Challenged to save

Do you ever jump into something without thinking it through because it sounds like a fun thing to try?  I do, not so much as I’ve gotten older, but every now and again I still do.   Before starting this blog, I could have tossed the idea out when I decided I learned enough or it wasn’t the right timing.  Instead, I put it out there for everyone to see and now have to be honest enough to explain I  haven’t quite lived up to the challenge.

So what am I talking about? 

130x195xJanMoneyDietPig.jpg.pagespeed.ic.QbpvfK3ZjWThe January Money Diet.  With one week left to the month, I realize I don’t shop enough to make this challenge a month long experiment.  That’s partly why I thought this would be an easy thing to do, it would start the year off right with some extra savings, but being thrifty is something I do regularly so I didn’t have those extra expenses such as the coffee habit at Starbucks, or passing by shopping centers while running errands.

Now there are people, like Frugal Trenches, who is also very frugal throughout the year but is able to give you a detailed post on her life without money for a month drawing you in and leaving you wanting more.  Her month inspires me, but my life has  not lent itself to a daily post on money, money just isn’t a big enough issue in my day-to-day life.

I have learned a few things, for one, I miss chocolate, haven’t had any since before Christmas.  Remember when I said at the beginning that I jump into things without thinking them through?  I had made arrangements to have my bathroom updated after Christmas, had to put that on hold and my daughter-in-law who will be helping me with the areas I can’t do myself (like painting the ceiling) is laughing at me over this.

resting on sand

Here’s the break down of where I have spent money, and yes I have spent money:

  • $21. on groceries the end of December (but used for beginning of this month)
  • $87 additional on groceries mid month, I did well on groceries, only buying what I needed for meals, with the exception of a container of hot chocolate.
  • $6 on beads (with shipping) for the jewelry box, the remaining beads went to my eldest grand daughter for crafts
  • $12 (with shipping) for a birthday present
  • $21 on a piece of art (which includes shipping) that will be incorporated into the finished vanity area.  When I purchased this, I did so now knowing it would take a while to arrive, and I informed the seller that I would have to own up to this as she reads my blog.  Jen at Winter Owls is an amazing artist, you can see  her blog here and her Etsy store here.

That’s it for my spending.  So yes I have plenty of savings this month, which feels good.  On  the other hand, when I do spend money on something it’s needed (at least in my mind) so the items I would have purchased this month, and didn’t, include the following:

  • Paint for the bathroom
  • Paint for the vanity waiting to be restored
  • Fabric and new legs for the loveseat which is currently propped on books on one corner.  I have chosen the fabric which I found at $3.95 a yard, hoping it’s still available in a week.
  • wood putty to fill the holes on the last jewelry box. I will need to purchase wood putty at some point for the projects I work on.
  • Fabric for a chair I am refinishing for myself to keep.


There are things that never crossed my mind to spend money on:

  • Eating out/Take out
  • Clothes or shoes
  • Jewelry
  • Purses or any other accessories
  • beauty products
  • New refrigerator I already knew I wanted to consider just having a freezer, but never thought the fridge would break first.

There are things I did think about buying:

  • Craft Supplies
  • And the above mentioned paint, fabric and so on

The reason for this is I don’t like shopping, I don’t enjoy the experience of shopping and I am in a place in my life where I enjoy life, I have so much to be happy for that I don’t feel the pull to medicate with a trip to the mall (been there didn’t work for me).


The question I am left with is whether or not this challenge was worth it to me.  There is very little that I had to restrain myself from on a daily basis, and most of those purchases I have simply put off until the next month.  If you had asked me before this where I spend the majority of my disposable income I would have told you on food.  Yet obviously you can see that it’s really my hobbies restoring found items where I tend to spend the most.

