Time For May 5th Penniless Week Challenge Plus Tips and Free Tools

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It’s HERE! Are you ready?

Penniless week has arrived and thousands of you are joining us for “do not spend a penny on anything” week. We hope your first day is going well and that you are figuring out ways to use foods in your house to eat and make meals (as the grocery budget savings is the biggest savings of all). We also want to remind you what the “exceptions” and the “rules” are. The only exceptions are:

  • Emergencies – thankfully we haven’t had one in the weeks we have done this as emergencies are generally a rare thing, but it is an exception.
  • Gasoline to get to work – This hasn’t been a problem yet either as we also try to gas up before the week starts or Alex takes public transportation with his prepaid card. It is important to minimize your driving as much as possible to save as much gas money as possible.  You do need to get to work though, and that is the one exception.  If you have alternative ways to get to work, we encourage you to choose these instead.
  • Still pay your regular bills – what we are talking about here is the living expenses that you spend after you pay bills, you know…. the things you write checks for or slide your debit or credit card for.  You are still obligated to pay your debts, heating, insurance, electricity, mortgage, etc.  This is different!
  • Any absolutely necessary expenses – We have to be very careful with this one; absolutely necessary means just that – not because its a “want”; We really try to cut out the reasons we would “need” to spend.

And here is a reminder for the RULES for the week:

  • Before the week starts, buy just the fresh foods (produce, milk) that you may need for the week, but don’t make up for penniless week by double spending the week before in preparation! Your produce purchases need to be bare minimum. We also don’t buy milk ourselves for this week, but we know that this is a necessity, especially for family’s with babies/toddlers.   We use the milk we’ve on hand from the previous week and then use our powdered milk in the pantry if we run out. The goal is to make a bit of a sacrifice, eat the foods in the house and be creative with those foods.
  • Gas up your vehicles for the purposes of getting to work and try not to drive them to the point that you need to refill that week!
  • Literally eat what’s in your house (penniless week is also a great way to eat foods you’ve been needing to eat before they expire!). Sometimes your meals are a hodgepodge and sometimes they may not technically be a meal.  But you are getting food, so everyone is sacrificing and happy with the end result!
  • Find free ways to entertain yourselves and to have fun. Date night in is GREAT (we do this almost every week anyway) an make something to eat at home, watch a movie you already have, or play board games, etc.
  • When the next week starts, don’t overspend to make-up for not spending the week before.  Just do your normal grocery shopping and your activities like normally planned/budgeted.

In the end, you could potentially end up with $100 or more saved for the week. Just think about what your savings could be if you set aside the week’s grocery money (or if you shop monthly/bi-weekly, cutting your shopping trip down to save a week’s equivalent of money), your gas money that week, your “fun” money that week, etc.; the savings add up! The other point is to realize and stop frivolous spending.  Often, we do not realize how much we are spending when we only see a little bit here, $1 there, .50 over there, etc.  This frivolous spending could possibly even equal your money needing to be saved as part of our 52-week savings challenge! Other things that you may learn:

  • It is character building for everyone to learn to temporarily sacrifice and to learn to “live without” to reach a goal.
  • It is a test run to see if you really can live without and help identify perhaps problems your family has or addictions that are developing, like coffee out, unnecessary snacks, movie theater addiction, etc. We learned something similar when we have done no electronic entertainment weeks! It is quite eye-opening!
  • The value of your hard work and sacrifice.  Each time we do this, we seem to come out of the week being even wiser with our allotted budget for the rest of the month. It also helps us to value each penny and consider how much meaningless spending actually ends up costing you ($1 here, .50 there, etc.)
  • A good chunk of “seed” money to help you reach your financial goals and dreams!

Now… on with a very personal story and us being real…..

We’ve had many of you that have stated…..”I already live this way every week,” and it seems that the point of this challenge is being missed by many due to this statement. We get this….we understand this…. in fact, we too at one time lived with this thought…… 

So let us relate our situation to you and how that story is different today: There was a time in our lives that we were in such financial crisis that we couldn’t go even ONE day without a paycheck, let alone a week. We had no savings, not a penny to our name = we were penniless. We were in over $100K of consumer debt and could not longer pay our obligations monthly. BUT….we got to work when we realized our crisis (and just in time as we were literally days from bankruptcy) and that hard work changed our financial situation. It wasn’t an easy road and it wasn’t quick.

Today, after years of hard work, we are free from our $100K debts (debt-free day was four years ago! YAY!) and in the process, we learned to live a very frugal, happy, full life. As a family of 7, we live on MUCH less than we ever did as the 2 of us. The point of this challenge is to not “live” frugal everyday, but to encourage everyone to do better from where they were at today. WE HAD NOTHING, but we figured out how to do better. 

Today, we do have a weekly budget and it is a tight budget because we choose to live as frugally as possible now.  We save our excess for future goals and paying for things with cash.  Our weekly budget accounts for groceries, gas, eating out, entertainment, clothing, etc. We spend within our allotted budget and try very hard to not spend more. After our experience, we started our site to encourage and share with you what we have learned and how we try to live a little better every day!  So, no matter your financial situation, this challenge could help propel you into a better financial future.  Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater – try to understand what we are attempting to accomplish and join us for some penniless (not just frugal) fun this week! 

We already have thousands of you joining us and seem to understand what we are trying to accomplish. We hope this has clarified for the rest of you why we are presenting the challenge. You’re welcome to join us!

Now for some tools to help! One of the BIGGEST tools to help us this week is the No Food Waste Menu Planner.  If you haven’t already downloaded this menu planner, we highly recommend it for this week especially. no-waste-food-menu-planning-download It is a cool little planner that my awesome husband Alex made for me when I was trying to find an easy way to use all of our foods each week in my recipes and cooking.  Along with that, you will want to utilize the google recipe search to help you create recipes with foods you have at home now! See all of the details on this HERE.


In addition, it might be a good week to put together a home binder and get on track to a more organized life, which leads to an easier frugal life in future weeks. Find out the details of  the Home Binder HERE along with the downloads to go inside!

Next steps: (leave comments below so we can all have fun and learn!)  

  • Live Penniless and leave comments below telling us about your progress.
  • Tell all of us the funny meals you eat!
  • What did you do for fun and entertainment this week?
  • We would also LOVE to know how much you think you saved over previous weeks?


  1. Carol says

    Yesterday I spent 50 cents to put air in my bike tires – Entertainment and exercise for the week!

  2. Christa says

    Oh I wish I would have seen this before it got under way :( I am hoping to make sure to see the next one before it has started! I am working so hard to pay off debit and be frugal in the last 2 months since i found your site. I have paid off 3 credit cards,,turned off our satellite, only use Netflix now.found a cheaper dog food that had the same health benefits saving us $40 a month…..I am doing all i can,,so grateful I found your site! and now am listening to Dave Ramsey Daily to learn allot more about retirement and investing than you for opening my eyes to the way we were living.


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