31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero

31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero.  Freeze your spending.  Change Your Life.  Awesome way to reset your spending patterns or kick-start your budget!

Welcome to 31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero!  A month of NO spending is an awesome way to reset your spending patterns or kick-start your budget, and this challenge is a GREAT way to keep yourself on track.

The rules are pretty simple:  no spending on anything outside of your absolute necessities, and eat from your pantry & freezer as much as possible.  There are activities and ideas to keep you busy each day, but the main goal is simply to stop spending.  You will be amazed at how much your perspective can change after a month of seeing what you can go without!

Here is the challenge overview:

The Ground Rules {Day 1}

Organize Your Pantry {Day 2}

Inspired Meal Ideas {Day 3}

Plan a Meal Swap {Day 4}

Eat Out at Home {Day 5}

Get a Free Education {Day 6}

Week 1 Reflection {Day 7}

Get Ready to Clean {Day 8}

Cleaning Day {Day 9}

Clean Your Kids’ Room {Day 10}

Organize Your Home Office {Day 11}

Organize Your Bedroom Closet {Day 12}

Organize Your Bathroom {Day 13}

Week 2 Reflection {Day 14}

Re-Fashion Your Clothes {Day 15}

Get Fearlessly Crafty {Day 16}

Free Halloween Costumes {Day 17}

Find New Uses for Old Things {Day 18}

Homemade Spa Treatment Recipes {Day 19}

Have a Spa Day at Home {Day 20}

Week 3 Reflection {Day 21}

Sell Your Stuff {Day 22}

Get Free Money {Day 23}

Get Free Stuff {Day 24}

Try Bartering {Day 25}

Have a Free Date Night {Day 26}

Free Family Activities {Day 27}

Week 4 Reflection {Day 28}

Re-Assess Your Budget {Day 29}

Plan for the Holidays {Day 30}

What (Not) to Do Now {Day 31}

31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero.  Freeze your spending.  Change Your Life.  Awesome way to reset your spending patterns or kick-start your budget!

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{ 50 comments… add one }

  • Dianna October 5,

    Do you have 30 days of the papers you use? I have the first four and I am wondering if there are more and if so the link? I am so excited to get started. My husband and I have sat down and worked together to determine what this would look like for us. We have even started blogging about our journey to keep us accountable.

  • M November 3,

    Just want to say thanks for doing this; love your blog. <3

  • Jenna January 22,

    I’m excited to try this and I love the printables – just wish they were all together so I could print them all at once!

    • J February 6,

      I agree!

  • Ellen Mary May 26,

    Hi Ruth,
    Just a note: I was reading your 31 days programm, but I couldn’t open the article reffered to day 29… When I click on it I go back to the reflection of week 4, because the hiperlink is wrong… Could you please send me by mail this material? I’m so interest in all about it, and thanks a lot for sharing this!

    • Dana June 28,

      I too had this same problem. :-(

  • Lindsey H. August 1,

    Ruth, thank you so much for sharing this! My husband and I are doing this STARTING TODAY! We are so excited. I am following your daily activities, as well as creating a couple of my own this month due to the fact we do not yet have children. Feel free to come see how we’re doing this month on my blog! We owe it all to you!!!

  • Judy September 29,

    Try doing that because you have no other choice. I lost my job and am only wage earner. Mississippi only get up to 211 a week to cover expenses. Have no phone at all about to loose my car food is down to nothing rent is month behind. About to be 2 mos. the up side I start my new job tomorrow an hour and a half away. I’m happy you did this. I thing everyone should for a month or two. You will really understand what others go threw these days. Honestly didn’t think I would find a job I’m 55 it’s not easy. I only hope I can get bills all caught up and this has taught me to not be so frivolous. I gave my children everything and anything paid for cell phones bought cars. Out of all that. When I needed the help only one of them did what they could to help me. I think we all need to be more realistic and allow our children to make their own mistakes. It’s the only way they grow up.

    • Anonymous February 1,

      Wow, same sorry here

    • Anonymous June 28,

      I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through, I’m glad you found a job.

    • Anonymous September 3,

      My job disappeared last Oct. after 32 years. I have realized a lot of what I spent wasn’t at all important. Impulsive, momentary, and I don’t miss that at all. Needs, even wants, are so much less than we are led to believe in our culture. Glad us have a new job, and also have the opportunity to explore what’s really important. God Bless!

