Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Four Weeks of Frugal: Week 1

A couple weeks ago, I happened upon the blog Living Well Spending Less' challenge of 31 Days of Spending Zero.  The basic premise is that, save for bills and bare minimum essentials (we're talking bread, milk, and eggs here), you and your family spend zero dollars for a whole month.  No eating out (even a drink at Starbucks), no outings or dates that would have you fork over a couple bucks, no running out to buy a bottle of wine, nothing.  You live off of creativity to cure your boredom and what food you have in your pantry to keep you from starving.

In light of our recent medical expenditures, I first thought, What a marvelous idea! Oh, the savings! I quickly began calculating how much we might save and asked the hubby if he would be amenable to taking on such a challenge.  Being the compliant guy that he is, hubby went along with it, as long as we allowed ourselves to buy fruit in addition to the French toast ingredients.

We were all set to begin our challenge, when I got an invitation to dinner with some girlfriends.  Well crap, I thought.  I can't even go to a nice dinner with the ladies because of this thing.  After some more time contemplating, I concluded that, while idyllic, 31 Days of Spending Zero was not something I believed my family should take on.  I mean, isn't it a little extreme?  All that self-denial in the name of saving money?

So, I concocted a challenge and tacked a title of my own clever invention on it: "Four Weeks of Frugal".  Each week, we have a total of $100 cash to spend however we so choose - but nothing more.  It can be spent on a combination of groceries, eating out, and clothes; or it could be spent on a night at the movies and a getaway at a hotel.  But we are only allowed the $100.  Bills, tithing, and gas are the only exceptions.

Well, our family has completed its first week on this new (temporary?) budget.  I will say that there are probably wiser ways we could have used some of the money, but I think we did an okay job: we didn't go over the limit and we also didn't have to deprive ourselves of simple pleasures like a double date.

For accountability's sake, our cash was spent as follows:
  • $10 on Dash's Christmas present 
  • $41.76 on groceries
  • $7.25 on a family outing for mini donuts at the mall
  • $40 at the Melting Pot on a double date (Okay.  This one is obviously not super money-wise.  I made a mistake thinking that because we had a Groupon, we wouldn't have to spend any money. WRONG! But, we had a lot of fun and I had leftovers. Boom, justified.)
Frugal fun at the park
This doesn't sound like much, and you're right.  $100 doesn't get you very far in a week.  If you're like me, however, you have gift cards hidden, unspent in your wallet because they aren't gift cards to Target.  I've had some of these gift cards for years and only used them this week because, well, I didn't have anything else to spend! Here's what I bought with gift card money:
  • $9.43 at Starbucks (I mean who can resist a caramel macchiato in this fall weather?!)
  • $41 at Bath & Body Works (We were already at the mall, okay? And who doesn't want an automatic soap dispenser and bubble bath gel?? This is something I would never buy without a gift card, by the way.)
  • $19 at Trader Joe's for produce to juice
Is that cheating and defeating the purpose of the challenge?  Living Well Spending Less blogger might say yes, but I say, it wasn't cash out of my bank account.  It's okay to use.

We did do as many free things as possible.  Dash and I made frequent trips to the park, we fed the ducks, we had family feed us, and today we used our gifted zoo membership to go look at the sad orangutan.  Heck, I actually MADE money this week by selling unused baby toiletries to a fellow momma.
Family fun on the train at the Louisville Zoo!
So, I would call our first week of frugal a learning experience and a success.  How will we spend next week's money?  Only time and my blog will tell...

If you want to see a full set of my "rules" for Four Weeks of Frugal, click here or download here: Four Weeks of Frugal Challenge

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