After reading this article about a woman named Erin who has a blog I was surprised to see how well she lived on just $800 a year for her and her family. I have to say it really slapped my crazed spending into perspective. I mean, I’m a pretty thrifty person over all, but my food/home buying is careless. It’s not that it’s horrible, I just know I could be saving a ton of money on the things I’m buying with a little careful planning. Not even a lot of careful planning, but just a LITTLE.
Thankful, Jason feels the same way. And in fact together we decided to try our own experiment starting May 1st for 6 months. No it’s not as courageous as $800 a year, but in our own way, pretty revolutionary. We will be cutting our budget in half to $100 a month for all our groceries/cleaning/dining/bath/beauty expenses. So $600 total for 6 months. And if all goes well, we will cut it again to $75 a month for the next six month after that.
April is our month for adjusting.
We decided that it’s going to take at least a few weeks to adjust to this way of eating/spending.
1. Buying Trends : Mainly saving our receipts and figuring out where are money is going for what and when. This will make it easier to pin point places we can cut back and also what dry goods we can look out for that can be stock piles.
2. Organizing: One of the big ways to save a lot is to stock pile. And we don’t have a ton of extra room so I’m reorganizing some things so we will have some room to put stock piled dry goods.
3. Coupons & Sales: Learning to organize my coupons (yesterday’s post) is a big issue. Where to find them and what to buy with them where. Learning what’s really on sale, so comparison shopping.
4. Staple items: I read about foods that are “Always Budget Buys” on Hilbilly Housewife (haha, that name, lots of good advice though) and that’s something that I used to do and have gotten away from. She even provides a nice list of items (scroll down to shopping stratagies and click “Always Bargins” – it’s a pdf) that you can print out and jot down the prices on.
5. Surveys (here and here), Swag Bucks, and Cashback – It’s not going to make a huge difference, but if I can earn a few gift cards here and there by filling out a few surveys, searching through a different search engine a few times a day, or searching for things on ebay through a Live Search, I’ll do it. A penny saved is a penny earned and vice versa right? I mean, if we are only spending $25 on everything for a whole week, a $5 gift card to target will really help out.
6. Accounts – We thought about getting a credit card and earning points on that for all our purchases and just paying it off once a month in full, but then we decided against. I’ll be the first to admit I’m bad with credit cards. In fact being in credit card debt is my personal reason for putting myself on a strict budget. We decided not to tempt fate. Instead we are going to open up a joint checking account that we will both put $300 in for the 6 month term. US bank has some great rates and you can earn cash back for every debit purchase that you run as credit. That’s good enough for now.
7. Community – Like any challenge or goal, it’s a good idea to have the support of a community. Jason will be part of my community and the other part will be online places like HotCouponWorld. It offers a lot of support, advice, and links to deals/surveys/freebies. Other frugal living blogs – which I will start adding to the sidebar as I find them – and other frugal people in my community here in Ames will make up the other part of my community. It’s always easier to spend less when you are surrounded by those who are doing the same. Those of you on Thrift Kitchen leaving comments will be the best part 🙂
May :: The Next Step
In April we are pretty much pushing for the $100 a month plan, but in May we are taking the plunge. It will be hard to tell how we are doing at first because maybe that first month we will go over $100, but we will see how it goes.
I know I’ve been saying forever and a day that I’ll start figuring out how much each meal I make costs, but now I have a real reason too. What was once a great deal of $8 for 6 cans of Jason’s favorite chili is now not so great. I’ll be making a huge pot of chili for him and portioning it out and freezing it from now on. And I’ll be able to tell you for sure that it cost X per meal serving.
What will be included in this $600 budget?
1. All food – groceries, snacks, dining, drinks, etc.
2. Cleaning – paper towels, soft scrub, floor cleaner, laundry detergent (but not laundry mat costs), etc.
3. Bath and Beauty – Soap, Shampoo, lotion, face cleaners, tooth paste, etc.
4. Pets – Food, shampoo, litter – not vet bills though.
What’s not included is utilities/rent/phone/cable/car – but we are making active efforts to reduce those costs too, it’s just not part of that $600 budget. And I’ll post about those things when it’s appropriate, but not on a regular basis like the above list.
My first stockpile coupon saving win!
I found a great coupon for yesterday news (the only litter my ferrets do well with and don’t just kick around and dig in) for $2. And they just happen to have it on sale at Target for $6.49, marked down from $8.49. So I print off a few coupons and will get 3 bags total, a coupon savings $6, but since it’s on sale, I’m only spending $13.50ish on 39 lbs of litter, which would normally be twice that. Very nice.
See you all soon!