  • Carrie C. October 3,

    Thanks for the 31 days of Living Well and Spending Zero. We’re starting today. There is some truly useful information in here that will make it bearable and some great links too. I too wish it were easier to print the worksheets and maybe a version in black and white. My printer will do this for me, but some may not know how. Thanks again :)

  • Emelie November 1,

    So glad to find this! We are starting today! It will be an adventure for sure. So exceited to see what we are able to accomplish by the end of the month. No fast food – that’s the biggie for us as my husband generally eats his lunch out every day. Thank you for writing this and for all of the excellent printables- I counldn’t help but skim ahead. I printed everything at once, so we are ready to go!

  • Dynha Montiel November 4,

    Dios mio! que maravilla encontrar tu blog! Lo estoy disfrutando tanto, Soy una mujer que le encanta la organización y la limpieza pero quedo atrapada en pensar que sigue y termino mi rutina a las 5:00 de la tarde… pero no mas!! tus consejos son impresionantes y muy alentadores…

  • Katie @ KatieTevis.com November 30,

    I honestly wasn’t sure I could do this for a month, but I wanted to save for property taxes. So my 6 yo and I kept each other on track, and we saved enough in one month for our taxes. Such a good feeling! It was a great exercise for both of us.

  • Jennifer Wilkie December 11,

    Here is my question – My family loves fresh fruit and veggies – more then bread or cheese. I deem these essential to survival. Is this okay? What about diapers and dog food. – just need some direction here – We are doing this in January.

    • Priscilla December 27,

      Jennifer, I think Ruth intends for people to adapt their rules for their particular circumstances. Diapers? Of course those are essentials. Set your own limits and stick by them.

  • Louise December 27,

    Non-essential spending? This sounds like a bit of a furphy. You are deluding not only yourself but your family too. Wine as an essential? Flavoured coffee as an essential? The ridiculous list of your luxuries goes on. Get real. Instead of this fake economising, try actually living on the $211 that Judy and hundreds of others find is their weekly income. Fuel, electricity, food, entertainment, education, clothing, medicines, phone, car, and all the other real essentials. Do not dip into the stash of expensive goodies you have previously purchased. Cost out every meal completely. And every load of washing. And every trip anywhere. If I have thousands of dollars worth of prepurchased items of course I can appear to spend nothing. But that is not saving or even economising. Change your mindset.

    • Anonymous December 30,

      I agree with Chris’ comment below. You’re not understanding the exercise. We aren’t trying to pretend any lifestyle rather we are simplifying and maximizing what we do have. I coupon vigorously and shop wisely creating a supply of cost effective food plus we hunt, raise our own chicken and pork along with raising all our veggies. In addition to eating this food as much as possible, we also take 2 months every year to use up what we have worked hard to put in our pantry and freezers! This is wise, responsible and sustainable. I do empathize with Judy and those who find themselves in financial struggles and hope they can find security soon!

    • Tammy W. October 24,

      “Entertainment” is considered part of “real essentials.” For all your high-and-mighty-sounding condescension, I would not think that would make the list. Seriously?

    • Anonymous January 2,

      I agree with you! First because saving $1000 in a month sounds great, but how much did she spend the next month restocking her pantry. Also because who the heck has $1000 extra each month to spend on food and other “necessities” like wine and coffee?!

    • Vivi January 17,

      Hold on, this is what really annoys me and gets under my skin. Why should I or anyone else be responsible for your financial situation????? If Ruth works her husband works and they make a decent living or anyone else on here myself included if we work our behinds off, to where we are able to spend extra on coffees and lattes and entertainment that is because we earned it it wasn’t given to us. What this clog is for is to avoid being in that situation down the road. She said her self she used to spend her money on phones, cars, on her kids. Then her financial situation changed so now she can’t afford those things. So, here all we are doing is trying to save that money for the future is that simple. I personally used to spend $50 bucks a week on lunch, I could do that because I worked 70-80 hours a week. I am a single mom of 3, 2 have special needs, and I don’t receive any government assistance. That’s $200 a month, $2,400 a year. So I changed my habit to only $50 per month, I’m saving an extra $150.00 per month. That allowed me to pay my car note 3 months ahead. (I was afraid I would spend it if I just left it there) That is what happened with the recession too much spending, not enough saving and when people loss their jobs they had no money too much debt and a lot of people no jobs. This is prevention nothing more, you don’t spend on things you don’t need, and you save that money so that if you lose your job, you have money to tie you over and pay the bills and not struggle. Don’t come judging and upset because someone has extra money at the end of the month. 2 years ago I was making 11 dollars an hour and I was struggling so you know what I did, I got of my behind and got a second job and went to school. Now 2 years later I have 1 job my work hours have reduced to 40 and I make more that I did with two jobs. Stop complaining start doing.

