Friday, December 30, 2011

"31 Days of Nothing" Challenge

When I first read Sara's plan for "31 Days of Nothing" over at her blog, Learning The Frugal Life, I thought, "There's NO WAY I could do that!"  However, a New Year means New Challenges, and I'm determined to walk the frugal walk, so after a sleep on it and a talk with my husband to get him on board, we're all in!

Here are her rules for the challenge:

"1. The ultimate goal is to spend NO money except for necessities. For my family I consider necessities to be gas for work and appointments, monthly prescription medications, groceries (although very minimal, more on this later) and our basic bills and utilities. Necessities may mean something different for your family.

2. There will be no consumerism. My hope is to stay out of the stores completely. No new clothes, books, or any other impulse buys. No shopping the deals!

3. Groceries. I am allowing $25 per week for grocery shopping or $100 per month. I really just want to stick with eating from the pantry and freezers as much as possible. We will need milk for the baby, as well as fresh produce so I am setting money aside for those things. We should be good on most other items because our freezers and pantry are very full. I usually budget $500 for the month.

4. Zero money spent on entertainment. No eating out, we will cook from scratch and eat at home each day. No money spent on movies or impromptu ice cream cones. We usually budget $150 each month for entertainment.

5. Allowance. Everyone is giving up their allowance for the month. There will be no money in our pockets tempting us to spend it.

6. My gas budget is up in the air right now. I need to actually keep track of what we are spending so I can get a more accurate number. For this month though, I want to just try and stay home as much as possible. Combine our errands so that we aren't making multiple trips each week.

7. Get back composting, recycling, and shutting off. Our compost bin has been missing so scraps have been being tossed in the trash which makes me crazy. We are great at recycling but the bins need to be cleaned up. My family has gotten extremely lazy about shutting off lights and unplugging items when not in use. This is going to be enforced more.

8. Cutting back on water usage. Our water bill has done nothing but climb. We use alot of water. Mainly because of long showers and children playing in the sinks. Showers will be timed and sink time monitored to make sure we aren't being wasteful."

Sara says this is her FORTH year of doing this challenge.  She posts her previous challenge results here and here.  Reading her results are pretty motivating!  

Here are my strategies for "31 Days of Nothing:" 

#2, #5 Cutting out other expenditures like clothing, toys, books & other wants should be pretty easy in January since it was just Christmas and we all have lots of new things to play with!

#3 My current grocery bill is about $130/week, so whittling that down to $25/week is going to be a real challenge, even with my Very Well Stocked Pantry!  Our strategy is to have more simple dinners - like tuna sandwiches with tomato soup or french toast as opposed to the bigger dinners we usually like to have.  Who knows?  That may help us with our Weight Watchers goals, too!  

#4 I will be honest with you and say that my husband and I both have a weakness for Sushi Saturday and Pizza & Football Sunday.  But, cut both of those out and we save at least $80/week!  As a compromise, my husband suggested we take out $100 at the beginning of the month and keep it in a jar on the counter in case we absolutely MUST have takeout.  If we do, I will be using my lunchtime trick for saving on takeout!      

#6 Gas and transportation are tough to cut, but we will continue to track and look at ways to combine errands in one trip.

#7, #8 Utilities are also tough because we've already cut so much.  Last December, our power bill was over $500 (yikes!) and this December we got it down to $240 by dropping the thermostat to 65 degrees during the day and 67 degrees at night.  However, I have a half-cord of wood sitting in my garage that I could use to supplement the furnace on those days we dip below 30 degrees.  Plus, we call all be more diligent about turning off lights and unplugging appliances.
Learning The Frugal Life will be hosting a weekly Linking Party on Fridays for anyone who is following along with this challenge or if you're interested in seeing how other folks are skimping or strategizing.  Accordingly, I'll be posting my weekly updates on Fridays for the month of January here and there.

I hope you'll consider joining me!  If you do, leave a comment below with some of your strategies!

Linking Up at Tip Junkie, Today's Creative Blog, The Frugal GirlsFunky Junk Interiors and these other Great Parties!


  1. Good strategies...I'm going to take the challenge as well. The food part and gas to work is a hard one for me. I want to cancel all the "Sale" emails so I am not tempted to buy...and stay out of the cafeteria at work and bring my food. The cold weather is a "keep me home" time...that helps. I will keep checking in...godd luck!

  2. I try to do this every new year as well. It really helps to jump start our new yearly budget. Most of these things I already do however, i have noticed the issue of not turning things off when not needed has become a problem again. And another problem area that has become very laxed is not crushing boxes, cantainers and bottles before throwing them away.

  3. I love these ideas! It really inspired me to be more thrifty! I shared the ideas in this post with my husband, and we decided to do this in July. Also, we are going to have "no-spend weekends" once a month starting in January. Here's to frugality, simplicity and savings!

  4. thats cool, but I am not sure how I could do more scrimping than usual.
    Oh, the fake busquik link on the left of the page only goes to a photo of the scottie pillow.