Come February first, I will be purchasing paint, fabric and furniture legs, so  yes all I did was delay the purchases meaning February’s disposable income will be a little short.

snow path

So here’s how I feel about the money diet:

  • It’s great to stop and think before swiping the card or clicking the purchase button, but do you need an entire month to think over whether or not to purchase something?
  • If you have the cash now, but wait till next month to purchase the item(s), aren’t you just delaying the outlay of money into the next time period?  For example the paint I need, I know I need it, I know I need to buy it, all I did was put off a job I could have completed sooner.
  • Most of all, the Money Diet is wonderful to help you get a handle on your spending if you are new to living with a budget or are trying to save for something in particular.  If you rarely shop, well this might not make much difference in your daily life.


So are there other ways of saving money

Are you saving for  something special,  to increase your financial independence or to fund a trip?  Here’s an idea I spotted and thought I’d share with you.  Now I’m not sure where the money bank came from, but I have a large empty oatmeal container I could cut an opening on the top  (no buying a bank just to save money).  This looks easy now, but towards the end of the year it may be a little hard for everyone to stick with.  If I did the math correctly by the end of the year you would have a total of $1,378 saved.

Have you ever challenged yourself to a no spend period of time?  What was the longest you went without pulling out the green or plastic?

What ways have you found to make saving easier for you to stick to?




      • I haven’t decided yet!

        I am a slave to the Chipotle burrito bowl. Also tofu from a local Chinese takeaway… but I’m trying to cut back on soy so I am resisting the urge. I got pizza twice last week (a true rarity, I do not normally order pizza). Some nights, I am so tired after work that I either stop at the store for something I can cook fast (last week I got some carrots and potatoes and made a stew) or eat right away (usually overpriced sushi), but I tend to pick up some cookies from the bakery when I go… it’s a bad cycle.


        • The only places to pick something up quick here (fast food) are a McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Tim Horton’s or Wendy’s. With those choices it’s easier to stay home. Now if I had a Chipotle around here that might be another story. Do you have a slow cooker you can set up before you leave for work?


          • I don’t! I used to have a rice cooker/crock pot but I wasn’t using it so I sold it at a yard sale. I’m starting to wish I had kept it so I could make easy slow cooker meals. I think my mom might have an extra I can borrow to see if I’d use one regularly enough to warrant a purchase.


          • I bought my son and his wife a slow cooker two Christmas’ ago, when we were looking for the one she wanted we noticed that for as little as $20 we could have gotten a regular sized one with a small one for little meals. I’m still kicking myself for not getting that and keeping the little one for me, that little one would be perfect for reheating leftovers at work for you.


        • I used to have a similar problem back in my “worked to death” days. I finally concluded that allowing myself to stock my kitchen with a few “convenience foods” was preferable to beating a path to the local Chinese takeout stand! Frozen dinners, mixes and the like go against my nature, but in the long run I decided that having a few boxes of Mac ‘n’ Cheese on hand as well as some “luxuries” like instant hummus was a much better deal than spending a fortune on unhealthy takeout!


          • That’s very true. I’m trying to start cooking enough to last me a few days on Sundays so that I have lunches and dinners all prepared without having to cook more. I have to cook mid-week again, but I don’t mind having cooking a bunch and eating the leftovers all week!


          • Instant hummus is one I still buy, finding the ingredients means a trip into the city something that costs more than the store bought hummus. My go to is Top Ramen soups, I toss out the seasonings, but if I need something quick the noodles are good plain or with a little oil or butter and some frozen veggies tossed in, and something I can quickly prepare for the little ones who don’t eat everything I have in the house.


  1. I’d be lost without my slow cooker! I try to keep something in the slow cooker (stew, soup, stock, beans/greens, etc) to last us 2-3 days, and then make a new batch of whatever. That, plus always having eggs on hand, takes care of any fatigue-prompted food splurges. My only regret is that the one I have now is too big. But when my old one broke, I had a hard time finding any without a non-stick coating in the crock except for this one.
    But back on track…I think the money diets are a good idea, like a semi-annual cleanse, for increasing awareness. But if you are thrifty anyway, then, yes, I think you are only delaying the inevitable expense and project. And as I get older, I find I need to do the projects when I have the resources on hand. Otherwise, something always comes up to gobble up that time and money, and the project stays un-done.
    Amazing job on the food budget!


