Finance Friday: January, Part Two

We’re nearing the end of the Uber Frugal Month Challenge, and my budget is well in line.

Wins for the past two weeks:

Frugal foods: I stuck to my meal plan for all my meals, including breakfast and lunch at work each day.

Snow biking!

Frugal fitness: I walked around the lakes with a friend. I walked to the drugstore for a prescription (2.1 mile round trip). I walked to the grocery store (4.5 mile round trip) and carried my groceries in my hiking pack. My shoulders could tell I hadn’t carried more than dog treats, small snacks, and water for quite some time ūüėČ

Frugal friendships: Walking the lakes with my friend is something we both try to do whenever we see each other, but this time we avoided coffee shops and I brought my own tea.

I saved money by planning ahead — since I’m not spending on wants instead of true needs, I didn’t have the option to pick up a juice at the grocery store if I was thirsty. I took my water bottle and dried nuts everywhere. I planned all my meals, prepared them on Saturday, and just reheated for meal time. I bought only what I needed for those meals: 2 dozen eggs, carrots, celery, 2 grapefruit, one package of kiwi, cheese, and cream. A year ago this method would have made me crazy, having to eat the same thing days in a row. When my son first moved away for college, I found it very challenging to start cooking for just myself without getting bored. After nearly a month of eating this way, however, I’ve found it much easier than I would have imagined. Streamlining my food saves me¬†cash, but more surprisingly, saves me a lot of time and decision-making energy.

On to my Challenge progress!

Six months from now I’ll be eating these with gusto

Eliminate spending entirely on:

  1. salon visits – $0
  2. alcohol for home consumption (currently $20-30/month) Р$0
  3. bath/grooming products other than bar soap, toothpaste/floss Р$0
  4. DRIVING¬†unless I’m on call – erm, not so much. Driving less overall, yes. Not driving at all on my days off and walking instead, yes. Commuting…..noooope.¬†
  5. buying meals at work – $0
  6. buying coffee out just to buy coffee – $0
  7. going to shows (music) – $0
  8. clothing that wasn’t directly related to winter biking necessities Р$0
  9. haircuts for the kiddo – $0
  10. mindlessly shopping at spendy food stores without making a meal plan for the week – $0


Reduce spending on:

  1. Groceries – so far my total is $38.09
  2. Utilities – I’ve reduced gas usage, but won’t know how much my bill is affected until next month.¬†My electric usage may be the same due to using an oil-filled electric radiator in the living room for part of the day when I’m home.¬†


Say Yes:

  1. Completed: 2 day trip to take my son back to college Рassumed spend of $300 including all gasoline, lodging, and food. $228.12
  2. Completed: 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) – $0 – walked around the lakes instead
  3. Completed: monthly outing with longtime friend(s) – usually a cafe – assumed spend less than $10 – $8

    Sunset ride last summer (yep it’s that time of year that I need reminders summer DOES exist)


I’m still happy with my progress. ¬†The occasional temptation to “pick up something on the way home” is completely gone, which I hadn’t realized until I needed to wait for a prescription at Walgreens and didn’t even think about¬†picking up chocolate ūüôā


How is your Uber Frugal January going?

Happy Friday!


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Finance Friday: January

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.

Thermostat dropped to 65F = pets that normally don’t get along are suddenly cuddle buddies! That experiment didn’t last long…. back to 68F for now.

First, let’s recap my Frugal Month spending goals:

Eliminate spending entirely on:

  1. salon visits
  2. alcohol for home consumption (currently $20-30/month)
  3. bath/grooming products other than bar soap, toothpaste/floss
  4. DRIVING¬†unless I’m on call
  5. buying meals at work
  6. buying coffee out just to buy coffee
  7. going to shows (music)
  8. clothing that wasn’t directly related to winter biking necessities
  9. haircuts for the kiddo
  10. mindlessly shopping at spendy food stores without making a meal plan for the week.


Reduce spending on:

  1. Groceries
  2. Utilities


Say Yes:

  1. Planned: 2 day trip to take my son back to college – assumed spend of $300 including all gasoline, lodging, and food.
  2. 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)
  3. Assumed: monthly outing with longtime friend(s) – usually a cafe – assumed spend less than $10


Alright, so how am I doing so far?

