Here on the Zing Blog team, we like to push ourselves to try new things. In 2016, we thought we’d get you in on the action. In that spirit, we’re starting a new series we like to call “A Time With(out).”

So how does this work?

Each month we’ll pick a new challenge based on a theme of going with, or without, a specific item or items for a determined length of time. One of our Quicken Loans team members will do it and blog about the experience, sharing tips and tricks they learn along the way. What’s really cool is that you can get in on the action with us. In fact, we dare you.

Challenges are always more fun with friends.

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This month, we invite you to follow along with me, Miranda Crace, as I go an entire week without spending money.

A Time With(out): A Week Without Spending Money - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

There are so many little things we spend our money on throughout the week. For me it starts with coffee (notice me drinking all the coffee in the picture above). Some people say I have an addiction, but I like to say three to five cups of coffee a day is simply an appreciation for a fine, crafted beverage. Either way, living two blocks from one of my favorite coffee shops and working downtown where I’m inundated with coffee options does not do my wallet good.

Pair my coffee spending with my daily lunch purchases, frequent dinners out with friends and an addiction to “Downton Abbey” (and lack of an Amazon Prime account), and I’m regularly spending over $130 a week. And that’s not counting unexpected expenses that manage to show up at the worst time.

I don’t know about you, but I can think of a few things I could do with an extra $130. I’m planning a vacation this May, and I’m sure there are plenty of fun things some extra money could afford me.

The Rules

Let me guess, saving some money sounds good to you too but you’re wondering, “But what about my bills? Can I still use those gift cards I got for Christmas?” So let’s ease your mind and lay out the ground rules:

  • Recurring bills don’t count. You can pay your electric bill, your student loan payment and, yes, even your Netflix.
  • Other than to pay bills, no using plastic of any kind. That means no debit, credit or gift cards.
  • Food counts because you can go grocery shopping in advance.
  • Seek out free entertainment options within your town.
  • You can’t have friends pay for you, with plans to pay them back the following week. That defeats the point of saving money.

Why Just a Week?

Why do it for just a week? Why not longer? Feel free to press yourself further, but remember it’s not realistic to never spend money.

By implementing a plan like this, you can figure out great strategies for saving money on a daily basis. You learn with what you can go without if times ever get tough or you simply want to save some extra cash for something special.

Can you do it? Sign up to take the challenge below to receive email updates. And check back throughout the week as I share things that I’m learning (and struggling with).

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Day 1

Today is the day – the first day of not spending money for a whole week. Of course the first thing I wanted this morning was a cup of coffee from the coffee shop by my house. Day one and I’m already sad that I can’t buy a latte.

Anyway, instead of spending the $4.50 on a large iced latte (yes, it is 18 degrees here in Detroit and I still wanted an iced drink), I went to my kitchen and made a pot of coffee.

A Time With(out): A Week Without Spending Money - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

Since today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, there is no work today, so instead of downing my coffee while rushing to get to the office, I sat on my couch, enjoying my hot cup of joe and created a meal plan for the week. I went grocery shopping yesterday so I have plenty of food.

A Time With(out): A Week Without Spending Money - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

 

The hard part of meal planning for me is that I’m cooking for one. Recipes usually yield enough for four people. To some that’s awesome, one recipe and four meals, I however hate eating the same thing every day. To avoid the monotony of eating the same thing all week long, I decided to split up my proteins up so I could season them differently and make new meals. Four different meats (chicken breast, ground turkey, salmon and tuna) and six different meals.

Today

Breakfast: cereal and coffee

Lunch: leftovers from the weekend

Dinner: zucchini noodles and spaghetti sauce with ground turkey

I usually buy at least one coffee a day, all of my lunches and the majority of dinners. So I added up how much money I would usually spend on food in a week, and the number actually shocked me. I spend $150 a week on food. All of my groceries came to a whopping total of $60. That means, by making my own meals, I saved $90 this week.

Not to shabby for just the first day of the challenge. How is your first day going? Tell us about it in the comment section!

Day 2

Day one flew by!

