The Dunning family in Davis, Calif., vowed not to do any discretionary spending for the month of February. Family patriarch Bob Dunning reports today that it was the "best month of our lives."
The six members of the Dunning family made headlines for designating the month "frugal February," by not buying any non-essentials after stocking up on staples at Costco before their self-imposed "experiment" started.
At the end of the month, Dunning, a writer for the Davis Enterprise, a newspaper, said the experiment was an enormous success and "not what I expected." What led to the happy result was enthusiasm from his four children, ages 10, 9, 8, and 7.
Asked about highs and lows for the month, Dunning said, "the easiest was that our kids totally bought into it."
One evening, his wife, Shelley, was making corn chowder out of frozen items and thought aloud that she did not have an onion. "I said we could get an onion," Bob Dunning said, "but immediately four little voices said, 'No, we can't!'"
"We never got a complaint," he said. "That was really pleasing and probably a little surprising. We never tried to do this and they're pretty normal kids."
Except for a small fund for milk for the kids and home utilities, the family vowed not to make any miscellaneous purchases, even gas. That meant eating free samples at Costco and even making home-made valentines for classmates with flour instead of glue. The family went on more walks, too.
It helped that the parents can work from home and the kids can walk to school. The kids had to leave home 30 minutes earlier to get to school on time, but Dunning said the warmer than usual February weather and, again, the children's commitment to the promise helped.
The most difficult moment of the month was when the family was invited to be guests in a radio show in San Francisco. Luckily they had enough gas already in the tank to drive the 150-mile round trip. But Dunning said it was tempting going to San Francisco where at "absolutely every step there is something for sale."
"That was the hardest thing we did. We went to San Francisco and literally did not spend a dime," he said.
Now that the month is over, Dunning said "this may have been the best month of our lives."
"We thought it would be like Lent growing up," he said, referring to the Christian practice of prayer and fasting 40 days before Easter. "You give something up and then it's a party."
But in the end, he said, separating needs from wants was a healthy thing.
"Even though we were a close family, we got closer."
When asked what items he will buy now that it's March, he said he can't think of an item. He said the family will likely continue their habits from the month, including eating dinner leftovers for lunch the next day and walking to school.