  1. salon visits: $0 
  2. alcohol for home consumption (currently $20-30/month): $0 
  3. bath/grooming products other than bar soap, toothpaste/floss: $0
  4. DRIVING¬†unless I’m on call: week one: 7/7 days. ¬†week two: 1/4 days so far
  5. buying meals at work: $0
  6. buying coffee out just to buy coffee: $0
  7. going to shows (music): $0
  8. clothing that wasn’t directly related to winter biking necessities: $0
  9. 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.¬†
  10. 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.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.


  1. Planned: 2 day trip to take my son back to college Рassumed spend of $300 including all gasoline, lodging, and food.  Actual spend: $228.12.
  2. 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.
  3. Assumed: monthly outing with longtime friend(s) Рusually a cafe Рassumed 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 ūüėČ ¬†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.

My favorite kitchen appliance!


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??).

Have a warm, frugal Friday!

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Traveling on a Scratch Budget

I recently took a two-day road trip out of state to take my son back to school after winter break.  The last time we made this trip I easily spent over $600, on meals, my hotel stay, multiple takeaway coffees, and a few purchases at stores.  Every time I purchased gasoline on the way to and from I bought snacks and caffeine (licorice and trail mix have long been my road trip fuel) (OK and Pringles too).

This time, including all food, gas, hotel, and taking my son and his friend to dinner for $53, I spent $228.12.

Things I did differently this time:

I Brought My Own Food

I shopped my kitchen, and my food list for two full days and one night included dried nuts and fruit, canned tuna (brought a can opener), tea, bananas, and eggs.

Where the food-making magic happens!

Eggs? ¬†Yep! ¬†I’ve had an Instant Pot for a couple of years and it makes a great traveling companion. ¬†I used it to hard boil eggs in the morning and have also used it for steel cut oats in the past. ¬†On trips where I’ve stayed more than one night I’ve used it as a slow cooker and have had hot soup or chili¬†after a day of winter hiking. ¬†I have a large soft sided cooler¬†that I normally use as a¬†lunch bag, which¬†can easily hold enough food for three or four days’ worth of perishables for hotel room cooking.

I brought my container of nuts and fruit with me throughout the day so I’d have a snack handy instead of mindlessly buying a granola bar or sandwich.

I Brought My Own Caffeine

I made coffee at home before we left – this seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve long used the excuse of a road trip to justify picking up a latte at my neighborhood coffee shop…. and any local shop I spot along the way…. and sometimes St*rbucks. ¬†I had free hotel room coffee in the morning, then filled up my travel thermos with more free hotel room coffee before I checked out. ¬†Using my thermos meant that even though I didn’t leave town until later that evening, my coffee was still hot for the drive home.

I Price-Shopped My Hotel With Google Maps As A Guide

I think many of us do this already, but in the past I’d just go with the cheapest offering on Priceline or Hotwire. ¬†This netted me some fantastically low rates, but often meant staying in a suburb, necessitating driving in and out of the city for the event I was attending.

This time around I still used Priceline, but kept a map of downtown open in another tab – I could see exactly how many blocks each location was to the university campus where I’d be spending most of my time, and could see the parking options. ¬†Choosing a hotel within walking distance of campus meant I could leave my car overnight for free and not pay for parking or driving, which saved more than the $15 difference in rates between downtown and the suburbs.

I Altered My Hotel “Spa Night” Routine and Savored the Morning

I don’t stay in hotels very often – I prefer camping – and in the past I’ve resented the cost when I’m coming in just to go to bed and then check out in the morning. ¬†This year I’ve focused a lot on the abundance and, well, plain fun in my life. ¬†I’ve made a ritual out of getting in to my room, running a bath, opening a newly purchased book, and sipping wine while surrounded by bubbles.


Since I’ve given up purchasing alcohol as part of the Uber Frugal Month Challenge, I brought tea from home instead. ¬†I also brought a paperback my mom sent me for Christmas. ¬†The ritual was just as luxurious and relaxing and felt so good after walking in the winter air.

