The 50-dollar challenge: A WAFF 48 News special report

Budgets are tight for just about everyone, but have you really looked at how much you're spending each week?

I did a little experiment in budgeting with the $50 challenge. It took some planning, but living off of $50 for one week is not as bad as you might think.

Bills were not included in the challenge. $50 was spending money for things that aren't a fixed price each week.

With my $50 in hand, I set out for the grocery store. A girl's got to eat! I had a list of items I needed, and searched for the cheapest prices I could find. Very few purchases were name brand. I picked up some staples like chicken, eggs, bread, and lettuce that could be used in several different meals.

My total was $23.06, less than half of my weekly budget. The key to making your food last is to plan out your menu for the whole week in advance. And make sure you have a list of the items you need before you hit the store.

So with nearly half of my money spent, I put the rest in my gas tank. I was determined to do everything else for free.

My first stop was the Huntsville Public Library. You can check out five DVDs and five CDs at one time. Checking out free entertainment is a good replacement for Redbox or your Netflix subscription. The library also offers a free music download program. You can get any song you want from the Sony music library for free.

Financial planners say using little tricks like this are the key to a sound financial future.

"I hope it would let them see that they can live better with less so that they can save more, because that savings is going to be so important for the future," said Larry West with Longview Financial advisors.

Advisors say the number one problem with their clients is they don't realize how much money they should be saving for retirement. But if you sit down and make a budget, your goals become more realistic.

"Once people realize what they're spending, they automatically start adjusting and saying 'you know what, I didn't realize I was spending this much on entertainment, or going out to eat,'" said West.

My next stop was BridgeStreet Town Centre, but not for a shopping spree. They have free concerts every week this summer, so I went to check out some music. Several other places have free concerts every week, too. Check out the community calendar for upcoming events.

Besides free concerts, the park is also good for staying in shape. If you normally hit the gym, try heading to a park instead. You can save money and still get a great workout.

[Outdoor exercises]

"If they're used to doing that, it's hard to give up some of those things and they have to have behavioral changes," said West.

But trading the treadmill for the pavement can be a big boost to your wallet. It might also be an exercise in changing your mindset of what you're used to.

Experts say taking responsibility for your own finances, setting a budget, and sticking to it will leave you more room to save and more room to breathe in the long run.

"You've got to put it away yourself because somebody else is not going to give it to you. And it takes a long time to accumulate enough or to buy things in the future," said West.

I wouldn't want to do this every week, but I made it through on $50. It taught me that off brand taco seasoning tastes just as good as Old El Paso. It's about the little things. Feeling inspired?


Here is the breakdown on my shopping adventure.

Things I already had at home:


Shredded Cheese

Salad Dressing

Condiments for sandwiches


Olive Oil


2 sweet potatoes

1 can of soup

Grape Jelly


Shopping List:


2 Cans of Tuna

Taco Seasoning

Sour Cream

Head of Lettuce

Large Tomato

Fruit (I selected 2 green apples)

Brown Rice


Pasta sauce


6 Eggs

2 Containers of Yogurt

1 Loaf of Bread


Breakfast: Oatmeal

Lunch: Salad

Dinner: Chicken Tacos


Breakfast: Eggs and Toast

Lunch: Leftover Chicken Tacos

Dinner: Soup


Breakfast: Eggs and Toast

Lunch: Salad

Dinner: Chicken and Brown Rice


Breakfast: Yogurt and an apple

Lunch: Leftover Chicken and Rice

Dinner: Chicken and Pasta with Alfredo Sauce


Breakfast: Oatmeal

Lunch: Leftover Chicken and Pasta with Alfredo Sauce

Dinner: Tuna Salad Sandwich and Sweet Potato (This was the strangest dinner of all!)


Breakfast: Yogurt and an apple

Lunch: Tuna Salad Sandwich

Dinner: Sweet potato and Chicken


Breakfast: Eggs and Toast

Lunch: Tuna salad with crackers

Dinner: Salad with Chicken

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