Tag Archives: saving money

five ways to be frugal (and still have fun)

If you’ve been reading Goodbye Bernadette lately, you know Wes  and I have embarked on a year long journey to pay off as much of our debt as possible. We are using And Then We Saved as an inspiration and guide. I first blogged about the why’s and wherefore’s here, and this is just a little update about our progress.

The first month was challenging. We quickly learned that curbing our spending would take a lot of conscious effort, a lot of communication, and the ability to move on if we spent a little too much on something we didn’t need. I’ll be the first to admit that I spent every single penny in my coin purse that’s designated for metered parking on coffee from Starbucks! Oops. And when that ran out, I turned to bartering with my sis: one small coffee in exchange for me cleaning her bathroom? Done deal.

As January wore on, however, I got a little more creative and stopped searching the house for nickels and dimes. Here’s four things I’ve been doing to eliminate spending and still enjoy my free time.

1. Find a way to maintain a costly ritual that you truly enjoy. 

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I really (and I mean really) love to grocery shop. I like to go by myself. I like to drive the same route to and from. I like to methodically weave through each aisle. And I really, really  like to buy a small Caribou Coffee to fuel my grocery inspired therapy session. Unfortunately, a weekly $3 is not on the needs list. So, I decided to use  a Starbucks gift card that I got for Christmas to invest in a to-go mug. Now, instead of purchasing coffee, brewing a small pot of my own at home has become a part of my grocery shopping ritual. It doesn’t take long–I just brew while I’m writing my shopping list. Sipping on my coffee while I grocery shop has helped me reframe the chore into something really look forward to each week, and it was important to me that I continued this ritual without spending money!

2. Turn something you consider a need into a luxury.

For me, this was changing up the type of conditioner I buy. Is it just me, or do you also go through your shampoo a million times faster than your conditioner?  It takes me up to six months to use up a full bottle, but I find myself purchasing a new bottle to match my shampoo every month.  (Am I  falling for some sort of sneaky marketing scheme? You bet!) I’ll usually stash the half empty bottle in the bathroom closet, but sometimes, I  throw it away. This is a shameful habit, and I decided to use my new found frugality to try and battle it. So, instead of buying a matching brand of conditioner with every new bottle of shampoo, I’ve decided to opt for a brand or a scent that I find particularly luxurious. Something that’s just a few dollars more. Now, instead of spending $4 every month on conditioner I just waste, I’ll be spending about $8 every six months and feel much more compelled to use it all up. The math works out in my favor, and I feel like I’m treating myself.

3. Discover all of the good and free things your city has to offer.

Springfield’s art museum has tons of exhibits, and there’s no admission fee. Try finding a small history or art museum in your town that’s also free. Seek out festivals and multicultural events–these are great events that are often zero cost. I also like to window shop at flea markets and antique stores, and one thing I’m really looking forward to is browsing the farmer’s market when it reopens! There’s always opportunities to volunteer, and Wes replied “Heck yes! They have free snacks!” when I suggested donating blood for our next date night. And don’t forget about your local library! Besides it’s obvious use, the library usually has a good magazine collection, which helps me curb my habit of purchasing two or three magazines every month. A cheaper habit, and a greener one, too! And although it’s impractical for us right now, the library could deliver on your internet needs if you can manage with about an hour a day. A technology fast and a spending fast at the same time? Go you!

4. Perfect a new skill instead of paying for someone else to do it.

I’ve never had a professional mani or a pedi in my life, but I recently decided to keep my fingers and toes a little more polished and a little less Where The Wild Things Are. Spending money at a nail salon was not in the budget, so I’ve been learning more about nail shapes, cuticle health, and painting techniques. I’ve gotten a lot better at doing my own nails and now it’s something I enjoy doing while watching SNL. Before this journey, I would’ve just gone out and payed for a service, but know I stop and think–can I do that myself? This is a great opportunity to learn something new, practice something you’re not good at, and find new hobbies. Maybe next you’ll see me changing my own oil. (But probably not.)

