Monthly Challenge – Frugal Month

This post inspired by the Frugalwoods and their Uber Frugal Month challenge.

I want to periodically challenge myself because I like to keep life interesting, and working full-time with 3 small children isn’t interesting enough. All joking aside, I do enjoy a good challenge and I don’t necessarily want an “easy” life. I’ve learned a lot through the tougher times, and hope that by pushing myself outside of my comfort zone I can learn new things about myself in the process.

Why a frugal month? I like the idea of a challenge that helps fulfill a bigger goal, in this case financial independence and taking us closer to our RV dream. I’m hopeful that a month of frugality will spur long-term habits – even if I won’t/can’t keep the “uber” aspect beyond the month, small changes can make a big impact in the long run.

The Frugalwoods have a list of goal-setting questions, with the final question asking “what about your current lifestyle might prevent those goals from coming to fruition and what can you do about it?” I like to spend money. I don’t have a problem with spending to the point of getting ourselves into credit card debt, but I do like a nice haircut, occasional manicure, and clothes. I love clothes. And shoes. And purses. Did I mention I love clothes?

The problem with those things, is that they might make me happy in the initial moments after the purchase, but that “high” rarely lasts beyond a day or two. And I am very guilty of buying something just because it’s deeply discounted, even though it’s not what I *really* wanted. The result is a closet stuffed to capacity, much of which rarely gets used, resulting in clutter and stress and waste. That’s an entire post in itself.

That’s only half the closet, and doesn’t include the purses, shoes, and seasonal stuff. Seriously. Love. Clothes.

First step is to separate expenses into fixed versus discretionary. Fixed expenses are pretty obvious – mortgage, insurance, taxes. While much of discretionary spending is also obvious (dining out, manicures) there are also some gray areas (grocery, gas, utilities). Mr. Butter Passing Robot has already started tackling our grocery budget. He’ll write about that another day.

Where does most of our family discretionary spending go? Fortunately my husband is an Excel monkey, and has everything tracked in different categories. Apparently our biggest category as a family is called…family. This includes vacation, education, leisure, sports/fitness, babysitting, date nights, and pets. I’m not sure I want to give up too much in that category!

Our date nights are weekly dance lessons we’ve been taking for the past 6 or so months, and have been pre-paid. I know I could give that up, but not sure I’m ready yet – let’s just say there are a lot of other areas I’d compromise before giving up that sanity saver. Sports/fitness is our monthly gym membership – this is more for Mr. BPR. He is much more consistent in his use of the gym, and loves the “free” drop-in childcare offered – his personal sanity saver! Doubt he wants to lose that. I can tell this is really going to be a challenge.

Leisure – by going through our spreadsheet this is mostly Netflix (which you will pry from my cold dead hands), a golf membership which has since been cancelled, and random events/activities we attend as a family. I can help tackle that last one – not that we can’t do fun things as a family, but I’ll try to find us free or ultra low-cost activities. Finally! Check one off the list.

Pets – Our dog Ozzie is pretty low maintenance, except for his hair which is super high maintenance. He’s a mini goldendoodle and requires regular grooming, up to this point done by professionals. But I’ve got a pair of electric clippers we use to cut the boys’ hair, and a can-do attitude. Sorry Ozzie, you’ll have to take one for the team here.

Clothing – I will spend nothing on clothing this month. You hear me? NOTHING! No clothes, no shoes, no purses. I can do this. I will do this. <sigh>

Electronics – Not my problem, but this is Mr. BPR’s kryptonite. I’ll bet he’s on board to cut-back in this area if it means quicker financial freedom.

Personal health/hygiene – I can certainly skip a haircut for a month, and look at cheaper long-term options like Great Clips over a more expensive upscale salon. I don’t dye my hair or do anything else fancy. We cut the kids’ hair ourselves. I will skip a mani/pedi. My makeup is already drugstore brand. Mrs. Frugalwood talks about taking things further, like cutting out makeup. I promise to experiment with this, but when a giant pimple pops up I reserve the right to put a dab of concealer on. And maybe a bit of mascara, because my lashes are otherwise translucent. This is about compromise, people.

Food – We’re not big dining out people at this point in our lives. It’s too chaotic and stressful to drag the kids to a nicer restaurant, though we are guilty of the occasional fast food purchase. But not this month! I’m on a mission. Should we cut out alcohol too? And coffee? Stop. That last one is taking it too far.

Amazon – This rightfully deserves it’s own category. I just canceled all of our subscribe and save purchases, except for coffee (from my cold dead hands…) and mascara. Most of our spending on Amazon definitely fall into the “want” rather than “need” category, so let’s see if we can aim for 0 here. I think Jeff Bezos’ pocketbook can handle it.

Stuff – Ah, the miscellaneous crap you buy. For some reason our oldest son’s friends all seem to have birthdays this month, so we will have a few presents to purchase. I’ll need to figure out a frugal option here. Other random things we no longer have – a maid and a lawn service. Glad we can mark those off the list.

We’ve got a lot to work on. I think it’s going to require intentional thought throughout the month. Really asking ourselves what we need, before purchasing, to see if we can forgo it entirely or find a cheaper option. I skipped out on my coffeeshop latte today, which is normally my go-to for both a pick-me-up and for stress relief during the workday. It was a serious struggle, but I survived. Ha! That’s $4 saved right there. Just keep swimming…

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