A few years back, Eric and Donna Reed shopped for groceries and household products just once for an entire 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, he publicly announced he was giving up buying anything for one full year.
Eric and Donna wondered if they could do the same. Their minds went to grocery stores 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 at the store to pick up milk. Or eggs. No, they buy the milk — along with a basket of other stuff. 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 for 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.
They 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 creative salads, as the lettuce was gone. In week four, Donna ruined her last pair of pantyhose and opted to wear pants to work to finish out the month. 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 overall expenses in half! Could they expand this way of life to three months? They could, and they would. But not without some strategic planning. They 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 want 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 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 put the initial purchase on a credit card but paid it off within three months. Over the next nine months, they were able to pay off all of their unsecured debts with the money they were not spending. They finished the year with only their mortgage debt.
And all because they went a year without buying anything.
Could you go a year without spending? What about three months? One month? One week? How about a day?
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