My room was on a high floor, with a mix of building heights scattered around it, so I kept the shades open on the windows, waking to my alarm before dawn.  I started the coffee maker and pulled the armchair over to the window, marveling at the shadows of the buildings with older architecture and the sleek reflections of the moon on the newer glass-fronted buildings.  I sipped coffee and watched the sunrise, the shapes around me turning from black to blue to golden as the sun came over the horizon.

Cuppa coffee and this view…not too shabby….

My room was not booked “with a view” (this downtown has quite a spectacular one depending on location), but what I could see was still amazing. ¬†Instead of dragging myself grudgingly out of bed after too little sleep and heading out to find a latte, I spent an hour watching the city slowly come to life, the empty streets starting to sporadically fill with cars, the changes in light, and appreciating¬†the sheer wonder of the sun rising at all. ¬†What a great way to start my day.

I Spent the Day Writing and Reading Without Spending a Dime

My son wanted to spend time together in between his classes, so I planned to bring my book and laptop to stay busy.  Historically I love spending time in a new coffee shop, scribbling notes, typing, and absorbing the scents and sounds of espresso machines and people studying and working and visiting around me.

I’d even planned to do so on this trip – there is a local small chain that roasts their coffee beans daily and has great ambiance. ¬†Instead, I stayed in the campus center and made myself at home at one of many study areas. ¬†I had my tea for the hot beverage crutch, but my son actually treated me to a coffee as the campus center served the local chain’s brand. ¬†It was so, so, so good ūüôā

Delicious brew and free wifi

The big temptation¬†of being in the campus center is that I love bookstores and office supply stores. ¬†I’d left my trusty journal at home, and I spent an entire day sitting within view of a bookstore¬†full of notebooks and pens that were desperate to get my attention, looking all crisp and colorful in their window displays. ¬†Between the support of the Uber Frugal Challenge Month community and my commitment to spending nothing on unnecessary items, I discovered the notepad function on my laptop and had fun exploring a different way to get my scattered thoughts into writing. ¬†Posting in the community not only gave me suggestions, but just the act of saying out loud that I wanted to Buy Something Trivial showed the impulse for what it was.

Being tempted to purchase something gave me the chance to practice saying no to myself, and also resulted in a better appreciation of my usual routine of writing on paper.

I Said Yes To Dinner At a Restaurant

I treated my son and his best friend to dinner before I left for home.  I ate a good-size snack beforehand, so I kept my order to a salad.  All of us stuck to water, and we had a great time talking and telling stories about Christmas and college roommates and crazy things our dog has done.

I Avoided The Snack Traps

Brrr. If I could’ve filled my tank without leaving my car, I would have.

I filled up my gas tank before I left my hometown, and then immediately upon arriving in my son’s college town (it was nearing empty). ¬†This ensured I wasn’t stopping midway to be tempted by candy. ¬†On the way home I stopped once to fill up and use the restroom, but ignored the food offerings and had no problem going back to my thermos and fruit/nut mix. ¬†It probably helped that the air temperature reading in my car was -10F the whole way home; I didn’t want to get out of the toasty cabin any more than I had to ūüėČ

Overall, it was a combination of knowing that I had $0 budgeted to spend on fluff, and planning ahead for my food and beverages, that kept me on track. 


Have you traveled with a frugal outlook? ¬†I’m sure there are lots of great tips I haven’t yet thought of!

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Frugalwoods’ Uber Frugal Month Challenge

Part 1 of my Challenge homework helped me work through the mental and emotional aspects of my financial goals.

Today I get into the nitty gritty!

Step 2 per the Frugalwoods’ challenge guideline post: ¬†Review Spending. ¬†I review my spending a few times a week through YouNeedaBudget — I love the clean look of the software and have figured out over the years how best to use it for my particular habits and needs. ¬†I am not yet at a point that I can forgo a budget so YNAB has been invaluable. ¬†I’ll post December’s spending (it was a lot, eek) after I close out the year in not-so-frugal style.

Step 3: Categorize Expenses 

Monthly fixed expenses

My health insurance is payroll deducted along with my retirement contributions.

My water usage is higher in the summer while my gas/electric are higher in the winter. ¬†Internet is by far the cheapest and most reliable (I’m very lucky to live in a neighborhood with fiber optic). ¬†Cell phones include pay-for-usage data which we rarely need. ¬†Debt payments include student loans, an auto loan, and a boatload of medical bills.

