Back in 2012 I blogged about a self-imposed budget challenge where I lived on $20 per week for ALL MY EXPENSES. Groceries, gas, entertainment, dining, unexpected emergencies..
Obviously it didn't include things that we paid regularly (like rent, utilities, school fees) but it included anything I would normally pay cash for (or put on a credit card). So if I could make a choice to buy it, I could only spend $20 per week on it: Restaurants, gasoline, groceries, cleaning supplies, toiletries, haircuts, birthday parties, gifts, clothes, coffee.
It was a tough challenge, and I actually had to come up with ways to supplement my budget (cashing in aluminum cans, bartering for free meals etc.) At the end of four weeks I had learned A LOT and I ended up saving quite a bit of money. We saved nearly $2000 that month.. although I did end up spending about $200 re-stocking the pantry.. but we were still had enough money to pay for a Disney trip. I also did a LOT of budget cooking and working with the staples that I had in the pantry. That alone was the biggest source of savings; not eating out.
It has been five years since that challenge ended, and I decided I am finally brave enough to try it again.
I am going to see if I can only spend $100 FOR THE ENTIRE MONTH.
Keep in mind, the goal of this challenge is not to see if someone could actually survive on $25 FOREVER (spoiler.. you couldn't). What I am trying to do is figure if I had to stop spending money cold turkey, how long could I stretch it? How flexible could I be? How much of our monthly expenses are things we could live without or at least put off? I want to be more aware of where our ‘disposable’ income really goes.
It also really makes you think about what is a WANT and what is a NEED. It is surprising the things you miss. You know how badly you want certain things when you have to choose between them. And it is very telling when you see what you would be willing to do to pay for things you may not actually need. (Remember: Last time I actually cashed in Aluminum cans so I could buy a Starbucks and dug around for change on the floor of my car to pay for gas. )
$25/Week Challenge Rules:
The “rules” for the challenge will be basically the same as last time.
- I will start with $25 cash and track how I spend it every day, down to the penny. (I upped the budget from $20 since it is 5 years later and I have an additional child now!)
- Regular bills such as the mortgage, utilities, kids activities, taxes, HOA fees aren’t part of the challenge. (We don’t have student loans, credit card debt, or a car payment, but if we did those would be excluded too.)
- My husband’s gas/commute costs will also be excluded. (Gas for my minivan WILL be included since I can limit my driving to school/kids’ activities.)
- Charitable donations will not be included.
- Medical expenses will not be included.
- I will not use cash alternatives (Gift Cards, store credit etc) UNLESS I do something to specifically earn them for the challenge that I wouldn’t normally do. (Bartering, having a yard sale, secret shopping in exchange for a free meal).
- If the cost of an activity/membership is pre-paid, they won't count against the budget. (So if we have a zoo membership I will consider a trip as a ‘free’ activity, although it wouldn’t necessarily be free for everyone.)
- Any of the $25 I don't use during the week rolls over to the following week.
- All the food in my pantry and freezer is part of the challenge. The goal isn’t to buy everything with the $25 but to see how long I could go in my current situation on only $25.
Tracking my progress:
I’ll track my daily expenses every week, like I did last time, and post a weekly update on Wednesdays. I also will share what our meals were (since that will be a huge majority of the challenge.)
The challenge will run for 4 weeks (Wednesday to Wednesday) for the entire month of February. I will share real-time updates on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram Stories)
At the end of the challenge I’ll summarize my experience and compare it to my last attempt. It should be interesting now that I have done this before, knowing what I know from last time, to see if it is easier.
The challenge starts TODAY! Fingers crossed!