week)? 

What if that $20 included EVERYTHING?  Gas, food, clothes, entertainment, emergencies?  (The only thing excluded would be the cost of housing, utilities and the cost of commuting to work.)

Could you live off the food in your fridge, freezer and pantry? Would you be able to give up things that weren't truly necessities? No haircuts or manicures.  No movies or dinners out? No STARBUCKS?!!!  (Here are the specific 'rules' of the challenge.)

Back in January of 2012 I did just that.

I actually made it the entire month without using more than $20.  (I did get creative and 'earned' money in other ways, but I didn't spend more than $20 of my own money.)

In order to show you how I did it, I documented every single penny that I spent. I kept track of exactly what groceries I purchased and I also recorded the meals I made. 



These are the posts explaining exactly where the money went (broken down day by day) and how I was feeling about staying in budget:
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4 

Here are the lists of all the meals (and often links to the recipes) that I made using what I had on hand along with the few items I was able to purchase:
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4

You can see that it was a very effecient way of cleaning out my pantry and fridge:



I originally did a follow up post on this project 6 months after it ended and shared what I learned during this project (you can find that post here.)

The truth is that you really couldn't survive long term on only $80/month.  It was only because I had bought extra groceries the month(s) before that made it possible.  And I did probably spend more money in February because I had to "catch up" with things I had put off in January because I didn't have the money.

I think the most important thing the whole experience taught me is to be aware of where the money was going.  When you are digging for coins in the sofa cushions, you become much more aware of just how 'expensive' a gourmet coffee or quick bite at the drive through really is.


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7 comments :

  1. kelly @ view along the wayFebruary 21, 2014 at 5:28 PM

    This is such a cool idea! I'm tempted to try it just as a way to force myself to clean out our freezer and pantry. I seriously don't even know what's there anymore.

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  2. I love this!! I have been reading the book Kisses From Katie which is about Uganda and the lives of those who live there. I would love to trim down my budget and spending. When you realize how little the rest of the world lives on it changes things!! I am totally capable of making more from scratch. I think I may just have to give this a try! Thanks, Kim!

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  3. I have to admit I am impressed. One thing was the prices you were reporting at the time from your Farmer's Market. Here Farmer's Market is more expensive than the grocery store prices on fresh produce. I spend $10 a week on produce alone, so there is no way I could really do $20 a week, as you couldn't either, without all that coupon stockpile. And you couldn't restock one on that either.

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  4. I don't think living on $20 is realistic long term, but you are definitely right about cleaning out the pantry. Once you have vowed to only use what you have on hand.. you suddenly get creative!

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  5. That is definitely true. Even things that aren't essential (like a store bought cup of coffee or quick trip through the drive through) can definitely add up fast.

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  6. That is one thing about California.. we may have more expensive housing, gasoline and taxes.. but fresh local produce is DIRT CHEAP! :)

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  7. I did a similar challenge ($150 a month, but I didn't count gas because it was impossible), and I felt like it was valuable for the same reasons. It really showed me where my money was going. It also cleared out my pantry and fridge, but then I did end up having to spend money to replace it. Thank you for sharing your experience!

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