    • I use my slow cooker like you, it used to be used mostly in the winter months, but having no stove it has gotten much more use. I haven’t looked at slow cookers lately and didn’t realize they were putting a non stick coating on them, yuck. Mine is ceramic and I love it. I do wish I had the little one as well but I’ll make do with what I have especially if the little ones aren’t ceramic!

      I agree the money diets are a great way to get a handle on spending if you are making near daily purchases or in stores often where you find yourself picking up an extra item(s) before checking out.

      As for my grocery bill, I did some planning before the weather turned bad. I stocked up on the staples from the bulk food store (the roads aren’t always great in the winter months) so things like beans, lentils, hot cereals, and the like I have plenty leaving me only needing fresh produce to fill in for the winter months.


      • We had a six week hiatus between fall and winter CSAs. I love the fresh veggies from the farms, and also that I only have to budget once for them, and then they show up every week ” for free”. And then no excuse for not eating veggies each meal 🙂


        • I keep promising myself I will join a CSA, but there are none close by so it would involve quite a trek to pick them up, I watch every year to see if there is one closer I could join. While I have to spend the money, I shop the farmers market in the summer and then plan meals based on what I find there, it’s fun to do and I know I would enjoy the CSA in the same way.


          • I don’t do CSA’s anymore because of both my food allergies and because I can’t even eat all the food my own garden produces! But… back in my CSA days I came up with a few strategies that might be helpful.

            One of the CSA’s that I belonged to was loosely connected to the local Waldorf school. They had an informal distribution network where people would take turns driving out to the farm each week. Maybe you could find something like that… where there’s a group of people sharing driving/distribution duties.

            The other CSA that I belonged to didn’t have a real community behind it – and they really wanted people to drive out to the farm each week. Problem was it was on the other side of town from me, and distributions were around 5-6pm which was both during rush hour traffic and at a time that I was supposed to be at work! After taking a few hours off work a couple of times… and spending over 2 hours sitting in rush hour traffic just to get there, I concluded it just wasn’t workable for me. But instead of dropping out I found a student at the music school who was coming from that area, and had to come to the school for her weekly lesson anyhow – so I made a deal with her. She did the driving, I paid for the share and we split the bounty. It worked out well for both of us because the shares were WAY too much for one person anyhow – plus I got to give her all the stuff I was allergic to so nothing went to waste.

            Sooo… maybe you could find a CSA buddy or something? Not sure how interested you are, but often the farmers will know the share owners well enough that if you sent them an email explaining your situation they might know of another share owner near you who would be willing to pick up your veggies for you or something.

            Just a thought…


          • I love your thoughts, it’s worth looking into for me. With getting a freezer and having a dehydrator I will have plenty of ways to store what I can’t eat immediately. Right now the two closest (both over 30 miles away) want you to come to the farm, but if I could find a buddy that would be great. I love how you worked out your problem picking up your weekly box, what a great solution. I’ve been through Denver a couple of times and the traffic is something so close to Los Angeles’ that I hated driving there, the first time I hit rush hour traffic and it’s no picnic, I’m sure it’s even worse now.


  2. You have followed an awesome strategy. Anyone doing this for one month will gain insight and skills in how to save money, and only buy what is needed. In these times of growing economic uncertainty, any efforts that conserve money may be vital to personal economic survival.


    • Thanks Alex, it really made me question what are essentials. For instance the canister of hot chocolate, I didn’t need it as an essential, I had plenty of tea I could have had when needing a warm drink on these cold days, but it was the hot chocolate that was what I really wanted. In the grand scheme of things the $2 canister was worth it to me to have a comfort when cold and I was still under my budgeted grocery amount for the month as I set a goal of $100 for the month.

      I hope others will, if not consider a month long experiment, at least stop and wait a day or so before making a purchase to be sure it’s something they need, as you said it’s vital to learn how save money before they are surprised by the economic problems hitting their family.


  3. I think February will be a very low spend month as we recover from the money haemorrhaging month of January. Moving tht many households costs a lot, even doing most of the work ourselves. I did manage to buy used appliances for the rental hose, which saved a lot.