Since a lot of my friends had the day off, they decided to go ice-skating downtown and out for coffee, both of which costs money ($10 for skating and $4 for coffee).

Now here’s a little bit of backstory –I like ice-skating, I’m terrible at it, but I like it. In reality I skate very slowly and cautiously as not to fall, but in my head I’m graceful and poised. That being said, my friends have gone ice-skating three times so far this winter and every time something came up and I couldn’t go. Much to my dismay, I had to turndown the ice-skating trip… again.

However, I’m not one to stay in and mope, instead I went to another friend’s house for a movie night! Spending money: 0, saving money: 1.

I know what you’re thinking, how’s my coffee buying addiction going? How am I holding up? Well, when I woke up today, I was completely content with making a pot of coffee. However, I’m hitting a wall, and I would like nothing more than to walk around the block to one of the coffee shops downtown for a pour-over – but I’m staying strong!

I’ve saved an additional $18 from my last post to today, bringing my week’s savings so far to $108! How are you doing? What’s your spending weakness? How much have you saved so far? Let us know in the comment section!

Day 3

Today was the first day I ventured to the cafeteria since starting the Week Without Spending Challenge. I walked by cakes and brownies, wood-fired pizzas, a mac and cheese bar and some sort of stir-fry that smelled amazing, but I did it friends! I stayed strong and walked by all the temptations. I made it to the table where my friends were sitting and ate my packed lunch (it really wasn’t too bad, I made zucchini pasta and it was wonderful).

The real win today though? I haven’t even thought about buying a coffee! I know, I was surprised too.

What’s been really fun for me is to read about your experience during the challenge.

One of the savers taking this challenge is Joyce. She emailed me yesterday and told me how she forgot to buy bread this weekend in preparation for the week but she’s resourceful and used tortillas to make BLT wraps instead of sandwiches.

Thanks for the idea Joyce!

How is your week without spending going? Share your story in the comment section!

Day 4

For the last few months, and certainly around the holidays, I felt like I was gone every night and every weekend was full of plans and activities. One perk of not spending money for a week is that I get to have nights in!

Last night was particularly nice. It was a longer evening in the office, but I didn’t feel rushed to meet someone or get somewhere. I went home, I worked out, I cooked dinner and even went to bed at a reasonable hour! This saving money thing isn’t half bad, guys!

Oh and I thought of a new way to spice up the coffee in the office! I added a bag of chai tea, so it kind of tastes like a chai tea latte!

Have you discovered any new recipes or hobbies during this challenge? Tell us about them in the comment section.

On Fridays, I always buy a really big coffee before I head into the office. It’s like the bookend to my week. The treat I give myself for getting through the week and to celebrate the upcoming weekend.

Day 5

A Time With(out): A Week Without Spending Money - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

Today, I did not participate in my Friday tradition; instead I came straight into the office and filled my mug up with the coffee in our kitchen. When I got back to my desk, my coworker, Patrick told me something kind of alarming.

If I decided to invest my coffee budget money instead of spending it on my caffeine appreciation, I would have almost enough money to retire on. Check out how he figured this out:

Miranda typically spends $5.00 each day on coffee, which adds up to be $35 each week, $140 each month and $1,680 each year. If she didn’t buy coffee for a year, she’d have enough money for two Shinola watches, a month at a 5-star hotel in Thailand or– most importantly – a La Pavoine PPG-16 Professional 16-Cup Expresso Machine (free shipping).

But if she really wanted to make the most of her money, she’d invest it. For instance, we’ll say she put that $140 into her 401(k) each month earning 6% in interest each year. Her employer will also match half of that for an extra $70 per month, equaling $210 in total. In a year, she would earn $151.20 in interest. That’s fine, but if she continues investing over many years, the number would grow significantly due to compounding interest. Let’s say that Miranda continues investing this money until she retires in 39 years. Her investment would look something like this:

A Time With(out): A Week Without Spending Money - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

That’s right. By the time she retires she’ll have invested $65,520.00 in her own money and earned $289,200.24 in interest. She could fund a good portion of retirement through her coffee budget alone.

And this is to say that she’s investing all of her coffee money in the stock market. Some investments, such as real estate, can have a much higher return under the right circumstances.

