Test Your Ability to Live on Less: How Far Can You Make $20 Go?

| 4/22/2009 2:21:34 PM

Tags: live on less, reader question,

During these tough times it might be interesting to find out how far you can make $20 go. Here is the challenge: during the course of a week (or a day!), start out with one $20 bill in your wallet. Keep track of how you were able to meet regular expenses with the $20. You could, of course, use it all on a tank of gas. But consider some of your usual non-essential purchases, such as lunch, a magazine, a latte or a car wash.

See how far you can make that bill stretch. Show us how thrifty you can be.

Post your results in the comment section below.


5/10/2009 12:33:18 AM

The dollar tree is my friend!!! $12 buys a pack of 12 sponges cut in half to make 24. 1 pack of dryer sheets that are mainly used in my towl basket to keep them smelling nice. the box gets replaced once a year. 1 bottle of fabric softner diluted with water and a sponge soaked in it that is thrown in the dryer to replace sheets. This gets odd right? At the local indian store I get a box of henna hair dye that covers two dieings $1. thats $4 total. trade some garden seeds online .50 for shiping of my seeds. Swap a dvd for another I want to watch. $2.50 to ship mine. total $7 so far. I cold go on but it comes down to working with others gets me the best deals. I think closer comunitys get us all farther.

5/9/2009 11:40:09 PM

How far can $20 go? I have to admit some of the comments made we great, if you actually have the time to do so! I personally own and run my own company with very little time left over for anything else. Basically I pick up the newspapers twice a week with the mail. Have a look through the flyers and do a shop when I am out buying supplies. I check off the things that are extremely cheap, buy several of the same item and stock up. This way, I can go without grocery shopping for over a month or more, (especially now with the garden growing)! Another thing I tend to do is out of season sales - I find that retailers like moving stock (which promotes their business), so when the season is over you can find new clothing etc for cheaper than many used / second hand retailers. (I found name brand jeans which would sell for $40 I get for $7 - New! - and the same style is in the next year). Just pay attention and be aware, and it will naturally happen.

5/8/2009 4:33:45 PM

I spend $300 a month on groceries, feeding a family of five and often other guests. I make nearly everything from scratch.Anything premade is a rarity.Bread, pie crust,pizza dough all from scratch.Canning garden goods and deer meat helps maintain this budget.If I see a fruit tree loaded and noone seems to be harvesting the fruit, I go to the door and knock and ask if I can pick, most everyone is overjoyed that the fruit is picked up so they can mow easier.(I live in the city).I had three pear trees and two apple trees to pick last year,$0. free food.I canned it and we have enjoyed it all winter.

theresa williamson_1
5/1/2009 1:33:17 PM

I used to be better about not spending money. It was a lot easier before children, when it was only me. We are now a family of five. You would think I am feeding ravenous wolves instead of three children. My oldest is 13, the next is 11, and the last, 8. Lots of times, we get $1 menu fast food and water to drink. Other times, it is 88-cent Banquet TV dinners. I am still wearing many of the clothes I made in the early 90's---except for some hand-arounds gained at a local charity. I shop at Goodwill and Walmart for my childrens' clothing, underwear, and shoes. Shoes used to cost $5 or under to buy on sale. Now all of us wear adult shoes, we are all tall, and I aim at $20 or less in shoes.

5/1/2009 6:41:57 AM

I usually use $20.00 for basic groceries each week....$1.00 each for a bag of carrots, two heads of lettuce, a package of Swiss chard, a bag of cucumbers, a bag of frozen peas and a bag of frozen mixed veggies. 50 cents each for a large radish, and a half head of cabbage. Protein is another $10.00...chicken, pork, tofu or fish..whatever is on sale. $17.00 so far. The last three is used for seasonal fruit. It feeds two people nicely. Not huge portions, mind you, but nutritionally sound. I prepack meal plans in plastic re-usable containers, so I can just come home, grab a container and make the meal. I have a different allowance for pantry items...pasta, rice, flour, sugar, dishsoap, toothpaste, bathsoap, etc. that is about $100.00 a month. I make most things from scratch and put them in the freezer. It really helps keep costs down, and allows me to splurge a little sometimes on seasonal things to can for the future. We don't waste as much either. I admit, sometimes I go over budget, but not often. When the garden is in, I supplement with garden vegetables that we grow as much as possible, and put the savings aside. We are trying to save for a little homestead.

4/30/2009 8:55:30 PM

On twenty bucks I can either drive my Hummer for two days if I don't go too far, or I can drive my Pontiac halfway to Minnesota for fishing.

4/30/2009 12:29:15 PM

With $20 I Pay 90% of my electric bill. I can also drive mi Insight for over 500 miles, which takes a long time since I walk everywhere!

4/30/2009 10:42:00 AM

$20 huh? well, yesterday I had a home-made scone for breakfast (I make a batch and then warm them up individually in the morning). Coffee I got from work. At lunch I went to the Farmer's Market and bought 1 bunch of radishes ($1), 1 bunch of baby mustard greens ($1), 1 bunch of turnips ($1), and a pint of strawberries ($4). For lunch I ate a leftover box lunch from work. After I got off work I'm ashamed to say I spent the rest of my $20 on an impulse buy (a shirt from my favorite boutique). Dinner was leftover chicken soup and a salad, and wine a friend brought over. Eh, you can't be a tightwad ALL the time.

