Hard to believe that January is almost over, but here we are. The best part is that we’re quickly approaching Frugal February! With February being the shortest month of the year (and starting with an F, making for a great alliteration), it’s a perfect time to try and trim your budget.
Don’t Try to Do it All
A lot of the “No spend” challenges or other similar frugal challenges try to tackle every aspect of the budget all at once. Meaning trying to reduce your utilities, clothing expense, grocery bill and more all at the same time. I’ve attempted to do these challenges before and there are generally two problems with this.
One, in general, if I try to eliminate all spending for an entire month, there are spikes either before or after my frugal month. Even if it’s unintentional, my mind will attempt to “game the system.” This defeats the entire point of the challenge.
The second issue is actually what causes my first issue. Trying to reduce everything all at once is like trying to focus on 20 things all at once for an entire month. It just doesn’t work for me, nor does it work for a lot of other folks.
Focus Your Efforts
What I now do, and what I recommend to clients, is to pick one line item of the budget. Preferably the line item in your budget that just seems to get away from you, no matter what. This could be your grocery bill, clothing, restaurants or something completely different and specific to your life.
This is the line item that you will focus on this month. If it’s your grocery bill, you will specifically try to find recipes that use less expensive ingredients. The key here is to do this in a sustainable way. While you could eat rice and beans all month, you’ll be sick of that shortly, possibly causing you to over-correct and drastically overspend the next month.
I tried versions of this in college when I was trying to live on $37/wk in groceries. If I had actually known more, I probably could have eaten much better on this, but my planning was poor. I would swing between spending $0.17 on ramen to spending the entire week’s worth of $ on a meal. What I needed to do was find a balance between great tasting food that’s relatively simple to make and keeps costs low.
With any budget line item you pick, the key is to find a reduction in spending that’s sustainable. Striking a balance between enough spending to maintain your happiness, while not blowing your savings or debt pay off plans.
Weekly Budget Category
For the month of February, I will be talking through one budget category that can be an area of focus to reduce spending. Specifically, I will be focusing on changing spending in a manageable way that will not cause massive swings in spending to compensate for extremely frugal days, weeks or months.
I’m also very excited to announce that the first week on grocery spending will actually feature the first guest post from the other Mrs Fierbird! My wife is the anchor that holds our daily grocery spending in check (and so much more) while keeping us well fed with delicious food. She will be sharing her process and some tricks to meal planning and shopping.
So, take the time during this last week of January to think of what your pain points are and how you can focus the month of February to tackling that spending category.
Remember, the point isn’t to spend less on things that make you happy, it’s to spend less on things that don’t matter as much so that you can go all out on what gets you up in the morning.
Have a specific budget category or line item that you’d like me to explore during Frugal February? What are you planning on focusing your efforts on cutting? Let me know in the comments below!