  • Chris December 28,

    Louise, I understand your comments, but your suggesting a completely different exercise than Ruth has laid out here. Her plan is to “freeze” your spending for a month, in order to see what you can do with what you have. This is a personal reflection, not a way to emulate those on a subsistence income. I think that making use of the items in my freezer or pantry, which I am currently not very good at, is economizing.

  • Shey December 31,

    I finally got my hubby to agree. This is how we are starting our new year. Thanks for all the information on how to.
    I know we will make it.

  • Jone January 6,

    This has been wonderful for me. I tend to go to the store with a list and throw whatever else into the cart, just in case (even more so when the husband is along for the trip). I have thrown out hundreds of dollars in food alone, just dumped right there in the garbage because it was spoiled or expired. I know there are so many children who go hungry at night. ( I am a teacher and see this first hand). I don’t want to be wasteful. I actually combined the clean out pantry/ fridge/ inventory with the compiling food lists/menu planning because it was almost infectious; so i completed a few of the days all in one. I am a planner in every aspect of my life. My job demands it, and I am excited to see what even a month of changes can do for me and my family. As too a few comments above, as a teacher, money is not a luxury. After having a baby in September 2012, and being out of work for 5 months, I know the financial strain and pressure that surrounds us all. I think we would all be a little better off if we focused less on tearing others down and more on building others up. Thank you for helping me to build my family up.

  • Britt January 11,

    I love this challenge! I’ve adapted my own version for the remainder of this month & maybe even the next few! As my husband and I are now looking to purchase our first property, any ideas to save are welcomed! I love the idea of minimizing & making the most of what you have. Like you said, I think we have too many options & I LOVE the idea of bringing excitement back to eating out or getting a little surprise. I’ve just started some 52 Week challenges, one I blog about to keep me accountable & the others that are more personal, but they follow the same principal of creating memories , spaces & more confidence with what I already have. You’ve definitely inspired a few add ins for me. Thanks!

  • Emily January 12,

    Love your blog! I am doing something similar with the No Spend month and love your day to day activities! I am going to try to incorporate some into my challenge! Thank you for the great ideas! :)

  • Jennifer January 26,

    I love your blog! I found you via Pinterest if I remember correctly lol. I am joining this challenge, my husband will be thrilled! lol :)

  • Martha McCreary January 26,

    Looking foward to learning more daily. thank you.

  • DEBORAB L. Davis January 27,

    Love the whole idea of this!

  • Michelle January 30,

    Found this tonight. Starting tomorrow 1/31/14. My biggest challenge will be no eating out!! I can’t wait to start! Joined the facebook group just now!!

  • Kim Anderson February 24,

    This is happening in March. I finally have a month without a holiday or birthday. I’m so nervously excited. I’m not even going to tell my husband because I’m literally the only spender in the house and I’d like to see his face on the 15th of March when sit down to do budget and I haven’t put a dime on the debit card. In fact, for those essentials like milk and fresh foods I need to get weekly, I’m going to load up the rest of my grocery budget for Feb. on a gift card to the grocery store I shop at so I won’t be tempted to go over.

  • Jill March 25,

    My family has decided to do this in April. I’m almost ready. Just bought my Easter basket candy already (now if I can keep from eating it all ahead of time). I still need to make one more Costco run this weekend to get a couple things. We only have a couple exceptions to the rules…which I didn’t really read that carefully actually. I am going to honor my commitment to have dinner with a group of women that was already scheduled (but will go without special drinks or appetizers) and we are going to a fund raiser at the beginning of the month and will be making a donation to it. (I don’t feel like being generous should be limited). I have one question. Do you find that at the end of the month, you have to spend significantly more to restock your pantry and freezer? I have a feeling we will be so scrounging for food by the month’s end that we will end up spending every cent we saved to restock.

