How To Be Frugal: One Month At A Time

Thinking of making money-related New Year’s resolutions for 2016? Well, I’ll save you the hassle: don’t do it. I’m delighted to poke my head up from parental leave to issue a challenge for the new year, written with a Babywoods snuggled to my chest in her sling (which seems to be her preferred mode for writing blog posts).

Babywoods snoozing (on a blanket on top of a dog bed... )

Babywoods snoozing (on a blanket on top of a dog bed… )

If your internet is anything like my internet, there are approximately 595,890 articles out right now about how to successfully save money this year. But here’s the thing: the timeframe of a year is entirely too broad when thinking about money (or most things, really)–it feels like a freaking eternity. Anytime I goal set on an annual basis, I am doomed to fail. Just ask Mr. Frugalwoods about my epic “teach myself to play piano in a year” goal. Uhm, yeah. Put that down as something I’ll master never in early retirement….

The key to optimizing your finances is to think about them on a monthly basis. We typically account for our finances in monthly, as opposed to yearly, increments anyway–as in, how much our mortgage is each month or the amount we spend on groceries every month. So why not goal set with this more reasonable, truncated timeline? Instead of trying to slog through an entire year, I challenge you to make a dramatic change in your financial habits for one month. An uber frugal month–as I’m wont to call it–rather than a year, is a much more attainable proposition.

And since it’s only one measly month, don’t hold back. Throw yourself in with the wild abandon of a greyhound who smells bacon cooking (in case you’re wondering, that’s pretty darn wild). And at the end of said month, assess to see if your actions are sustainable. I’ll admit there are some New Year’s resolutions where jumping in with both feet would be unadvisable–alligator taming and tightrope walking spring immediately to mind–but an all-in attitude for frugality is how you’ll derive the greatest rewards.

One Month At A Time: The Frugalwoods Plan

This is exactly how Mr. FW and I began our journey: one month at a time. We set out in April 2014 to live the most frugally we’d ever lived and to see how we felt about it. Spoiler alert: we felt awesome because we then started writing Frugalwoods to spam the internet with greyhound photos spread the frugal gospel!

Committing to anything for a month is a very tenable proposition–just ask Frugal Hound, who is currently committed to not having her teeth brushed for a month (really we’ve just become derelict dog parents now that we have a human child too… ). A month is long enough to provide a true sense of the change in your life, but short enough that you’re not tempted to cheat.

Turns out, at the end of our first uber frugal month, we barely even missed all of the spending we eliminated. We’d been living in a virtual financial fog: spending money on things that weren’t adding appreciable value to our lives.

Plus, we discovered that beyond the monetary benefits of frugality, the non-financial pros of living a simpler life more focused on relationships and our passions–and less on spending money–made us happier, more peaceful people. Frugality is what liberated us from our discontent and showed us that we have the power to create the lives we want. We don’t have to spend money on all the things society says we should–far from it. Be your own person and spend only on what truly matters to you.

Frugality Is A Skill, Not Magic

Frugal Hound the Magical Compound Interest Unicorn

Frugal Hound the Magical Compound Interest Unicorn

Successful frugality is a skill and, like any skill, it can be learned, honed, and perfected. I promise you. Mr. FW and I don’t use a magic, secret formula to arrive at our 71% savings rate (other than dressing Frugal Hound up as the Magical Compound Interest Unicorn). Nope.

If there was an elixir I could sell you to maximize your frugality, I totally would (although would anyone actually buy a frugality elixir?). Newsflash: it doesn’t exist. Rather, Mr. FW and I perform a relatively simple set of things that combine to yield our peak frugality status.

While what we practice is a form of extreme frugality–albeit luxurious extreme frugality–there are benefits to reap from all points along the frugality continuum. You don’t have to have a goal of reaching financial independence, or a goal to save over half your income, or a goal to retire early. Frugality can bring powerful awesomeness into your life at any level.

Apply what works for you from my uber frugal month missive. While Mr. FW and I do all of these things, you might find that adopting just a few elements is beneficial for your own personal aspirations. There’s no one right way to manage your finances, but if you find yourself hoping to ramp up your savings rate, or in need of extra cash each month, or wishing to travel more, or perhaps just interested in living a less consumption-focused lifestyle, then frugality can be your answer. So, what are you waiting for? Embark on your most frugalest month ever right now!

The Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month How To

1) Track your spending.

Frugal Hound here to help you track your spending

Frugal Hound here to help you track your spending

This is the absolute, no questions asked, incontrovertible first step. Ok I realize I just said you should pick and choose the items that work for you, but this one is kind of non-negotiable (I can contradict myself, right?! Cut me some proverbial slack, I’m human and I’m writing this with a Babywoods strapped to my chest).

But seriously, don’t bother doing anything else on this list if you don’t know where your money is going every month. I’m telling it like it is, folks. In order to make plans for your money, you’ve got to know what your money is doing. Mr. FW and I recommend Personal Capital for this particular task as it allows you to seamlessly view all of your accounts in one place. It’s free to use and you can sign up here. If you’re curious how we use Personal Capital for our own finances, check out: Why We Don’t Micromanage Our Money.

But whether you use Personal Capital or a notebook or a spreadsheet or an envelope, find a system that works for you to track and review every dollar you spend. This is your first clue as to whether or not your spending is in alignment with your goals. During this uber frugal month, sit down weekly to comb through each line item and ask yourself if you’re happy with everything you spent money on. It’s a fairly simple way of identifying where you can make cuts. And if you have a partner, this is a fabulous joint activity–in fact, Mr. FW and I call these check-ins our finance dates. Oh yes, romance and money come together in this wonderfully frugal activity.

