We plan on doing a no spend challenge this month to assess our finances and see where we care doing well and where we could improve. We are spending as little as possible this month, while following along with the daily reading and reflection from the Uber Fugal Month Challenge hosted by The Frugalwoods. I’m sharing the key takeaway messages and tips for you in this series!
If you haven’t already, please read the first part of this series, No Spend Month: Part 1
The second part of this no spend challenge had another lot of great takeaway messages! We reflected on how to convince your friends and family to be more frugal, using DIY skills to maximize your frugality, and how to avoid expensive last-minute takeout. My absolute favorite though, is how living frugally gives you options in life that spending cannot.
Frugal living gives you options
A great takeaway from our no spend challenge is the idea that being frugal gives you options on how you are able to live your life.
Don’t let your spending prevent you from doing what you want with your life. Rather, let frugality sculpt the life you crave.The Frugalwoods
By being frugal in small ways day-to-day you might be able to save enough to travel more often. In the best case scenarios, living frugally and becoming financially independent gives you the option to do what you want with your life! You may be able to retire early, or take a lower paying job that you love, instead of being stuck in a job that you hate in order to pay the bills.
If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you have virtually no options to control your future. If you get sick unexpectedly or are laid off from your job, you might end up in a major financial crisis!
In many cases, living frugally can reduce the impact of an illness or a job loss because you are already living below your means and have an emergency fund set up. Losing your job may still be a huge blow, but the emergency funds you have saved will help you pay your bills while you look for a new job. If you live paycheck to paycheck, there is no buffer and a job loss could leave you in debt or even homeless!
I realize this may be a sensitive subject for many people living on a very low income and I certainly acknowledge that social assistance and some wages are simply not livable. Wherever possible, I advocate for increasing the minimum wage and social assistance rates to be livable. In many areas, $15/hr is considered livable, although few are there yet.
This advice is most relevant to people making at least a livable wage, up to high income earners. I know many couples who make six figures and still live paycheck to paycheck.
Even still, frugal living by necessity (living on a low income) is still a way to have some control on your finances. Do the best you can with what you have and use frugality to keep you afloat or even get ahead.
Read more about the Frugalwoods take on how frugal living gives you options here.
Get your friends and family on board with frugality
I’m a naturally frugal person, and G is also pretty frugal by nature. This makes it soooo much easier to live frugally since we’re both on the same page most of the time. Doing a no spend challenge together is fun for us, although we have had a few tough conversations. There is nothing wrong with having tough conversations with your partner about important things.
If your family are spending while you’re alone in trying to be frugal, you’ve definitely got a bigger challenge ahead. The Frugalwoods, who inspired me to take their Uber Frugal Month Challenge, have a great post with many ideas on how to convince your partner to be more frugal. Some of the highlights:
- use positive reinforcement to reward small positive changes
- talk about your finances regularly
- keep some (or all) of your finances separate
- compromise and meet in the middle financial ground
- set shared goals that you can work towards together
- try a no spend challenge together
As for having a social life with your friends while being frugal, it can either be an added challenge or make your life easier, depending on your friends!
Obviously it’s easier when your friends are also frugal. They just ‘get it’ and will be happy to choose frugal activities to do together. Frugal friends probably enjoy sharing meals together at home rather than at restaurants. They love clothing swaps, netflix, and being outdoors more than shopping, concerts and bar nights.
Frugal friends also probably have great ideas on how you can be even more frugal and can connect you to their network of other frugal people that you can barter and trade with!
If your friends are spendy, it becomes a bit more challenging to maintain a relationship with them when spending money is a normal part of your time spent together. As always, you’ve got options! Try these tips:
- suggest free activities
- suggest low cost activities
- be honest and upfront with them and explain that you’re prioritizing your finances and “_____” activity just doesn’t align with your priorities anymore
- If they’re a friend worth having, they’ll understand. If they get upset or ridicule you, spend less time with them, and more time with friends who support you
Surround yourself with likeminded people who will support you on your frugal journey!
Grocery shopping and how to avoid last minute takeout
Frugal grocery shopping is one of my favorite frugal living topics! Groceries are a necessity, but is also one of the most flexible expenses, so is an easy target during a no spend challenge! As I mentioned in part 1 of this series, we’ve been eating up the food in our pantry and freezer, and trying to reduce food waste.
Here are some other posts I wrote about frugal groceries:
- 12 Things We Don’t Buy to Save Money on Groceries
- Ultimate list of How to Spend Less on Groceries
- 11 Completely Free Ways to Eat Healthier on a Budget
The Frugalwoods have a great solution to avoiding last minute takeout when life gets in the way of plans (as it does): frozen pizza! They always keep a few on hand for those times that they’re running late, or dinner got burnt or they just don’t feel like cooking. It’s a great idea to have it as a backup as it is much cheaper than takeout, but is ready in minutes with little clean up.
We do the same with home made frozen meals like chili, stew, soup, curry, or bolognese. There are always a few in the freezer ready to be thawed for a delicious dinner that’s ready in minutes!
This is another favorite of the no spend challenge so far! The Frugalwoods challenge us to do-it-yourself and stop paying others to do things for you.
DIYing can save a lot of money, and it often even saves time! Many things you can DIY without any special skills or tools, like preparing your own food instead of buying pre-chopped veggies. Other DIY projects take some initial time to learn a new skill, but are worth doing as you watch it pay off in time and money savings over time! For example, we DIY haircuts, food prep,
- wash, peel, chop, and portion your own food instead of buying it that way. Pre-washed and chopped salads, spiralized veggies, grated cheese and pre-portioned oatmeal are almost always significantly more expensive than the whole versions of the same foods. Some exceptions:
- frozen produce is prepared, but is often less expensive than fresh
- people with limited ability may find it easier to spend the extra money to get pre-chopped food. Try saving money elsewhere
- pre-chopped food can be a great stepping stone to transition from buying takeout or ready-made meals to cooking.
- Do your own nails
- Cut and dye your own hair
- Make your own soaps, lotions, body scrubs, etc.
- Mend your clothes and shoes yourself instead of taking them to a tailor, or buying new clothes
- Make your own if you’re super crafty!
- At the very least, DIY your own costumes and accessories instead of buying them off the shelf
- Craft or refurbish furniture and home decor instead of buying new
- Build your own flat-pack furniture, instead of hiring someone to do it for you
Home and Garden:
- Cut your own lawn, or better yet, turn it into a vegetable garden!
- Try to do minor home repairs and renovations on your own before hiring someone
- Clean your own home and skip the cleaning service!
- Make your own cleaning products using basic ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and dish soap
Most of these are simple things we could do ourselves instead of paying someone else to do them. Why not learn a new skill, use your hands, and try something new?
No Spend Challenge Takeaways:
The takeaway messages from part 2 of the no spend challenge are to try some DIY, focus on eating frugally by checking in on your grocery shopping and last minute take out meals, reflecting on the options that frugality provides, and learning how friends and family can make a huge difference on how much we spend.
The great part of doing a no spend challenge is not only that you save money in the short term, but your normal way of doing things is questioned. It’s a prompt to try new ways of doing things. Maybe you’ll go back to how you normally do things, or maybe you’ll develop a new habit that brings you closer to the life you want to live.
What tip stands out most for you? Which one are you going to focus on next? Comment below!
Don’t miss No Spend Month Part 1!