12 Items in 2018

Buy nothing pledges are ubiquitous in the personal finance/minimalist blogosphere.  Britt at Tiny Ambitions is doing a 2018 shopping ban.  So is the Happy Philosopher.  The only clothing item Mrs. Frugalwoods has bought in the past 4 years is a pair of muck boots – she didn’t even buy maternity clothes for her two pregnancies!  Tread Lightly Retire Early is starting her second year of a clothes buying ban.

I’m not ready to make a pledge to ban all clothing purchases for myself for a year.  (I do enjoy being able to add a new thing to my wardrobe on occasion!) But I do want to be a conscious consumer.  So I’m doing a 12 Items in 2018 challenge.  I plan to buy 12 (OR LESS!) clothing related items this year.

Why?

  • I already have plenty of nice clothes.
  • I wear the same clothes over and over again anyway.
  • To encourage me to mend that small pile of clothes sitting in my closet and take good care of the clothes I already own.
  • To be more intentional in my purchases.
  • To lessen my environmental impact.
  • And of course, minimizing shopping helps the wallet, too.

What gets counted?

  • Shirts, sweaters
  • Pants, jeans, skirts, shorts
  • Dresses, skirts
  • Accessories (scarves, hats, belts, etc.)
  • Outerwear/coats
  • Shoes
  • Jewelry
  • Handbags, wallets
  • Loungewear
  • Workout gear

What I’m not counting in the total:  underwear, socks, free t-shirts from any races I complete this year.

Since I did the Uber Frugal Month Challenge in January, my current total for the year is ZERO clothing items purchased.

Who wants to join me?  What is your WHY for limiting your purchases in 2018?

What I Learned from the Uber Frugal Month Challenge

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:

  1. Someone who is early in their frugality journey and still building their skills (this would be a great Frugality 101 class);
  2. Someone who likes/needs group accountability (there was a lot of discussion on the Facebook group, though I didn’t participate personally);
  3. Someone looking to do a frugality “cleanse” – a previously frugal person, who has encountered some lifestyle inflation and is wanting to reset habits

Have you done the UFM challenge?  What did you learn about yourself?  How do you talk frugality with your significant other?

What is Your Money Personality – and How Did it Develop?

What is your money personality?

I recently came upon this quiz online and here are my results:

Capture

These results are accurate.  I’ve got a case of bag lady syndrome and have been like that pretty much since I started living on my own.  For anyone not familiar with the term, bag lady syndrome is a fear of ending up destitute.  I am confident in my financial decision making skills, but I still view money as a security blanket.  (More on this later…)

And while I don’t save as much as many in the FIRE community, I’ve always been an above-average saver.

The Other Personalities

According to The Money Couple, these are the other personalities:Capture2We all know people who fit this category, right?  People who love the finer things in life and live life to the fullest.  I also know people who give thoughtful gifts; it makes me think about the Five Love Languages, because receiving gifts is an important expression of love to some people.

Capture4Think about anyone you know who is an entrepreneur at heart.  This is definitely not me.  I am willing to take a normal amount of risk in the markets since I have a long time horizon, but I’m risk averse in daily life.

Capture3This is the closest match to my husband’s personality.  Money is relatively unimportant to him; it is simply a means to an end.

How did you develop your money personality?

  • Were you born with your money tendencies?
  • Was it influenced by the way your family taught you about money or your financial situation growing up?
  • Has it been impacted by your life events in adulthood?

Growing up, we always had plenty of food and a warm house, but we did not have much money.  My dad was a farmer and outcomes were often dependent on factors outside our control – Mother Nature and the agricultural markets.  I think this is a big factor that shaped my money personality; I didn’t want to have so little control over my own financial destiny.  Thus money became a security blanket to me.  I saw how hard my dad worked, yet all that hard work didn’t always translate into money in the bank.  I’ve made safe, traditional education and job choices in adulthood because of my risk aversion, and it’s also been a reason for my “save for a rainy day” mantra.

I also think some of it is just our inherent personality.  I am the firstborn and have the traditional firstborn traits.  I’m conscientious, cautious, controlling, and achievement oriented (yep I love setting goals!).  As far as I know, my younger brother is good with money, but he’s not a crazy finance nerd like me.

Ongoing life events impact our money personality, too.  There was a period of almost three years at the end of my first marriage where I was the only breadwinner.  (Did I mention this was during the last economic meltdown?)