5. Catch up on all those projects you bought supplies for.

Not allowing myself to spend money on things like hot  yoga or shopping sprees to entertain myself has forced me to tackle some creative to-do lists. When I decided I wanted to learn how to sew nearly two years ago, I quickly started stockpiling fabric for an endless list of sewing projects. Last month I made six couch pillows (too much?) and new covers for my mid-century chairs, projects that were a part of my 2013 goals but never got started. As each project nears completion, I feel less and less guilt for filling up a closet full of craft supplies and never actually using them. And my living room is looking a lot cuter now, too! Next up? I’m diving into the 8 Dresses project I outlined a while ago. I was afraid to take a seam ripper to a lot of the dresses, but there is no time like the present. I’m currently deconstructing the Samantha Dress and will be rebuilding the bodice soon! Wish me luck.

What creative ways have you found that help you spice up life when money is tight?

P.S. Becca says hello! She has been ridiculously busy with homework–I mean, “homeplay,” as they call it at Paul Mitchell. She’ll be back soon! In the meantime, read about her journeys in the world of cosmetology at The Teacher and The Stylist!

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goodbye debt: the needs vs. wants list

On our way home from family Christmas festivities up north, Wes and I talked about our goals for 2014. I mentioned the things on my 25 before 26 list, of course, and thought about the goals that might be declared as New Year’s Resolutions. I saw no purpose in making another list of goals that included things like tackling baking challenges or mass closet organizations. So, Wes and I decided to tackle something together for 2014: our debt.

In our relationship, Wes manages the money much more than I do. When we got married I had this idea that I couldn’t relinquish any of that control over to Wes. I might have some trust issues–definitely working on those. The truth is, he is better at budgeting, investing, and generally keeping track of passwords, and the busier I became with school and work, the more he just took over. And thank goodness for that–someone has to keep track of it all!

Unfortunately, because I don’t pay attention to our finances, I tend to overspend. You know how they say most committed couples tend to fight about money most often? It’s true. We often argue about where our money is going and who spent what and why. It’s not fun to talk about money when you aren’t swimming in it, and when you’re the frivolous spender in the relationship (me) those discussions are often filled with a lot of guilt and “you’re not my mom!” accusations towards the other person.

Last year we tried to tackle our spending habits, but it’s very hard for us to find the time to evaluate our spending together. We did set a budget, and tried meeting once a month to discuss where we overspent, and establish small goals for the next month. Truth be told, we just didn’t find the time to have these discussions, and both of us continued to overspend in various areas at various times.

This year, we have decided to force ourselves to budget by tackling a very concrete thing: the mountain of debt we have accumulated as students. To begin, we started researching tools that both of us were interested in using to help us with our task. Things like Mint.com and online billing became buzzwords, and we started reading And Then We Saved, a blog about eliminating large amounts of debt in a short amount of time. As of January 1, 2014, we will be embarking on The Spending Fast ® and plan to eliminate 20K+ in debt in about a year and a half.

We recently put together our Needs vs. Wants list, and in an effort to remain accountable, I am sharing it with you today!

We thought making this list would be pretty challenging, but it developed pretty quickly. The hardest things to justify on either list were gifts and Hulu/video games. We’re having a hard time putting the kibosh on any birthday gifts, baby shower gifts, Christmas gifts. So while we’ve added it to the WANTS list, we decided it would be okay to reevaluate this decision on a case by case basis. Perhaps we’ll have spending room around one birthday and not another, or will be able to budget $10 a gift around Christmas instead of the usual $20. We also had a hard time justifying our Hulu subscription and the occasional video game purchase from Steam.com, but on the NEEDS list it remains. TV is my default form of entertainment and Wes games more than anything. We realize that it might be desirable to use this opportunity to diversify the way we spend our time, but also see that as an entirely different kind of challenge, and maybe one we’re not willing to tackle right now. So I suppose we’ll remain sedentary in our hobbies and selfish in the fact that we didn’t swap gift giving with our entertainment subscriptions.

There you have it. I’m getting ready to go print that list and then spend every last penny we have before I’m allowed to spend no more. (Kidding!)

Catherine