Happy Frugal February everybody! It’s our annual “celebration” of reining in impulse in an effort to return to being good stewards of our cash. December involves extra shopping, and January almost always has some residual financial looseness from Christmas spending. Plus, with my birthday just two weeks after Jesus’s, it’s easy to get the Gimmes (and buy more) when I get to twice respond to the “What do you want?” proposition. Oh I love that question.
Not this month, though. Oh man, we’re going back to the most basic basics because we need
a little a lot of moderation. Discretionary funding will be nearly nil and we’re setting our wandering sights back on our financial goals. The house needs improving, the Emergency Fund needs filling, and the kids will probably outgrow their clothes in a week so it’s time to set our noses to the grindstone.
With my shopping habits over-developed from the last couple months, I have some behaviors to change up to cut back. This my personal plan since I’m definitely the spendier one between Andrew and me, and I’m pretty pumped about taking some mildly extreme measures:
1) Delete the apps and avoid the sites: I had an Amazon app, an eBay app, and a Pinterest app; and I had to cut them loose because a) they increase the Distraction Level of my device and b) I was doing far too much “window shopping” that easily turned into real shopping. Granted Pinterest isn’t a place to buy directly, but a simple search leads me straight to the purses I don’t need. There are some daily-deal boutique sites that are just darling, too and I’m avoiding them like the plague. It doesn’t matter if a $50 item is reduced to $6.99 – spending is spending and I have to resist. I’m also a big fan of Amazon because I have a Kindle and a penchant for reading; I have plenty of unread books in the Cloud though, and even if I get the itch, I can borrow ebooks from Kindle-friends or my library, which I hear is an easy process.
OH! and I found an app for Google Chrome (my PC browser) that enables me to block websites and redirect them somewhere else if I choose. SO I’ve blocked Jane.com, Amazon, eBay, and Fossil and redirected them all to Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps to keep me goal-oriented. Though I wasn’t buying every time, “just looking” has a way of turning into “just this once.”
2) Stay home: Going out often involves making a purchase – gassing up the car, groceries, coffee with a friend, a shelf-check at Lowe’s or Hobby Lobby; but if I stay home, then none of those transactions happen. Of course the car will need fuel eventually and we’ll definitely need a milk-and-eggs run, but the point is to reduce the outgo. I have to remember, though that “nature abhors a void”, so with all the not going out I’ll be doing, I need to find things to do at home that won’t cost a dime: e.g. having a friend over for tea or coffee after the kids go down (I just did this last week! It was free and fabulous); going through the fridge and planning next week’s menu on the things I already have (you can find recipes by Googling random ingredients in your pantry; I just made my own sweet and sour sauce from stuff I had instead of running to the store); make a home to-do list and check off the things that have been hanging over my head; spend quality, 100% attentive time with my kids and Andrew. Go play outside, do a little yard work. You catch my drift.
3) FREEZE. While we’ve got the cinch fastened extra tight, we’re also taking a couple days to freeze any and all spending. Like now. We’re in the middle of a two-day game of Don’t Spend a Penny. What fer?? you ask. To practice a little self discipline. To allow what we have to suffice and avoid even innocuous spending. To stretch our pennies across more calendar blocks. Frugal February isn’t a spending freeze for 28 days, it’s a month to trim our budget and obey it down to the last cent; so it’s good to see how long we can hold out for conveniences at the cost of slight inconvenience.
4) Talk it Over…Online? I’m the money manager in our family and while Andrew is privy to the on-goings of our books, we have to make sure we’re on the same page. We’re so busy these days though, that it’s been impossible to sit down to talk only about our finances, which is absolutely necessary in marriage. With three boys makin’ noise and running around, we squeeze in 10 seconds of conversation before someone needs to go potty or find a lost race car from under the couch. Throwing my hands up, I decided that we would hold an eMeeting: I looked at our bank account, budget, and big-picture goals, wrote an email containing every detail, and sent it to Andrew to respond when he could. I told him how much we have in our accounts, emergency fund, and what expenses are coming up. I asked for his input about everything and waited for him to get back to me, even to say he read my email. Just knowing he skimmed is enough to get us started together and there’s no miscommunication over what we’re trying to accomplish. [eMeetings are becoming my favorite thing for communication during our young parenthood.]
Ahhh Frugal February – I’m glad to see you again. There’s nothing like coming to a complete halt to make me look around at the needs of our family and understand them as greater than the wants from my Pinterest boards. What measures do you take when you need to penny pinch?