  5. Twyla, Thanks so much for the heads-up about the link! Cheers!

  6. Instead of giving up pizza, why don't you just make it at home? You probably have the ingredients for crust in your pantry, and probably the sauce as well. That just leaves cheese and toppings. Use fresh veggies for the toppings, and add the cost of cheese to your food budget. When you are making a lot of changes at once, some things are worth hanging on to.

  7. Hi Jennifer,

    I have tried, and failed, many times at making a decent pizza. It's just not the same as Mama Lucia's New York Style pizza. :( I'd rather wait till February! Cheers!

  8. I will try this challenge. We need to re-look at our budget and save a little more.

  9. Hi. I don't think we would be very successful with this challenge, but with that said we are definitly trying to become less wasteful and more frugal! I will enjoy watching your progress through out the month.

  10. So excited to watch your progress! Thanks for linking up and joining the challenge. I am really looking forward to reading how everyone does. Best of luck!

  11. We're trying the "Electric Bill" part of the challenge, and I'll work on the eating and budget aspect, but my dedication to the lowering of the thermostat and watching the lights is firm. I'm throwing on a sweatshirt and keeping the heat low, no need for it to be 75 in the house all the time! Thanks for the inspiration. I'm quickly becoming addicted to your blog! :)

  12. Amy,

    Wonderful! You'll be amazed how much you'll save by turning down the thermostat even a few degrees - turn it down to 68 and you're going to be hooked! Check out some other painless ways to save on electricity here:


  13. I did a 30 day challenge of no spending (except grocery & gas) and I actually completed it. I was very hard but worth while. I even wrote about it on my blog.

  14. As FUN, and even educational, as these sorts of challenges sound, Im not sure NOW is a good time to be experimenting with using up your pantry stores. Our economy is precarious at best right now and elections this year could be a pivot point for more challenging REAL LIFE situations.

    Rather than NO SPENDING...MY challenge has been to make sure that I DO spend...BUT ONLY on things that will MAKE MORE resources. I read "Rich Dad Poor Dad" a couple of years ago and while I dont like his real estate angle, he showed how different people characteristically spend their money and it made such perfect sense to me. Rich people ALWAYS spend their money on things that make them more money. They never USE UP resources.

    Sure I have the monthly bills....but working in a defined direction, we heavily insulated everything last year, so expenses are down there. All debt will be paid off by early this summer, except a very small PRIVATE (not bank affiliated) mortgage that could be generated from home. Beyond that...ALL extra funds HAVE to be diverted to INVESTMENTS...things that will make us money and or more resources. For ME personally, that means DEFINING GOALS, like:

    1. SAFE SHELTER: a wood stove & chainsaw, a small generator (for the freezer)
    2. CLEAN WATER: a hand pump for our well, a back up storage tank, iodine drops
    3. FOOD: gardening hand tools & heirloom seeds, a large pressure canner & mason jars, hunting & fishing licenses & equipment, a 30 day pantry that you rotate/eat out of routinely NOW.
    4. CLOTHING & MEDICAL: a LARGE first aid kit, good winter shoes & clothing
    5. TRADE & COMMERCE: Building specialty skills. For us that means welding & quilting classes this year. If I were to "stockpile" anything to would probably be M&M's :o)
    6. TRANSPORTATION & COMMUNICATION: Vehicles in good repair, Ham radio (and licensure), continue networking with local farming neighbors

    Needs will vary household to household obviously, but having a SHORT SIMPLE list for each area of NEED helps me FOCUS on purchasing ONLY what I KNOW are the most important stress, just definition.

    1. I agree with part. I found this exercise to be immensely helpful in setting my future goals for budgets and food storage. I now actually KNOW what I need and don't need. It was also good to use up some old food that would otherwise go to waste.

      As far as preparedness goes, I was a bit nervous during the month. Ask my husband - he saw me walking around with anxiety because I knew I wasn't ready for a disaster, etc.

      All good now, though - I'm back on the road to restocking...and this time, with certainty as to what my family needs.

      Best of luck to you in your preparedness!

  15. Oh I agree COMPLETELY, it IS a good exercise (been there, done that).....just maybe not NOW is all Im saying. If all you were doing was not spending money, that would be great. And some folks might already be self-sufficient enough to accomplish that...but not most. Typically there is a move backward with this type of thing is all Im saying, and most folks cant "afford" that.

    *** I would love to hear what this challenge taught you specifically about your situation. That way more could maybe even skip this step and get straight to business?

    Personally, our family (6 adult appetites still at home) have learned that simple is the best way of living in ANY time of life. The extras happen/come seasonally, when youve prepared the basics, and I think we enjoy (are more AWARE OF Gods perfect provision) the extras more when we dont have to be concerned with the basics so much. My pantry keeping (which addresses each of the categories above) and care of the home & family are A LOT less stressful when I have defined priorities that we can all work on TOGETHER....many hands make light work of big jobs :o) With the "categories" I cubby hole everything into (numbers 1-6 above) I use principles I gleaned reading Larry Burkett YEARS ago. The money I "dont spend" gets divided up by percentages/priorities between the I move ahead a little in each area from the beginning. Everyone's distribution of percentages will be a bit different, but we all have the same basic needs.


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