By Amy Miller, AFC®
Still trying to recover from holiday spending? Trying to figure out the best way(s) to pay off the debt and start saving? Have you heard of Frugal February?
What is Frugal February?
Obviously, it’s about cutting back on spending during the month of February. The idea is to try to reduce and/or eliminate as much non-essential spending as possible, decrease debt and increase savings. Like a spending freeze, it’s a way to get your finances back on track and be more prepared moving through the remainder of the year. It’s another step that you can take to become more financially fit.
To take the challenge, you must stop spending or cut back dramatically on anything that is not essential. This includes eating out, date nights, babysitters, lattes, going through the automatic car wash, pedicures, new clothes, and even groceries……EVERYTHING! All of it! Cut all spending other than the mortgage, car payments, and utilities, which are essential. If it’s not an emergency or something that you absolutely cannot live without (think freezing, starving, car repairs), it is not essential and can wait until next month.
How can I be successful at being frugal for an entire month?
First, eat from the freezer and pantry. Groceries tend to be one of the largest monthly household expenses other than your mortgage. It’s also one that you can drastically cut by taking a good look in your pantry and freezer. It’s a practice called “shelf cooking”. You pair things together that you have on hand to make a meal. Food is an essential, so the idea that you can cut it to $0 for an entire month is unrealistic but you should try to cut out as much as possible and buy as cheaply as possible……think coupons and crocks pots! Get creative. (And no stockpiling beforehand – that defeats the purpose).
Skip your routine stop at the local coffee house. 24% of daily coffee drinkers consume 13 or more cups of coffee each week and nearly 1/3 also consume specialty beverages like lattes and cappuccinos, which are more costly. Eliminating this expense can really make an impact. Conservative estimates show that an average of $70 per month is saved when you brew at home. That adds up to around $800 per year.
Be creative when trying to entertain yourself. I know staying at home and cooking every night is nowhere near as fun as shopping and going to the movies so you will need to find a way to occupy yourself and stay in control. Look for free events at your local library or community center or maybe take this opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and volunteer at a local non-profit. Stay busy and out of the mall.
Some other suggestions are turning the cable off for the month, switching to a cheaper cell phone plan, canceling streaming services, and paying attention to your electrical and water usage at home to attempt to reduce the bill. Lower your gas expenses by driving less or taking public transportation.
Lastly, find a support system. Ask a friend to join you and hold each other accountable. (maybe share a few crockpot recipes)
Why take the challenge?
Really – Why are you doing this? Want to pay down debt? Want to save? Take a trip? You must have a good reason and really commit for this to work. You must have a WHY.
This challenge is hard – some may say impossible. Every day holds a new temptation, and you must think of every possible way to overcome them and WHY it’s worth the effort. If you can’t do that and can only think of reasons it won’t work or ways to get around the basic rules, then you are not ready. It takes focus and dedication. It’s not just about living cheaply. It’s about taking control and managing your money. It’s about discipline and developing good money habits.
Put your hard work to good use
Think of what other financial goals you can achieve after accomplishing this one. Being successful will prove that you CAN do hard things. You CAN be disciplined and work toward achieving the goals you’ve set for yourself this year. If you can do this in one month – what can you do in 2 months, or 3 or 4?
Everyone wants to know – Why February?
Simple – it’s the shortest month, giving you the best chance at success. (And Frugal May isn’t as catchy!)