Happy March everyone! The beginning of March marks the end of our Focused Frugal February. Looking back I hope that you were able to focus on one budget category to improve on this past month. The idea is to focus your energies on the area that concerns you most without worrying so much about the rest. Of course, that doesn’t mean let your miscellaneous spending go crazy because you’re focusing on food this month. Keeping everything else at the normal spending levels while honing in on your most troublesome category is your goal.
Throughout February, the posts I wrote and articles I reviewed helped bring to light that not spending a lot of money doesn’t necessarily mean that sacrifices need to be made. Just that things may require a little more time and creativity. For example, there’s a reason that they sell the pre-cut vegetables. Lots of people are short on time and it’s worth the extra $2-3 to not have to cut up those vegetables. Slowing down and taking the time can actually pay off. Not just in dollars, but in the ability to be intentional and purposeful.
Be Frugal Where it Matters Most
Frugality, in general, can be a good thing, however, it is possible to go too far. I recommend focusing on the “big three” budget categories: housing, transportation and food. Focusing on these categories will make the biggest impact on your bottom line for simple, one-time decisions.
For example, purchasing a $300,000 home with $4,000/year in taxes and $1,000/year in insurance could cost $1,530/month for 30 years. However, purchasing a $200,000 home that needs $50,000 in renovations (can be a renovation loan) with $3,000/year in taxes and $800/year in insurance would cost $1,295/month. Instantly saving $235 every month while still getting a lovely home that can be customized to fit your needs. Over the entire 30 year loan, the $235/month difference would mean a direct savings of $84,600. If you were able to then invest this savings at an expected rate of return of 7%, it would yield a savings of:
This one-time decisions gets you more than 1/4 of the way to $1 million. Now, taking a look at transportation, specifically cars. Let’s have the only difference be purchasing a new $15,000 car every 15 years as opposed to getting a new car at the end of every 5-year car loan. Say that car loan costs $325/month. The decision to keep each car for a longer period of time and invest that savings over a 30 year period would equal:
Finally, keeping our food budget down by cutting out excessive eating out and food waste saved us approximately $150/month. So, using that example and investing that amount for 30 years would yield a savings of:
All of these changes added up would equal $781,145 or ~$2,600/month per the 4% rule.
Wrap It Up!
For those of us who are privileged enough to be able to make these types of decisions by choice as opposed to necessity, these simple decisions can shave years off of the traditional working timeline or open up new worlds of opportunities. Having this savings can allow for a change in career, a long sabbatical or the time to go back to school and learn new skills. However, this will only work if focus is brought to each category and made a priority. Please take the time to review the various budget categories we discussed this month to see where you can get the best return in exchange for your frugal focus:
- Meal Planning with the other Mrs. Firebird
- Transportation: Cars
- Date Night In
- Self Care
- Housing: Part 1
- Housing: Part 2
Did focusing on these categories help you as you worked on your budget this past month? Do you have any tips to add? Let me know in the comments below!