CHICAGO — Thirty-one days provided a lifetime of lessons for Kevin Zarlengo.
The 28-year-old, who recently moved from Lincoln Park to University Village, did not spend a dime during May, with the exception of paying off student loans and throwing some cash to his brother, John, for rent.
The money he saved — $3,459.60 — was donated after the two-day, 39-mile Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, which concluded Sunday.
"I realized that I waste so much money. We all do," Zarlengo said. "We buy things because we're bored or on impulse. But this is something we can train ourselves away from doing. I don't even want to buy anything anymore. I loved not being a consumer."
Zarlengo, a sales rep for the Tribune, didn't take public transportation during May, instead either walking or riding using the yearlong Divvy pass he bought last summer.
Justin Breen discussed Kevin's plans on DNAinfo Radio just before the month began:
"The first two weeks of biking to work, working a full day, biking to another location to work for food, and then biking home were incredibly difficult," Zarlengo said. "At some point my body and mind just realized that this is how it was going to be and became really strong. Now I'm actually wondering what I'm going to do with myself after work. I can't be back to watching TV and falling asleep. ... I used to waste so much time."
Zarlengo worked to eat, doing chores at homes of friends, co-workers, family and strangers in exchange for meals. That included walking the two German shepherds of his friend, Canaryville resident Kaitlyn Conley, for food. He also landscaped, painted and baby-sat in exchange for nourishment.
"I really enjoyed meeting and connecting with so many people ... and seeing my friends and family support me," he said. "Seeing a community come together to feed me and make sure that I live has brought tears to my eyes."
Zarlengo, who's 6 feet tall and weighed about 160 pounds before his quest, said he's "the most healthy I've ever been in my adult life" after losing 11 pounds.
"This experiment came with many great side effects. I don't get tired anymore during the day, and I sleep like a baby," Zarlengo said. "I'm not worried about not having enough money anymore. And I'm the happiest I've ever been."
Zarlengo said he would recommend others to try to go a month without spending money. He almost continued his spending-free ways into June, but bought roses for his six walking partners after the Avon event.
Zarlengo said he definitely will be attempting a no-cash challenge again soon. And he plans to write a book about his experiences.
"We're always being targeted by advertising and marketing to buy things. Live without consuming for a week," he said. "Watch how you will start to see things more clearly and how healthy you feel.
"I want to learn even more about living more simply," he added. "It's like I can see clearly now. ... I also learned that good things happen when you do good."
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