Frugal February: A Money-Saving Challenge

When my hubby and I first got married our income was $900 a paycheck. Where we lived, a decent one-bedroom apartment was almost $800 a month, so nearly half of our monthly income went to rent. Utilities were expensive in that area, so most of the rest of our income went to electric, gas and water bills along with car insurance. Money was pretty tight. We budgeted carefully, accounted for every penny we spent and almost never ate out or bought anything that wasn’t a true need (i.e. food, car repairs or medicine).

Adding Up the Little Things

In the last ten years, our income has gone up quite a bit (though it went down some with the economy). We fell out of the habit of being very careful with our money. We are by no means frivolous spenders, but there are so many little ways we could save money that would really add up. I’ve decided that for the month of February, we’re going to see just how much the little things can add up!

These are the three main areas I will be focusing on:

  1. Food and other groceries: This is our biggest expense, apart from our mortgage. We have food quality standards that we aren’t willing to compromise on (unless, of course, we simply didn’t have the money. Then we’d make the best choices we could.), but I know that there are ways to save money by shopping smarter and being more creative.
  2. Utilities: There are several tips and tricks we’ve used before that I just haven’t kept up with. I plan to get back to them and I will be sharing them with you. I know we can spend less on heating/cooling and water usage. February is usually the coldest month, where we live, so we’ll see what kind of difference I can make on our electric bill!
  3. Fun and Activities: We don’t go out and do expensive activities very often. Most of the time we’d rather be cozied up together at home, but I do get a bit carried away with purchasing supplies for projects. I won’t be spending any money on that this month. Instead, I will be pulling out supplies I’ve bought for projects that I haven’t gotten around to yet. If I don’t have everything I “need”, I will try to improvise with what I do have.

What we do with the money we save is just as important as saving it!

Just avoiding spending money in one way doesn’t guarantee that we are being wise. My hubby and I will be setting the money aside in savings and carefully deciding what to do with it. I’ve known people who are obsessive about doing little things to save money, then they waste their hard-earned savings on junk.

Going Further

It’s so important that we all keep learning. Barry, the husband of my friend Stacy at Stacy Makes Cents, has written an e-book called From Debtor to Better.  With our new baby, I haven’t been able to read and review it yet, so that is going to be near the top of my to-do list for the month. If you haven’t visited Stacy’s blog before, you should. She has tons of great ideas and information for being frugal… and her sense of humor cracks me up!

As I mentioned, food is our biggest expense, so I will begin by making the biggest changes there. Come back tomorrow to see what will make the biggest difference.

Does your family need to get creative to save money? What are your favorite ways to cut back?

12 comments to Frugal February: A Money-Saving Challenge

  • Yes! I love frugal challenges! Bring it on baby! 🙂 And we hope the book is a true blessing.

  • Susan

    We’ve also made some frugal changes and every little bit adds up.

    We don’t have cable and use magic jack as a phone service.
    Cloth diapering saves a ton.
    Boobies are free – no formula here.
    So does line drying clothes when possible.
    I don’t have a cell phone, I found I don’t need it.
    We started making our own laundry detergent at about 1 cents a load.
    Cut back on driving.
    We have nutritional standards we won’t compromise too. We learned how to process our meat and this has saved a lot of money!
    For the 3 of us, our weekly grocery bill runs about $25.00-$50.00 a week ( this includes two gallons of raw milk ).
    We shopped around for home/auto insurance and saved almost $700.00 a year!
    We recently started using “family cloths” for number one. ( I just can’t do family clothes for number two, I clean up enough poop with the diapers as it is )

    Our latest frugal challenge is a week without television.
    My next frugal challenge will be making the homemade toothpaste you posted about. 🙂

    • What an inspiring list, Susan! Good for you! I’m especially impressed by your grocery bill (and that it includes raw milk!). Do you do a lot of cooking from scratch?
      Thanks so much for the comment!

      • Susan

        Just about everything is prepared from scratch. We use our milk to make kefir, yogurt, sour cream, whey, and of course creamer for coffee..so there’s savings there too. Our biggest expense seems to be fruit. But, I’m working on a barter with local farmers. ;0

        I started out by learning how to process chickens. I then placed an advertisement on line asking for free roosters. I did this about 4 months after Easter when those baby Easter chicks purchased by parents for their children, started to crow. I had a significant response and in 5 months have processed over 20 free range, healthy chickens for our freezer.

        We do go over from time to time when we need to stock up on particular items ( like my husband’s razor blades, or maple syrup ).

        Love your facebook posts, BTW!

        • Your idea for getting free roosters is brilliant! Free food for your family and you rescued all of those parents from their predicaments! 😉
          Bartering is a win for us and the farmers. I hope you’re able to work out some good trades.
          I’m glad to hear that you enjoy my Facebook page. Being able to interact with all you lovely ladies on there is so much fun!
          Thanks so much for sharing your frugal ideas!

  • KatieC

    Looking forward to this series!!

  • I will definitely be watching for the next post in this series. It seems like we’ve been bleeding money lately. I am generally pretty good at being conservative but it’s my husband that usually makes the most unnecessary purchases. Since I’ve been at home now I’ve gotten into the coupon/blogging world & doing my best to find ways to save money at least on the things we need to buy.

    I subscribed by email to make sure that I don’t miss it.

    • Welcome and thanks for the comment, Emily! I hope that you’ll find lots of new ideas to help with saving money. If you’re on Facebook, you can check out my page. There’s a new money-saving tip from me every day along with ideas from my readers! 🙂

  • Miki

    We were in about the same boat as you 3-10yrs ago, living paycheck to paycheck with less than $2K a month to live off of. We added 4 little boys to the family during that time frame and survived. Then my husband got a much better paying job (3yrs ago) but we had debt! I was never good with money and bad with impulse buying but I finally had the “a-ha” moment I needed and found Dave Ramsey. I joined one of his Financial Peace University classes at a local church and it literally changed our lives within weeks. Having to sit down and talk about money taught us communication skills that we were sorely lacking in all areas of our marriage. Learning how to do a written zero based budget was magically eye opening. Spending our cash instead of using plastic was a savings I’d never imagined.
    We paid off and cut up our credit cards and never looked back. We go rid of cable and use a Roku box in our living room and stream through the BluRay player in our bedroom. We have subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu+ and Amazon. We pay less in the entire year than we did one month of cable! Magic Jack is our “land line” phone and works perfectly well. Our only utilities are gas, electric, water, internet and the above. This alone saved us hundreds of dollars a year. I buy mostly used clothes from rummage sale sites on Facebook and only buy new clothes when we need them and 99% of the time off the clearance rack. Having 4 boys makes passing down the clothes much easier, shoes and toys too! Most of the boys Christmas gifts were from the rummage sale site as well.
    Since doing this I have learned how to save money and have a nice emergency fund in the bank to help keep unexpected emergencies at bay. I also facilitate the FPU classes now at my church so I get to stay fresh with all of Dave Ramsey’s teachings.
    In the past 2yrs we have paid off about $41K in debt and we now have a large sum of money each month to really pound out the last of it. We’ll be debt free, except for the mortgage, by Feb 2014 and the mortgage will be paid off 15-18 months after that!!!
    What a difference and such weight off our shoulders.

    • That’s fantastic, Miki!! Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. We have done a lot of the same things and haven’t missed all the frills that so many people think are necessary. 🙂

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