Saturday, July 1, 2017

Introducing Uber Frugal Month

The next step towards a more minimal, no, scratch that, a more intentional life, seems obvious to me: get a handle on our finances and get out of debt.

As well, our situation is dicey. My husband is losing his job some time this fall and, I confess, it is freaking me out not a little. There are all sorts of complications with the timing of it all, his pension (and cuts to it depending on various scenarios which we are still trying to work out) and the severance package. The fact that we are thisclose to the warehouse shutting down and no one has answers for us is maddening to say the least. One thing we can pretty much count on, unfortunately, is that it is not likely he will be employed again at anywhere near the wage he is getting now.

This is the rainy day we should have been preparing for--and we haven't. So, rather than learning to be frugal proactively, which we should have done--we are going to do it reactively.

But we are going to do it!

I am not sure what to expect.

I just wanted to put this out there so you can have a chance to join up as well, if it interests you. Every day during the month of July, starting on the first, the blogger behind Frugalwoods will be sending out prompts to encourage u to be, well, uber frugal.

We had some homework to do prior to starting. Here is mine.

Step 1: Establish your goals.

1. Why are you participating in this Challenge?

 I want to get a handle on our finances. I need some help and support to spend less.

2. What do you hope to achieve?

At the end of the month, I want a clear do-able plan for living uber-frugally until our debt is gone, no matter what our income may be.  (Yes, we did Dave Ramsey. No, we were not gazelles.) Specifically, I want to see my way clearly through Steps 4 thru 10, below.

3. What are your long term life goals?

 I still want to travel. I'd love to take hiking and biking tours in Europe, Iceland and the U.K. If I dared dream big, I'd say Thailand, too, or another equally exotic location. Dreams. Dreams are nice.

4. Where do you want to be in 10 years?

I want to be in a small house by the sea.

5. What about your current lifestyle might prevent those goals from coming to fruition and what can you do about it?

I think I spend money mainly for convenience and to treat myself, food-wise. I also use money to indulge my love for creating, designing, and decorating.

Step 2: Review last month’s spending.

Done. I used to track our spending. I haven't in a long time. Funny, there's a direct correlation between how much we save to how much I track. I guess it really isn't funny at all. 

Step 3: Categorize your expenses.

Fixed Mandatory Expenses. Yep. Got 'em. Surprisingly, they only make up about 20% of our income. 

Discretionary Expenses (everything else.)

Step 4: What can I eliminate entirely?

Eating out and snacks
Clothing (for a while)

Step 5: Embrace the art of substitution.

The idea behind this frugal step is to substitute something free for something you are paying for. So, for example, I do pay the city a certain amount to use the pool for my aquafit classes. I try to go once a week. I love aquafit. 

Step 6: Reduce spending on discretionary expenses.

I could shop for groceries at a cheaper place than Safeway, I'm sure. 
Now that I've lost a bit of weight, I'm looking into paying a little less for life insurance, perhaps.
As for our utilities, I have this little project in mind for a spot in our basement:

I am hoping the challenge can help with this step.

Step 7: Empower yourself to insource!

The idea with this one is to stop paying other peopleto do things for you. Do them yourself. So, these are the things we paid other people to do this month: 

  • repair the Jeep
  • make two windows to replace our bedroom windows which are failing.
  • prepare food in restaurants so I (or someone else) didn't have to cook.
  • repair teeth (the dentist)
  • align the body (the chiropractor)
  • cut hair 
  • teach me what to wear, and how to declutter. (two on-line courses)
  • groom the dog

Hmmm, that seems like a lot all written out that way.

Step 8: Examine your habits.

Someone needs to be taking shorter showers, ahem. Again, this is an area I hope will be easier for me to see and thus do something about by the end of the challenge.

Step 9: Plan ahead.

Yes. Keeping up the meal planning and grocery shopping is de rigeur and it would be wise to add in what I plan to eat for lunch, too. I should also talk to the teenagers about this. 

We could also seriously cut down on the number of trips we make to the grocery store. We made over 25 visits to Safeway this month alone--only two were large weekly shopping trips with responsible lists. Not really sure what's going on there.

Step 10: If you do buy stuff, get it used (or cheap!)

This is an area we do not do well in, I admit. But, I have promised myself that I will go to Value Village for temporary clothes while I am losing weight. Of course, I say that, and yes, I did buy a pair of shorts there this month--but I also bought two T-shirts, a pair of capris and a dress--at a regular clothing store where people bring you alternate sizes to try on and you don't have to wait in line for a change room. sigh. Frugality is hard.

Step 11: Banish excuses.

I take it back. 

Major Lifestyle Changes

This whole section of our "homework" seems a bit premature and since this post is already too long, I'll spare you my thought processes for now. In brief:

1) Do you need to earn more?

Yes. We will.

2) Would moving help?

No. The house is paid off. We will move, eventually, and that will help substantially but that won't happen until the youngest finishes University--in about 5-6 years.

3) Should you get rid of your car (or one of your cars)? 

We would have to be pretty desperate for me to live without a car again.

4) Are you paying to work? 



I am going to give the penultimate word to Mrs. Frugalwoods:

The crux of successful, joyful frugality is spending in service of your goals and on the things that matter most to you. By identifying what you want out of life and eliminating spending that doesn’t get you to that final destination, you will succeed.

I only wish I had started down (and stayed on!) this path long, long ago. 

We'll see what happens.

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