2) Stop going out to eat.

Homecooked meals FTW

Homecooked meals FTW

This is a pretty easy one to execute–all’s you need to do is cease and don’t look back. Despite the simplicity of the execution, however, this was probably the toughest thing for Mr. FW and I to give up. We used to dine out about once a week and it had become our default way to treat ourselves (and reward ourselves and celebrate little victories and enjoy time together and eat food… ).

There’s nothing wrong with the occasional meal out, but our weekly habit was draining our dough. And as compared with cooking at home, eating out is an astronomically bad deal. Thus, it had to go. For more on how we managed this total transformation in our eating habits, check out: How We Broke Our Eating Out Habit in 9 Steps (wow was I clever with that title… ).

3) Cancel yo’ cable.

There’s no excuse for paying a cable bill in these halcyon days of free viewing opportunities. Clinging to cable is an epic frugal fail in light of the myriad alternatives. We’ve actually never had cable, but we do watch TV. Impossible you say? Nay, we say! Read all about it: How We Avoid Cable And Watch Free TV Online.

4) No clothes for you.

Happily making do with clothes that are a few years old

Happily making do with clothes that are a few years old

While my currently two-year long (and counting) ban on buying clothes might be a tad too intense for some folks, try not buying clothes for a shorter period of time (like say, a month. See what I did there?). Clothes are sneaky little things that add up over time and usually aren’t really all that integral to one’s true goals and purpose.

I found that I was buying clothes more as a hobby than a necessity. Definitely a wise thing for me to give up. This one has the auxiliary bonus of reducing clutter and saving time too! Want to read about my clothes buying ban in all its frugal glory? Start with the origin post: Why I’m Not Buying Any Clothes in 2014.

5) Insource all the things.

If you’re paying someone to do stuff for you: cease and desist. Whatever it may be, see if you can do it yourself instead. Mr. FW and I discovered that we could do everything from cut each other’s hair to bathe Frugal Hound to perform our own home repairs. Unsurprisingly, we save a ton by insourcing and, we also accrue the benefits of learning new skills and spending quality time together. With each activity we perform ourselves, we become proficient (or at least passable) in a new trade. We’re not the world’s greatest seamstresses, chefs, hairdressers, or house cleaners, but we do well enough. Insourcing is a way of life, see why here: How Insourcing Strengthened Our Marriage.

6) Let go of perfection; embrace whimsy.

Pursuant to #5, the frugal life is the imperfect–albeit entertaining–life. Nothing about our home, appearance, car (ahem, to put it mildly), or lives is perfect. Our DIY home repairs aren’t going into Better Homes And Gardens (does that even still exist?) and our used baby clothes aren’t all stain-free. But you know what? None of it matters. We live the good life for a fraction of the cost and perfection is a sacrifice I’m willing to make for the reward of retiring early and pursuing my passions. More on the bliss of abandoning the futile quest for perfect: Perfection Is The Enemy Of Frugality

7) Stop paying for beauty.

Mr. FW and I cutting my hair at home.

Mr. FW and I cutting my hair at home.

Per #6, I realized last year that embracing my natural look (which includes acne, frizz hair, and now a post-pregnancy belly), is 1) vastly cheaper, 2) quite liberating, and 3) consumes much less of my precious time each day. The expectations that society levies on women in particular to look a certain way is both annoying and damn expensive. I’m a much happier person now that I just do what I do with regard to my appearance. I don’t pay for haircuts, beauty treatments, make-up, face masks, rare minerals that cure wrinkles, or fancy bathing products. I look the way I look and, for the most part, I think that’s dead sexy (especially right now as I sport pajamas I’ve been wearing for several days and more than a few iterations of baby spit-up). I had a lot to say on this subject a few months back in Less Makeup, More Confidence: My Frugal Beauty Manifesto.

8) If you need it, get it used.

Aside from food and underwear (which some people will surely out-frugal me on), you’re best off getting just about everything used. There’s no discount like the used discount and, there’s usually no shortage of people trying to offload perfectly fabulous items on the cheap.

The used market is rife with the purchasing mistakes of others. Peruse Craigslist, garage sales, Buy Nothing groups, the side of the road, and thrift stores–I can almost guarantee you’ll find what you seek. From furniture to clothes to baby gear to our car, Mr. FW and I live the used life. Even Frugal Hound is second-hand! There are precious few things you truly need to acquire brand new.

Now, to be honest, you shouldn’t actually need to buy anything (other than groceries) during this month of extreme thriftiness, but let’s say that on day 4 of the month, you rip your one and only pair of pants. In this incredibly unusual and unlikely scenario in which you would otherwise be walking around sans pants, buy them used. But short of being pantsless, consider this month a no-shopping zone.

9) Confront your groceries.

Our groceries on the conveyor belt. People wondered why I was photographing this...

Our groceries on the conveyor belt. People wondered why I was photographing this…

Groceries are a mandatory expense, but the amount we spend is most certainly not. Since you’re always going to need them, it’s worth investing the time to investigate and devise a frugal grocery regime. Mr. FW and I scaled our monthly food spending down to $300-$350 total for the two of us by eliminating food waste, embracing leftovers, simplifying our meal plan, buying in bulk, and focusing on fresh, non-packaged products. We didn’t sacrifice taste or health in the process, we just trimmed the proverbial fat. Curious what we eat? Here are the answers you seek: Our Frugal Grocery List Revealed.

