Monday, 30 January 2017
Today marks the 30th day of Uber Frugal Month with the Frugalwoods. It’s been thought-provoking, fun, and helped us take action in a few areas. Overall, Mrs. Frugalwoods and I see eye-to-eye on many things. She has also helped us look a bit more deeply into what we do and how we do it.
This month’s accomplishments and changes have been small and fun.
The first big change is reducing our cell phone bill from $275.00 / month to $194.00 / month. We have been able to keep our unlimited data plans for 4 people, a few of whom travel overseas frequently. Having the plan we have also allows unlimited international calling. Our bill should drop another $38.00 in March or April when our phones are paid off. That will be even better.
The second one was fun because we decided to stay within our $350.00 / month (whether 31 or 28 days) food budget. To date, we have spent $349.98 and can wait until February 1st to spend on food! Freezer foods help, as we do tend to cook a lot, and then freeze it for “lean” or lazy times.
Fixed monthly food costs for January are within the $350.00 limit, but in experiencing the last few days of the Uber Frugal Challenge, we are well aware of the fact we are out of fresh vegetables for salads. Thus, we can spend $350.00 / month and be content, but that “month” is really a 4-week period, with an average of $87.50 per week a workable sum. Therefore, that is a more realistic goal for us, as some months are longer, some are shorter, but the rhythm of shopping every Friday for staples, and then perhaps on Monday for fresh produce is the best choice for us.
The third is a major accomplishment: we have not bought anything – anything!!! – on Amazon, except what we read on Kindle Unlimited!
And finally, we have cleaned out a lot of stuff in the past month! Organized, discarded, donated.
But . . . the decision is still out about Netflix and Kindle Unlimited and Audible. Monthly entertainment runs about $50.00 / month.
Of course, not all of this was smooth. It takes a bit of creativity and adjustment to spending less, or deciding to stay within a budget. In discussing food, we realize we don’t really miss meat that much – we eat less than before – but it’s also easy to fill up on quick carbs, like tortillas. Our beef consumption is down, and our alternate sources of protein is up. We eat a lot of eggs and beans. Our refrigerator is nekked as I write, but there are things we can cobble together, and we are not wasting food.
Altogether, I don’t think we are in a bad space about how we are currently spending money. It is the past which we deal with today. We have student loans and credit cards and a car payment. This is what kills us. Additionally, we live in a high-cost area for housing, which doesn’t help either. Our mortgage is high, but within the standard accepted rules for income / housing. (I guess we got one thing right!) Despite this, we continue to put $1000.00 into savings / month as a primary goal, and adjust our monthly budget around that. This savings is used for property tax, emergency fund, and for any income tax at state and federal levels. My income varies from month to month, and so we have to plan ahead much more than those who know exactly what to expect as far as income. I’m pretty good at projecting, which helps. Our debt is steadily being reduced using the snowball effect.
Work fills our days. I work 4 days a week, and some days are nearly 11 hours long. This makes personal time rare for a lot of the week. Mr. 182 works full time, but as he is in IT, there are times when he works more . . . and then works less . . . but still gets the same amount on his check. We each are funding our retirement funds, not at the maximum, but certainly where we get the match from our employers. More income would help. Working more is not something that would be good for either of us, in the traditional sense of being on someone else’s payroll in addition to our current employers. Any side hustles would have to be at our own discretion. I am looking at a few, but am not sure where they will end up. It isn’t costing me anything except a bit of brain power and creativity and a willingness to try doing it.
In the big picture, we are content. We see progress, we are more cohesive, and more creative. The Uber Frugal Month with the Frugalwoods is paying off in many ways I did not expect. I have been very focused on our finances, to the point where other areas of life fell by the wayside. This rather frustrates me, but by the same token, doing anything requires this in order for change to occur. The results have been a greater awareness to our finances and habits. In February the creative energy put into our finances this month will continue, and they will be far easier as they are now more of a habit – or at least a new pattern – that is no longer uncharted territory. This will leave creative forces to return to hobbies and new skills.