We’re well into the first quarter of 2019, but many of us still have our minds turned to money. For some, it looks like paying off debt, for others it’s saving, with specific goals in mind around owning homes, businesses, retiring early or travelling more.
Whatever it is, most of us can agree – we’d all like to have a better relationship with our dosh.
I read something in January that said that Australians on a median income could stand to save, and find, an extra $1,000 a month if they put their mind to living more frugally.
Thinking that that was idealistic at best, I put it to the test by doing frugal February – a challenge for the whole of February where you cut as much discretionary spending as possible.
I have a mortgage in Sydney, I’m a small business owner (with office, insurance, software, travel and staff overheads), and I’m already saving a big chunk of my income as part of my goal to retire early.
Still, at the time of February 28th 2019, I’d racked up an extra $1,230. Here’s how I did frugal February.
I really cut out discretionary spending.
As in, I looked at everything in my budget that wasn’t an absolute necessity – and I cut it for the month. Things like coffees on-the-go, convenience lunches in between meetings (where it wouldn’t make sense to pack a meal), Ubers and taxis, social outings or picking up anything that wasn’t supermarket food or public transport credit.
I walked a lot, caught buses and trains everywhere I could, brought snacks to tide me over when out, and enjoyed teas from tea bags I had already over barista-made coffees. I paused convenience services for the month, massively cut down on alcohol and tried to plan as much as possible so I wouldn’t run into temptation.
I unsubscribed from everything.
I’m a big advocate of not giving businesses permission to market to us constantly, but looking through my emails – I was surprised by how much I had let slip through the cracks, and how involuntary it was to click that ‘Shop Now’ button.
I spent one night going through pages of my inbox and unsubscribing from every marketing email that had managed to find its way in. I turned to free and local marketplaces for things I needed over going to the shops, like an iMac (which, after a bit of searching, I found in great nick for a cool $140).
I borrowed or re-gifted.
I really enjoy gift-giving – but I’ve realised just how much sentimental gifts are geared up to run you a pretty penny. Instead, when I needed to give something for a birthday or dinner party my husband and I attended, I looked at things I already had around the house.
Beautiful candles still in their box, quirky homewares with the tags on, exxy wines completely corked; most of us probably have a myriad of things completely untouched or unopened that we could regift.
For a night I went out for a work event, I borrowed a dress from a friend so that I didn’t have to buy my own, and another friend who was doing her own frugal February told me that, when she went camping for the first time, she’d borrowed the tent and sleeping bags from a relative instead of buying everything new. It worked out well because she hated it so much she’ll probably never do it again!
I DIY’ed where it was safe to do so.
There were quite a few times during the month where we had to stop ourselves from calling in help for things we could have done ourselves. When one of my favourite bras ripped, I blew the dust off my sewing kit over dropping it to my local alteration place.
A week later, my husband and I sealed our own kitchen drainpipe instead of having a plumber do it, and when our car became so filthy we couldn’t see out the windows, we rolled up our sleeves and cleaned every inch of it – inside and out, instead of mindlessly dropping it to the car wash.
I called all my providers and got discounts.
One afternoon, I rang around all of my subscription providers in the hopes of negotiating down my monthly charges. I started with the phrase: “I took a good look at my last bill and I think I’m paying too much” and followed up with the open-ended question of “what can you do for me?”.
Some wouldn’t budge, but most – including my accounting software, my phone plan provider and my domain hoster were open to negotiating and I walked away with a saving of just under fifty dollars a month – that’s $600 extra a year for the sake of a couple of phone calls.
I celebrated frugally.
On Valentine’s Day aka the most commercial day of the year, my hubby and I swapped out red roses and fixed menus for a nice meal in, handmade cards and a good old chat about our future plans. The truth is, we’re often sold the idea that the only way to celebrate a relationship is to buy stuff, which goes for birthdays and anniversaries, too.
Being thoughtful without digging deep into our pockets is completely possible, but it requires you to both be on the same page as to the reasons why.
Finally, I found additional income.
I get a real thrill out of finding additional income, and for the whole month of February, I committed to pet-sitting a lot. I got lucky and scored a regular puppy-sitting gig with a beautiful little Cavoodle, but before and after my workday, I would stop by people’s houses to feed their cats, walk their dogs and hang out with their parrots. At $20 a pop, it quickly snowballed.
While it’s called frugal February – really any month could be used to kickstart your savings goals and find extra income. By following these principles and being strict on discretionary spending (you can also cut down on a single category vs being frugal with everything, or just do two weeks instead of the whole month), you’ll probably really surprise yourself with just how much you end up with. Enjoy the savings, and the accomplishment!
This article was written for, and first appeared on Mamamia.