10) Find a new hobby.

Shopping is not a hobby. Or at least, it’s not a good one. If you find yourself turning to spending when you’re stressed, bored, upset, or in need of a lift, devote energy this month to developing a hobby that doesn’t revolve around the outlay of cash. Find something that fulfills you and that you can rely on when you’re in a funk. For us, yoga, hiking, reading, writing, cooking, and sundry other pursuits round out our retinue of hobbies. Discover what you love and pursue it with élan.

Mr. FW biking off to work

Mr. FW biking off to work

11) Drive less; bike/walk/snowshoe more.

Reducing your dependency on vehicular transport is a stellar way to save in the arenas of gasoline and perhaps even a car bill. Could you do with one less car? Or possibly no car at all? Mr. FW and I prefer to keep Frugalwoods-mobile around, but we aim to drive as infrequently as possible. Plus, no car payment on our 19-year-old beast makes driving a pretty frugal enterprise. And, Mr. FW makes biking a year-round endeavor; see how in The Ultimate Bike Commuter’s Guide to Winter Cycling.

12) Seek out free entertainment.

Stop paying for entertainment. Full stop. I’m not proposing you give up all forms of amusement, merely those that charge. A $0 entertainment budget is more feasible than one might initially assume. Innovation and a willingness to try new things go a long way towards eliminating this line item. Mr. FW and I have discovered a few hacks for getting our kicks on the cheap.

13) Do something fun-n-frugal with friends, family, or greyhounds.

Hiking: a wonderfully frugal pursuit

Hiking: a wonderfully frugal pursuit

Part of enjoying frugality and making it a lifelong habit is realizing that you can socialize with your friends while maintaining your boss thrift status. During your uber frugal month, commit to hosting a potluck and board game night, or finding a free outdoor festival, or going on a hike, or hitting up a museum on free day.

Frugality (at least my version of it) is not about eating beans from a can in the dark to save electricity. It’s about living a delightfully creative existence that shuns the notion that spending money is the only way to bring excitement into your life. For ideas, check this out: Maintaining Friendships And Frugality.

Go Forth And Frugal!

Any one of these decisions has the power and ability to save you money. But beyond just the financial considerations, this is the roadmap to a different sort of life–one that isn’t reliant on spending money in order to achieve happiness and your own version of the good life.

See what happens when you step outside of your spending comfort zone and confront your money in a novel way. Abandon the notion that frugality is deprivation and instead embrace the concept that frugality can transform your life in positive and uplifting ways.

Have you ever done an uber frugal month? Will you try one now? Let me know how it goes!

Get Fresh Frugalwoods Updates!

You may also like...

95 Responses

  1. Though we’ve never done an Uber Frugal Month challenge on purpose, we started challenging everything in our budget, and ultimately forsaking the monthly budget for tracking and minimizing expenses as much as we find reasonable. There is a lot of freedom in just not buying, especially in not buying what you’re only buying out of cultural conformity. I just wrote about Why We Don’t Budget for the new year, too:

  2. It floors me how difficult not going out to eat is for us. I have come to the realization that we enjoy the process and ambiance much more than the food. We came to a compromise when eating at home. We eat by candlelight. It really does make a difference. 🙂

    And cable…who needs that? We cut our cord last year and haven’t missed it a single second. In fact, our 6-year old daughter still doesn’t know. She never noticed. Hooray for Netflix and YouTube!

    I agree that a year-long goal is a bit crazy, especially when one commuting to frugality. One step at a time, one day at a time, one MONTH at a time!

    Happy New Year to you and your family!

    Mrs. Mad Money Monster

    • Kelly says:

      I would love to cut the cable and my husband and I have tried, twice! But when we try to cancel (we’ve had both Verizon Fios and Comcast here on the East Coast) the price of the internet alone is almost exactly the same as the cable bundle, or we have the option of paying slightly less for slower internet speed, which is not ideal because my husband works from home. Has anyone else had this problem? It’s actually quite maddening for me, because there is no incentive to cut cable, but I see no point in paying the same price for less service. It’s like these companies basically force you to continue to carry the cable and don’t want to offer a la carte services.

      • John says:

        I live in NYC and have the same issue with our Verizon Fios. It cost $5 more a month to only have the Internet service and cut the basic cable plan. So there’s a lonely cable box with no tv hiding in the corner of the bedroom…

        • Kelly says:

          Whew! Ok, thanks for sharing, I was worried that Verizon was trying to scam me or something because it just seems so odd to not offer services separately? Like we couldn’t even get the pricing online for it, we had to call and speak to a rep about it, and even when we did, they were basically told us we’d still have to have their most basic cable plan with a box. I’m in Philadelphia, so it must be how they handle cities.

          • Mjg says:

            I’m in Philly and pay 35-45 for internet only. Are you really paying that much for cableand internet?

          • Kelly says:

            Mjg, yeah I pay $80 for the Verizon “double play” TV + internet package, but the bill ends up being $95 with taxes and 1 cable box rental.

            We called to ask for internet only and their most basic TV package (still like to watch local channels and HD antenna service isn’t great in our house because it’s old stone). They said internet only was like $70, and most basic TV was $10, so it would end up being virtually the same price as what we have now. Also, they said our internet would be downgraded from 25/15mbps to 15/15mbps if we chose the less expensive option.

            Who is your ISP?

