After rent, utilities, and all my other fixed costs for the month, I was left with just over $100 per week to spend on food and entertainment. While that’s certainly more than enough money to live on comfortably, it was immediately challenging to adapt to a much lower budget than I was used to.
However, after completing the challenge and coming out the other side only $20 over-budget, I think everyone should experiment with spending a month stringently saving.
As much as I missed the luxuries of eating out, grabbing a drink with friends, and generally not worrying about money, the challenge forced me to take a hard look at my priorities. By cutting back significantly, I was able to clearly articulate what I think is 100% worth spending money on and what I can live without.
For example, I love food and trying new restaurants, so I missed going out to eat with friends after work and exploring New York’s extensive dessert scene on the weekends. But even though it’s convenient when I’m too lazy to pack a lunch, I don’t really care about buying lunch during the workday. I can happily brown bag it and look forward to incorporating those savings into my everyday budget.
The small decisions we choose every day can add up to significant savings over time. If I make a point of bringing my lunch instead of buying it 10 times, that’s $100 saved that I can put toward a bigger financial goal, such as travelling or buying a home.
It’s easy to mindlessly swipe your credit card or blow through cash without contemplating how each seemingly innocuous expense affects your overarching goals for the month, year, or decade. But by starting at zero and only paying for things I truly needed or wanted, I inadvertently created a log of my top priorities. And that will dictate how I spend money forever.