Taking a vow to stop spending money for two weeks when our home is already so full of food, clothes, toys, and other amenities almost seems ridiculous, when I know that people like my Senegalese friend Ngoné are truly struggling for survival. Ngoné goes to the local market to buy cooking oil as needed, maybe a cup at a time. If she needs tomato paste for a meal, she'll purchase only the few tablespoons she needs, rather than a full can. Daily visits to the market help her to ration her money, while in the here in the US, daily visits to the grocery store seem to result in impulse buys, simply adding more to the already well-stocked cupboards and pantries at home.
Sure, I know there is something to be said for African way of shopping – you can't buy much if you have nowhere to put the food, nowhere to refrigerate perishable goods. They must be bought and promptly eaten. There's also something to be said for European-style shopping, going to various specialty stores (the butcher, the fish shop, the fruit and vegetable market, the bakery, etc) to get the freshest food daily. And while this style of shopping might be more time-consuming, I think that compared to those who go to the giant supermarkets in the USA, the shoppers are less tempted to "impulse-buying." I've done my shopping all three ways – in African markets, American supermarkets, and from store-to-store in Europe. I think I always spend the most in a grocery store, and the quality is usually inferior to the other options.
How does my friend Ngoné survive in Senegal with her husband earning about $30/month??? According to the CIA World Factbook (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sg.html#Econ) the average Senegalese GDP in 2007 was $1700. Her husband is earning MUCH less than that! (It was $45,800 in the USA, by comparison.) I imagine Ngoné probably counts among the 54% living below the poverty line, and I know she is in the 48% who are unemployed. She has been seeking a job outside of the home for years and years now. It really is hard for me to justify expenditures sometimes, when I know how much other people struggle in this world. Living frugally for two weeks will hopefully be a daily reminder of how good we have it.