I Started Living On $5 A Day & It’s Changed My Life

I’ve never been good at managing my money. I shop too much for things I don’t need and I’ve never really kept a budget. It wasn’t until I noticed more money going out than coming in and my savings taking a massive hit that I knew I needed a change. I started living on just $5 a day and it’s changed my life for the better.

  1. My friend was the one that suggested it. No one knows you better than your friends. After a night of dramatically crying about how broke I was, one of my girls pointed out how much of an impulse buyer I was and how I tended to buy a lot of crap I don’t actually need. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, she was right. When she suggested cutting my daily spending habit down to just $5 a day, it seemed like an impossible feat, but I was up for the challenge.
  2. Budgeting has never been my forte. I’ve always had a problem with saving money. Don’t get me wrong, I work hard for everything I have and the money I spend is always my own, but my life motto “treat yo self” started to play in my head a little too often and I found myself on weekly splurges at the mall. From my $6 dollar latte addiction to subscriptions I was no longer using, I took a very detailed look at exactly where my money was going and how I could cut back.
  3. I forced myself to be more resourceful. This meant making meals at home, using my Keurig instead of stopping at my favorite cafe, selling some of the items in my closet with tags still attached, forgoing Lyft and using up the money I already had on my bus card, and canceling subscriptions like Netflix that seem to watch me more than I watch it. Making these changes made the transition to spending only $5 per day more doable.
  4. I wasn’t stressing over money anymore. In the past, I would try and calculate to the last penny what I could and couldn’t spend. Knowing I only had $5 allotted each day removed a lot of the worry about I could buy since my options were very limited. This made it easier to walk right past that coffee shop and abstain from happy hour because it wasn’t feasible for my budget. That may sound limiting, but it was actually kind of refreshing.
  5. Carrying the $5 in cash helped a ton. This was another huge piece of advice my friend gave me in doing this challenge. The $5 could only be in cash. It’s so easy for me to lose track of what I spend throughout the day because I’m so used to swiping my card. Carrying cash gave a better visual of what I still had left to spend and made me more aware of where the money was going.
  6. My newfound discipline with money carried over to other aspects of my life. Controlling a huge problem area in my life started to roll over into other regions. My time management skills improved since I wasn’t shuffling from store to store looking for the latest bargain. I was able to complete work projects efficiently since I was spending more time at home, and things between me and my partner even improved once he saw I actually had money left over from my check to pay bills on time.
  7. I lost a few pounds. Not because I was starving but because I wasn’t eating a load of processed junk every day. It wasn’t a life-changing amount of weight but enough to make me feel good about myself. Spending only $5 per day had such a domino effect in my life, I knew I had to practice this method long-term. In the beginning, I didn’t think I would be able to follow through but now that I’m starting to see results physically too, it’s become a habit I refuse to live without.
  8. I learned how to partake in my favorite activities for free. I decided to ditch my $2o weekly yoga session and figure out how I could still be active and do the things I love. Having a limited budget forces you to become more creative, so I opted to do my lessons at home for free. The internet provides so many free, quality resources that anyone can use. I don’t think I’ll go back to paying for a fitness class again—at least not for a while.
  9. There were days I didn’t even spend the $5. Not spending money unnecessarily became the norm. I was proactive and made sure everything I needed for the day, including coffee, was prepped at home so there was no reason to shell out when I was out and about. Any money I had left over from the day I would put back into my savings and start fresh with another $5 the next day.
  10. My savings has doubled in the last month alone. I couldn’t believe it either. I always thought it would take huge amounts of money being dumped into my accounts in order to see progress, but that hasn’t been the case at all. In reality, the small purchases made each day are what takes a toll on your finances and those repetitive purchases are the ones that add up. Making this frugal switch has turned my finances and quality of life around in more ways than one and I don’t think I’ll ever go back.
Ty Martin is a freelance writer specializing in women's health and relationships. She has written alongside many doctoral students during her undergraduate career, assisting in editing and research. Although she grew up in a small town just outside of Chicago, she's obsessed with everything New York and plans on living there one day soon.