I love reading blogs on simple living and frugality, and one of my favourites is And Then We Saved. Anna Newall Jones paid off 24k in 15 months (!) and shares her tips for frugal living in her practical and entertaining blog. Anna came up with the idea of a spending fast, which basically involves only spending money on necessities for a whole YEAR. When I read about it, I immediately thought ‘Sign me up!’. UPDATE 20 APRIL 2015: for legal reasons I will be referring to my year of saving money as a Dollar Diet.
I have rather a chequered past with money. I have been really, really rubbish at dealing with money. I’m not sure why, as both my parents are good at managing it. Me, well, I’ve gotten myself into debt more times than I care to remember – generally by living above my means and burying my head in the sand when it came to the consequences.
I am proud to say that I am MUCH better with money these days, after making the decision several years ago to change my ways.
D and I live well considering that we live off one income so I can be a stay-at-home mum, but we can certainly do better than we are. Anna recommends doing the Dollar Diet for at least a year, because it takes a long time to change your spending habits. Unless you live completely self-sufficiently and off the grid, you’ve just got to spend some money, so the temptation to spend is still very much in your face. A year long Dollar Diet appeals to me as it will be quite a challenge, and will force me to be much more creative with my current resources than I am at the moment. When I bought up the idea of the fast, D was quite skeptical of my/us being able to stick with it. I feel confident that we can. In the year we got engaged and married, I’d made a pledge to only buy second-hand things that year, and I still managed to say my vows in a second-hand dress with second-hand shoes on my feet.
D and I are fortunate to not have debt, but we do have a couple of goals in mind to throw our extra savings at. I have a dear friend in Australia who will be getting married in the not-too-distant future and I’d love for us to be able to attend her wedding, and we also need to replace our hot water cylinder which I’m pretty sure was on the ark with Noah and the animals.
Everyone will have different ‘needs’ that they will still have to spend money on while doing a fast, but here’s our list:
- Groceries – and sticking to our strict budget!
- Electricity, firewood
- Petrol, vehicle maintenance
- Tithing, sponsor children, church activities
- University money for kids (we put $10 a week into their accounts)
- Doctor’s visits & prescriptions
- Playgroups (we attend 3, at a total cost of $6 a week)
- Haircuts (we both only get our hair cut 2 or 3 times a year)
- Moisturizer, bug spray (mozzies LOVE me), undies – A
- Theology papers, work trips, study trips, Toastmasters – D
- Rubbish & recycling collection
- Garden & house maintenance (we get our lawns mowed as our place is HUGE)
- Chickens & chicken feed & maintenance (we haven’t got the chickens yet, but plan to in 2015)
- Shoes & clothes for the children (but trying to get second-hand or free where appropriate)
- Holidays (free accommodation where possible)
- Eloise’s hospital appointments (she is still being treated for a club foot, which means 3-4 trips to Wellington a year)
That seems like a heck of a lot, and people who are really in debt might forgo things like the internet, Netflix, cell phones or holidays. D needs internet for his work, and we figure that as we will be spending more time at home (not that we go out much, being parents of little kids!) Netflix is a good investment. We’re both movie buffs, and we love watching TV series’ together (we are slowly working our way through the excellent World War II series, Foyle’s War). D insisted on still having holidays, his reasoning being that we need the change of scene as we are both at home most of the time (D works remotely from home). We’re fortunate to know people with holiday homes at the beach who allow us to stay there for free or little cost. As far as holidays go, the Dollar Diet is well-timed as we don’t want to venture far with our tots anyway. It’s too much drama for us, and they sure as heck don’t appreciate exotic locales.
You might notice we don’t have a line for rent/mortgage. That’s because we own our house outright. As I said, we are very fortunate. This was a major factor in our relocating to Whanganui. House prices here are awesome. If we’d stayed in Wellington I’d probably be back at work by now, in order to service a mortgage.
Here’s what else we won’t be spending money on next year:
- clothes and shoes for D and I
- gifts, cards and wrapping paper (they will have to be home made)
- date nights – no going out to restaurants, or to movies 😦
- eating out (no meeting friends at cafes, no sandwiches on the run, no coffees for D)
- toy library subscription (it runs out in July)
- childcare (due to constant pregnancy fatigue with my second child, our daughter was being looked after two afternoons a week. We kept it going after the baby was born so as not to disrupt her routine, but will stop in the new year)
- makeup for me
- cute clothes for the children
- gadgets/invention stuff for D (must raise cash if anything is wanted by selling things/earning through side business)
- a new laptop for me
- treasures in my favourite second-hand stores
- lovely things for our house
- books (sob, but that’s why libraries were invented, right?)
- fancy holidays (unless my friend’s wedding date ends up being set for next year)
- Plays, concerts, exhibitions, community events
- Pizza at the Whanganui River Traders market (this may kill me…)
- my subscription to Good magazine (ok, now I’m crying)
- my subscription to the Wanganui Chronicle
- cookies for church morning teas (just going to have to be more organised and bake them myself)
There’s undoubtedly a ton of other stuff we’d normally be spending our money on next year. Not to mention the usual life events that crop up. I’ve already bought my daughter’s birthday presents (her birthday is in January), but I’ll have to get creative for my son’s first birthday in August (and for all our family and friends birthdays). One of my favourite cousins who I’ve not seen in 15 years is visiting us with her kids this January. Another cousin is getting married in April, so again, creativity for a gift will be needed. I turn 40 in July, and have a whole swag of good friends who will be joining the 40 club with me. D is resuming his theology studies and will have a few teaching days out of town to attend.
The Dollar Diet will mean I have to ‘make do and mend’ if my clothes wear out. It means inviting friends over to my house, or to have a picnic in a park rather than go out for coffee. It means D and I will have to put our thinking caps on when it comes to date nights. It will mean being organised – breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks at the ready. Going to the library regularly. Saving household waste like cereal boxes and milk bottles to make children’s crafts with. Scouring the free community papers for free things to do (actually there is ALWAYS free stuff on in Whanganui). Spending time in our garden to grow more veges. Thinking up ways to earn money if a ‘want’ crops up – like selling things online, or at a market, bartering or time-banking skills. For example, I plan to join a couple of groups next year and may need to rustle up some joining-fee money, so I’m already planning to sell things online.
I’m excited! I’ll be updating you regularly once we begin on January 1st.
Would you ever do a Dollar Diet?