  3. Jacki says:

    Love this post! My husband and I just started to buckle down and started a super frugal month for January. I have a question about groceries. Are you nursing? If so, you know about the never ending hunger to end all hunger. Have you figured out a frugal way to make sure you’re getting enough calories while keeping the grocery budget low? This has been one of my biggest struggles even though I already cook everything from scratch. I just need so much food. Babywoods is adorable 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Great question! I am indeed nursing and wow do I need a lot of food! I’m so much hungrier than I was while pregnant :). So far, I’ve just ramped up my protein intake and do lots of little snacks throughout the day of nuts, eggs, hummus, cheese, etc. For December at least our groceries didn’t end up costing more than usual, but we’ll have to see as time goes on. Another tactic is that Mr. FW cooks in bulk batches–lots of beans, peas and other hearty concoctions–which I’m able to fill up on.

      • tlstackho says:

        I’d like to respond to the question of hunger and breastfeeding. I’m an experienced lactation consultant and novice frugal weirdo. I typically tell my mothers that breastfeeding burns an additional 300-500 calories/day. If you are thin to begin with, you’re going to need to eat according to the higher end of this range to maintain your weight. Truly, you don’t need to count calories as much as you just need to listen to your body and eat to hunger and drink to thirst.

        The hunger that you experience while breastfeeding is most intense with younger babies. Once complimentary foods are introduced around 6 mos. of age, you’ll find that you no longer feel like gnawing on the furniture. Make good food choices like lean protein and complex carbohydrates. Don’t do what I did after my two November babies and eat a plate of Christmas cookies every afternoon.

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          I have definitely been eating when hungry, which feels like all the time :). Fortunately we’ve been able to figure out how to get more protein in, so I’m not quite so ravenous!

  4. Arwen says:

    Welcome back! I hope you are enjoying your leave. Regarding Insourcing another trick I love is bartering! I’m a stylist. I know, I know, you cut your own hair. If I know someone with a skill which I don’t possess I will definitely offer to trade services. I also volunteer as an assistant so I can maybe can pick up a few tricks! I ♡ bartering. Best wishes and a snuggle to babywoods, Arwen

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Fabulous point! Bartering is an excellent frugal strategy. Definitely something I’d like to do more of!

  5. Mark Ouellette says:

    How long did it take you to re-adjust your thinking? Much of what you said if this article I am slowly agreeing with and starting to see the light. But then other things like cutting my own hair; I sort of take a large step back at and say I will spend the extra $15 every 6-8 weeks to get my hair cut.

    Our family is starting to drink the cool aide and will attempt to cut our Comcast bill down from $173 per month to just below $100 per month. This should be easy but it is so hard to let go of. Ever think of doing a monthly challenge for us folks that need baby steps?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I think taking baby steps can be a great approach. One thought is that you could try out just one or two of the uber frugal month strategies each month over the course of several months. It’s really all about figuring out what’s tenable for you and your family and making the cuts that’ll both enable your goals and also allow you to enjoy the life you want.

      For us, we realized neither of us cares enough about our hair to pay to get it cut (and also we’ve gotten pretty good at cutting it at home), but, there are other things that we do choose to spend money on–like our homemade seltzer water system :). It’s all about devising frugality to work for you and your priorities. I wish you all the very best :)!

    • Cheryl says:

      Just jumping in here, I know, but I had some problems initially getting my teen son on board with frugality and my husband too in some areas. I explained to my son in the following way: no, we are not poor. We DO make a decent living. But there is only so much money to go around. By allocating less in areas, we enable ourselves to have more in other areas. For instance, I buy all of my son’s clothes at thrift stores now, (except shoes and underwear). He still wears all designer brands that look brand new. But by spending $6.00 on 3 Nike shirts instead of $90.00, that extra $84.00 goes towards the 3 vacations we take a year that his friends don’t get. You can cut expenses in ways that don’t show. Especially clothes: buy them at a thrift store in an affluent town and you’ll get all the designer brands, many with tags still on. I got an entire brand new fall wardrobe of 16 new shirts, a dress, 3 pants, a new winter coat, a pashmina, brand new slippers for $30.00. The same for housewares: I bought custom made silk drapes with tassel tie backs for $15.00. All of my furnishings are from thrift stores but my house looks like I spent quite a bit. Perhaps you can do something similar and still spend the cable money while still paring you budget significantly. I found that just by buying clothes, furnishings, curtains, etc. second hand, aside from fixed expenses like rent, utilities, etc. we were spending hardly any money. If your family can see the payback, they might be more likely to get on board. Now my son looks at a $30.00 shirt and thinks, “Hey, that’s half of a PS4 game. My mom can get me that same shirt for $2.00 at a thrift store.” There is only so much money, and if you cut corners where no one will know, you can free up hundreds if not thousands. When I see these ads for the must have purse of the season for $89.00, I laugh out loud. Within 3 months someone will donate one to a thrift store and I’ll be there to snap it up for $3.00.

  6. Happy New Year! I’m totally with you on the one-month-at-a-time thing — I listed January 2016 resolutions rather than 2016 resolutions. Oh, AND I finally decided to sign up for Personal Capital a week or two ago (I used your link from several posts back, so thank you for the referral). 🙂 I’m loving it so far — I still have a spreadsheet where I tabulate all my spending so I can look at my spending according to my own categories, but Personal Capital does help save me time because I no longer have to check each account balance individually.

  7. We’re always pretty frugal when it comes to spending, but we could definitely improve by tracking our spending more consistently. That’s my focus right now!

