One UK woman has done what most of us reckon we could do, but don't actually have the willpower to achieve. She went an entire year without spending money on anything except the bare essentials, saving a heap of cash in the process.
Tired of seeing her pay disappear on god-knows-what every week, financial journalist Michelle McGagh pledged not to make any frivolous purchases for 365 days.
"Although I had no debt, my bank statements (when I bothered to look at them) were littered with unnecessary spending," she writes in a column for The Telegraph. This included $660 on takeaway coffees, even though she was not a big fan of the caffeinated brew.
A costly new house and renovation project also meant it was a good time for Michelle to re-evaluate her saving habits (or lack of).
"A full year of no spending seemed the only way of resetting my relationship with money completely," she writes.
She set herself these rules for the challenge: she'd pay her mortgage, utilities, life insurance, broadband and mobile phone bills as well as make charity donations. She would also allow herself to buy food (which she set a weekly budget for), cleaning products such as washing powder and basic toiletries including toothpaste, deodorant, soap and shampoo. And that was all.
Movies, the pub, new clothes, holidays, a gym membership and non-essential food items like a cheeky chocolate bar were banned. Even public transport was ditched in favour of cycling everywhere (which resulted in her pants wearing out, and she'd given herself no leeway to buy new ones).
She writes that winter was hardest (it was cold and lonely while all her friends enjoyed nights out at the pub). But when the weather warmed up her days were spent at the park or free galleries.
After a full year, Michelle tallied up what she'd saved and was stunned to find it totalled £22,439 (NZD$43,336) which she plans to dump onto her mortgage and save herself even more cash in interest, slowly releasing the stranglehold the bank has on her.
When the challenge finished late November, Michelle didn't go on a massive shopping spree. She simply replaced her worn-out items… and treated her friends to a round at the pub.
So what did she take away from this crazy challenge?
"After a year of no spending I realised that I valued financial security over material possessions: I don't want to be forced to stay on the treadmill of work just to pay off a home loan for the next two decades or accumulate more stuff.
"I also came to understand that I don't need things to make me happy. Spending time with the people I love makes me happier."
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