Cash Fasting Round 7: A Two-Week No Spend Guest Challenge!

After over a year of Cash Fasting away by myself (or otherwise roping in poor Ian), someone has made a contribution! Of course, it was a real-life friend who reached out – you’ve met her before; it’s Alice, my fellow friend in frugality. For two weeks, she attempted a full no-spend challenge. Let’s see how she did.

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After reading a few of Jane’s challenges, I wondered whether I’d be able to live for a period of time without spending money. When I got the green light for a guest post, I immediately started a no-spend challenge for the last two weeks of September. I was really looking forward to doing a cash fast since I wanted to know how my spending habits would hold up against someone else’s. I decided to do a cash fast for all expenses instead of just food costs, like Jane often does. While I didn’t create a plan, as a naturally frugal person, I figured it wouldn’t be that bad, right?

I was wrong. For the last two weeks of September alone, I spent $1,760.78. Part of it was the fact that I bought a new iPhone, which put me back a cool $903.11 (to be fair, I did budget for it). The other part was me rebelling against the cash fast, adopting a very ‘I’m gonna spend this money cause I can’ mentality with a little ‘well, I already failed thanks to the iPhone, so what’s more money?

Reporting back to Jane with a very abashed mini-progress report made me realize a few things: cash fasts are hard, and there’s no way I can do one without preparing for it.

Resetting for October, I spent the last few days of September mentally preparing for my no-spend challenge from the 1st to the 14th of October. Surely I could keep my spending below $1,760.78.

How much did I end up spending?

$3,711.48

WHAT HAPPENED??

Let’s break it down, day by day:

October 1st: $1,538.47

  • $1,350: Oof. This number requires an explanation. My rock climbing gym does a pricy $135/month membership. I get reimbursed for this amount at the end of the month, but I still pay it upfront. Paying for a whole year’s membership is $1,350 (that’s two months free). My work still pays me back the amortized amount, so I scraped a little money from my emergency fund (of which I have about $3,000 in, but like Jane said in another post, I might also consider reducing since I have liquid assets that can cover me if I’m in a real pickle) to pay the full yearly price.
  • $101.99: Running shoes. I had previously participated in a Spartan race in Virginia and didn’t want to fly my muddy and wet shoes back to Boston. I went to a local store with a 15% coupon, got a personalized fitting, and came out with a pair of running shoes that I needed to get anyway. Worth it.
  • $43.99: Computer game expansions. I had $45 in my game budget; this was just barely doable for me. I got the expansions for a deal, so I went ahead with this purchase.
  • $42.49: Food. I made a huge batch of vegetarian chili, along with a few treat items like chocolate, and a treat protein (cod). This is really the only purchase I could’ve spent less money on.

October 2nd: $6.95. My roommate and I split the cost to get some Indian take out. Worth it.

October 3rd: $1,950.00. This is rent. The reason why it’s so large is because in September, my roommate Venmo’ed me his half and I wrote the check. From a sheer dollars spent perspective, this definitely contributes a huge chunk to the $3,711.48 total.

October 4th: $89.04. I am not doing so well on not spending money, it turns out. The breakdown is as follows:

  • $1.34: Guilty pleasure Dunkin Donuts donut (how could I resist getting a Boston Scream?).
  • $15.00: Rock climbing gym pass. I could’ve avoided this, but I love rock climbing and don’t mind spending money going to a different gym. Plus they had a community event so I got free unlimited wings after. Win-win.
  • $32.70: Amazon purchase. This was essentially housekeeping goods. I could have pushed it off to the end of the cash fast, but I guess that seems like cheating? I’m really not good at cash fasting. 😑
  • $40.00: My metro pass refill.

October 5th: $31.34. I went out with a friend and we got dessert afterward.

October 7th: $41.07. I had an apple-crumble-making party and had to buy all the apples and other ingredients for it.

October 10th: $37.85.

  • $25.86: groceries. I could feel myself getting sick, so I went out and got supplies, and a chocolate bar to console myself for getting sick.
  • $11.99: Hulu. This was a bit of an unpleasant shock since I thought I canceled the free Hulu premium trial, but I guess it didn’t stick. Ironically, I was thinking of getting back to Hulu since I do like the shows there, but I definitely didn’t like this surprise purchase.

October 11th: $12.77. A second venture to the store when I realized I didn’t have any Dayquil and my Nyquil was running dangerously low. Also, an additional chocolate bar to feel better.

October 14th: $3.99. A congratulatory chocolate bar for surviving that bought of illness.

Out of 14 days, 9 had expenses. 😅

Cash Fasts are harder than they look

Looking over the $3,711.48 total, a really huge amount of that came from rent, and my full year-long gym membership. If I took rent out of the equation, and only count 112.50 as the gym membership instead of the full 1,350, then the amount I spent would be closer to 523.98. That’s an average of $37.43 spent per day.

Is this a successful cash fast? Definitely not. However, I fully budget out my income. As long as I’m not over budget, I consider my spending a success. Aside from the gym membership, I’m fully within my budget for October. I’m even ahead in some categories, since being sick meant that I couldn’t meet friends or go out and eat.

Things that I’ve taken away from this is that I don’t think I could ever really participate in a true cash fast. I like having the ability to spend the money on things I want when needed, whether that’s a huge gym membership, a sort-of-necessary Amazon purchase, or even a donut because why not. Having a budget that I stay within helps me stick to that goal of cutting back spending while still letting me actually spend money.

What could I have done differently

Well, I definitely didn’t need to buy that many chocolate bars. My restaurant and fast food budget are looking nice and healthy, but my grocery budget is definitely suffering from those little impulse purchases. I don’t think there would be an easy way to cut back on the other purchases, which sort of surprises me. I don’t like the idea that the only thing in my life I can cut back on is food, which probably means that I’m not truly in a situation where I absolutely have to prioritize my purchases. This is definitely an interesting takeaway and I wonder how that would affect my spending in the future.

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Jane’s Perspective

Nearly $4K in two weeks. That’s a lot of spending, but I don’t think Alice is being fair to herself. When I do a challenge, I focus on discretionary expenditures. That means cutting out rent, for sure. As for Alice’s rock climbing membership, it doesn’t make sense to count a full year-long purchase within a single month. The $523 excluding rent and splitting up climbing costs is the number I would’ve gone with, in her situation.

While this didn’t end up a successful cash fast, I believe there’s still a lot to be learned here. A full no-spend challenge is very tough. Even though Alice is a very frugal person, avoiding all unnecessary spending is no small feat.

Have you attempted a no-spend challenge? What requirements did you put in place in doing the challenge? Did you count regular recurring expenses?

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