    • Kate says:

      I”m glad someone else has a hard time tracking every single cent they spend! We don’t spend much, I just seem to have a hard time writing down what we *do* spend… any help out there?

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        This is why we love Personal Capital–it tracks our spending for us. No need to write down each purchase. Although this is predicated upon using credit cards for everything, which is what we do (in order to accrue the points).

  8. Mrs Schmausi says:

    I loved this article. It is a great reminder of why being frugal is so great and really so easy, when you just have the right mindset. Mr S and I are well on our way to full frugaldom – we have done (most bits of) all of the above – and are loving it. We often quote the old saying that the best things in life are free and it is so true!

    Happy new year to you and Mr FW and congratulations on Babywoods, who is adorable! I only recently discovered your Blog but am really enjoying reading it!

  9. Looking forward to the new year of frugaling with your encouragement! So thankful all the holiday socializing and hectic activities are behind us. And local floods!

  10. All great points, but I’ll admit to being better at some of them (no cable!) than others (get it used). Groceries are a constant battle for me. I believe we should be able to stick to a $400 per month budget (family of three), but I go over almost every month…

    I brushed my cats’ teeth until my daugher was born, and haven’t since then. She’s six.

    • Fitzy says:

      Amy – my wife and I had a similar problem. look in to going to audis- (or a discount food store) vs going to whole foods, or wegmans. (I like both stores- but the prices are my issue- I can walk out with a few bags of groceries for $100 or get a whole cart worth of groceries.
      at walmart I found that if you look at cost per unit you can find out what an item is actually worth- it’s telling sometimes to see that a larger item might be higher priced then buying two smaller items of the same type (like quaker oats in a big box vs two smaller boxes that might be cheaper)-
      CVS and Rite aid coupons help often also.
      Good luck.

  11. Anette says:

    Happy New Year to you, Mr. Frugalwood, Babywoods (ah she looks sooo cute) and of course Frugalhound.
    Since I found your blog I have been trying to make the most out of it, tracking my finances now (unfortunately Personal Capital not available here, I use now the simple Wally) cooking from scratch, cycling to work even when it is ugly weather, no car, no cable, have not bought one tiny article that I did not need, I turned down heating a bit, but not much….brrrrh, my cats did not like it nor did I… hi hi…
    I found a new hobby…frugal living, 🙂
    after now little more than one month living like that I still feel good and will continue, trying to find more ways to save money, easier if you have a well defined goal,
    one thing I will cut down is spending too much time on the internet, not so easy, but I will try to read more and go more for walkies.
    Great you are back again, but I also enjoyed the guest posts.

  12. I’ve done MANY frugal months, but mostly because I HAD to…and not sort of because I want to. What I do with my goals is plan yearly ones, but then break it down into monthly, and even weekly manageable chunks. You’re right that so much can change in a year, but I use my yearly goals as a compass. For me that system works pretty well! Best of luck with everything in the new year. You’re like my frugal yoda so keep on writing great stuff!

    • Nicole W says:

      I do this too! I break out my budget annually by % (I work in sales so have fluctuating income). So I keep every month income with that same percent, I like being able to see how every month affects my annual goals. If I’m able to achieve my annual goal by October or November, I love seeing that I’m able to have an overage on my goals!

  13. K says:

    Since you brought it up, how often do you normally brush Frugalhound’s teeth?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      We brushed them once a week before Babywoods was born and then we fell off the wagon for a few weeks, but I’m happy to report that we brushed them yesterday and will get back on the weekly schedule (much to Frugal Hound’s chagrin 😉 ).

  14. January is typically an uber-frugal month for me. After the excesses of the holidays, I’m ready to spend less on food, drinks, socializing, and the other stuff I splurged on in December. I feel pretty good about the majority of my expenses. But I really want to cut back on going out to eat. Maybe I’ll even skip it for the entire month! Plus, I’m ready to get my diet back under control.

  15. MEL810 says:

    I just did myself a favor and started the NY off right: I paid down 100% of my consumer debt on December 31! I took money out of my savings where it was getting miniscule interest and paid off debt that had significantly more interest that my savings was accruing. I feel so much freer going into the NY.
    Also, I will be Frugalwoodsing earlier than expected. I inherited a house with 2 acres+ of land in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains area.
    I also inherited all the crap in the house, some of which I will sell through a dealer or on EBAY,etc.,some through a yard sale, some I will donate and some just recycle or trash. If any Frugalwoodsy types live near me when I clean out the house, come and get yer free stuff! YEEHAH!
    You have a beautiful little daughter, as well as a gorgeous Hound!
    As for me, I ain’t giving up the beauty products. I am frugal about what I purchase (dollar store, CVS Beauty Club bucks with coupons, Ulta sales, Amazon), but I actually enjoy wearing make-up and I know no one who can cut my hair for free. I go to the cheapo Great Clips when I have a coupon. I trim my own bangs and sides of my ‘do. I don’t color my hair or use any treatments other than conditioner. I get my face cream at Dollar General Store, 2 pots for $4.00. It is Vitamin E, natural and made in the USA! And it works as well or better than any fancified goop you buy for mega-bucks at the department or specialty store.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Huge congrats on paying off your debt!! That’s absolutely awesome and certainly a wonderful way to ring in the new year! And, how fabulous that you’ve inherited land–the Blue Ridge Mountains are beautiful!