Monthly average spent through 2016

Bicycles were newly acquired in 2016 so the spending from here on out should be less. ¬†Groceries include household items such as toiletries and kitchen doodads as well as all food. ¬†My spending includes all the cafeteria breakfasts and drive through coffees I mindlessly indulged in for the first ten months of the year! ¬†Vacation was a life-changing trip that my now-adult kiddo and I will both always cherish so I’m ok with those choices even though I still have considerable debt. ¬†Kiddo categories include all of his spending: ¬†on his car, school expenses, food, clothing, entertainment and so on.

Step 4 — What can I eliminate entirely?

  1. salon visits — my eyebrows will take over the world!
  2. alcohol for home consumption (currently $20-30/month)
  3. bath/grooming products other than bar soap, toothpaste/floss
  4. DRIVING when I’m not on call
  5. Things I eliminated in November 2016: buying meals at work, buying coffee out just to buy coffee, going to shows (music), Netflix (it ended two days before the Gilmore Girls reboot and I didn’t restart my account!), driving without combining errands, any clothing that wasn’t directly related to winter biking necessities, haircuts for the kiddo, and mindlessly shopping at spendy food stores without making a meal plan for the week.

Step 5 — Substitutions

  1. salon: I’ve been waxing my eyebrows, not prettily, but good enough for all the men I know and most of the women ūüėČ ¬†NO HAIRCUTS will be easier than it sounds because my head is covered at work and this time of year is covered everywhere else outside my house as well.
  2. alcohol: Tea instead of wine. ¬†I loooooove my wine, in the winter especially, but it will be good to take a longer break than the weekdays I usually take ‘off’. ¬†I’ve noticed this last year that wine consumption affected my bicycling if I was doing a long ride the next day, so I’ll have to evaluate this line item for a number of reasons at the end of the challenge.
  3. grooming products: I have a shampoo bar that should last me the whole year (I use it every couple of weeks; otherwise I just use water). ¬†Once my current lotion runs out I’m going back to straight coconut oil because it works much, much better. ¬†I mostly use lavender oil instead of deodorant so my deodorant will last all year (it definitely took several months for my body to acclimate to this! but was a huge benefit while bikepacking for ten days last July).
  4. no driving: This will be a major mental challenge for me!! I do drive on days I’m on call because my response time would be too long if I was called back on my way home. ¬†I’ve been bicycling to the transit station but during our week of subzero temps I happened to be on call every day so I haven’t actually ridden below 0F yet. ¬†In the spirit of No Driving, I will forego my shop-on-the-way-home rule and will only drive straight to work and straight home, and otherwise bicycling for commuting and errands.
  5. My previous cuts will continue. ¬†I’m getting better at meal planning and am looking forward to a month without food-centric holidays to see if my spending estimation is on track.

Step 6 — Reduce Spending

I have been pretty good about making my lunches for the week ahead, and I eat the same thing for breakfast every day, but I could automate more of my meals.  I have health issues that require skipping many of the economical meals I lived on in past years, but I am confident I can keep my grocery bill lower than before.

I turned my thermostat down to 60 in November and came home to the dog and cat snuggled up on the couch several days in a row (they are not usually that friendly). ¬†I’ve since settled at 68. ¬†My house is smallish and well situated to take advantage of passive solar warming when I’m home. ¬†I moved my bedroom from the coldest room in the house to upstairs where it’s toasty, saving me from using the oil-filled heater as often as I have in years past.

Step 7 — Insource

For my Christmas gift, my kiddo is going to teach me how to change my own oil. ¬†I adore my car shop, but routine maintenance is, well, routine. ¬†I’ve learned how to clean and lubricate my bike, which is even more important in salty road season.

Step 8 — Examine Your Habits

I plan to look up my utility usage and see if things like lowering the thermostat a little more will make a measurable difference. ¬†Most of my spending impulse habits have been mitigated by making cuts in November, and things just not being an option (like buying coffee out just to get coffee) is definitely working. ¬†I do need to start bringing more snacks to work so I’m not as hungry and cold by the time I’ve biked home.

