January has come and gone, quicker than almost any other January has ever passed for me, it seems. Usually, January seems to be a gloomy month that drags and drags, but this year, I was pleasantly surprised that I got through it without too much doom and gloom. (The lack of snow and all this winter sunshine definitely contributed, I’m sure.)
When we started our spending freeze at the beginning of the month, every day without excess spending seemed like a victory, especially because I quickly realized how mindless much of our spending had gotten. We had been making impulse purchases and going out to eat so often that those things quickly became our “norm,” so the first couple weeks going without, we definitely felt some withdrawal pains. More than once, I caught myself giving a little sigh as I thought of us being stuck at home yet again because we couldn’t spend money.
My attitude was quite a bit better by the end.
For starters, once I started seeing some concrete numbers on how much money we were saving as the month went on, I was more motivated to keep going.
A couple statistics from the month–
For the year leading up to the spending freeze, we typically spent about $120/month on restaurants and an additional $25/month on what I consider “fast food” (which included actual fast food, my lunches bought from the hospital, and my favorite guilty pleasure–hot chocolate from 7-11).
Therefore, most months, we easily spent around $150 eating outside of the home.
In January, we spent $19.88 (which was from the one night we did go out to a restaurant because we had a gift certificate, and the $19.88 was largely due to the tip we gave and the small amount we went over the gift card for).
That’s a cool savings of $130 in just one month.
Of course, the savings came at a price–it meant that I had to be vigilant about meal planning and making dinner most every night, even when I was tired and would much rather opt for a $5 pizza or a night out. It meant that I always had to plan ahead to make sure I’d have leftovers to bring for lunch the next day. But considering that if we saved even $90 a month on eating out every month, we’d save over $1000 over the course of the year…
It’s worth it.
In an average month, Matt and I were spending about $30 on books and/or DVDs. If you factored in that we usually went to go see a movie about once a month, that was an additional $16 or so.
In January, we spent $18.23 (and only because Matt forgot he had pre-ordered a book—otherwise, we would have spent nothing).
Even with the slip-up, it’s still a savings of over $25.
But here’s one of the hardest categories for me—clothing. Especially with me being pregnant (and constantly outgrowing things), it’s all too easy to rationalize that “just two or three” more maternity things wouldn’t be too big of a deal. When I actually sat down to face the numbers, it turns out that I had spent $130 each month on average on clothing over the last 12 months.
So January found me rearranging my closet so that I could easily access what still fit, and I was determined to try and get a handle on this clothing problem. And I lasted *almost* the whole month without buying anything. However, I did end up using a gift card from Christmas to buy some clothes, but I was smart about it—because the free shipping only came if you spent $50, I made sure I waited to use the card until I had a decent amount of rewards as well as a really good discount.
When all was said and done, I ended up getting over $60 worth of clothing for a mere $5.93, which I feel pretty darn proud of.
(Although the second my paycheck came in on January 30th–which was the official last day for the spending freeze–I did go out and purchase myself a couple new bras because I just couldn’t take the discomfort anymore).
Savings for the last 30 days on clothing: $124
It should come as no surprise then, after seeing these statistics, that Matt and I put more than $750 in savings over the course of the month (and this coming from a girl who was pretty convinced that we were living on a pretty tight budget as it was and that we just weren’t making enough money to save very much every month).
Now, I don’t expect to be able to live this way all the time—it’s not super feasible that we’ll often have a month like we did last month when it comes to putting a freeze on pretty much all our discretionary spending. However, I did realize that we definitely need to rein it in from where it was, and you know what hit me particularly hard? When we had a set limit on what we could spend/not spend, I found that I appreciated those few times when we did allow ourselves a little money to spend (like when we went out to eat, or when I ordered the clothes) that I enjoyed and appreciated it exponentially more than I normally did. Before, it was such a normal part of our life that it no longer felt like the special treat it should.
Now, after five weeks of closely watching every penny, I feel like every dollar spent towards fun and leisure is fully enjoyed because it truly is a “treat” again instead of a regular occurrence. Another discovery is that we became a little more creative about spending time together and that when we did “go out,” it, once again, felt like a luxury and made the evening that much more enjoyable.
Going into the rest of the year now, I’m hoping this adjusted mindset will stick. My goal is to save at least $500 a month from now until at least July (because I’ll still for sure be getting a paycheck up until then, since we don’t know what will be happening with my work schedule for sure yet after baby comes).
I finally feel like we’re truly on track to getting a “real” emergency savings fund in place now instead of just the “baby” one we’ve had for so long.
So, all in all, I’m feeling pretty darn proud of myself for the progress we made in January. And now onto February’s big goal….(which I’ll post about sometime this week…)
If you happen to be considering a spending freeze, I highly encourage it–even if it’s just for a week, it’s a good way to reset your brain so that you really do understand how much of your money goes toward unnecessary purchases each month. And of course, if you try it, I’d love to hear about it!