  16. I definitely want to do a better job of tracking my expenses, and started that process in December. I’m not unhappy with my expenses, but I’d like to do a better job of tracking them at least and maybe that alone will cut off some expenses.

  17. Marcia says:

    I have done a frugal month! Although maybe not at once. We did a month with no eating out at all (we don’t eat out often, but I decided since we were a month away from vacation, it was a good time to try).

    Sometimes it helps me to set a strict budget for a month. For example: one year (2009), I alternated months of $160 and $320 on groceries. The $160 months were tough, but they were do-able because it had an end. (Note, only 2 adults and a 3 year old that year).

  18. Smaller goals are always more easily achieved. I do focus on something over the course of the year, but my real goals are monthly. Much easier to bounce back from if I hit a bump in the road as well. I’ll be doing a whole lot of #8 this year! 🙂 Well, maybe not a lot… I don’t really need much. Heh

  19. I love how tracking your spending is #1. That’s been the best decision we made right when we got married. It took me a long while to decide to start a blog (also helps a TON with accountability), but seeing everything in black and white really clarifies your priorities – like it or not!

  20. Excellent advice as always! Doing things one month at a time is much easier than trying to maintain a whole year all at once! You can do anything for a month!

  21. April says:

    I have a thrift store habit, I go every Monday. Is half off clothing day.. I need to tame that a bit. It gives me pleasure to try to find things I could fix up / use in different ways. So I’m torn on eliminating it. But it would be nicer to save more of my $. Also, congrats on babywoods! I love your writing.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you so much :)! I used to have a thrift store habit as well… which is why I now have way too many clothes!

  22. My gut instinct was that a uber frugal month can lead to a diet/binge type cycle. What are your thoughts? Would you recommend an extreme cold turkey type uber frugal month for someone that currently struggles with spending and saving?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I think it’s all about finding a balance that’s tenable for you and your own personal goals. The idea is to live as frugally as possible for one month and then assess to see if the lifestyle is feasible for you–and to recalibrate for the next month if needed. Hopefully this approach will stave off the danger of a diet/binge cycle.

      • That makes sense. So the goal is to get out of your comfort zone to some degree and see how it feels. Instead of assuming what you really need or don’t need, go without for one month and then reflect.

        Dig it!

  23. Josh says:

    BH&G still exists, although I’d go on a limb and say it’s more advertisements than content. We did an uber month before & after I left my previous job. We were planning to leave it months in advance so we tracked every expense for a month to see what we could live without as we would be taking a pay cut. We did the same thing afterwards and still keep a tight eye on our expenses. We might go over our expenses sometimes to buy food in bulk or on clearance (but payback the difference to our fund) and save money in the long-run.

  24. Justin says:

    Snowshoe more?

    I would keep moving south till was no longer possible. 🙂

    I find when it snows here in NC, it’s incredibly hard to spend money. Many stores and restaurants aren’t open, roads are impassible, and going out is impossible. Which leaves playing in the snow and drinking hot chocolate. One is free and the other is $0.10 per cup.

  25. Carrie says:

    Mrs. FW if that picture of you in the green top and black pants is one month post baby I’m going to have to stop liking you as much as I do:)
    I’m 5.5 months out and still have 8lbs to go. If that’s a post baby pic then you have one very jealous reader here!!!

  26. Janine says:

    Mrs. FW, I am so glad I found you and Mr. FW (and FHound and now Babywoods!) just a few months ago. I enjoy the posts so much and am finding tons of inspiration and validation for my own frugal path I am on. When I read the last post, I squealed at the thought of being in sync with the FWs. I am currently having my own UberFrugal month after a completely non-frugal Christmas extravaganza (I have 3.5 year old twin girls. I remember the nursing thing, hope that is going well….!) Anyway, my current January challenge, I am taking out $20 cash per week to cover any non-bugeted items (budgeted being bills, food, gas, preschool, and investment). No eating out, no drinking, no clothes shopping, you know the drill. It’s only been 4 days, but I did already pick up my knitting needles and yarn I found cleaning out my basement the other day, here’s to the granny square potholder! January is a long month, but I am very determined to keep this up! Thanks for the fodder to fuel my own financial freedom! ~Janine

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hey Janine–that’s wonderful! Congrats to you for doing an uber frugal month! It’s a great way to recalibrate your savings and ramp up the frugality. Nursing is going really well thus far–thank you for the good wishes :). Hope this month is awesome for you–you’ll have to let me know how it goes.

  27. We have never done an “uber-frugal month”, but I’m thinking it’s going to be February : ) #8, #12, & #13 are the areas I’d like to develop. A year IS a long time for a “period of focus”. One month? Very doable.

  28. Brenda says:

    Love your posts! After 4 years on the East Coast, I am moving home to the West Coast with my 11 & 14 year old kids and 2 cats. I will only be able to ship a box a month and I need every penny saved to support us once we get home (we will stay with family until we are settled and I have a job). Buying new things won’t be hard as I am purging 90% of our belongings. My budget is tight, the only place to really save is my grocery bill. This is hard for me as a single parent who hates to cook….I tend to buy pre-made/pre-packaged meals, – I need to find a way to have those quick/easy meals on weeknights and my lunches while saving money. Your blog gives me inspiration because I know we will go home only with the things we absolutely love and cherish, that will fit in the car or one of the few boxes I can ship home. And, then once we are home, I want us to stay simple and minimalist as it is ey-opening to look at my give away boxes of stuff that have no meaning to me!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s a wonderful point about seeing your give-aways and realizing how glad you are to be rid of the stuff–great motivation to not buy more! I wish you all the very best with your move and grocery bill efforts 🙂

  29. Mrs. Frugalista says:

    We are trying to save every penny to make a move to Florida in three years to escape the frigid winters of New Jersey. You are an inspiration! House is paid off, now all we need is a beefy emergency fund and we are out!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Congrats on having your house paid off–that’s absolutely awesome! I bet you’ll have your emergency fund in order in no time.

