Frugality sometimes gets a bad rap, and I can’t say I blame folks that cringe when they hear the word. For some, frugality culls images of extreme couponers, hoarding masses of tomato paste they’ll never use in every nook and cranny of their house or the frugal couponer who feeds her family on $100 a month but has to spend hours upon hours collecting and organizing coupons, much to the chagrin of an unsuspecting grocery clerk.
When I took up frugality two years ago, I did so out of necessity- I was making about $800 a month and had student loans that would come due as soon as I got my M.A. degree. Add to that, the instability of a down economy that made many of us feeling unsure, stuck and feeling frustrated. Since, those humble frugal-blogging beginnings, I’ve made more income but money is still tight- we are saving up for a wedding, I’m trying to get my emergency fund back from $0 (paying off student loans and living debt free is my priority.) I’m taking on more financial responsibility with two rescue pugs (who are prone to all kinds of fun problems), attempting to max out my Roth IRA and still have fun money to play with- it’s not always easy.
Recently, I’ve tried to tackle budgeting one more time. I have no excuse not to budget- I’m using Mint.com and a cash budgeting system to track my spending. Whether income is good or you’re bouncing from paycheck to paycheck, tracking your spending is the only way to get real about your money (and figuring out where it magically goes each month!) Even as a frugality blogger, I really am struggling with budgeting and am learning a lot by committing myself to this goal.
I’ve already learned a few things about frugality: I suck at making meal plans. I am using way more gas to get to work than I thought. It is really hard to avoid impulse buys while on vacation. Also, beer is really expensive (but so worth it).
Right now, what drives my frugality is saving for the future and of course- a rainy day. Now that I’m out of school, being able to save for a wedding, stay debt free and build an emergency fund is key. My goals for September are huge and I’m a bit intimidated by the amount I’m going to have to sock away to stay on target for each savings goal. So, here’s the brutal numbers:
Here’s a breakdown of my monthly savings goals:
$418 a month for a Roth IRA
$400 a month for the wedding fund
$300 a month for the emergency fund (goal: $3,500 for this, it’ll take me about 5 more months)
$100 a month for the Glass Slipper Challenge in February
$100 a month (til December) for Christmas Gifts & travel
Total: $1418 a month
I am not a financial blogger who likes to lay out every penny of income, expenses and budgets (much like fitness bloggers who relay too many post workout selfies and Insta-document every stupid “clean eating” meal or cupcake they “allow” themselves, I get annoyed), but I will say, this saving plan doesn’t leave much room for spending. While my trip to Walt Disney World for the Glass Slipper Challenge will be super fun, it’s delayed gratification and sometimes honestly, that gets super annoying 😉
My biggest challenge to make this happen is to plan out my meals. I’m short on time, which means crazy couponing and hopping from store to store is not going to happen, but at the very least, I can maximize my budget and reduce food waste by having a solid plan around my meals. While I’m not anticipating to overstock my kitchen like some folks do, I need to have more of a rotational stockpile of staples that I can grab and use at any time when I get home late or need to whip up food in a hurry.
The easiest way to save money is to plan your meals, and thus far, it’s a challenge I’ve failed at. After a long day, it’s sometimes easier to throw a frozen pizza in the oven and add some salad when you’re dog tired and are out of fresh options. More than I care to admit, I’ve bought something to-go because I got careless about my meal planning and simply ran out of options or ran out of time- not good. I’d rather spend money on running or fun than to buy a premade sandwich on the go since I ran out of bread at home.
So, here’s what I’ve laid out- to stay on budget and hit my lofty savings goals, I’m going to have to get to work!
Frugal Challenges For September:
-Damnit, we will make a meal plan and stick to it!
-Fine tune the budget (grr, yes, I hate budgeting too!) and make sure my categories are accurate with my first month of spending tracking to set realistic goals. Now that I’ve gotten over the shell shock of what I’m actually spending (yes, we always spend more than we think! I’m going to have to sit down and make hard decisions about where to save, where to spend and how to hit my big savings goals..that wedding won’t pay for itself!)
