On Black Friday 2015, Michelle McGagh didn't join the hordes of people looking for deals on gadgets and clothes.
She did the opposite: "I pledged not to spend anything for a year," the London-based personal finance journalist writes on The Telegraph.
"Although I had no debt, my bank statements (when I bothered to look at them) were littered with unnecessary spending," McGagh continues. Plus, she and her husband felt overwhelmed by their possessions and wanted to adopt a more minimalist lifestyle.
"It sounds extreme, but I'd set myself budgets and spending plans in the past and they'd always fallen by the wayside on my next night out," she writes. "A full year of no spending seemed the only way of resetting my relationship with money completely."
McGagh set a few guidelines for her year of austerity. She could only spend money on fixed costs, which included her mortgage, utilities, insurance, cell phone, and charity donations, and basic necessities including toiletries, cleaning products and food.
"But there was no budget for luxuries — that meant no cinema trips, no nights in the pub, no takeaways or restaurant meals, no new clothes, no holidays, no gym memberships, not even a KitKat or cheeky cheesecake from the supermarket," she writes.
There was also no budget for transportation, meaning she had to walk or bike everywhere. Finally, "I decided that I wouldn't rely on my husband, friends or family to pay my way — that wasn't the point," McGagh writes.
After a year of biking through London's unpredictable weather and trading restaurants and pubs for free museums and parks, McGagh saved nearly $24,000, which went towards paying down her mortgage. "I'm now a step closer to getting rid of our debt instead of being beholden to a bank," she writes.
And, as she hoped it would, her perspective changed. "After a year of no spending I realized that I valued financial security over material possessions," she writes. "I also came to understand that I don't need things to make me happy.
"Spending time with the people I love makes me happier and if I do have money available, I'd rather spend it on them."
She did just that on November 26, 2016, the last day of her challenge: "The first thing I bought, at the stroke of midnight, was that round of drinks for my friends and family who had supported me through the year."