Dollar Diet: What I have learnt

It’s hard to fathom how swiftly this year has gone by.  For our Tawhero household it’s been an interesting year – one of change, growth, sickness, adventures and yet more sickness.  But on the whole, it’s been a positive year.

I embarked on the Dollar Diet simply to see if I could.  I wanted to plug up the holes in our budget, save money for two overseas trips, be more mindful of my spending, do more with less, and challenge my little grey cells.

Has my year of penny pinching been a raging success?

Yes, and no.

Yes we saved money.  That’s for sure!  I cannot give you an exact figure as lots of our Dollar Diet savings got gobbled up after D quit his job to start his own business (which is doing rather well).  We had several months of no income as we waited for the business to get up and running.  Suddenly the Dollar Diet wasn’t just to challenge myself – it was a necessity.

Our savings gave us enough of a cushion to withstand those months with no income, and as we were already practising frugal habits there was little adjustment to be made to our lifestyle.  The Dollar Diet protected us from some of the pressure and stress that happens when you suddenly experience a drop in income.

Using the Goodbudget app, which tracks all of your spending, we quickly discovered the myriad of holes that were in our ‘carefully constructed’ budget.

Yes, I am much more mindful of my spending.  More often than not if I see something I like in the shops, I merely appreciate it and move on.  I still love nothing more than perusing an op-shop, but usually come away empty-handed because there is nothing I need.  This year I have gone to a restaurant exactly four times, we stopped frequenting our favourite lunch bar (now I think ‘Gadzooks! Why spend crazy money on sandwiches!’), and we have rarely darkened the door of a cafe.  Little things to ‘treat myself’ like magazines, nice stationery, or a new scarf went unpurchased and unmissed.

I think the gamechanger for me has been to calculate total expenditure on something over a year.  There really is no better perspective than going ‘Umm, we spend $1000 a year on wine/coffee/takeaway lunch/chocolate/[insert your vice of choice here]’.  All those little purchases each week can add up to a frightening sum.

Yes, I can do more with less.  One very surprising thing is thing is how much I have enjoyed playing around with my wardrobe now that I no longer go out and buy what I want.  Despite giving away about three-quarters of it thanks to Trim Healthy Mama, my wardrobe is still in reasonable shape, and it’s been fun to play around with different combinations of outfits.

I’ve enjoyed making cards and wrapping paper, and busting out my markers.  I’ve enjoyed making crafts with Sausage using things nabbed from our recycling bin, even if it means we make thirty collages.  That kid loves collage.

Fewer activities and events has meant more downtime, more time at home.  Which has been SUCH A GOOD THING.  D and I have never experienced so much sickness in one year before.  The kids, me, him, all of us at the same time (such fun!) – none of us made it through this year unscathed.  I try to limit the amount of things we do as a family but sometimes there’s just a whole bunch of crazy on the ol’ social calendar.  Saying no to things – especially those things that cost money – certainly helped us to get some much-needed rest.  Although, being parents of two toddlers, D and I would still like to swim in an ocean of rest, thank you very much.

Yes, it has been brain food.  I have learned new skills like making sandwich gardens, chutney and marmalade; and dusted off old skills like sewing, colouring, and hosting frugal shindigs.  I’ve enjoyed upcycling things like old tablecloths into Christmas sacks, or curtains into play costumes.


Christmas sacks made from an old tablecloth adorn our mantelpiece

I look forward to that mythical creature – having more time when my children get a bit older – so I can do more upcycling.  It’s incredibly satisfying.  D has discovered his inner-DIYer, and has made fences, gates, paths, shelves, irrigation systems, and all manner of things which has saved us a considerable sum of money.  Great stuff, D.

No, being frugal ALL the time is hard.  I learned that I simply cannot be frugal all.of.the.time.  It’s hard work.  Being super-frugal means thinking and planning ahead.  For everything.  Meals, bring-a-plates, gifts, clothing, unexpected bills.  As the parent of two tots, my life is simply not that predictable.  I had good intentions of making every gift by hand this year.  Nope.  Didn’t happen.  I made some, but many gifts ended up being purchased from a store because I was too tired, or sick, or unprepared.

I guess I was hoping that all that frugality would force me into being some sort of budget Martha Stewart, making incredible creations from Weetbix boxes and loo roll.  Nope.  Didn’t happen.  Not to say that I didn’t get a few flashes of personal inspiration, but flipping heck, thank goodness for Pinterest.

No, I need a fun budget.  This did not really come as a surprise.  I am someone who needs something to look forward to.  I often get more of a buzz more from anticipating a good thing than from the thing itself.  I like taking my children on adventures.  Most of them have been free, but every now and then something really cool will come up that costs money, and I have gone ‘Stuff you, Dollar Diet!  Let’s go to the zoo’.

I also need a change of scene every now and then.  I have been somewhat of a nomad most of my adult life, so putting down roots in Tawhero is something of an experiment.  (It’s working, as I never want to move.)  But I still need to dust off my suitcase every once in a while.  If you are the sort of person who doesn’t really like travel this can be hard to understand.  I need to travel every now and then just so I can be settled in my ‘real life’, if this makes sense.

So next year, while we will continue in most of our frugal ways, we’re going to put in a little wiggle room for a few fun outings, or a date-night meal at a restaurant.

The Dollar Diet has been absolutely worthwhile, and I see no reason to ever stop.  I like throwing off the shackles of the consumerist system that we in the Western world are born into.  I like thumbing my nose at all the trappings my society says I should have in order to be considered ‘successful’.  I like being a good steward of the resources I have – and believe me, we are very blessed to live where we do in Tawhero.  I like spending time pottering around my house or garden, or visiting friends rather than a cafe.

It’s a good life.

3 thoughts on “Dollar Diet: What I have learnt

  1. Pingback: Dollar Diet: 2016 | Tots in Tawhero

  2. Pingback: Dollar Diet 2016 | Tots in Tawhero

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