Oh Dollar Diet, I never really left you, but it’s so good to be blogging about you again!
For my newer readers, I first embarked on a Dollar Diet back in 2015. I had already changed a lot of my spendthrift ways, and look back on those days with some shame and embarrassment at the money I wasted. Despite getting more financially literate, D and I seemed unable to save much despite a good income. We needed to plug the holes in our budget.
The Dollar Diet is simple. Buy what you NEED. Think long and hard before buying what you WANT. Is it necessary? Can you do without it? Can you borrow it instead? Save up for it? Even NEEDS can be slimmed down by growing your own fruit and veg, or bartering and borrowing when possible.
My 2017 list of needs is much the same as it was in 2015:
- Groceries (since beginning the Dollar Diet I hardly ever go over budget!)
- Electricity, firewood
- Netflix (How else can we watch Designated Survivor or Travelers? I’m addicted.)
- Petrol, vehicle maintenance
- Tithing, sponsor children, church activities
- University money for kids (we put $10 a week into their accounts)
- Doctor’s visits & prescriptions, dentist visits
- Kindy and playgroup fees
- Gifts (making what I possibly can myself)
- Haircuts (we both only get our hair cut 2 or 3 times a year)
- Moisturizer, foundation, bug spray (mozzies LOVE me), undies – A
- Theology papers, Toastmasters, a few invention gizmos – D
- Rubbish & recycling collection
- House maintenance (2017 EDIT: I will be mowing our huge garden myself this year. Our new mower will pay for itself in a year)
- Chicken feed
- Shoes and underwear for the children, and a raincoat for Chip (he refuses to wear this AWESOME fire chief one I found secondhand…)
- Holidays (free or low-cost accommodation where possible)
- Sausage’s hospital appointment (she is still being treated for a club foot, which means 1 trip to Wellington a year)
- A fun budget: to fund the odd meal out/takeaway/family outing
* Rent/Mortgage is not on the list as we own our home freehold.
My list of needs will doubtless look different to yours. For D and I, holidays are vital to our sanity. We have a family holiday coming up in February that we have been saving towards for a couple of years, and I cannot wait! Some might see kindy and playgroups as a want, but for my sanity they are on my needs list. Both my children are extroverts, and are much, much happier when they are busy, challenged and socialising with other kids.
It’s the things that aren’t on the list that save you money. No buying lunch everyday. No takeaway coffees each morning. No splurging $300 on a pair of shoes that are almost the same as the pair you already own. No mindless following of ‘fashion’. No buying takeaways just because you don’t feel like cooking. Getting rid of magazine subscriptions, gym subscriptions, any subscription that you don’t honestly use. No buying books (that’s why libraries were invented)or pretty tchotchkes for your home. No greeting cards and wrapping paper. No lavish gifts. No recipes requiring pricey ingredients. No expensive holidays. No meeting up with friends for brunch at an expensive cafe. No costly plays, concerts, exhibitions. No extravagant hobbies (unless it makes you money or saves your sanity).
The fun and the challenge comes from trying to find free or frugal alternatives to keep living the good life. Instead of going out for brunch, host a pancake breakfast for your friends. Take up running instead of going to a gym. Pack your own lunch and your coffee for work. Have a meal or two in the freezer for the nights when you are too tired to cook. You get the picture.
I must advise that the biggest learning I have had from the Dollar Diet is the importance of having a fun budget. Skimping and saving can get relentlessly grim without a few bright spots to look forward to. These things don’t have to be extravagant, but small treats that feed your soul most definitely have a place in the Dollar Diet.
Our savings goals are pretty simple: have a good cushion for 2018, when D changes vocation and our income takes a nose-dive. And enough money for a wee holiday or two.