It’s now 12 days into the Uber Frugal Month Challenge, and I’m paid biweekly (the first paycheck of the year is today), so I thought I’d check in with myself to make sure I’m on track.
First, let’s recap my Frugal Month spending goals:
Eliminate spending entirely on:
- salon visits
- alcohol for home consumption (currently $20-30/month)
- bath/grooming products other than bar soap, toothpaste/floss
- DRIVING unless I’m on call
- buying meals at work
- buying coffee out just to buy coffee
- going to shows (music)
- clothing that wasn’t directly related to winter biking necessities
- haircuts for the kiddo
- mindlessly shopping at spendy food stores without making a meal plan for the week.
Reduce spending on:
- Planned: 2 day trip to take my son back to college – assumed spend of $300 including all gasoline, lodging, and food.
- Planned: snowshoe rental and hike with a longtime friend – assumed spend less than $20 (website doesn’t list rental rates and I’m unsure if my address qualifies for free admission to nature area)
- Assumed: monthly outing with longtime friend(s) – usually a cafe – assumed spend less than $10
Alright, so how am I doing so far?
- salon visits: $0
- alcohol for home consumption (currently $20-30/month): $0
- bath/grooming products other than bar soap, toothpaste/floss: $0
- DRIVING unless I’m on call: week one: 7/7 days. week two: 1/4 days so far
- buying meals at work: $0
- buying coffee out just to buy coffee: $0
- going to shows (music): $0
- clothing that wasn’t directly related to winter biking necessities: $0
- haircuts for the kiddo: $0 – he took a clippers back to school with him after he and his girlfriend cut his hair. Looks like this is an ongoing win.
- mindlessly shopping at spendy food stores without making a meal plan for the week: $0
Notes: It’s been easier than I thought to not purchase wine, harder than I thought to not drink it. I’ve consumed no wine this month. I can say with certainty that a glass of wine on cold evenings is a firmly ingrained ritual for me – substituting with tea is working ok so far but there are still some days I really crave wine instead. It doesn’t seem to be an alcohol craving – I made a gin/elderflower liqueur cocktail last weekend – but wine itself.
I have no good reason for driving to work, but I do have lots of excuses, like “I am so tired after my mini-vacation” and “it is cold outside”. The rest of the list has been remarkably simple – I haven’t even considered any purchases in those categories. My only grocery stop was at Aldi so no temptation to stop at the co-op on the way home.
- Groceries – so far I’ve spent a total of $9.13 on eggs. Partly due to a big shop at the very end of December; partly due to cooking from my freezer. I’ll have to buy a bit more this coming weekend to replenish eggs and greens.
- Utilities – so far I’ve kept the thermostat at 68 while I’m home, but I’m curious to see if the increased usage of the electric oil-filled heater during my week off of work will result in a big increase on my bill next month. 65-66 was too cold for my animals – the actual room temperature was quite a bit chillier, and they didn’t move all day.
- Planned: 2 day trip to take my son back to college – assumed spend of $300 including all gasoline, lodging, and food. Actual spend: $228.12.
- Planned: snowshoe rental and hike with a longtime friend – assumed spend less than $20 (website doesn’t list rental rates and I’m unsure if my address qualifies for free admission to nature area) – it was too cold with a -20F wind chill last weekend so we rescheduled for this Saturday.
- Assumed: monthly outing with longtime friend(s) – usually a cafe – assumed spend less than $10. Not yet scheduled.
Thoughts on my progress so far:
I’m definitely pleased with my lack of *wanting* to spend. I’m not sure how much of this is real, and how much is due to cold temperatures and just wanting to read books all day, however! My week off from work threw my early to bed routine out of whack and I’m still catching up. I know about myself that not getting enough sleep throws me off in multiple ways, and historically that’s when I’ve tended to make “small” money choices that add up very quickly, like grabbing food at work because I was “too tired” to cook or pack my lunch.
I’ve started trying to streamline my food during the week, and have done so with breakfasts for about six months. This week I went further and cooked up a bunch of chicken and rice, as well as a 9 x 13″ pan egg bake on Saturday to last me through this entire week. I pack my lunches each weeknight so I can just grab and go in the morning. Ways in which I’m making meal prep easier, tastier, and more frugal for myself:
- Using homemade canned purple tomatillo sauce (a salsa verde recipe) on the chicken and rice – holy smokes, that little burst of summertime on my tastebuds is so good!
- Grinding enough coffee to last the week. Not having to get out and put away the grinder every morning makes a bigger difference than I’d like to admit 😉 So far I haven’t noticed any difference in quality — I use an Aeropress and love getting up early to sip my coffee and read. That ‘reward’ motivates me to stick to my waking schedule when it’s dark and chilly.
- Egg bake on the kinda cheap: 5 or 6 parboiled potatoes as the base layer, followed by onions and a whole lot of back-of-the-drawer veggies, then ground pork that was nearing its lifespan, then a dozen eggs. The veggie scraps made 12 cups of veggie broth.
- Pressure cooking my steel cut oats. Previously I soaked the oats overnight then cooked stovetop for 10-15 minutes in the morning. This week I started using my electric pressure cooker instead – I place oats and water in a Pyrex measuring cup inside on a trivet the night before, set the delay timer and my cook settings, and I wake up to cooked oats! I am still perfecting the timing to get the texture just right for my taste, but this is a big time saver!
Meal prep and grocery planning are by far the biggest pieces of my frugal puzzle, and they haven’t been nice easy corner pieces! I feel like I’m making real progress in this area and it’s starting to show, not just in my finances, but in the amount of time I spend preparing my food.
Now that I’ve made myself hungry again, it’s time to head out for the metro (if I put it in writing here, I’ll feel too guilty to drive to work, right??).