Yay! I’m so glad you signed up to join me in The Frugalwood’s Uber Frugal Month (UFM) Challenge!
After you signed up, you should have received a welcome email from Liz, with a link to join the Facebook group and a link to your pre-challenge homework. I know the homework can seem a little intimidating, it’s a long post, but it’s chocked full of goodness! I’d recommend bookmarking it so you can work your way through the articles linked to in the post, especially if you’re new to the Frugalwoods blog. Liz is a great writer and her articles are always amazing.
As Liz says in the intro, the UFM is supposed to push your boundaries and challenge you, so think big and keep an open mind!
Step 1: Establish Your Goals
- Why are you participating in this Challenge?
- I think I’m better with money than I actually am, I need a kick in the rear to do better
- What do you hope to achieve?
- I want my finances and particularly, my savings, to be on autopilot- I want to optimize my money, then set it and forget it, checking in a couple times a year
- What are your long-term life goals?
- I want to be a work at home mom and homeschool my kids. I want to have a thriving garden, build a successful business, sew my clothes and have a less hectic life
- Where do you want to be in 10 years?
- Living in my DIY, frugally renovated house, working from home on my business, homeschooling my 2 kids, with a thriving garden that provides most of our produce. I want a laid back schedule where we wake without alarms, we spend time learning organically and playing as a family
- What about your current lifestyle might prevent those goals from coming to fruition and what can you do about it?
- I’m the sole breadwinner and I work outside the home. I’m working on a side hustle so I can eventually work from home. The less money we spend, the less money I need to earn from my side hustle and the sooner I can quit to work from home.
Step 2: Review Last Month’s Spending
Step 3: Categorize your expenses
I did these steps a little differently. Since I’ve been tracking my spending for a while, I decided to look at my monthly averages throughout the past year, not just the past month.
|Tithes & Offerings||$478.00|
Step 5: Embrace the art of substitution
Step 6: Reduce spending on discretionary spending
|Internet||$51.50||Look for discount|
|Tithes & Offerings||$478.00|
|Auto Insurance||$113.00||get quotes|
|Student Loan||$79.71||pay off ASAP|
|Auto Loan||$180.00||pay off ASAP|
|Groceries||$397.33||reduce to $350||$350.00|
|Dining Out||$103.88||reduce to $50||$50.00|
|Transportation||$101.66||bike, reduce gas||$95.00|
|Home Maintenance||$81.98||reduce to $60||$60.00|
|Personal Care||$96.33||reduce to $55||$55.00|
|Pets||$138.75||reduce to $60||$60.00|
|Hospital Visits||$23.47||hopefully reduce!||$15.00|
|Gifts||$86.79||reduce to $50||$50.00|
|Subscriptions||$39.11||reduce to $15||$15.00|
|Blog Expenses||$77.56||reduce to $22||$22.00|
|Me||$199.72||reduce to $25||$25.00|
|Husband||$43.85||reduce to $25||$25.00|
These changes alone would save me almost $600/month!
Step 7: Empower yourself to Insource
We also replaced a toilet, installed a retractable screen door, cleaned our carpets, fixed our gate and had my dad help with some electrical problems. I’m also currently demo-ing our master bath shower, I’m hoping to add tiling to my repertoire this year.
Step 8: Examine your habits
This is such an important step! It’s not hard to mindlessly flitter away money on subscriptions and habits without thinking. I made a conscious effort this past year to examine all my recurring monthly expenses and cancel all the extraneous fluff I was paying for. I ended up saving $30/month- that’s a few hundred dollars a year! And the subscriptions I did actually use, I downgraded to the lowest payment plan possible.
Habits are just as important to examine too. I already told you about our habit of getting weekly salad bars that we gave up. I love reading the Frugalwoods blog because they don’t let any excuses fly, they’re always working to optimize and be more frugal. I know from experience that it’s not always easy, and I’m still learning, but it is possible to develop more frugal habits.