    • Oh, Heidi, after that move I wouldn’t want to leave the house which would keep me from spending money. I’m glad you were able to find used appliances for the rental house which I’m sure saved you hundreds! At least with a rental you will have extra money coming in soon.


  4. I knew I would be spending extra money in January for a planned household rearrangement so I didn’t sign up for any no-spend/low-spend challenges. I did spend extra this month on several cafe trips, too. I am baking muffins today in an attempt to stop purchasing baked goods that I could have made myself!


    • That rearrangement of your home was a much needed expenditure I saw the photos and know the spaces are much more functional and you really didn’t spend that much in the process I was so impressed! I have never been a big baked goods person, donuts and the like just don’t interest me, one exception are a few varieties of muffins, love lemon poppy seed ones, enjoy your muffins today.


  5. I am lucky that we have always had a steady income and have been able to live below our means by having smaller house or fewer clothes, for example, than those around us. This strategy has allowed us to always have an emergency fund. Practically, I find I spend the least amount of money if I just stay out of stores.


    • Isn’t that the truth? Just stay away from the stores and you will have extra at the end of the month. You have found the one secret to savings, living below your means. I shared the story before about my son who was told he could purchase a home that was equal in price to double/triple his annual income. He refused and bought a home that cost half his annual income. His wife wasn’t happy when she found a “dream house” he said was too expensive, but now that she is able to be a stay at home mommy and still take vacations and be able to afford those experience after noons at the science museum and the zoo with their daughter she is happy her husband put his foot down and stuck to what he believed was best.


  6. I think I could spend my whole paycheck easily on arts and crafts supplies! LOL! I sometimes think smoking would be a less expensive hobby 😀 (only joking!)


    • P, you definitely have a crafting problem when you say (even in jest) that smoking could be cheaper 🙂 I am trying to only buy something when I have a project to work on at that moment which keeps my supply costs from getting out of hand.


    • I’ve used the same way of thinking for a while now and find that over time I have less wants as a result. It’s good to have a savings even if you don’t have purpose for the money, it used to be savings weren’t ear-marked for any thing other than a security blanket for the future.

      Thank you for the nomination.


  7. I’m with you on this one. Especially at this point in my life “shopping” is just not something I do unless there’s something I need. Of course “need” is a relative term.

    I dunno, I think it’s a balancing act. It’s very helpful to understand where your money goes and if you have frivolous spending habits, it’s good to uncover them. When I read “Your Money or Your Life” back in the mid-90’s I did the exercise where you track every penny you earn and every penny you spend for a few months, and it really helped me understand my emotional spending.

    But I’m also at the point in my life where I realize that everything is fleeting, and sometimes you have to seize opportunities when they present themselves. I guess I’m thinking of the things I’ve spent money on recently… which are pretty much all bicycle related. Could I have gotten by without buying a new bike, or with a cheaper bike? Sure. Did I really “need” the bike clothing that is starting to fill up my closet, or the bike tools, or the winter riding gear, or other bike-related stuff I’ve bought since I got the new bike? Well – I could have “made do” but I would have sacrificed both comfort and safety along with many, many hours of heart pumping exercise and miles and miles of joy with the man I love.

    I guess that’s why I like the system in “Your Money or Your Life” so much – because it doesn’t classify all spending as “bad.” As a life long scrimper & saver, that’s what I used to do – I’d beat myself up for anything that I spent money on, and then the long process of trying to justify it all would begin… it was really less than helpful. But in YMOYL they have you figure out how many hours of your life it takes to make the money, then you calculate how much time you had to sacrifice to earn the money for each purchase and decide if you felt it was worth it or not. When I look at it under that lens, all of my recent spending is totally worth it!


    • Your Money or Your Life was such an eye opener when I read it, not so much when it came to the investing, but in the fact that there were other people out there doing what I was doing. I was earning considerably less with my college degree than I was supposed to, yet I chose to take the jobs I did because it was more important to me to be the one home raising my boys, not a sitter. It was refreshing in so many ways. After reading that a friend and I decided to do exactly what you did and write down every penny that came in or out and where it went. We even went so far as to start a grocery book where we kept track of which stores had the lowest price. I gave that up when I found I was tired of running to several stores. Now I have it down to two places plus the farmers market, it’s less stressful and time consuming.