This series of events could have led to financial ruin for a lot of people.  While I did have a rebuilding period after my divorce, I did not have to start from scratch.  I had been saving for a rainy day – that day came, and it lasted nearly 3 years.  I was thankful that I had developed the ability to live below my means and that I had a healthy emergency fund stashed away.  This experience simply reinforced my belief that MONEY = SECURITY and FREEDOM.

Would you change your money personality?

Overall I’m pretty satisfied with being a saver and security seeker.  I sleep well at night without worrying about money.  But in an ideal world, I would take a little more risk, have more fun in the moment, and stress a little less about life in general. 

As our daughter grows older, we will teach her to live frugally and save.  But I also hope that she will take calculated risks and enjoy her life to the absolute fullest.

What is your money personality?  How do you think it developed, and would you change it?

Friday’s Frugal Five – New Years Edition

5 ways I’ve worked my frugality muscles this past week:

  1.  We are participating in the Uber Frugal Month Challenge!  I use the term “we” loosely…it’s really me, trying to sprinkle a few ideas over to my husband.  It has been an interesting exercise so far, as he operates a lot differently than I do.  There may be more to say on this later in the month as we see how the challenge plays out.  Stay tuned!
  2. Related to #1, we are focusing on reducing our food spend outside the house this month, so we each have a set budget.  I brought leftovers to work for lunch Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
  3. I work in finance for a publicly traded company.  Once a quarter, when lots of people are super busy doing the accounting close for the quarter, they do a free lunch for the organization.  It’s not great food (our work cafeteria caters it), but it’s not terrible either.  Free food tastes better, right?
  4. Pork shoulder was on sale last weekend at the store so we did a pork shoulder in the slow cooker.  We had it for two different meals already (nachos and pulled pork sandwiches), still have leftovers in the frig, AND I froze some for a future meal.  Winning!
  5. With the cold snap we’ve been experiencing it’s been more noticeable how different the temperature is on different floors of our house.  The upstairs may be toasty, while the downstairs (where the man cave resides) can be a little frigid.  My hubs asked last weekend about buying a space heater.  Guess what?  I already own one, from before we got married!  I dug it out of the garage and he happily started using it.

How have you started off the year?

Hamilton tickets, and some of the other ways I fail at being frugal

I’m more thrifty than the average Joe and will compare my squeezing-the-last-bit-of-toothpaste-out-of-the-tube skills with anyone out there.  But compared to some of the FIRE bloggers I read, I am a spendthrift!  Just a few examples:

We pay someone to clean our house.  This started when my now-husband moved in with me.  I saw the state of his bachelor apartment (GASP!) and did not want to spend time arguing with my new roomie about standards of cleanliness.  Hiring it out was a easy way to reduce that friction.  Now that a little one has entered into the family dynamic, paying someone to clean frees up precious free time in our evenings and on weekends.  FRUGAL TIP:  We did reduce the frequency of the housecleaning to accommodate the budget post-baby.

Salon styling.  I like to have my hair cut and colored professionally.  FRUGAL TIP:  adopt a low-maintenance hairstyle and coloring strategy to reduce the frequency of visits.  (Related:  anyone have a recommendation for a good product to cover up gray roots?!?)

Fancy daycare.  When asking for recommendations for daycares last year, only once place was consistently mentioned to us.  That is where our daughter goes and we’ve been quite happy.  It’s not cheap, but is any good daycare cheap?  (Unless it’s Grandma.  Grandma daycare can be amazing.  AND cheap.)  I’d rather spend just a little more and not worry about my child’s safety or quality of care.  FRUGAL TIP:  I contribute the annual limit ($5,000) to a dependent care FSA at work to maximize tax savings.

Expensive groceries.  I don’t usually shop at Aldi and Wal-Mart.  I’m certainly not opposed to shopping there, but at this stage of life, convenience sometimes trumps money.  It is a struggle to get to one grocery store per week, much less two or more.  So the streamlined choice is a regional grocery chain that is not the cheapest, but has the full variety of items we buy for our weekly meals.  FRUGAL TIPS:  We buy lots of store-branded groceries (canned goods, frozen veggies, etc.); I plan meals around the store’s weekly ad; and as members of the chain’s shopper program we max out the various coupons that we receive.

Hamilton tickets!  My husband has been obsessed with Hamilton for a couple of years now.  He knows most of the songs by heart.  And he recently bought tickets for the touring show.  They were ridiculously expensive but he is over-the-top excited.  We have months to look forward to it and will always remember it afterwards.  We don’t do these types of experiences very frequently either, so when we do, it feels more special.  FRUGAL TIP:  Is there any way to frugalize this?

How do you spend money like a champ?

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