I love challenges. Especially when there is seemingly no reason to start them.
That’s exactly what my wife and I just did. A challenge.
The challenge? To not spend money for 30 days.
No reason, really. Just for fun. And yes, believe it or not, it actually was fun.
Update: We did this a few years ago, but I’ve updated several areas since the challenge is now over. We went well over 30 days…
Here are the results…
If you’re wondering, yes we paid our bills. This is not about to be a story of how we are now drowning in late fees because we decided to skip necessary payments.
Here are the things we still paid for:
- Tithe and giving
- Housing and utilities
- Investments and savings
- Two tanks of gas (we really couldn’t get around this one)
But that’s it. Groceries? Nope. Eating out and entertainment? Nope. Clothing? Nope. None of that. Not a dime. We went 30 days (and counting) of spending no money out of our budget.
Update: When we did this challenge, we actually ended up going for just over 90 days.
Other than the two tanks of gas, our automatic expenses are all we paid. We only bought the gas because of a pre-planned trip back home. If we hadn’t already planned to take the trip, we wouldn’t have spent that either.
Update: Over the course of 90 days, we ended up buying 3 more tanks of gas, but I would include that in with regular expenses.
6 Things I Learned in 30 Days
- We waste a lot of food. By “we,” I mean Americans, but we aren’t the only culture that wastes. For example, we have had several get-togethers with my squadron at work and every time we noticed that nobody wants to take home the leftovers. But we certainly do! We fed our family well for several nights on leftovers from a community picnic. Leftovers that were going to be thrown away. Due to food safety, there are times when it’s simply not an option to take home food, but if food is just going into the trash because it’s easier than taking it home, consider taking it home yourself.
- We are all food hoarders. One of the first things you probably think about when you hear of a “no spending” challenge is food. How do you eat? You have to have food, right? Well sure, but here’s the thing: you already have food. We decided to eat what we had and now 36 days later, we’re still making it work. It forces you to eat meals based on what you have, not what you want, but almost all of us can do it. How long could you eat on the food in your cabinets? Update: Over 90 days, we continued to eat what we had, but we also randomly had more food given to us (our neighbors were moving), and we had food given to us by our church. This was all random, but that plus making minimal meals, allowed us to do this for the 90 days.
- We take our resources for granted. We all have resources in our life. Your employer or your community may offer resources or they could come from somewhere else. One way or another, we have them and we take them for granted. My wife has found all kinds of ways to bring food and supplies into the house by volunteering at different places and applying for different programs (and I’m not talking about food stamps). There are always resources out there to help you out, you just have to go find them. It may mean working a few hours or volunteering, but they’re there.
- We are blessed when we make an effort. You can call this what you want, but when you attempt to responsibly do something with a pure heart, you will be blessed in it. We didn’t start the challenge out of greed, we started it for fun. And to see how much money we really need to spend on a daily basis. Once we started the challenge, it was amazing to watch the blessings role in. We didn’t tell very many people we were doing this, yet people from everywhere started giving us food, cleaning supplies, toiletries, etc.. It just so happened that a few of our friends were moving and they all decided to call us up and give away the food in their fridge. Coincidence? Maybe. Or it could have been because we are a large family. Either way, it happened, and it was pretty amazing. At the end of this challenge, we now have more food in our house than we did when we started. 60 days, here we come! Update: By the end of 90 days, we were pretty empty, but we could’ve went a couple weeks longer.
- We don’t need to spend as much as we think. When you think of your monthly budget, odds are, you spend quite a bit. Quite a bit more than you need to spend. We certainly did. We love eating out and we budget for it every month, but you won’t realize how much you love to eat out until you stop for a month. It was eye-opening how many times we would have eaten out if we were spending money. This goes for other areas too, like buying more clothes than we need for ourselves and our children.
- We get creative when we place limitations on ourselves. This is the most important realization, in my opinion. Doing this challenge forced us to find creative ways to do things without spending money. We could have just kept on like normal and spent our regular budget, but we had to find ways to make our life as normal as possible without money. We realized that the things we do together as a family are much more interactive when don’t spend money. It seems like the more money you spend, the less time you spend together (think: amusement parks and movie theaters).
The Final Results and What’s Next
Overall, we were quite happy with the challenge. It was fun and it forced us to take a closer look at our finances.
We now have more ideas and ways to bring stuff into the house, without paying for it. And for the record, no we’re not planning to be the next Bonnie and Clyde; that would be a different kind of challenge all together.
What’s next? We’re going to go for 60 days. Same scenario, 30 more days. There’s no doubt in my mind that we can do it and I’ll let you know the results once we hit the 60 day mark.
Update: I re-published this article, because we’re thinking about doing this again. Part 2 may be coming soon!
What do you think about this challenge? Is it something you could do? Do you want to try it?
Originally Published: July, 13, 2015
Last Updated: January 11, 2019