A Year Without Spending: How Much Can You Save?

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Money in a safe

The tough economy has forced many Americans to cut back, but signs of improved consumer spending have started to creep back in. Even for those of us on a budget, we probably have areas that we can eliminate our spending, if we truly wanted to: restaurant meals, clothing, cable, cell phone data plans, even cars. This might sound draconian, but imagine the potential savings. How much can you save if you went a year without spending on anything other than the barest of necessities?

Anna Newell Jones, a Colorado resident, did exactly that. After hitting $23,000 in debt, Anna realized that she needed to drastically change her relationship with spending. So, she decided to follow a "spending fast" for 2010. By the end of the year, Anna had saved $18,000 that went to debt repayment. For her spending fast, documented on the blog And Then She Saved, Anna took the bus, gave up coffee shops, stopped eating out, stopped buying clothes -- basically, she stopped spending on anything that wasn't rent, utilities, food, or health-related.

The recession has inspired similar efforts before. The Great American Apparel Diet started in late 2009 as a group of folks who swore off new clothing for a year. The group is now on its second official wave of dieters. Judith Levine wrote a book about her year without shopping. Angela Barton joined The Compact at the beginning of 2009 and pledged to buy nothing new for a year. She still writes about conscious spending and consumerism.

How much can you save if you went a year without spending? Inspired by Anna's actions and all the other ladies I've listed, I decided to see how much I would save if I went through a similar spending fast. I don't have an accurate record of how much I've spent over the past couple of years (oops, this is probably something I should pay more attention to), but I made do with my best estimate. My calculations show that while my savings won't be as drastic as Anna's (I need my car for my job), they are significant:

Projected savings: $8,000+

Unless push comes to shove, I won't be going on a spending fast. If for some reason I do need to, however, I hope I can do it with the same sense of humor and discipline that Anna seemed to have.

Would you go on a spending fast if you need to pay off debt or save for a big ticket item? How much do you think you can save in a year with a spending fast?


Savvy Living Through Personal Finance | @WellHeeledBlog


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