Monday, March 4, 2013

Challenge #2 Wrap-Up: Frugal February

So the 28th also marked the end of Frugal February, and I have to say: I never realized how terrible I am at all of this.

I mean, my god, people -this was a struggle. And I didn't even succeed all the way!

The elephant in the room is the fact that, no matter how I spin this past month, our plumbing issues meant we still put a metric butt-tonne (real number) on the line of credit so we're in more debt than when we started. But that was largely unforeseen and sadly necessary so let's focus on what we did that we had some modicum of control over and not on what involved a beef jerky bag full of soiled toilet paper.


So let's get right to the meat of the matter: How did I do with my goals?

1.Taxis -FAIL

Let's get a big ol' pile of suck out of the way right off the top. In January I took about 12 cabs, and spent about $110. In February I took about 12 cabs and spent about $110. You can take the girl out of Spendville but you can't take the laziness out of the girl. The only two positives I can take away from this are 1) 4-5 of those cabs are in direct response to the work we had done on the house. I had to make some mad-cap bank runs, stay late at work to make up for time lost and go in late in the morning to let workmen enter. In a "normal" month, I would have done much better. 2) none of those were put on my Visa this month, which means I paid out of pocket for all of them. Small victories, people.


My goal was to use 6 coupons by the end of the month and I used 5. They were all for things I already needed: yogurt, egg whites, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and pasta. I organized the ones I had, threw out the ones I likely wouldn't use and then started bringing them to the store with me. I think I'm going to start following my sister's lead and put the few that are expiring soon in my wallet so that I don't forget about them. While I fell one short of my goal, I'm putting this in the "win" column.

3. Pretty frock purchases - NOT GREAT, BUT OKAY

The beginning of February was rife with situations in which my sister would yell "FRUGAL FEBRUARY!" at me every time I even opened up a website that had ability to sell me objects. By the end of the month, all she had to do was shake her head and frown and I'd sadly close the window and go back to playing Spider Solitaire. Eventually, I did cave a bit and bought a sweater dress, pants and 2 pair of shoes. That doesn't sound like a success but for me, it was practically a miracle. One pair of shoes were part of a one-day sale of 50% off and I'd had my eye on them for months; the others were also 50% off. The pants were an exact replacement of my favourite pair that ripped on Frugal February Day 2 and were 30% off. The dress was also 30% off and was the result of having to throw out 2 of my only casual dresses due to wear and tear (and weird ketchup stains??) and this was a direct replacement. To offset these buys I gave away 6 more items to charity and threw away 2 or 3 additional pieces that were too worn to give to anyone. Yes, I was not perfect but I was much more measured than I'd ever been.

I think shopping is kind of like fast food for me: I can avoid it okay as long as I don't start doing it. No, I make sense. Like, I haven't had McDonald's in months, but if I cave and have it even once then I know I'll basically spend the rest of the month fishing Big Mac wrappers out of the trash just to sniff them. As soon as I finished my one-day shopping spree, I definitely found myself back on shopping websites and gazing at store windows. Happy to say I didn't fall for it. It took some concentration but I think this new-found will power when it comes to spending will stick around for a bit. I made a real, concerted effort to "shop my closet" this month and I re-organized my closet by colour so now I think I can get the thrill of a new outfit without having, you know, a new outfit. Plus it made it very clear when I was "missing something" in my wardrobe (ie: casual dresses). I'm going to try and keep this up.

4. Eating Out -SUCCESS

Image courtesy of:
Totally proud of myself here. My goal was to only eat out/take in 6 times this month and I'm happy to report I stuck to those numbers. I'm choosing not to count Valentine's Day dinner (since I didn't pay for it and it was my 'gift') and the Dishcrawl, since we paid for that over a month in advance so it was well paid-off before it happened. We took in 3 times (Indian twice and pizza once) and I paid to eat out 3 times (once for coffee with a friend, once out for lunch with the sister for Galentine's, and the last day of the month to a sports bar with my family). On top of that, I also cut down my meals in the cafeteria by a big margin, going from a visit 3-4 times a week to once a week.

I'm really proud of this one because, other than taxis in the cold months, it's the hardest one to break. Eating out is easy and fun and doing it 3 times a week didn't seem like a big deal. But on top of being financially difficult to maintain, eating take out and restaurant food has.. how shall I put this delicately.. made my ass a big flabby chubbathon. I've gained a decent amount of weight since this time last year and I'm trying to put an end to that because frankly, my clothes are damn cute.

Planning our meals has been one of the best fighters against going out. It also makes me realize that when my mom got all pissy about making dinner when we were younger, it was less about the pain of making dinner and more about the agony of deciding what's for dinner. Seriously. Making decisions on the daily is for the birds. We've utilized my slow cooker a lot, and made beef pot pie, ribs, sweet potato soup, and homemade spaghetti sauce. All awesome. We're going to keep up the menu planning beyond Frugal February as it totally works for us and has kept our grocery excursions short which is a blessing for two people with short attention spans and an aversion to crowds. This also works out well for the college students in line ahead of us buying 30 cans of beans because a happy us means we're less likely to trip them accidentally-on-purpose.

5. No "Lazy" Fines - MODERATE SUCCESS

Lazy fines was all about curbing the user fees, late fees and any other little charges one accrues for being a lazy butt. I was good about some, but bad about others. I decided not to take out library books since I had books here I still have to read. I took out money twice from the machines at work but since my bank account allows for up to 2 free withdrawals a month that wasn't too bad. I'm going to count the annoying $1.50 that gets added on every time I paid for a cab with debit so that was a bit of an annoyance. But overall, nothing too aggravating and I became aware of where I was spending those little chunks of change.

General Successes:

Put $400 in my savings account
Put $400 on my credit card
6 "no spend" days.

General Failures:
See aforementioned pipe issues *grumble*
I stopped writing down what I was spending - and that made things harder to keep track of
22 "livin' like a Rockefeller days" ;)

So, TL;DR? I think Frugal February was a good idea and I'm glad I participated. I'm happy to try and incorporate these changes into my daily life and I'm even going to try to amp it up a bit later on... Broke-tober anyone?

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