Take a look at this investment calculator from Dave Ramsey to see what you could save if you spent less money!

Day 6

Weekends are usually pretty busy for me. I like to go to brunch, try new restaurants, do some shopping, maybe see a show with friends. All of which cost money.

Luckily, one of my favorite places to go to in the city (especially when it’s cold) is free! The Belle Isle Conservatory.

It’s full of flowers, palm trees, tropical plants and just about any type of botanical. It’s like a little slice of vacation right in the city! Plus it’s always warm in there, and when it feels like negative three degrees outside, all I want is to be warm.

Did you find any free things to do in your area this weekend? Tell us about them in the comment section!

Day 7

Today is the last day of our Week Without Spending Challenge!

I’ve learned a lot this week.

For example, I really like coffee, but I also really like the act of walking to a coffee shop, talking to my barista and sitting down to read a book while I drink said coffee.

I learned that packing my lunch everyday isn’t as much of a burden as I thought it would be. It saves me money and I still get to eat good food. It’s definitely a practice I’ll be incorporating more into my life.

I’ve discovered that it’s good to not make plans every night of the week. It’s healthy to have a night where I don’t rush some place after work. I can cook dinner and maybe even catch up on some reading or do something I enjoy but rarely have time to do, like painting or baking.

Finally, I learned I don’t have nearly as many socks as I thought I did. You see, I have to pay to use the washer and dryer at my apartment. I didn’t wash my socks before starting this challenge, because I thought I had plenty. Turns out I was wrong. I have run out of socks. This isn’t a huge deal, as it’s Sunday and I’m spending the majority of my day in slippers but the lesson here is buy more socks (or wash them before starting a no spending challenge).

What did you learn during this week? Did you try anything new you plan to make a part of your daily life? Did you find a new hobby? Maybe even a new recipe? Tell us about it in the comment section!

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This Post Has 52 Comments

  1. I have gone a week at a time without spending in the past, many times. I was a teacher, so I always took my lunch, shopped once a week, & planned to cook & freeze. Forethought & a list keep you from shopping too much. I am now in my 60’s so this lifestyle is not a real strain. I have always cut & colored my own hair and done my own mani/pedi’s. Huge savings.
    The American lifestyle has changed, with coffee shops vying for you to stop in, debit cards making any purchase just a swipe away, and so many restaurants. Miranda admitted that stopping for coffee is not just for coffee, it’s the “experience” of chatting, reading, going on line, or just getting away from the workplace for a little alone time. For many, that is an important cup of coffee, & hard to give up.
    But this is truly the generation of instant gratification. Delaying or denying is tougher on young people. The investment chart is possibly an impressive incentive for some people to have this type of will power. Sadly, few high schools address personal finance, so most young people are not seeing this type of graph.
    If nothing else, this challenge makes us all consider our spending priorities. My sympathies are with those hooked on cigarettes, which could be an immense savings to health and wallet.

    1. Hi Lauri:

      I definitely think good education is key to fiscal responsibility. Teaching savings and investment early helps set kids up for good things in the future.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  2. I had to make a very small co-payment to pick up my medication, but haven’t spent anything else! It’s easier than I expected!

  3. Happy to take this challenge. I grocery shopped over the weekend. I made stuffed pepper soup for a few dinners and fixed steel cut oats for the week and put them into containers to have for Breakfast. I have made a pot of coffee and take a thermos full to work., along with a packed lunch. I am filling my personal water bottles for work and the gym. Recreation is the gym (which has been paid for the year) and reading on my iPod with free books/etrc from the library. Feel good day 2. Also, not taking any cash or credit cards when I leave the house each day. No money, no temptation to stop somewhere.

  4. I havent purchased anything….eating and drinking everthing at home. No extra goodies……but it is coming along good

  5. I am really looking forward to this challenge. I’m hoping that it will motivate me to start being more conscious about my spending. I’m definitely a spender. My husband’s student loans just hit and we would like to focus on paying them off as fast as we can so if I can control my spending that would help. Thanks for the challenge!

