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Frugal Living Challenge: How I Quit Shopping And Found $600 in 30 Days

How many times have you said either in your head or out loud “Why is everything so

expensive? Where is all my money going? I’ve got to start saving money”?

Amber holding lots of shopping bags

This simple concept of spending less than you make seems harder now than ever before. Skyrocketing grocery bills, rent payments and other life basics is putting a major crunch on every family’s budget.

I screamed these words myself just a few months ago. Yes, screamed! It was a moment of

pure frustration that came after paying bills. I wasn’t short on my bills, I still had money left in the bank (thank goodness), but my account was reaching a smaller number than I was

comfortable with.

I sat down with my live-in boyfriend and discussed money-saving strategies. He didn’t share the panic that I felt, but he admitted that we could certainly cut a few corners. So we devised this plan…

A no-spend month.

I’ve heard this idea before, usually after the holidays when we’ve all overspent and our credit and debit cards need a break. But in the middle of the year? And how exactly does it work?

It’s not realistic to spend $0 for an entire 30 days. It’s true, it really isn’t. I would still have a

mortgage payment, need gas for my car, food in my belly and other things. So how will I even go about this?

I started with a spreadsheet. I made a column for each day and rows with expected expenses. The rows included utility bills, gas, food and mortgage. I did include a row for

miscellany expenses, solely to make myself aware that if I messed up, there was a place to

write it down, and that I would have to look at that mess up for the remainder of the month. That row, and my desire to keep it completely empty, was enough motivation.

That row, and my desire to keep it completely empty, was enough motivation.

We set to work on July 1.

I’m usually a once a month grocery-shopper for a big haul, and several small trips throughout the month for perishables and produce, plus whatever else I forgot about. It felt weird that first week without my normal trip to the supermarket. A small amount of anxiety crept in.

Would I have enough food to make it a full month? Good grief, I’m already nervous just 2

days in!

We determined that the only way to do this was to start eating our way through the pantry and freezer. It wasn’t too hard for the first week. We had a stockpile of meats in the freezer,

canned food and meal box starters in the cupboards. Around week three, we were getting

creative. It was interesting, but we did it. Yes, we had a can of beets and tuna fish for dinner

one night. I packed my lunch with a bag of microwave popcorn or dry cereal. It was not ideal, not particularly healthy at times, but we did it.

When I was tempted to go through a drive thru, having completely lost interest in the can of re-fried beans I had planned on for lunch, I thought about that row on my spreadsheet and how I would have a large black mark in my otherwise pristine row. I’d be damned if McDonald’s was going to ruin it!

Amber on a bicycle

Then, one night we got bored. Let’s go to a movie! Gah! NOOOOO!!! We went on a bike

ride. Bored on a rainy day? We put together a jigsaw puzzle. We went to the library to check

out a book. We surfed Netflix until we found something we both agreed on (that took

AWHILE). But guess what, we survived.

Now, the utilities and mortgage/rent. There’s not a lot you can really do about that. Or is

there? I did take 30 minutes of my day one time to call my cell phone carrier. Could I

renegotiate my bill a bit? I mean really, why am I paying $115 a month? With just a few

minutes spent on the phone I found that I was paying for several amenities that I wasn’t

aware I had, nor was using. I negotiated my bill down to $97 a month.

I had similar experiences with my home utility bills. While I wasn’t able to get my bill lower,

several companies offered a budget billing option, where you pay an average monthly amount based on a years usage. My heating bill will remain the same in the summer and winter, providing a predictable expense instead of a huge expense in the winter months.

Now, with our no-spend month behind us, I love looking at that column of miscellaneous

expenses. I didn’t make it through an entire month with it spotless. I had a few strikes

against me. But I did my best and I learned several things.

I learned that I don’t need to shop to ward off boredom. I learned that when I do shop, I can

do so with a new mindset. I don’t have to get everything I think I need. I probably have

something comparable already at home. I also learned that I actually enjoy the challenge of

spending as little money as possible!

I’ll shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where the basic essentials and the healthier options are, and often they are more affordable than other less healthy foods. I stay away from the middle aisles that hold the majority of expensive junk and convenience foods. I actually enjoy cooking healthy meals for myself and my family, which costs much MUCH less than going out to eat or picking up take out.

I enjoy checking out the shelves of my local library just as much as the shelves of a book store. I’m content to go for a walk or a bike ride as opposed to roaming the racks of a department store. And I’m so happy I spent some time talking to my utility company representatives to work for affordable solutions to costly bills.

Saving money and living frugally doesn’t have to be hard. It takes time, practice, thought, and a little creativity. But it really can be fun to see how much you’re able to save.

I’m pretty proud to say that in just one month I saved almost $600!

I do hope to keep up my frugal ways for a little longer. If I keep at it, I will surely reap the

rewards! But no more beets and tuna fish for dinner!

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