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The $20 Per Week Challenge

May 3, 2009
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I’m about to graduate from law school, and will spend the next several months studying for the bar – sans paycheck.  Therefore, I am (in no uncertain terms) broke.  After weeks of denying how poor I’ll be this summer, and after much silent and not-so-silent whining (“But I want to buy the pretty yarn!”), I’m bringing you the $20 Per Week Challenge of 2009.

The Rules:

– Spend no more (and preferably less) than $20 every week

– $20 includes food, transportation, personal expenses, and entertainment.

– Exempt from the $20 limit are monthly bills, like internet and electricity – but I’m trying to keep the PG&E bill down anyway, ’cause that’s just a good idea.

This is particularly challenging since I live in an extremely expensive city – gas is frequently more expensive in San Francisco than in any other place in the country, and even a round-trip bus ticket is $3.

However, a couple of things make it less challenging for me – first, my roommate and I  subscribe to a CSA (that’s Community Supported Agriculture), and split a small box of the fruits and veggies of our choice every week.  That gets paid for monthly, so it’s exempt from the $20 limit.  At least for now.  Also, check out my pantry:

That pile all the way to the right? It's baking supplies that won't fit on the shelves.

Well stocked, right?  For months now, I’ve had a pantry stuffed with canned goods (beans, tomatoes, olives), whole grains (polenta, quinoa, popcorn, brown rice, oats, pasta) and baking supplies (sugars, nuts, every kind of flour you can imagine), plus random stuff like nori and Nutella.  And instead of using what I’ve got on hand, I’ll go out and buy whatever I need to make whatever interesting recipe I’ve run across that day.  No more.  Using what I’ve got on hand, plus a few extra ingredients bought with my $20, is both more frugal and more healthy.  I think once I seriously deplete my pantry items, I’m allowed a frugal shopping trip not subject to the weekly limit, but we’ll see. Also, I may wind up making the rules more strict, if it seems like this will be too easy.

This week so far:

Since Thursday, when my challenge started, I’ve spent $10.30 – $9.30 for a box of firelogs split with my roommate, ’cause it’s rainy outside and cold in our apartment, and $1 to a guy on the street. (He put my situation in perspective.)  I know I have to take the bus to school on Tuesday morning for a final, which will cost $1.50 if I decide to walk the several miles home afterward.  (Unexpected benefit – walking to save bus fare might actually help me lose some of the pounds I’ve put on eating so much good food!)  I’m budgeting $3 just in case.  I’ll report back at the end of the week!

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