Last year I embarked on a Dollar Diet to curb my spending habits and save for a couple of overseas trips. I simply divided up our wants from our needs and did my level best to stick to the needs. No clothes, shoes, handbags, trips to the cafe or movies, takeaways, expensive gifts, magazine subscriptions…you get the picture.
It was a good year and we mostly stuck to our game-plan. I learned a great deal. I came to accept the fact that as much as it pains me, I am not a crafty person. My friends and family will not be getting any knitted gifts made from my own hand-spun wool any time soon, nor will they be dazzling the masses with designer threads hand-sewn by me. Despite my best intentions, I ended up buying most gifts I gave out last year.
I went into this year intending to keep on Dollar Dieting, but life threw a teensy curveball. I got a job. I only work a couple of mornings a week, but suddenly I needed to get suitable clothes. I’d lost weight so some of my old work clothes were too big. Regular trips to my favourite second-hand store were suddenly back on the menu, as I gathered a new work wardrobe together. Because I baulk at paying full-price for clothes, I felt justified at getting a few things for work when they were only a few dollars a piece, but it was hard to stop at just a few things.
Though my job is small, it required me to develop a new parenting programme. This took considerable time and head-space, and I fell out of the habit of posting each week about my efforts in frugality. This regular habit helped keep me motivated and focused over 2015.
We had sneaked in the odd takeaway during last year’s Dollar Diet. I discovered that of course, sometimes I would just have a rough or exhausting day and couldn’t face cooking. And this year I’ve been to the movies several times as I’m making the most of having a nanny while I recover from a back injury. D and I had a wonderful weekend away at an expensive hotel for our wedding anniversary (no regrets here though!). We resubscribed to the local paper. Had a few cafe visits.
Slowly, slowly, softly, softly. Little expenses have crept back in this year.
So I’m calling time on it.
One of the things I absolutely love about blogging is how it keeps me accountable. I simply cannot in good conscience blog about doing something without actually doing it. So here is what we’ll be up to for the rest of the year:
- Have a fun budget. I need things to look forward to. I don’t need to escape to a tropical island on a spa retreat (although that would be heavenly), but I do need the odd date-night out with my husband or a trip to see an out-of-town friend. But with limits. D and I have a regular date night which we take turns to organise. We usually stay in (see here for inspiration), but for this year’s Dollar Diet, we’re allowing one date each month where we can go out and spend money. Within reason. We also have ‘family night’ once a week. We eat something yummy for dinner and watch a show together/have a dance party/play games etc. Every now and then I let Sausage decide what we’ll eat (Chip will get to have a go once he’s three), and she invariably asks for fish and chips. Not Mummy’s home-made fish and chips, but from the store. And that’s perfectly fine.
- We have all we need. Seriously. D, my tots and I have all the clothes we could possibly need so I won’t be buying any more this year. If things wear out I do possess enough skills to mend them. My kids have all the toys and books they need. Chip’s birthday is coming up fast, but I think instead of a present we will take the children tobogganing in the mountains for a day. He’s not old enough to ‘expect’ a gift from us, so we can easily get away with this. My only caveats for this embargo are underwear (for all of us), decent shoes for the children, and clothing swaps. My friends and I do this a couple of times a year, and I usually end up with plenty of of clothes for my tots in the next size (or two) up.
- Give perishables whenever possible. There’s so much pressure on us to give gifts. So. Much. Pressure. That’s why we all end up with hand cream, socks, ties and the like when people are stumped as to what to get us. Most people I know have all they need, and I don’t want to add to everyone’s pile of stuff. I may not be a terribly crafty person, but I am good at baking and cooking, and intend to give home-made food as gifts. I’m also trying my hand at home-brew (I have a batch of Feijoa wine on the go right now), and D makes the best ginger beer on the planet. So we should be sorted for things like Christmas. Which is just as well, as this year we’re participating in Buy Nothing Christmas.
- Save on heating. In my last blog post I wrote about a huge power bill being the impetus for moving my tots into together so we had fewer bedrooms to heat. We’re lucky enough to know a sustainable energy expert. We had a consultation with him,and have several other things we plan to do in order to keep warm over winter.
- Use our bodies more, and our cars less. At the moment I find cycling painful due to my back, but if it’s not raining I walk to work. It takes me less than 30 minutes, and it’s a pleasant walk. D cycles to work when possible. I could do with shedding the habit of taking the car for little trips instead of cycling or walking, and this is definitely an area I will be working on this year.
- Always have something in the freezer for ‘one of those days’. This year I’d like to keep takeaways to family night, and have something quick and easy I can just throw in the oven for the times I don’t want to cook.
- Spend TV/internet time doing something constructive. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I do muck about on the internet more than I should. Lately I’ve been feeling the urge to do more constructive things with my leisure time, like learn to make the perfect curry, play my ukulele, finish my novel and spend more time in prayer.
Our list from 2015 hasn’t changed much, but here’s a breakdown of our ‘needs’:
- 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
- Kindy/playgroups etc
- Ballet for Sausage, swimming for Chip
- Haircuts (we both only get our hair cut 2 or 3 times a year)
- Moisturizer, bug spray (mozzies LOVE me), undies – A
- Toastmasters – D
- Rubbish & recycling collection
- Lawn mowing (our place is HUGE)
- Garden & home maintenance
- Chicken feed & maintenance
- Shoes for the children (but trying to get second-hand or free where appropriate)
- A small holiday to attend a wedding
- Materials for gifts
I know it’s almost half-over, but here’s to 2016!