The guidelines of my personal “spending fast” are pretty simple. Spend less, save more and in the end, pay off as much of my debt as possible. Perhaps this is easier said than done.
I am a master rationalizer. I can rationalize my way into or out of any situation I need to. I have truly mastered the skill. Over the years, I have be able to rationalize spending money on a lot of stupid crap that I never really needed. It’s time to get that under control!
So, I came up with some rules to live by. As time goes on, these may be tweaked a little.
As you will notice in these rules to live by, I’m outlining the things I will spend money on and all other things that don’t fit in the categories are out or negotiable on some level. I hate looking at what I’m cutting out…that feels depriving.
What I will spend money on:
Rent: We live in a pretty reasonably priced apartment. I’m not moving! Update August 2011 - The price of my rent went up by $10 per month. Damn it.
Utilities: We will be frugal about the energy we use. Turn off lights, use the heater as little as possible, unplug unused appliances, etc. Update April 2011 - Averaged Monthly Billing for energy was decreased x $22 per month!
Food: I will shop at bakery thrift stores, eat generic brands and use coupons when possible. I will also make every meal at home and I will make all my lunches for work. I will buy food that is on sale and plan my menus around sale items. I will plan my menus weekly and use what I have in the pantry. I will buy in season fruits/veggies.
Car stuff (gas, maintenance, car washes): I will get discounted gas where possible. Use coupons for oil changes. Use self-serve car wash instead of full service or automatic. Change driving habits to get better gas mileage. I will drive as little as possible and walk when I can. Update September 2011- After changing my driving habits over the last 9 months, I’ve noticed that I’ve got between 10-30 extra miles per gas tank!
Insurance (Car and Renters): Shop around for better deals on insurance. Lower premiums. Update: Feb 2011 - Shopped around and switched insurance – Total Savings: $350 per year
Internet: The Mister would kill me if I tried to convince him that the internet at home isn’t a need. I can use the internet to find money savings deals. Consider this rationalized.
Cigarettes: Yeah…Definitely still a smoker. I will work on cutting down though! I swear! Update: Feb 2011 - Created a cut down schedule – down to 1/2 pack per day (down from 1 pack per day)Update: Apr 24, 2011- I quit smoking. Savings of about $110 per month (estimated).Update: May 19, 2011 - I decided to take part of the cigarette money I’m saving to put toward a massage for myself. A social worker needs some self-care! $50 per month toward the massage, $60 toward the loan. Update: July 2011 - I quit quitting. I’ve tried to quit a couple of times during this spending fast and now it’s become too much for me to handle. Not only am I trying to not spend money, but I’ve also now got a second job, a wedding to plan and some weight to lose. I’ll try again once some things settle down in my world.
Laundry: Unfortunately I don’t have my own washer/dryer. I will work to wash 1 load per week (pants can be worn multiple times, right?). I will also work out a way to air dry clothes. Update: Feb 2011 - Bought a drying rack @ Big Lots for $17. All jeans/heavy fabrics are air-dried now. All clothing will be air-dried once the temperatures increase. Update: June 2011 - I started air drying all laundry and it has turned into a $10 per month savings.
Eyebrow waxin’: Have you ever seen me with unwaxed eyebrows? Believe me, you don’t want to!
Student Loans: Um, this is the point of the spending fast.
Cell Phone: For some stupid reason, I got a smart phone about a month before the spending fast started. I’ll work on discounts. Update Feb 2011 - Verizon offers a group discount for the agency I work for. 18% Savings!
Pet supplies (food, litter, etc): Coupons! The kitties will not suffer and I will not change their brands for the sake of saving a few bucks.
Medications/Doctor’s co-pays: I’m not going to suffer to save a few bucks. If I get sick, I will be tended to.
Hygiene & Household products: There are few indulgences I have in this world. The one thing I do have is Aveeno. I LOVE that brand and will continue to use their shampoo, conditioner and lotion. I will look for coupons though! I will work toward making my own, inexpensive cleaning products. Update Mar 2011 - Began making simple cleaning products with vinegar and baking soda!
There are a few other things to note.
If something will eventually save me money, it’s acceptable to buy. An example is a drying rack for clothing.
As I continue to lose weight, I will buy clothes when necessary. I will use Xmas gift cards I’m saving or go to thrift stores to buy needed clothing. Any new clothing will be replacements, not a new addition to my wardrobe.
I will buy ink for my printer. But, I will be wise about what I print. I will print coupons and creative things for gifts. I will be frugal about printing and get the best deals possible on ink.
If I have to travel, I will do so frugally. I have at least 1 previous travel engagement this year. I’m not going to miss it, but I will figure out a way to make it as cheap as possible.
What I will not spend money on:
Just about everything else
Any extra paychecks, bonuses, etc will be dedicated to the loan.
Another important part of all of this is that I want to build up my savings. I’ve never been good about having an emergency savings account, so this is one of the major priorities. Most of the living expenses are in my name and The Mister sends me 2 payments for his portion per month. I’ve decided to dedicate this money to my emergency savings fund. I won’t touch this money. I’ve also dedicated $200 per month toward my “rainy day fund.” When things pop up that need attention (emergent needs, but not true emergencies, like my car breaks down), then I can take the money from this account.