  6. Thanks for doing this – Great Idea!

    I ran out of decaf coffee at home and so have struggled all day NOT to run to the store. I’ll do my best to make it all week.

    Do you think people would donate decaf coffee if I stood on the side of the road with a sign? 🙂

    So far, I haven’t spent a dime yesterday and today…

  7. I am very excited to do this Time With(out) week, and my hubby is doing it with me with the exception that he is traveling for business and thus has to spend to eat, hotel, etc. However, he is trying to not spend anything that will not be fully reimbursed by the company as true expenses. I have already turned down the temptation to buy a few items on Amazon that I “need” and have avoided running out for my free coffee I have waiting for me at Starbucks. I did run into a big snag though – our furnace is acting up. We just had it repaired 3 weeks ago, but it seems that the ignitor is not working again. It isn’t completely out and I finally got the house up to the temperature I had it set on, so hopefully it will hold until next week. Bad furnace and 6 degree weather – not a happy situation!

    L Dougherty

    1. If you need to get the furnace fixed, we understand. That would not be fun and I think that counts as a need. Good luck!

  8. I am usually a frugal shopper but I am thinking twice now about stopping to purchase anything. I had gotten out of the habit of bringing my breakfast and lunch to work to eat and not purchasing at work. (I work in a hospital)….so I am back on track…..which is great!

    Thanks for the challenge!

  9. I do this on a regular basis. My wife and I live very cheap.
    Lol. .. we keep a bucket in the bath tub to catch cold water until it gets warm when taking a shower. Most people let this go down the drain… this fresh clean water is used on our house plants, to mop with etc.

  10. What about gas? My husband commutes about 30 miles each way and a tank won’t get him through the week? I Love this challenge because I would say I’m already 90% there.. I do not grab something from the drive through for meals.. I bring mine from home.. I make my husband a to go coffee in the morning for the drive & he takes a thermos.. Over all we are very frugal !!

    1. Hi Teresa:

      Gas was something we didn’t consider until really late in the process. That was a definite oversight on our part. Some people are not going to get by on one tank. I think the point of a challenge like this though is to determine what’s really necessary. If you can remain mostly on track, you’re learning new strategies to save a little extra money here and there.

      Thanks,
      Kevin

  11. My wife and I just had a baby, so I am constantly going over our budget and coupon clipping. I think this is a relatively easy challenge for someone used to saving and budgeting. I started my weekend today on Sunday so no more spending for my family 🙂 unless we need something for the baby of course. Good luck everyone!

  12. Per my husband (and I’m beginning to think he’s right), I am a “Spend-a-holic” so this challenge is just what I need to get back on track. I don’t “need” anymore clothes; my grandchildren don’t need anymore toys (they live with me) or clothes; I’m getting a few more groceries today – don’t need many. So, I’ll be all set and will start on Monday. I like someone’s idea of making meals ahead so I might do some of that tomorrow. I already signed up – wish me luck cuz I really, really want to succeed at this!

    1. Hi Sandy:

      It’s hard, but this is a good way to transition into being more of a saver. Good luck! I think everyone’s going to be challenged, but it’ll be an interesting experience.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  13. This is a struggle i go through everyday…. Its sad and hard and i dont dare anyone to try to live like that and struggle. Its stressful and heart breaking i pray everyday that other poeple dont have to struggke like i do

    1. Hey Heather:

      We understand that money can sometimes be a struggle. You have our sincerest wish that things get better for you. Hang in there and try to keep a positive attitude. Good luck.

      Kevin Graham

  14. Wonderful idea! One of the first lessons in economics is the difference between WANTS and NEEDS.
    Too often we think a want is a need, and purchase goods or services excessively. Psychologists also tell us that delayed gratification is one of the key determinants of success, so buying things impulsively can nurture the lack of success.

    Regarding coffee–most of us like to drink good coffee. BUT at $5 or so per cup, we are throwing money away. We purchased a coffee maker for my wife’s daily use and I usually drink tea. Add in the time and effort to go to your local coffee shop, and you are spending a small fortune in your lifetime on coffee. Let’s estimate:

    If it’s just $5/day, that’s over $1,800 per year (after taxes), or about $2,400/year including taxes. Over a lifetime of 50 years, that’s over $100,000 for your coffee habit alone. Then add in the time and mileage to get to and from the coffee shop. I would bet that you can think of other ways to spend $100K that provide greater satisfaction to you.

