Maybe I’m an oddball… Or maybe I’m a nerd… But I love doing the budget every month! Whether it was a good month or a bad month, I always come away with renewed fervor to save more and spend less. It’s exciting to see the results of my efforts (if I made them!)
Frugality can be fun, believe it or not. It’s not about denying myself as much as it is about rising to the challenge in order to achieve larger goals. It actually draws me and my husband together because it gives us something to strive for as a team! I encourage all couples to sit down and discuss their financial dreams together. It’s important to be on the same page. Yes, I agree that money can be stressful. But it’s also something that can help us achieve our dreams if we’re intentional about it.
I’m not talking about being miserly or greedy here. Saving for the sake of saving isn’t any fun. I’m naturally a saver, but even I’ll go and spend too much on silly things just because I have it. Having a larger purpose for your money will motivate you to curb your spending. Every dollar you cut out of your daily spending can be put toward greater priorities – whether it’s a large downpayment on a house, paying off debt, or donating to noteworthy causes.
I do realize there’s lots of factors that are out of our control. Some expenses aren’t our fault at all and can take a huge cut out of our finances. These aren’t the things I’m talking about. But I’ve found it helps to take charge of the money I can control: my own spending. No matter how much or how little we have, a little frugality can go a long way.
Finance blogger Blonde on a Budget issued a challenge to her readers to not buy anything in the month of October other than gas and groceries. I rose to the challenge and am happy to say that I (mostly) did it! As a household the only non-gas and non-food purchases were small necessities: a $4 part to fix our sink, reflective tape for my hubby’s bike (safety first!) and a light for our garage. I guess we could have put these purchases off a month to really win the challenge fair and square, but home maintenance and bike safety are pretty big priorities around here. If we didn’t buy them in October, we would have bought them in November anyway.
It was so satisfying to set a goal at the beginning of the month, and see how I did a the end of the month! Anything to make frugal more fun, right? So I got the idea to do a different challenge for the month of November: see how little we can spend on groceries. I realized this was kinda crazy considering Thanksgiving food and hosting guests, but I thought I’d give it a shot! (And we don’t skimp when we host guests. I write about that in an upcoming post.)
Our budgeted grocery amount each week is $100, but it tends to fluctuate a lot. Some weeks are higher and some weeks are lower. I feel like we’re doing really well so far. I’m hoping for an average of $75 or less. We do our budget at the end of the month by putting all our totals into spreadsheets. The goal throughout the month is to spend as little as possible, not “stick to the budget.” If I did that I would probably never come under-budget, I would just look at it as more to spend.
Basically, this is a short-term way to spend less on some of our more luxurious purchases. We didn’t stop buying the main staples of our diet, or suddenly start eating only mac and cheese. Some of the pricier food items we choose to buy, like grass-fed butter and pumpkin seeds and walnuts, I usually count as worth it because of their health benefits. And I happen to like them too. But anything is possible for a month. So this month I’m choosing to give up some of the fancier groceries, even if I like them and even if they’re healthy, and sticking to the staples that are filling and inexpensive. Next month I’ll get to add those delectable delicacies back into my diet. I’ll have saved a little money, and I’ll enjoy them more.
We already save money by not buying meat. We get our protein through mostly whole grains, greens, legumes, some dairy, and a small amount of fish. I first looked in the pantry and freezer and made lists of all the meals I could make with what I already had. The list was surprisingly long! I then added a few economical ingredients to the shopping list like carrots and potatoes to further extend my meal plan. In the end, I had more than enough dinners for the whole month and only had to purchase a couple key ingredients.
We still need to do our Thanksgiving shopping, and we still need to buy the daily staples for breakfast and lunch, so we’ll see where that brings us.
I know the month has already started, but it’s not too late to join the frugal November grocery challenge if you’d like. Maybe start by using up what’s in your house right now. Get creative and see what you can make. When you finally do need to go to the store, make a detailed list. Figure out which items you buy are necessities and which are luxuries. I’m doing this challenge in addition to my year-long clothes shopping ban that goes until June. Feel free to join for the remainder of this challenge as well! Consider making it a New Years Resolution.
I’ll update in December with the results and a new challenge if I decide to do another.