      When it comes to the pieces I’ve been refinishing I was fortunate that most of the paint I got for free, but I’ve run out of that. Still when I think about how much I will spend and the hours of enjoyment I get out of the process of redoing the stuff I find versus sitting around being bored in the winter, the trade off is well worth a small investment.

      I remember when you made the choice to buy your new bike, it was after you lost someone you cared for and wanted to enjoy life, and not put off the things that made you happy just to save more money. Yes, you could have done with a less expensive bike, but knowing cyclists around here, a good bike can make a ride much more enjoyable, especially with the miles you ride in a day. The added bonus is it’s something you can share with the man you love!


  8. Kids are a big money eater! They keep growing out of things, dammit! And the school keeps needing money for program’s and excursions so you never know what a months expenditure will be. It’s worth every cent though. And our little school do a canteen lunch once a fortnight. I always let the kids take part coz every other day they only ever have food from home. Btw I love your Friday links. I don’t get much time for looking around myself and I love that you’ve done the investigation for me. I just pick out the areas of interest. Thank you!


    • I hated all the extras from school. Our school was famous for that especially as the children got to middle and high school (of which I only had one year of since I was home schooling by then). The phys ed program takes the kids bowling, and to play putt putt, but we have to pay for these and it’s not an option. Don’t even ask about all the fund raisers, things I don’t want or need. I still have kids come and try to sell me the junk.

      I’m glad you enjoy the Friday links. Have I covered most of your interests?


      • You sure have! And more. I’d never really thought about the destruction of habitats of certain lice before! I had a great giggle. I’m also going to make an adaptation of vapour rub that I found through your links. Thanks heaps!


  9. Its been a simple month. I have spent $90. on groceries and have purchased needed medications. I don’t care for shopping and never have. The nearest stores are two cities away. I try not to go out during the bad weather since I am an amputee and finds it difficult. At present the highway to my home is closed. Along
    with many other roads. It rained overnight turned to ice and snow. We are suppose to get about 8″ with
    lake effect conditions. I keep busy at home with various projects knitting and crocheting for Project Linus,
    the chemo center, and the outreach shelter programs. The yarn is donated and the items made go to
    people who really need them. I have a wonderful way to spend my retirement. Enjoying needlework and
    being able to reach out to others so they know someone is think of them. I could not ask for more.


    • Mary, I have always wanted to do more for homeless and children who are in need than I have time for, I do a few things and when I come across blankets and winter clothing I wash it up and donate it to the shelters. It’s great that you get your yarn donated, similar to my getting donated paint. I agree, some people have so little, especially love, it’s important they know there are people out there thinking of them.

      As for your groceries, did you stock up on staples like I did to keep your costs so low?

      Lake effect snow? You live along one of the Great Lakes? I hate the freezing rain it seems people forget how to drive on any winter roads if they have had a couple of good driving days in between, so when the freezing rain hits I stay to back roads where I can have the road to myself. We are probably going to be in for some strange weather and road conditions as well soon. Monday-Wednesday we are expecting temperatures in the mid 50s with rain each day, then Wednesday night it’s supposed to drop below freezing with the rain turning to snow, so I’m thinking your weather is heading my way.


  10. I like how January feels like I’m being soooo frugal. When in fact, our freezers are still full from fall and holiday stock up sales, and we have just received some new things, so don’t have that urge to go out and buy anything new. And we ate tons of holiday food, so now we’re trying to eat healthier, and have little desire to eat out. It’s easy fro me to be frugal in January.

    Now, in two months, when gardening season strikes again, that’s when I’ll have a tough time controlling my spending. But maybe that’s okay. Maybe having a hobby that will cost me money is okay if I’m being responsible with our money. I’m not going into debt for this hobby. I;m not eating into what we could be setting aside for later in life. By managing the rest of our expenses, we’re able to have a couple of hobbies. And those hobbies give us joy.
    So judicious spending is okay. And maybe for some folks who took part in the money diet experiment, they reset their sense of wisdom in spending, after a holiday season of excess of all sorts. But perhaps, you never needed the money diet to begin with, as you don’t feel the urge to spend, just to have something new. You are already living a very purposeful life.