  30. I love this post!!! It’s sort of a similar take I take with my clients where we make changes one quarter at a time. Everyone wants instant results, but there is nothing in life other than winning the lottery that can give us that instant gratification. It truly takes time and dedication and sometimes the best way to battle the challenge of time is to break it down into smaller increments.

  31. Kim from+Philadelphia says:

    Hi Mrs. FW! Beautiful pic of your girl!
    Just wanted to say hello and hope the 4 of you are thriving!

  32. litterless says:

    I’m in! I hear the Frugalwoods’ voice in my head now all the time…I should probably act on it, at least for a month. Xoxo to you four! Happy new year.

  33. The statement “We’d been living in a virtual financial fog: spending money on things that weren’t adding appreciable value to our lives” hit me like a ton of bricks – it made me realize (or re-realize) that even my favourite “frugal weirdos” on the internet were once in the financial haze I’ve been lost in for so long but were able to get to a place where they save over 70% of their income and are frugal gurus (frugus?) to all us FW fans! What an inspirational kick in the pants!! Your journey is so inspiring and I’m rooting you on all the way to the homestead.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you so much! It was definitely a journey and a process for us to get to our current level of frugality–not something that happened overnight 🙂

  34. Elizabeth says:

    I like how you talk about each family needing to find the level of frugal that they are comfortable with. I read a lot of blogs about frugality or early retirement and sometimes feel slightly bad that I don’t do a lot of the things I see on the blogs…hanging clothes to dry (I hate how stiff and crunchy they feel then and we live in a cold climate), cutting cable (we’ve looked at pricing for dropping but keeping high-speed internet for my work-at-home husband and there’s not too much of a difference because we’d lose our bundle pricing…plus I actually really enjoy having cable!). I won’t attempt to cut my son’s hair because he’s at an age where image and appearance are very important (middle school) and it’s only about $10 every six weeks or so at Great Clips.

    But we don’t have an early retirement goal. We’re thinking by 60, which I suppose is earlier than the standard retirement age but not really “early”. We do have plans to do lots and lots and lots of traveling after we stop working though! So we’re stocking away plenty of money in IRAs, 401Ks and stocks to that end.

    And I do like to write down my frugal accomplishments during the week to keep myself accountable for all the different ways there are to save money.

    Definitely agree with you that tracking your spending is key. We’ve been doing it for a year now and it has really been so eye-opening. Then I took an average of what we spent in each category and use that for our budget. I created a spreadsheet for each month for this year and our goal is to spend less than our “average” in each of the categories (except for the fixed ones of course!).

    I so enjoy reading your blog and getting inspiration and tips. Congrats on your beautiful new baby!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yes! Thank you for sharing this! Everyone has different goals and so naturally, everyone’s savings and frugality executions will be different. I love that you track your frugal accomplishments and make them work for you and your family. Rock on :)!!

  35. Baby steps, baby steps! It’s the way to go for almost everything. What I can’t get myself to do is home remodeling. I ended up paying for most of the electrical work, plumbing, new doors and new front window…just because I felt like those required a more professional touch. Where do you draw the line in home repairs/remodeling?

    • Bob says:

      Home repairs and remodeling is a frugal conundrum in that the “fit and finish” of the repairs need to be consistent with the fit and finish of the rest of the house.

      If you live in a newer home even a small wall board patch becomes more noticeable in the context of otherwise perfect walls. If you own an older home then basic repairs just stand out less.

      My next home will be older and not so perfect for just that reason.

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        Bob makes a great point here and indeed, our current home is quite old (over 120 years old, in fact). We long ago gave up on the idea of perfection with our home repairs/remodels and we’re content with the quality of finish we’re able to achieve with our amateur work. We also view most projects as a learning opportunity and a chance to develop new skills. That being said, if we ever felt like we’d be seriously endangering ourselves with a project, we’d definitely call in a professional.

  36. I tried to do uber-frugal last year, but Mr. FP wasn’t totally on board and kept doing things like ordering pizza and buying concert tickets. And last year I thought I shouldn’t try to frugal January since it includes Big Brother’s birthday.

    This year, I decided I might as well start now and I’m doing kind of a buying freeze–I won’t be purchasing things. (Aside from the part I needed to fix my dishwasher after I broke it while trying to clean it.) I’m not nagging Mr. FP about anything. Big Brother will get his birthday party and a couple of presents. I have to get my car fixed, and we’re going away for the weekend (using travel-hacked air miles FTW) and paying a babysitter the extravagant sum of $450 to watch our children.

    So it’s not actually uber-frugal. But I will be:
    1. Not buying things.
    2. Setting up Personal Capital so I can categorize our expenses; up to now, we’ve just been listing them, which is a good start but doesn’t show patterns.
    3. Eating down the freezer and eating cheap.
    4. Getting myself to the damn gym before I wind up having to buy new pants. Cause that’s DEFINITELY not frugal! (But not tomorrow. Tomorrow, instead, I have planned to drop my car off at the garage and then jog home instead of buying a bus ticket!)

