trim the fat

IMG_5703Frugal dinner: ham and bean soup

Who’s up for a #FrugalFebruary challenge?

We’ve been on a bit of a bender the past two months. For the first time in our eleven and a half year relationship, we are finishing the months with a true financial surplus, even after catching up on things that previously had to be put on the back burner. We’re paying down debts (big, vulnerable post coming on that…soon) and boosting our savings account. And with the loosening of the belt, we indulged a little bit. A little bit more than I’m happy with, in hindsight. We didn’t go overboard with Christmas gifts in number, but we bought some bigger non-essentials for each other than we usually would have – a gift card for books! a reciprocating saw (NIB, secondhand, but still)! a quality baby doll! – and purchased pricey tickets in advance for a belated birthday date night next month. We keep beer in the fridge, and we’ve been eating more luxury items – salmon and red meat instead of just chicken. Bacon. Berries and farm fresh eggs.

It is an exceedingly rare occasion that I do not experience buyer’s remorse after a purchase. Of any size, any type. I don’t like that feeling, and it has led me to be very careful about how I spend money. Put that trait with our strong desire to be debt-free, AND the fact that we live in the country with very few places to spend, AND that I no longer leave the house to work, eliminating trips to the coffee shop or to the deli for lunch – I no longer spend much outside of our grocery bill.

When we lived apart, things got pretty bad financially. The situation dragged on far longer than we anticipated, and we were both bringing in less money than we budgeted. I spent nothing because there was nothing to spend, and that was that. It was horrendous, and I’m glad we have bounced back, so I realize it is a privilege that I can even consider planning this as a choice and not a necessity. That is most certainly not lost on me.

Part of my motivation to try this experiment is so that we have even more of a cushion, so that we can sock away more cash to insure we don’t wind up robbing Peter to pay Paul in the future. I know there are still ways to trim the fat here, so to speak. I’m not going to force my family to play along, but to be honest, I’m the spender here. J really only buys snacks and drinks to/from work or school, and if I pack them for him, he doesn’t need to.

So! My approach to a No Spend Month:

No purchased snacks, beverages or meals outside the home for the month of February, with the exception of our pre-planned birthday date. I often pack J’s dinner for work, but I’ve gotten lax about doing so – time to start planning ahead.

No clothing for myself or family, except in an emergency. I have plastic storage tubs filled with clothes in the next size up for both girls, so they should be ok, and I think J is pretty much set.

No sneaking extra goodies into the grocery cart! This is the fat: the fun lip balm, the fancy chocolate, the non-essential seltzer. A new flavor of tea when I already have five boxes in the cabinet. Those are the items that make up my “recreational” purchases these days.

Yes to paying all of the regular bills – rent, insurance, phones, internet, debts.

Yes to emergencies – auto expenses that can’t wait, medical issues, educational needs.

Yes to groceries and basic toiletries – BUT with an emphasis on cutting costs while still making healthy choices.

Check in weekly to share the highs and lows – here, and on Instagram with #FrugalFebruary and #NoSpendMonth

I don’t know that this will be earth-shattering for me, but I could be wrong. I do know that I’m interested in seeing what happens, and in tallying just how much less we spend when we make the conscious choice not to.

Care to join me? I’m interested to know how this would look for your family, what you’d hope to gain from the experience, and your general thoughts. Have you attempted anything like this before, by choice? I’d love to follow along if you leave your IG or blog link in the comments!

4 thoughts on “trim the fat

  1. we started doing this at the beginning of December after realizing our own pattern of “fun” or spontaneous purchases. Our ‘no spending plan’ is really similar to yours where all the bills and groceries are still being purchased, albeit with no impulse buys and no internet shopping, among other things. I’d be happy to follow along with this hashtag for February. @sonrie1017 instagram


  2. Great idea, Kirsten! I’m in! I can’t think of anything extra we’ve bought since Christmas (except a couple 7 year old’s birthday gifts). I will definitely follow along and report how it goes…I’m not on FB or Instagram but I will link to this page–and you can find me at

    Good luck! Jill


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