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.)
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:
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:
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.