    As for meals at the end of a long day, and temptations to eat out or pick up take away, I try to keep a few possibilities in the back of my mind, like oatmeal, with fruit added, or, pasta topped with ordinary canned tomato sauce, add in some dried herbs, and top with cheese, or, scrambled eggs with veggies added and toast. Any of those only takes 10 minutes tops to prepare. If I have it in my mind that there are possibilities, then I’m less inclined to get take out. Even pbj will do if I’m just too tired to make anything else.


    • I know my spending will increase for purchasing seeds for the garden, but I am willing to pay to have organic produce I can put up for next year and enough to enjoy for summer. There are some purchases that will end up saving us money in the long run. I didn’t get much put up this year so I’m not really benefiting from the garden this winter, by I’m hoping I have plenty for next winter and can live out of my freezer like you are.

      Meals at the end of a long day aren’t much of a problem being single a bowl of cereal or like you said a simple eggs on toast is easy enough and not only healthier but I think it tastes much better that fast food or frozen meals for that matter. I have a huge dislike of the taste of salt, and my body doesn’t like it either, so many if not most prepared foods you can quickly pick up are loaded with salt leaving me wanting real food.

      I wouldn’t say I didn’t learn anything from the money diet, I noticed that those little extras at the grocery store weren’t really very tempting when I told myself I wasn’t going to buy anything this month, its the hobbies that are my down fall, but they keep me busy and are pleasurable so I don’t see it as money wasted. On top of that the items I work on would have ended up in a landfill so I get the satisfaction of bringing something back to life, helping someone else acquire something they need, and allowing me to express some creativity.


  11. Thanks so much for the shout out, the money tins are sold here in Australia for $1 I had bought a few for some Japanese exchange students and had a couple spare. Any container will work, good luck, may we both be cashed up in the new year 🙂


    • oh I forgot to add, I too am a little concerned about the amounts at the end of the year (and I still have 5 kids at home) so I decided once I reach the point I can’t continue to increase the amount I am going to make the cut off my regular savings. Honestly I think that will happen sometime around august but I am willing to give it a good try. Next year I will start the year knowing exactly what we were able to afford.


      • Mel, I read that too and thought that was a wonderful idea, I should have mentioned that as well when I shared the info on your money jar, I hope others found you and read it themselves. I hear all the time about putting a certain percentage away/paying yourself, but I think it’s a much better idea to find what your own amount should be from practice. I too am worried about the amounts later on, I even thought of adding a little more early on to help when it gets tough. Good luck I will be looking forward to hearing how you do.


    • Thanks Mel, I hope you didn’t think I was implying you spent a large sum of money on them, I knew you had repurposed them from another project. I don’t live in Australia so I will be making one of my own. I already have a change jar that I keep but that’s all I keep in it are coins.


  12. Lois thank you so much for the lovely things you said about my art, you’ve made my day. As far as saving money goes the thing that works for me is staying away from temptation! If I don’t go near shops I don’t get tempted. What is really saving money at the moment is I have none until I get a job. I have a credit card but use it strictly for emergencies, or if I have the money to pay it off straight away. I have a job interview tomorrow so hopefully I will have some money soon, but am hoping to keep away from temptation still. As far as money spent on your refurbishing projects goes, I would consider that food for the soul.


    • Jen you are so welcome, your art is not only gorgeous but unique which is what I love and try to have in my home I don’t like cookie cutter things that any one can buy at the local chain stores. I’m so sorry to hear you are out of work, it’s so hard today to find a good job you can love at the same time when you need to bring income into the home and feel pressured to take whatever comes your way. I will be thinking of you and hope not only that you get the job but that it is one you will enjoy.

      As for the refurbishing jobs, I couldn’t have said it any better, it does make my soul happy to have that outlet.


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