4/29/2009 8:01:22 PM

a 20 can go a long way if you shop at the $1.00 store. I dilute my liquid dish soap container three times, same with hair shampoo and cream rinse. Any liquid that is "consentrated" can be diluted 3 to 5 times and still be useful. I make veggie burges using a receipe that I made up with left over veggies (1 cup)+ 2 c. oatmeal, 1 egg and 1 can of black beans... all the spices you have in your cupboard will work.. just use what you like.Salt, pepper,garlic, etc. To make breakfast sausage just omit the beans add some Sage and liquid smoke. yum...Hold a Cd and DVD movie swap with friends and family, books and paper backs trade well also. Down siz with a twice yearly garage sale, sell out grown clothes,etc. Shop the Goodwill, you will find top brands there plus garden tools,shoes and holiday gift ideas. Get back to the basic's America you will enjoy you life a lot more!

4/29/2009 6:30:47 PM

lol literally at 20 a week, try 600 a month. my portion of rent, 240, my groceries, 50 a week because of special needs, my meds 200 a month, generic meds, I search the internet ( that I don't pay for because of wifi) for coupons for free things, craigs list for other needs and am in a freecycle group. I go to the dumpster in the complex for "new or useable items, I invest 20 per paycheck to afford gifts, New clothes aren't a part of the deal, I make my own everything buying material at 1.50 per yard at the only walmart that still has fabric, old sheets are now new pillow cases, who cares if the match, i'm asleep.people give me clothes that I use to make quilts and sell to tourists ( denium is the most popular)I save buttons, zippers and elastic from clothing, personal items are used sparcely so I only spend about 20 a month on that, I fish and grow what i can and fortunately, florida is warm most of the year, you can ask a neighbor here is you can pick their fruit and they usually say yes. I am flat footed so flats feel best to me and I am not really a shoe person and a pair will last me almost a year.I'm not too cute to collect cans. I'm collecting coke caps now which brings in my diet sodas and power ade for free except for 7 cents tax. I roll my own smokes and a can at 18 dollars lasts me about a month and a half. I look for pens and pencils while I walk where children walk to go to school( haven't bought a pen in about 4 years now, do you need some? I have too many now. This computer I got at a divorce sale for 50 bucks and the printer with 7 boxes of ink cost me 25 at the same sale. I also grow a small garden that has tomatoes, mustard greens,birdhouse gourds and loofas ( that I use to scrub not only my skin, but my pots and pans too. enviorment and all.) I only eat out if there is a special event and I use the coins that I save to do so or I don't go. I reuse containers to repackage bulk foods that I buy. I am cheap and proud

pc mcb
4/29/2009 5:59:17 PM

Forgot to add that I have a well for my water, and heat my house with scrap wood or downed trees.

pc mcb
4/29/2009 5:57:15 PM

I work at home, grow my own food, and trade for what I need. Twenty dollars will last me a couple of weeks. I use it to buy milk, flour, honey, oats, peanuts, and butter. I trade what I grow for eggs. I can or dehydrate everything that I grow. A tank of gas will last me for three weeks. As for clothing, a sheet for $2.oo at the thrift store will make several shirts, dishtowels, cleaning rags. I buy jeans twice a year. I live on almost nothing. I have to. I have almost nothing.

4/29/2009 1:07:53 PM

Suze Orman recently challenged a TV audience the following: 1)ONE DAY dont spend money 2)ONE WEEK don't use credit card 3)ONE MONTH don't eat out. There are regularly several days in a row that I don't spend a cent. I can't afford to. I haven't today. I don't carry my one and only credit card with me so I haven't used it in probably two weeks. And I can't remember the last time I ate at a sit-down restraunt. $20 can last me for a week if I'm careful with it.

4/29/2009 11:37:18 AM

For $20 I get a weekly bin of organic vegetables from our local CSA that's plenty to feed my husband and I... and forces me to try new recipes for foods I've never really cooked before. I walk to the local farmer's market once a week to get our meat, eggs and dairy items... and that's usually less than $75 for both of us the whole week. Leftovers from dinner are our brown-bag lunches, so no need to buy lunches at work. All-in-all, the two of us (and our two cats) eat 3-4 fresh, healthy meals for about $7 a day. Included free with the food comes education, entertainment and exercise so no need to pay a lot for those. We car pool to work and combine errands into single trips (if we can't walk it) so we only spend about $20 a week ($3 a day) on gas. We get books, movies and music from the library, which is within walking distance, so lots more free education, entertainment and exercise! We either swap clothes at the thrift store (always ask if you can trade your donation for something new most places will do it or knock the price down to only a $1), or only buy high-quality (i.e. durable, not designer) clothes once or twice a year... last year, we only spent about $300 on clothes for the both of us and we certainly don't look like rag-a-muffins! So far, the only things that still blow a $20/day budget is the house & utilities; and auto, home, life & medical insurance. :(

4/28/2009 8:43:50 PM

It costs my husband only $20 to charge his electric car for the whole month. It gets him to work and back, average of 55 miles a day.

4/28/2009 2:20:22 PM

im used to less than that a weeek, lol. tips for saving, find free stuff to do, lowes has a free workshop on first and third sat for kids to build stuff, car pool to save on gas to get there, go to the pet store instead of the zoo, its free to browse, have friends over for movie night and every one bring a dish.

4/27/2009 9:12:55 AM

For $20 I could buy a frozen taco for 35 cents at my local Aldis grocery store for lunch, then go down the street and buy pants and a top at the local consignment store off of their sale rack for $4.00 for both pieces. Ok, so I'm only up to $4.35 lol. I'd buy 5 boxes of whole wheat spaghetti for around $1.00 each and put $8.00 gas in my car and buy tomato paste at 35 cents per can to make my own spaghetti sauce.

4/23/2009 8:05:57 AM

Actually, I have been doing this technique for a couple of years now. I am fortunate enough to live in a town where I can park my vehicle for the summer and bike ride. For groceries I use an old kid carrier. I take my kids on picnics instead of eating out and they are growing up knowing what it is like to live simply.

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