-Find lodging for the Nashville Women’s Running Series Half Marathon that won’t break the bank (need a roomie?)
-Finally repaint the guest room and create an office for myself on a narrow budget of $200. Any advice on how to redo a room without wasting a ton of money on one-time use paint supplies would be great!
We are focusing on meal planning in September. We would also like to start a garden soon to lower our food costs even more.
Hey Michelle! That’s awesome! We struggle with meal planning and only have a little teeny balcony so while we’re growing peppers and tomatoes, they are taking forever to mature…I started the seeds back in April and am now just getting my first bunch of peppers so I may have like 4. 🙂
For us being able to save that much is out of the window, we don’t earn that much. For us it’s about being able to stock up on bargains when we do our food shopping, buying second hand rather then new, cutting down on our electric use to save on bills. We kind of tackle it the practical way that we can do everyday and have certainly seen a difference. The big thing for us and what we’re saving for is getting into buying a house and have mortgage repayment far cheaper then our rent is atm!
Hi Rachael, yes, I’m wondering if I’ll be able to hit those lofty savings goals this month. My expenses aren’t locked in yet but I’m still guesstimating what I can save vs. spend and may go on a 30 day “no shopping” challenge just to get it back on track!
Shopping…First it was buying things for our new house. Now I just discovered the joy of thrift and consignment store shopping a month or so ago and have spent toooooooo much money on it. Especially when I find outfits on Pinterest that I want to try to copy. I have a budget spreadsheet that I have recently redone to correspond with my husband’s new income; now I just have to have the strength to stick to it. The new budget does have me putting $200 in savings each month (it sounds pitiful compared with your saving plan!), but it’s the first we’ve really been able to save since Hubby had been in medical school until a couple of months ago and I was supporting us on a teacher’s salary.
I do meal plan, but not to the day. I make a list of meals that I’m going to cook and try to plan a variety of time consuming, quick-n-easy, and crock pot meals. I can’t wrap my head around going to the grocery store without a plan of meals I’m going to cook.
No, your savings plan isn’t pitiful! It’s just that I have like no spending money and cut my expenses down to the nitty gritty… so no cable, no clothes etc… but I may not hit them since I now have new car insurance and health insurance to pay, so these are my goals but I may not hit them with realistic spending….it’s just a goal 🙂
I have found that the easiest things to grow (and they grow best/cheapest in a container) is swiss chard, lettace and spinach! They are big producers! i have a few containers of them, then i have one container with just dirt that i take my scraps of bannana peels, coffee grinds/filter, fruits/veggie scraps and eggs shells and i burry them once a week or so in the plain dirt container. i grow stuff in the others. this is like free fertilizer and then after a few months (6 or so) i start to grow things in that pot and do the same with another one.. rotate it all around. but egg shells and coffee grinds right on top of the dirt you are growing your greens in also help keep away the snails and aphids! it cuts their body to crawl on top of them! for food, make some soup in a crock pot and eat it for a couple days! you can do lentil, chicken noodles, etc.. everything seems to stretch out WAY further in a soup! have oatmeal for breakfast with some nuts and fruit, (i buy a big bag of walnuts from costco for like $10 and it last for months if i eat my portion size every day!) bananas seem to be the cheapest fruits! and i eat the greens from my garden! you can also add potatoes to soups and stretch it out further!
I’m focusing on reeling in my spending. I was crazy with it this summer and I kind of hate myself for it!
Ya Desi, my summer spending was out of control! So much travel and shopping *faints*
We are absolutely terrible with food! It’s the one thing we haven’t been able to cut back at will. We’ve basically waved the white flag to restaurant spending and at this point we just attempt to split it into two meals to save on cost (and calories!).
Those are awesome savings goals! I want to start maxing out my Roth next year once I get a bit more debt paid down. Also (totally unsolicited I know), did you know that the IRA contribution limits are $5,500 in 2013? Not $5,000. It went up! Hopefully, they keep raising it :).