Step 9 — Plan Ahead

Meal planning is by far the biggest impact on my week. ¬†I do need to be a little better about having snacks on hand both at work and during my commute. ¬†I’m starting to get the hang of eating before heading out for social events. ¬†YNAB has helped me plan ahead for occasional expenses.

Step 10 — Buy Used or Cheap

I don’t foresee needing to buy anything in January but I’m no stranger to thrifting. ¬†I’ve started keeping my receipts and snapping photos of prices at stores so I have a better idea of what’s really worth getting at Costco (McCann’s Irish steel cut oats at the moment!).

Step 11 — Banish Excuses


Bonus step — Say Yes

As outlined in my previous post, I’m making a conscious, intentional effort to say Yes to the good things in my life this year, especially when those choices involve people I care about. ¬†This means I likely will spend money a few times this month — post-bike-ride libations, snowshoeing, and probably the first theater movie I’ve seen in a few years. ¬†My newly formed frugal muscles will keep these things to one beer and fries (rather than a few and a meal), snowshoe rental but bringing my own coffee and snacks (rather than eating out before and after), and Star Wars at a theater that lets us bring in coffee cups (I don’t need snacks but I¬†do need a warm beverage lest I fall asleep. ¬†Even during Star Wars).

This also means that tonight I’m saying yes to reflecting on my year and making plans instead of spending money at a show;¬†I said yes to going to the mall with my kiddo today but ate beforehand (AND avoided getting coffee even though my brain was quite insistent); I said yes to buying board games that are at this very moment being enjoyed across the table from me; and I said yes to staying overnight¬†in a hotel when I take my kiddo back to school so that we can spend time together the following day.

I’m looking forward to the coming year, and I’m excited it’s starting off on a frugal foot!

Happy New Year!


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Saying Yes and a Challenge for the New Year

I’ve never been one to make a list of resolutions at the end of each year, but¬†I do like to embrace the the time from the solstice¬†through the calendar new year as a fresh start and a time to reflect. ¬†My new commitment to writing here to keep myself accountable, however, has led to being quite enthused about setting finance goals for 2017. ¬†After tracking my spending for a year, and really looking closely the past few months, I feel like I finally have a handle on the good and the bad of my money habits.

The Frugalwoods’¬†Uber Frugal Month challenge¬†came at the perfect time for me — and did all the prep work that I’d been musing over for several weeks, by outlining specific steps to identify goals and set plans. ¬†My first step is to figure out why I’m doing all of this in the first place (aside from paying off debt!).


My biggest reason to aim for financial independence and at least partial retirement in the next 10-15 years is to have more time for all¬†the things I love to do. ¬†Right now I spend approximately 46-52 hours per week related to my job when I’m not on call, and in the winter I find it difficult to do more than laze about reading and drinking tea on my days off from work. ¬† I am passionate about the work I do, but if I were part time I’d be more likely¬†to be equally passionate about house projects, gardening and canning, bicycling, and scheduling time with my family and friends more than twice a year when our calendars miraculously align.

I would like to be financially independent so that I can visit loved ones without agonizing over my budget. ¬†Most of my family lives across the country from me, as do many of my friends. ¬†While I don’t anticipate ever being a person who jumps on a last-minute flight to attend a birthday party in another state without having planned ahead, I would like the flexibility to make planned visits happen more frequently. ¬†My parents’ age is also a motivation for me to attain financial independence, as I would want to be there if anything were to happen that required assistance from myself or my brother. ¬†Right now this would mean taking a formal leave from my job, which would be unpaid after I used up the paid time off hours I bank each year.

Now that I’ve identified for myself the longterm goals to inform my choices, it’s time to break down specifics for the challenge. ¬†From the Frugalwoods’ goal setting prompts:

Why am I participating in this challenge?

I’m hoping to better define my frugality muscles. ¬†I’m hoping that my cutbacks in the past couple of months lead to new ideas and habits of frugality that I haven’t yet discovered. ¬†The challenge itself is aligned with goals I wanted to focus on anyway, but the camaraderie will be a huge boost. ¬†The motivation of following along with Mrs. Frugalwoods’ emails and with other participants will be great fun!


What do I hope to achieve?

