A month ago, my family decided to try a little austerity program we called the Living on Less Challenge. We saved our receipts, ate from our pantry, and found inexpensive ways to have fun. The month is now over; here’s how it went:
Spending: Overall, we saved a ton of money just by being mindful about our choices. The two categories I struggled the most with were clothes and groceries. We spent less on both than in normal months, but we went over the targets I set. I’ll be the first to admit the targets were ambitious, so I still feel successful. We were under the targeted amount for all the other categories (yay!), and overall saved more than $500 for the month.
Meals: Every Sunday night, we planned our meals for the week and I went grocery shopping for all the needed ingredients. Not only did this end up saving us a ton of money, but it made dinner time much less stressful. Rather than trying to come up with ideas last minute, we had a plan and we already had all of the ingredients on hand. We will definitely keep doing this going forward.
Overall, I learned that saving money takes a lot of planning, but it was totally worth it. Rather than making last minute decisions about meals, what we want to do tonight, etc., we made a game plan and stuck to it. It will be interesting to see if we can keep this up when I go back to work; even with our savings this month, we will still need a second income, but with the money we saved, we can definitely work toward other financial goals.
Next, I’m going to try tackling more of our budget. This month, we weren’t tracking vacation/travel costs, but I was unofficially keeping track… seems like we could use some parameters there. It’s hard, though, because living in Seattle, we frequently take the ferry, which is nearly $50 round trip. It’s definitely worth talking about to see what feels reasonable for us.
All in all, I’m so glad we did this little experiment, as it got us talking about our budget and being mindful about our purchases. We are going to do it again next month to see if our huge savings were an anomaly or are potentially sustainable.