  • Anonymous May 21,

    I have done this for months at a time often, saving for various greater rewards like getting an education, funding a wedding, buying a car without a loan. It takes discipline and good company, and gooood planning. But it has been very possible and even fun paying only bills and a $60 grocery bill/week for my husband and I ($30-$40 when I was single) to eat every meal we need and still be satisfied, even stuffed. Contentment is really key to this lifestyle. Contentment with who you are and who you’re with. You won’t need to fill in the hours with cheap entertainment and trips if you can find your contentment.

  • April August 4,

    I love this. We are going to use this as part of our home ec in homeschool this year. Thanks! I linked from my post, I hope you don’t mind! http://www.notquitewonderwoman.com/7th-grade-homeschool-finally-and-subject-to-revision/

  • lili September 4,

    This is awesome and inspiring! We did it last October and are thinking about doing it again next month :)

  • A September 27,

    I’m 11, and I was surfing the web for ways to get my room neater and I found this! I am now trying to convince my mom to assist me in taking on this challenge for our own house. :) I really want to do it because one of my goals is to become a money-saving, wise and appreciative adult.

  • Nicole October 1,

    Looking forward to starting this today. Thanks for setting this up!

  • diane @smartmoneysimplelife December 31,

    This is a great way to start the year. Being mindful of where your resources are going is huge and this exercise will definitely underline that info for you. Then, the challenge is to reinforce what you learned by applying it EVERY month.

    I’ll be joining in, too. I’m sure following Ruth’s guide will bring things to light I’ve never thought of before.

    2015 is going to be AWESOME!

  • Julee January 1,

    Help. I’m trying to do the free trial of your lwsz forum, but it’s asking for a cc# still?

  • A January 2,

    interesting program, but I find it funny that you are trying to sell something, while telling people to stop spending. Just made me lol when i saw that( I did see the free trail membership but still funny none the less).

    • Vivi January 17,

      Well, if you actually read what it’s really about you would have seen the goal is to stop spending on non essential items. If you don’t know how to manage your money, and you need some help that would be an essential item to purchase. She is simply doing what other people should be doing working and earning money, and along the way helping other people to save.

  • Anonymous January 2,

    I’m like some of the others, have been doing this for over a year now…lost my job when the place closed last December… have yet to find another.

  • Nicole January 2,

    My sister and I did this last January and I am doing it again right now. Right now I am hoping to recoup some money that we spent in December for car repairs so that I can refund my emergency fund.

  • Jennifer January 2,

    Good Morning!
    I stumbled across your blog this fall and you have been such an inspiration to me! I am starting your 31-day No Spending Challenge today in conjunction with blogging my journey through the next year. My goals are to declutter all areas of my life. I hope it’s okay when I blog about my experiences that I reference a link crediting your name and your specific webpages that go along with my post so anyone who might read my blog can find you as well. Thank you so very much for all your knowledge and hard work! You are a blessing in so many ways.

  • Jenetta Penner January 4,

    Love this idea of doing things a day at a time. :)
    We have been living frugally for years and saving whatever we can. It’ll take some work but it’s definitely worth it. Thanks for sharing this. :)

  • Steffanie January 6,

    I read this blog and thought I would try to spend as little as possible this month. We will have to buy milk otherwise my 17 year old may retaliate. And if I don’t have fresh creamer for my coffee…….there are no words!!!! It certainly would help to “recover” from Christmas! I also thought it would help refresh my freezer and pantry. You know use up the freezer burned mystery meat that feel behind the freezer drawer. Yesterday I had finally run out of fresh options and started digging around in the freezer. I found some cooked hamburger and corn. I added them to rice, salsa seasoning, chicken bouillon and onions and viola – Hamburger Surprise was born! Pretty good stuff. I did rinse the ice crystals off of the meat before I added it to the rice cooker though!! Keep those good ideas coming!!

  • Larry January 7,

    oh no… I ran out of internet data, couldn’t survive and had to give up.

  • Anonymous January 7,

    It!s not what you make, it’s what you do with it.

  • Anonymous January 7,

    I plan to join you just as soon as I buy a few things I “need.” :)


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