Finding new savings in my monthly budget will help me pay off a larger chunk of debt, and may lead to ongoing savings. ¬†I’m anticipating the challenge will provide continued enthusiasm for my financial and personal goals. ¬†Admittedly I’m still in the honeymoon phase of frugality, but starting the year with a fresh mindset and a concrete outline will certainly help.

While my longterm life goals were touched on above,

What are my ten year goals?

I am a person who has always resented having to articulate a 5- or 10-year plan. ¬†It’s not at all a surprise, then, that I’ve floundered about for 15 years with minimal growth in my retirement savings. ¬†Based on my current spending needs, in ten years I would like to be fully financially independent but will at least be close (15 years is my outside goal based on several calculators). ¬†I think being flexible and able to adapt to sudden life changes is essential to emotional peace, but unless something radical happens, this is a very concrete and attainable goal.

In ten years I would like to have the choice to retire, depending on healthcare options for my ongoing medication needs (primarily allergy and asthma related).

In ten years I would like¬†be able to perform most of my home’s routine maintenance and repair projects myself.

What about my current lifestyle might prevent reaching these goals and what can I do about it?

Not saving enough!  I am committed to sticking to an aggressive savings plan and feel that flexing my frugality will become easier as new habits are formed.

I also don’t wish to let my newfound frugality focus negatively impact my relationships. ¬†So far my close friends are very supportive, but this has the potential to backfire if I allow money to become an excuse for not participating in events.

I’m going to¬†focus on saying Yes more, to social opportunities with my friends and family. ¬†This sounds counterintuitive to spending less, but I’ve never been a social butterfly and it’s too easy for me to turn down a loud cafe when I have delicious coffee at home. ¬†The tipping point for me was being invited by my son and his friends to the mall before Thanksgiving…. I declined, then realized I’d just passed up an increasingly rare chance to spend time with young adults I truly love having in my life. ¬†I made a commitment to myself to say Yes in those circumstances, even when it means I’ll end up spending more money than I would on my own.

Say Yes….

Aside from being a really great Elliott Smith song, Say Yes will be my undercurrent for the coming year. ¬†I find it so much easier to embrace changes in my own habits when I can frame them in terms of what I gain rather than what I lose. ¬†For example, starting in October I committed to creating an early-rising morning ritual, getting up at 4:30am and leaving to bike to work around 5:30am. ¬†I’ve tried this many times in the past, but the only time I was able to make rising before I had to a habit was when I worked out at the gym before work with my carpool partner. ¬†This time, instead of dragging myself out of my warm bed and resenting how dark my windows were and how tired I was, I started thinking about¬†looking forward to making a cup of coffee, that I would get to enjoy while sitting with the cat rather than sipped at stoplights. ¬†I take the time to absolutely savor that cup, noticing the warmth in my hands, the steam rising, and my favorite morning smell of roasted coffee beans.

I’ve started rephrasing the stories I tell myself. ¬†Instead of thinking “Ugh I wish I didn’t have to work so early tomorrow,” I have actually written down, “I am looking forward to my morning coffee and the quiet of predawn, and I will awake refreshed and rested!” ¬†I’m telling myself Yes, and after 20-odd years of struggling to get up in time, I’ve embraced and now love the quiet meditation on my day that starts me off in a peaceful, pleasant mindframe.

Several years ago when I had to do a restriction-based food trial, I found that looking at the foods I could eat was vastly more useful than thinking about the things I couldn’t. ¬†Because of seeing those six weeks as a learning opportunity rather than one of deprivation, I greatly improved my cooking skills as well as my health. ¬†Now I find myself saying Yes to choosing to feel healthy and whole rather than saying ok to the frequent cookies and candy in the break room, and it has gotten easier every time.

Other ways I am saying Yes include enjoyment in sitting down with my notebook and my favorite cooking websites to outline my meals for the workweek; saying HeckYeah to invitations to go bicycling even when it’s icy and cold outside; taking transit through the middle of my bike commute to keep my lungs happy in the winter air; and saying Yes, I have enough and I am grateful for the things I have.

I’m looking forward to starting the Uber Frugal Month challenge! ¬†Later this week I’ll outline the specific tactics I have planned.

Are you joining? ¬†Is January a time for you to “reset” or do you update goals throughout the year?

Please follow and share my adventure!