couple planning a year without spending using laptop

Could You Go a Year Without Spending?

A few years back, Eric and Donna Reed shopped for groceries and household products only once a year. How on earth? I know. That was my reaction, too.

The Reeds got the idea after reading a column in USA Today, wherein the writer confessed to his weakness when it came to buying clothes. So driven to buy new sweaters, slacks or shoes every time he stepped inside a clothing store, publicly he announced he was giving up buying anything for one full year.

couple planning a year without spending using laptopEric and Donna wondered if they could do the same. Their minds went to the grocery and discount stores, the mall, and Amazon. And what about restaurants and home improvement stores, they pondered. How would they handle gifts and seasonal items every household needs through the course of a year?

The Reeds, like most of us, don’t simply stop into the store to pick up milk. Or eggs. No, they buy the milk—along with a basket of other stuff, too. It’s expensive to be a frequent-buying consumer. But could they plan ahead well enough to make it through a whole year without spending?

They decided to see if they were up to it by trying it for one month. One month with no exceptions. Not even gifts. Could they do it? They bought supplies for the month and then gritted their teeth.

Donna reported that the first two weeks were smooth sailing. It was exciting to approach life like pioneers. They were self-sufficient and resourceful. But by week three they were drinking powdered milk and making very creative meals from the food they had. Salads became odd, but truly delicious, once the lettuce was gone. They made do and used up what they had.

In week four Donna ruined her last pair of pantyhose and opted to wear pants for work attire to finish out the month. Instead of giving up, they made lists of all the things they would buy as soon as they could let themselves out of their self-imposed jail.

Just when they were ready to give up on this crazy notion, they tallied the results. They’d spent less than half of what they normally spent in a month’s time.

Wow! Imagine that: They cut their expenses overall in half! Could they expand this way of life to three months? They could, and they would. But not without some strategic planning.

The Reeds calculated how much toilet tissue, cleaning supplies, dry goods, meat, and other food staples they would need for three months based on past usage. And then they contemplated what you’ve been wondering: What about milk and produce? Gasoline? And what if they really wanted a meal out or a drive-thru experience? Their compromise: Gift Cards. They bought a strategically-planned number of $10 gift cards for their favorite drive-thru, gas station, and supermarket, and then put the cards in a safe place.

Making it for three months was not nearly as difficult as they worried it would be—even with Thanksgiving landing in the middle of that time period. They’d planned ahead with a turkey in the freezer.

By the time the three month period was ending, they were asking themselves “Can we make it a year?” Soon they were plotting a big, one-time-only buying spree for the week after Christmas when lots of things are on sale.

The Reeds did complete a full year without spending and the fringe benefits were astounding. They did put the initial purchase on a credit card but paid it off within three months.

Over the next nine months, with the money they were not spending they were able to pay off all of their unsecured debts. They finished the year with only their mortgage debt.

All because they went a year without buying anything.


couple jumping in field of green with blue sky background


More from Everyday Cheapskate

A bicycle parked in front of a building
eyeglasses closesd sitting on closed laptop
US coins and bills
legs of woman enjoy shopping on the mall center, hand holding shopping, buying and shopping consumerism, enjoy shopping in sale summer time discount store
homemade baby formula
Worried couple going over finances at home in living room
percolator coffee pot sitting on table
vInterior of classic kitchen with white and grey walls, concrete floor, white countertops and cupboards and comfortable white island
oman shredding a piece of paper

Please keep your comments positive, encouraging, helpful, brief,
and on-topic in keeping with EC Commenting Guidelines

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Caught yourself reading all the way 'til the end? Why not share with a friend.

21 replies
« Older Comments
  1. Angie says:

    Going into stores less is also fewer chances to pick up Covid. You’re just taking your life into your hands going into public spaces frequently, particularly if you’re over 60 or have any chronic medical conditions.

  2. Gerri L Simons says:

    I due to limited storage space for frozen foods and items that need refrigeration Could not go a whole month without going to the grocery store. However, I do make a weekly menu incorporating things I have on hand. I then develop my shopping list from this menu and limit my buying to what is on my list. Also if I have leftovers we will use that in place of another days menu and move the menu unused that day to the following week. I also stretch cleaning and personal care items and anything else I can to the nth degree (i.e. cut the bottom off the toothpaste tube to get the very last out of it, turning bottles upside down in bowls to get the last bit of shampoo, dressings, oils, etc.)

  3. TJ says:

    I echo Sue’s comment- they did spend, they just didn’t go to the stores as often and stuck to their budgeted preset amounts. It’s a good idea, just a bad title to the article!

  4. Jane says:

    This is something I have been thinking about doing. I have made a list of the foods we but in a month and multiplied that out. I was thinking about the toiletries this morning and then here is this story. Interesting….

  5. Mark Shoenfelt says:

    The gift card exception is interesting. I can see using it for perishable food but not for dining out. Dining out is more expensive than eating in. If this is really going to mean something, cut out dining out. I didn’t see any mention about how they paid for utilities during the year. Is that another exception? It doesn’t sound like they stopped spending for a year, rather just splurged on one big shopping spree and spent money when they had to.

« Older Comments

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.