I haven’t mastered meal planning, but I do a shopping trip for my office. I like to buy greek yogurts, chicken sausages, rice cakes, peanut butter, nuts/trail mix. etc. to keep stocked only at work so I know I always have food. This makes it easier to stick to a food budget and harder to justify eating out for lunch because I already paid for food and it’s there fore me to eat.
Greek Yogurts=new obsession. Had one last night and it was ridiculously delicious…
I’m so happy that I discovered your blog! I like trying to be financially conscious and more thoughtful about my spending. To most others in my life, it is looked down upon. So, I’ve learned to shut up about it. I am by no means a financial guru, but I do think it’s important to be mindful about your spending, and save where you can. Thank you for affirming my attempts at frugality, and creating an outlet through your blog for it. BTW, I am also trying to become a runner! Right now, I am a class junkie ie. spinning, turbo kickboxing, but the freedom of being a runner is my next goal. Thank you again for your blog.
I haven’t found the right class for me yet Tam but totally want to try kickboxing and Zumba! Right now I do the whole gym routine but no classes, have to try!
Love that you’re doing classes and hope you get into running! 🙂 Thanks for reading!
Look at air b n’ b for the Nashville race, or if you’re really brave, couchsurfing.org (I’ve done it and loved it). I struggle with meal planning AND alcohol spending- but who doesn’t? One of my goals is to stay in more and drink my $3 BOTTLES of wine from Trader Joe’s instead of going to happy hour (even if it is happy hour).
I am struggling with my budget this month too. I went to a yoga class yesterday that’s free at my local sweaty betty store and what happened – I bought a yoga mat! Why? I don’t know but it blew a hole in my budget arrrgghhh!
It’s a slip up but an annoying one thankfully the only one this month so far but I now have to use my overdraft to pay for my bootcamp this month – not something I wanted to do as I was hoping to get back to being overdraft free this month 🙁
Good luck with the meal planning hope you can get that sorted out and it’ll make you more chilled in the long run and better able to cope with the budgeting!
I feel you! I’ve done that more times than I care to admit, or I slip up and forget to bring a lunch or I’m on a trip and forget to pack something and totally mess up my budget over something small!
Lessons, they’re all lessons!
My husband and I are really focusing on paying down his student loans. It’s so hard with everything we want to accomplish travel wise before we really settle down, but I know it will be worth it!
Yes, it will SO be worth it!!!
Budgeting is the worrrst! I also suck at making meal plans, but it’s one of the things I plan on conquering during the fall & winter months! I already missed out on my opportunity to preserve food this summer (lazy.) but I definitely want to try to master meal planning so it’s super easy to just buy a bunch of groceries on a fixed budget.
Good luck, girrr!
I have just joined http://www.ynab.com and its a brilliant budgeting tool, take the trial for a month, it really helps 🙂
A second recommendation for YNAB – You Need a Budget makes budgeting enjoyable (no, really!) and has honestly changed my life.
Veda is so right! I live in the UK and don’t know anyone this side of the pond who uses it, it’s such a clever way of budgeting. I am so excited that finally I am going to rule my budget rather than worry about money and unexpected bills
Okay so first of all… YOU’RE SAVING FOR A WEDDING OMG I LOVE IT. I’m so excited for you! Don’t let anyone tell you what you “have to have” or “have to do”. You only have to have one thing: Fun.
Second, do you have a Trader Joe’s nearby? Some of their frozen foods save my ass when I’m not in the mood to cook, and generally, they’re pretty healthy. The Reduced Guilt Macaroni and Cheese (while I don’t agree with the name…) is amazing, and perfect for when you have a craving for comfort food but don’t want to totally break your day’s calorie bank. Another favorite of mine are the frozen bean, cheese, & rice burritos; cut into bite sized pieces, add avocado, salsa and a bed of greens for a quick dinner or filling lunch.
I need to get better about budgeting, too. The cruel twist is that I’m finally making “enough” money to live on, but I have to leave both of my jobs to move to another country where I don’t speak the language. So we’ll be budgeting on my husband’s income, until I start bringing in some money, too. I am definitely looking forward to spending my days writing, exploring, learning German, and cooking, though!