How Not Spending Money for a Year Brought This Family Closer Together

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Imagine not spending anything for an entire year — no morning latte, online shopping, or takeout meals. One ambitious family did just that with a self-imposed “shopping break.”

In an upcoming appearance on ABC’s FabLife with host Tyra Banks, airing Monday, Scott and Gabby Dannemiller and their two young children Jake and Audrey shared what sparked the idea: A desire to live life “with integrity.” The Franklin, Tenn., family’s rules included a ban on buying “stuff.” As Gabby explained, “We could buy experiences, we could take the kids out to a ballgame,” but no “foam finger” souvenirs.

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While the experiment took place in 2013, Scott detailed his family’s experience in a recent book called The Year Without a Purchase: One Family’s Quest To Stop Shopping and Start Connecting. “The thing to remember is that in the grand scheme of things, this was not a big deal — a lot of the world lives on $10 a day,” Scott told Yahoo Parenting in September, “and for families all over the country, this is their everyday, not a fun experiment. There are families that can’t afford food. But for us, the question was, when you do have resources you can spend, where are you going to spend them?”

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To keep themselves motivated, Gabby put things in perspective: “As a child, do you remember what you got for Christmas?” she says. “And we could come up with maybe two each.”

Their experiment was no doubt challenging — Scott shared with Banks that when his suitcase broke before leaving for a business trip, he wasn’t allowed to purchase a replacement, only to fix what he owned. He was ultimately forced to take his daughter’s tiny purple backpack with him. “The lesson I learned was, I must think that this bag says something about me; what you own says something about you and then it taught me that maybe I’m making judgments about other people…and how wrong that was.”

The couple kept the pact from friends and family, so holidays and birthdays were tricky — relatives bought the kids, then 5 and 7, gifts — however, the family found creative ways to celebrate. As Scott told Banks, “For us, it was about reconnecting as a family and sharing experiences.”

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