Stephanie Hallett
January 13, 2017 4:12 pm
JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

If you had to do it, could you live for a year without spending a single penny on luxuries — including meals out, nights at the bar, and even moisturizer? Writer Michelle McGagh set that challenge for herself, and in her new book The No Spend Year, she reveals how she managed to only spend money on essentials for a year — and the massive sum of dough she saved.

McGagh, a personal finance journalist in England, kicked off her no-spend journey on Black Friday 2015 after looking at her bank statements and realizing she’d spent £400 in one year — about $487 — on takeout coffees alone. She’d also recently purchased a fixer-upper house with her husband that would be expensive to renovate, so discovering creative ways to save money was top of mind.

“First, I set myself rules,” she wrote in an essay promoting her book in The Telegraph this week.

She also allotted about $43 per week for groceries — and that was it. No transportation budget (meaning she’d have to bike everywhere) and no extra spending on fripperies like new clothes, shoes, or beauty products.

In her essay, she writes that she struggled through the winter months — friends wanted to get together at the pub for a cozy drink, and “there are only so many pints of water you can take, surrounded by drunk mates, before it becomes tiring.”

But then spring hit, and things began to look up. “As soon as the weather got milder, my friends wanted to wander around galleries and museums, or meet for a walk around the park,” she wrote. “I got my social life back.”

And even as her clothing began to disintegrate from heavy use during cycling, and her skin grew dry and cracked from lack of lotion, she persevered — she realized that she had to develop new patterns, rather than trying to slot her old habits into her new no-spend lifestyle.

As the year wound to a close, McGagh discovered that she had changed: She had no desire for a big shopping spree — “I just wanted to replace my old, worn-out things,” she wrote — and though she now allows herself a bit more financial flexibility, her year of frugality paid off in more ways than one. Not only was she able to save more than $27,000 (£22,439), she also thought differently about money.

And on Black Friday 2016, she did just that — her first luxury purchase after her no-spend year was a round of drinks for her friends.

Cheers to friendship — and frugality!

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