January saw us take part in the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month Challenge.
The Challenge was designed to help people not only save as much money as possible in one month but to reset and hopefully change consumer mindsets. An impressive 9,000+ individuals signed up to take part!
We’re not perfect and are always happy for an opportunity to improve upon our saving strategies. We had already implemented a lot of the things that were discussed through the challenge and so, even though we were starting from a place of relative spend awareness, we were up for the challenge of supercharging our savings for a month.
How did we do, then?
We spent $1,163.07 after housing costs. This includes necessary and discretionary expenses.
We saved $3,262.04 on top of what we’d planned to save.
Our planned savings rate for month was 47.75%
Our actual savings rate for month was 66.96%
71% of our total spending in January went on rent (excluding electricity) – you really don’t want to know how much our rent is. It’s embarrassingly high given our current plan of trying to achieve financial independence.
The reason we have a planned and actual savings rate is we still have a budget where we apportion amounts to categories but in reality we don’t live that way anymore. We have moved to an approach where we spend as little as possible on everything.
What We Implemented
Our biggest focus for the month was our grocery spending. We currently have a budget of $125 a week. This is the reduced amount from when we starting working towards FIRE. Pre FIRE we had $150 a week. This high number is partly a reflection of how expensive I find groceries in the city where we live.
Our final grocery spend for January was $369.18.
We shopped 5 times in January (we returned from vacation on January 1 so needed to get the week’s food that we ordinarily would have bought at the end of December).
That’s roughly $73 a shop. This excludes household goods, it’s purely food (and coffee) to feed us 3 meals a day, 7 days a week.
Last 4 months spend on groceries
September, 2016: $545.41
October, 2016: $616.51
November, 2016: $515.75
December, 2016: $453.46 (we were away on vacation for 1 week of December)
How did we reduce our grocery bill?
We did very well in January compared to the last 4 months of 2016!
- Used up food in the cupboards and freezer.
- Batch cooked for some more interesting lunches at work.
- Cooked more vegetarian meals.
- Mr. LLC switched from greek yoghurt and fruit to porridge oats for breakfast.
- Had a ban on buying any additional groceries during the week.
I have always prepared a weekly meal plan and made a list before I go grocery shopping. So, I didn’t introduce those tactics to reduce our grocery bill this month but all of the above helped reduce it. The last one is something that always gets us during other months. We’ll do really well during our main food shop but then spend an additional $15-$20 during the week, which really adds up over the course of the month.
We also got rid of our HBO and Google Play Music subscriptions which saved us $25 a month. These things are nice to have but we don’t use them all the time, so we won’t really miss them (until Game of Thrones start and I obviously get a new subscription to HBO!).
Frugal Month Wins
Our spending on groceries. I revel in out $369 grocery spend!
Weekend activities with our free museum memberships: The city where we live allows local residents who sign up for a city ID card the chance to get free annual memberships to some pretty amazing cultural attractions in the city. We had something free to do every weekend.
Binge watching all the good things on Amazon Video before our Prime subscription ended. We signed up for Prime last year with a discount but didn’t see that value in renewing.
Free hospitality tickets to the basketball that included free food and drink: Mr. LLC won a lottery at work for tickets to an NBA game that included access to the hospitality lounge with some pretty amazing free food (you better believe I stocked up on free cookies and brownies to see us through the next few days too).
Not spending a $ on anything for ourselves: We have an allocation of money for personal spending each month and I’m happy to say we didn’t touch it!
Not needing any work done at the dentist: I had a checkup and cleaning that didn’t cost me anything (thank you insurance!) and was told I was in good shape with no cavities. Oh, the relief of not having a dental bill for at least another 6 months!
Frugal Month Fails
Lunch with colleagues: I’m working from home at the moment due to my organization’s office relocation. We co-work once a week and on our first co-working of the new year, everyone wanted to go out for lunch. It was nice catching up with everyone but it was $20 that I begrudged spending!
Birthday drinks: You can’t really say no to a friends birthday drinks. But the upside was Mr. LLC only spent $20.
How Did We Find It?
It was an enjoyable month. We had fun challenging ourselves to spend as little as possible and were truly so happy (if a little giddy) to not spend a lot.
It was probably easier for us as January generally is a quiet month for us. We have family birthdays but those presents are normally bought in December so we can ship it back to the UK in time. So, we didn’t really have any higher cost purchases to be made, it was just normal household bills and food to keep us alive.
Will We Continue?
Uber Frugal Month was a good reset for us. It helped us focus on keeping our spending down. We didn’t feel like we needed a major overhaul of our spending habits, it was more a test of how little we could comfortably spend to get by. After all, the less money spent, the more that can go into the savings!
We’ll continue on being conscious of our spending but we won’t feel guilty going to a restaurant or two either. A phrase we like to live by in our household is everything in moderation.