As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m participating in the Frugalwoods Uber-Frugal Month Challenge. I’m already quite frugal (though I’m not hardcore like Mrs. Frugalwoods and her husband are), but there is always room for improvement. I also like to take a balanced approach to my finances in that I am not afraid to spend money per se, I just do it carefully after making savings a priority—–and my husband and I do not have any debt, other than a small mortgage which we could retire with cash if we wanted to, we just keep it for cash-flow and tax-benefit reasons. Unlike some super-frugal aficionados like Mrs. Frugalwoods (whom I really admire) and Mr. Money Mustache who are of the Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) mindset, I don’t give up spending money or time (and Time Is Money!) on things that enrich my life. I earn enough to do what I like with my money, but only after I maximize my savings. With that in mind, I went into the Uber-Frugal Month Challenge with some financial goals in mind on how to continue to improve my money management skills while still enjoying life.
I’m a week into the Challenge and I have already had some successes (and failures) thus far. (Cut me some slack on the failures, peeps. I just got over cancer treatment/major surgery and the related being cooped up in the house for 6 weeks).
- Continued to maximize my savings rate (inclusive of retirement, emergency savings, and brokerage accounts) at 25% of income even while on disability leave. (Full disclosure, that’s of MY income only; my husband’s savings rate on his salary is about 50%.)
- Paid off most of my out-of-pocket cancer-related medical bills with cash first week of July, garnering an automatic 10% discount off the top of the billed balance from a hospital that often has patients finance those debts via high-interest installment loans. (I still have a few more bills yet to come in this month, and plan to pay off everything in cash at 10% discount by the end of July. Approximate total amount: $6000). Remember, paying down debt (in this case, medical debt, even though I refused to let it become debt is effectively the same as savings, or even better than saving since you forgo interest charges and can often get a discount for paying in full).
- Transferred some excess cash in simple savings (low-interest) to higher-yield money market accounts. Total amount: $2000.
- Relying mostly on the pantry for cooking/snacking and toiletry needs. As part of my Great Pantry Clean-out Challenge, I have been going to the pantry/freezer to put together meals as much as possible. Food waste has been an ongoing problem in my house, especially with two picky eaters who suddenly decide they don’t like foods they told me to buy. As part of this initiative, I have been drawing down the reserves without buying new as much as possible. (But not always successfully, see below).
- Eating 90% of my meals at home or at homes of friends/relatives. This is easier for me than for many because I work at home, and therefore the temptation to dine out for lunch is greatly reduced. By cooking at home and/or grabbing snacks (like handfuls of almonds or fresh fruit) from the pantry, I’m already saving quite a bit of money while eating healthier.
- Used gift cards received from friends/relatives during cancer treatment to cover some high-cost items for free. For example: catered meals at home when I didn’t feel up to cooking and a top-to-bottom professional housecleaning.
- Did not adhere 100% to my No-Buying Challenge. While I am a huge fan of Mrs. Frugalwoods’ 72-Hour Rule Against Impulse Spending, and I employ it whenever possible, I am not a perfect human being. Impulse spending (especially on clothes and toiletries/makeup) is my weakness. Granted, being a Cheap Yuppie Mom, I never pay full retail for anything, so the damage usually isn’t too bad when I slip up. This week I slipped up and bought a belt, a summer kimono wrap, and a bottle of hair oil that it didn’t necessarily need—but wanted. (Total expenditure for all three: $55). I also bought a new summer nightgown, but this was to replace one that got ruined while I was out sick with cancer, so that technically doesn’t count.
- Ate out more than I wanted to. I treated family members to some nice dinners out that were on the pricier side. I didn’t do this so much for me as I did it for relatives who I thought deserved a nice meal out. I also had to buy a couple of meals when I traveled 50+ miles to an academic hospital for follow-up cancer treatment. In a perfect world, I only would have purchased meals out during the cancer road trip (and those were just inexpensive deli sandwiches) instead of also doing the 2 additional semi-expensive, extended-family meals out at $72 and $110 apiece. (But I can afford it, and paid cash for those meals, plus we had a great time, so no biggie).
- More repair/reuse/recycle of stuff at home. I’m doing pretty well at this already in that I have been sewing/gluing/crafting my way towards reusing before buying new. Plus I have already offered to donate some old baby/toddler stuff to my new neighbors who just had a baby.
- Keep up the Great Pantry Clean-Out Challenge. I’m making this a continued priority for the rest of the month. (If I could just get my husband to stop buying more nonperishable groceries, then that would also help….)
- Spend some more time analyzing/rebalancing my investments. I haven’t started this task yet, but I promise to get to it.
- Continue monitoring our Property Tax Appeal. This will be its own blog post at some point. Stay tuned.
I remain your Cheap Yuppie Mom.