    It’s no wonder that Starbucks plans to add hundreds of new stores this year alone.

    1. Hi Al:

      It’s often a question of wants and needs, isn’t it? I know Miranda can think of better ways to spend $2,400. These are great insights. I hope you take the challenge with us.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  15. My savings is always a part of each day. I have given myself a day a week to shop at Thrift stores and some extra money can be set aside if I make this day once a month. Coffee is my at home treat along with flavored creamers. I will try to save but no coffee is going to far!

    1. Hi Helen:

      Thrift stores are a great way to save money. Pop those tags! 🙂 I have a feeling Miranda will be drinking plenty of office coffee. Have a great day!

      Thanks,
      Kevin

  16. Perhaps looking at this as a challenge not to spend ” unnecessarily”. If you have food on hand, a full tank of gas or a transit card, and recurring bills don’t count, there’s little else that’s a “necessity”. Those of us on a fixed income have adopted a lifestyle of little, if any, unnecessary spending, for much longer than a week at a time. For those who give little thought to spending, I can see where this might be a real challenge indeed. But I’m in. Perhaps I can find a new area, or two, to cut out. ONWARD!!!

    1. Hey Seth:

      That’s an excellent way of looking at this. I think the point is to find new areas where you might find savings in your daily life. For some, it takes a challenge like this to get motivated to do so. Glad to have you on board.

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

    1. I don’t know if Miranda thought about that, Paul. Good point. We’ll make sure there’s plenty of aspirin around the office. Or she’ll just have to drink office coffee.

  17. As a teacher who gets paid only one time a month, I have had to be very budget conscious most of my life. Last week I went the whole week with out spending anything. I Grocery shopped on Monday, prepped meals on Sunday and Wednesday for the week. I have a January tumbler from Starbucks so I get unlimited black coffee refills for free this month…woo hoo. My gym is paid in advance, so a pretty easy challenge when you are used to living on a tight budget.

    1. These are good tips, Rebecca! I’ll be sure to tell Miranda about the January tumbler. She likes coffee. She might need it.

  18. Ok – you’re on! I will tank up the car this Sunday with an eye to starting on Monday, prep the fridge and cabinets and take stock of the Necessities for the week, and put all the plastic and cash away. However, I have one small balance card I will tuck away in the back of my wallet in case of real emergency (flat tire, etc…).

    Bearing in mind that it takes an average of three weeks to create a habit (or drop one) I think it is worth repeating for awhile. January is a good time to try this challenge, we will have 12 months to retry it!

    1. Hi Juanita:

      I like the attitude that you should be able to make a habit of your thrift. It would save all of us a lot of money if we challenged ourselves once in a while. The emergency backup card isn’t a bad idea. As they say, always be prepared. Just don’t get attempted to pull it out at Starbucks. 🙂

      Thanks,
      Kevin Graham

  19. It is an interesting concept. As long as I have a day or two to prepare, I am sure I could accomplish going a week without spending any money. Following this pattern, I should then be able to recognize my spending habits. The result then would be that I should be more able to determine if some of the expenses were necessary, just convenient or aresult of habits. Armed with this information I then could make better decisions regarding how I spend my money.

  20. No problem, I live on a fix income. I haven’t bought clothes in 3 years , I never eat out and I rarely drink. I only spent $7.00 last week

    1. Wow, Jennifer! We might need you to instruct us in the ways of the savings Jedi! Hope you’re taking the challenge with us. Have fun!

      1. Yes I am! Totally up for it! The hardest part will be the days at work with the “Let’s go out to lunch” bunch. Bring it on!

        1. Hi Kari:

          Maybe you could try telling the lunch bunch what you’re doing so they know not to ask you this week. It avoids the temptation. Good luck and I know you can do it!

          Thanks,
          Kevin Graham

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