In January I decided to partake in the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month Challenge as this was the last opportunity before it goes on hiatus.
I really didn’t know what to expect; I went in with an open mind to see what I could learn. Now that the month is complete, here are my biggest takeaways:
My basic frugality skills are solid.
As I read each daily e-mail, I realized that I’ve already done a lot of work to get back to a frugal mindset in the past year or so. I have cut back on clothing/shoes purchases, pack lunch for work 4’ish days a week, actively shop the ads at our grocery store, think before purchasing things impulsively. Since we have a toddler, our travel and entertainment budget is pretty minimal (we don’t go out much). We even hosted a frugal birthday party for our daughter, which was both inexpensive and low stress.
I also used the challenge as an opportunity to “go without” some small luxuries for a month as a reset. For example, I didn’t buy anything on Amazon or Target and didn’t purchase any coffee away from home. (How did I manage to go a whole month without setting foot in Target?)
Could I have cut my discretionary expenses even more during the challenge? Definitely. But overall I feel we have a solid foundation in frugality.
We have a lot of ‘big rocks’ in our spending
These are our 3 big rocks: Mortgage, Daycare, and Retirement Savings. I just added up in my head what these three line items amount to, and it’s pretty ridiculous. In fact, January was a 5-week daycare month so that expense was nearly as much as our mortgage! We also had an unexpected plumbing expense in the middle of the month.
When so much of your monthly budget is consumed by a few big things, it can be discouraging; why even bother cutting back on the $5 lattes or $10 lunches? But these are the only changes that will make an impact for us in the short term.
You can’t force frugality upon someone else.
I started the month trying to rope my husband into this challenge, thinking it would be fun to do it together. One of the first UFM e-mail topics related to goals. I set out to have a conversation with the hubs about our frugality and future life plans.
Well…I kind of forgot that my husband hates goal setting and thinking about the future and really anything that constrains his behaviors artificially. (We are very different souls.) I kept pushing on it and we both felt miserable at the end of the discussion. So I took a step back and remembered I can only manage my own behaviors.
“You cannot effectively shove ANY philosophy, world view, religion, or way of life down someone else’s throat. The best you can do is live out the shining example of your financial certainty. People will notice.” -Mrs. Frugalwoods
Do I wish my husband would spend less money going out to lunch during the week? Yes. Is that a hill I want to die on? NOPE. So I’ll carry on by eating leftover black bean soup three days in a row. You know why? Because I CHOOSE to do it, and it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. (That was some damn good soup if I do say so myself.)
My husband is generally open to listening to my points about frugality when I make non-judgmental remarks in passing conversation, so I’m going to continue using this approach.
There is a season for saving and a season for spending.
January is the perfect month to focus on frugality. Everyone is burned out from the holidays and trying to get back into a regular routine. However, it can be really easy to get in a NO FUN RUT where you never let yourself splurge on anything.
This path to financial independence? It is not a short one, at least not for us. Some fun things need to be sprinkled in there to keep up the morale. The key is to find a balance and spend money on things that you value. I’m loosening up the purse strings just a little in February.
“There are seasons for blowing money like a dope, and seasons for saving like a coupon-clipping maniac. Finding your balance is key.” –Abandoned Cubicle
Who should do the UFM Challenge?
I was a surprised to discover I didn’t learn much new information from the daily e-mails. Maybe that’s because I’ve been reading the Frugalwoods blog for a while now and am already familiar with many of the great tips offered through the challenge.
I think the ideal target for the UFM challenge would be:
- Someone who is early in their frugality journey and still building their skills (this would be a great Frugality 101 class);
- Someone who likes/needs group accountability (there was a lot of discussion on the Facebook group, though I didn’t participate personally);
- Someone looking to do a frugality “cleanse” – a previously frugal person, who has encountered some lifestyle inflation and is wanting to reset habits