Near the end of January, I stumbled across an article titled Why I Make My Bed from a cool site called Living Well Spending Less. The article made a lot of sense to me and got me really motivated to get more organized at home. As I started to peruse the site, I came across 31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero. It described a challenge to spend no money, with the exception of absolute necessities. You may recall that one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to recognize my wants versus needs regarding my finances. So I was GEEKED to read about the challenge and how much people were able to save over just one month. I got pretty excited, and realized that February is only 28 days, so I decided that we would try it! (See what I did there? I decided that WE – my entire family – would try it. HA!)
On the site, there are 31 days of ideas and activities to save money and get more organized. For example, one of the first activities is to clean out the pantry. This meets 2 objectives – you get to organize your pantry AND you inventory what you have in there so that you can plan meals with the food you have instead spending money on more. HOW COOL IS THAT?!?! After reading through all 31 days, I was IN!
Here are some of the tactics I used:
- I cashed in my credit card reward points for $200 worth of gas cards
- I planned meals around what I had in the pantry, fridge, and freezers.
- We took back cans and bottles (embarrassingly, these had been accumulating for quite some time and totaled nearly $50).
- We used any coupons and gift cards we could get our hands on.
- I gave up buying my morning coffee at work. DH gave up lunches out as well as after work age appropriate beverage gatherings. (Was that clear enough? 😉 )
- We explained to the kids what we were trying to do and they used their own Christmas money for anything they needed money for at school.
- We cut out all of our entertainment costs – no movies, restaurants, or other non-essentials.
- We also submitted for reimbursement of one of our flexible spending accounts we paid into the year before. (I’m aware that this isn’t something available to everyone, but the point of this exercise was to get stuff paid off so it made sense to do it at the same time.)
I saved 30% of my grocery costs, 100% on gas costs, and all but $40 of entertainment costs (Valentine’s Day – Got each of my girls the Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Bows with Arrows. We had so much fun with them that I decided they were worth every penny.) and I paid off all of our medical bills, credit card balances, one school loan, and extra on the mortgage payment. I estimated that we saved nearly $1000 over the course of those 4 weeks. BOOM!
The other part of the challenge is about getting organized and de-cluttering. Although I didn’t have as much time for all of the changes recommended my the site as I would have liked, I found that I am much calmer in a cleaner, more organized, free-of-junk mail/Legos/Barbie crap-type of environment. I’ll have to try and tackle more of that another month.
What I found really interesting through this challenge is what I learned from it. I realized that when I forced myself to stop spending, my perspective changed… A LOT. I realized how easily I justify spending money. I also realized that it’s much easier to stop spending than I thought. When I forced myself to stop, I came up with all sorts of ways to save money.
All in all, it was an excellent experience and I did exactly what I hoped I could. GO ME!!! 🙂