Step 9: Plan ahead
If you fail to plan you plan to fail. Truer words were never spoken, right? This is usually my downfall and it usually involves food. This is definitely a work in progress for me. Despite my best efforts to meal plan and take food with me when I’m running errands, some weeks the meal planning just doesn’t happen and sometimes there isn’t grab-and-go food available to take with me when I’m running out the door. I already know that freezer meals and making snacks ahead of time are the fix for both my problems, but sometimes it’s easier said than done. I’m doing the best I can and I keep trying to do better- without beating myself up along the way.
Planning ahead is important in other aspects too- such as saving up for a vacation, or planning for birthday or Christmas presents. There’s also stage of life planning- we don’t have kids yet, but hope to in the future- you can bet that we’re accepting any and all baby things that friends and family are getting rid of.
Step 10: If you do buy stuff, get it used (or cheap!)
I grew up thrift store shopping with my sister. It wasn’t because we were poor, necessarily, we just knew that our money would go further and we could get name brands at significant discounts, by shopping thrift stores. I even got a couple of my prom dresses from thrift stores! Some of my favorite kitchen accessories are thrifted. All my furniture is second hand. My car was practically brand new and half off because I bought it used.
Buying used doesn’t give you a buy-anything- free card, you still need to make a conscious decision if it’s a wise purchase in the first place, but if you need something and you can buy it used, do so!
Step 11: Banish excuses
This is a tricky one too. I definitely find myself making excuses. There’s a fine line between accepting that you’re doing your best, with room to improve and making excuses. I try and examine my motives to see if I’m just trying to cop out of doing better. I justified the salad bar with the excuse that my husband was choosing to eat a salad. I justified my gym that it was only temporary until I got to my goal weight. Take a hard look at the excuses you fall back on. If you don’t think you’re making excuses, explain yourself to a friend or family member who will give you honest feedback and see what they say. My husband is good about seeing through my excuses and not letting me fool myself.
Major lifestyle changes
After all your personal scrutiny, maybe some major changes need to take place. This is one of my biggest complaints about the financial independence movement. Saving is usually the main focus, but sometimes saving isn’t enough. Maybe you need to move to a less expensive area, maybe you need to get a higher earning job. Sometimes the numbers just don’t add up and major changes need to be made.
If you want to try some big lifestyle change, see if you can simulate it. That was some advice we got from our financial planner, Shannon Lally from Martini’s & Your Money who runs The Financial Gym. If you want to see if you can live with only one car, try not using your second car for a month before you up and sell it. Want to see if you can afford to have kids? Use a baby calculator to estimate the monthly cost, and start setting that aside every month. You’ll know if you can afford it and it’ll help you save even more money.
This homework takes a bit of time, but it’s such an important basis to start from. It’s so much easier to make financial decisions when you have an end goal in mind. Make sure to take time to really ponder what you want out of life and what you want your next 5-10 years to look like.
Take a good hard look at your current finances and see what you can cut out, what things are impeding your progress to your goal. Find frugal substitutions for the things you aren’t ready to/ can’t cut out. Reduce your discretionary spending, especially groceries and clothing.
Find things you can DIY, rather than spending money for someone else to do it for you. It’s a good way to expand your skill set and you know it gives your self-esteem a boost when you accomplish a challenge. See if you have any habits you need to eliminate or tweak, habits that are causing you to hemorrhage money unnecessarily.
My personal favorite and kryptonite, planning ahead! For me, that basically means always bringing food and water wherever I go and planning my meals for the week. Buy things used- you need to buy things on occasion- things break, your stage of life changes- seek out deals on used items, before just plopping it into your Amazon account.
Lastly, stop making excuses! I’m not going to lie, this is hard work- it makes you re-evaluate how you think and spend money, but keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to hurt a little.
Sometimes, after all is said and done, you need to make some big lifestyle changes- changing jobs, houses, cars, etc. If by the end of UFM you’re still not seeing how you’re going to meet your goals in the near future, put some serious thought into whether you might need to make a major lifestyle change.