    PS Love sleeping baby pics!I have like 978 of those on my computer :-).

  37. Katie P. says:

    Husband and I are on a buy nothing month including no groceries outside of produce, which has the added bonus of shrinking our pantry since we’re moving at the end of the month. Bits and ends of bags of legumes and grains, I’m looking at you!

  38. We have had many uber frugal months, some by choice and some not by choice. I love your idea of insourcing. We bought a repo house and have done almost all the work ourselves. Not only does it save you tons of cash, but it keeps you busy too. Our entertainment is fixing up the house.

  39. Sarah says:

    I think it’s totally amazing that you have given up beauty products (and I mean that sincerely!)- you look beautiful in your photos! I’m not there yet, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be, as I really like how I look with a little natural makeup 🙂 I try to keep the overall cost as low as possible by finding what works, and then NEVER trying anything else (this is also because I have extremely sensitive skin and eyes, and most things don’t work for me). I spent around $60 last year on beauty products (just makeup, moisturizer, and a can of hairspray) and I will use each item until it is completely gone and then I’ll replace it. Most of my girlfriends have bins full of various products that they end up throwing away half full, which baffles me.

    I do have a frugal tip for anyone out there that may have even a little trouble with their skin- go to a dermatologist! You can still go for mild conditions, even if they are treatable with over-the-counter products. The doctor will give you prescriptions that work much more effectively, AND, assuming you’re lucky like me and have decent prescription drug coverage, it’s much cheaper than anything over-the-counter! I’ve gone my doctor in the past for seasonal eczema and mild acne, and the prescriptions for both were $7 and took care of my issues so quickly!! Much better than playing the trial and error game with various lotions and potions.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      You are so right about going to the dermatologist! That’s what I did for my acne and the prescriptions were way cheaper and more effective than anything over the counter. Only thing is, I can’t take them while pregnant or breastfeeding, but that’s ok, I’ll trade acne for a baby 😉

  40. brookst says:

    Excellent, no-nonsense article. Very inspiring because you make it sound so simple and actually fun. I love how not spending money can really be enjoyable when you can dig deep to be creative.

  41. Wonderful tips, and gorgeous pic of Babywoods!!! We are attempting to “out-frugal” ourselves this month. And the next, and so on. Can’t wait to report in on how it goes!!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you! And good luck–you are already so amazingly frugal, I’m impressed with the out-frugaling goal :)!

  42. Bob says:

    This is an amazingly well written article full of great tried and true ideas.

  43. Violet says:

    I’ve never really done a official “uber-frugal” month, but I think it might be time. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to stick to it!

  44. tracy says:

    I’m a professional pianist so your comments resonate both ways with me : yes, break down goals into achievable…but also be realistic. No one can learn to play piano in a year, it’s a very long-term mission even for the most gifted musician.

    The list you work on for frugal living is way more easy!

    Basically you re evaluate your life and omit most of the recurring expenses or totally unnecessary expenses.

    Hair cuts, dry cleaning, perfume, gadgets, gifts, cards , make up, credit fees, books, movies…I could go on.

    No, you probably cannot learn piano in a year; most people could not learn in a lifetime. It’s a complex skill!

    But anyone can cut expenses one way or another…who has a home a business a job etc in america.

  45. This year i definitely need to be more frugal. Ive been spending too much money with my friends going out to eat and such! I will have to live with less this year to make up for my spending. Worth it in the end!

  46. Michelle says:

    First, the baby is so cute and tiny!! She makes me smile. I am pretty frugal but I am feeling that there is still room to cut further. The one month approach is similar to how you eat an elephant-one bite at a time!

  47. Hannah says:

    Please show us a video of this “Throw yourself in with the wild abandon of a greyhound who smells bacon cooking (in case you’re wondering, that’s pretty darn wild.” Like a raindance brings rain, greyhound abandon brings on my frugality

  48. Saavy Savings says:

    Awesome to hear that the frugality is continuing even with a new baby! I just wanted to ask, (not sure if you’ve gone into specifics in other posts about this before), but with your not-buying-clothing spree, does that include things like socks and underwear as well or is that mainly just clothes/shoes/accessories? I haven’t bought any new articles of clothing in over a year as well, but I have purchased socks and underwear as needed to replace my supplies, so just wondering if that’s how you viewed it as well. My husband and I are quite frugal, in different ways than you and your family are, and we won’t be retiring at 33, but we love our lives 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your lives and finances through your blog. Very encouraging!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Great question on the clothing ban! My ban was indeed all in, meaning I haven’t purchased anything in two years (no underwear, socks, shoes, purses, jewelry, etc). I decided to do it that way so that I wouldn’t be tempted, but I think structuring the ban in whatever way works best for you is awesome. It’s all about what’s sustainable for you personally and your goals.

  49. Sarah B says:

    I really love this article, CentSai just had a twitter chat about this today and a chat about financial resolutions last week. I think it’s important to really focus on have realistic goals at any time of year. For me, being realistic about this topic is being better about the consistency of my financial tracking!

  50. mrsYTF says:

    Thanks for your list, I think you really summed it all up. We are working on seeking entertainment for free, especially with the kiddos. It snowed today so we walked over to the elementary school which has a decent size hill and went sledding! Fun and free. Congratulations on the baby!

  51. Tiffanie says:

    I just wanted to say that after perusing your blog for hours (literal HOURSSSSSS) the other night, it was the last spark that lit my fire to start blogging again after 8 years away from the Blogosphere! So thank you for the motivation and inspiration. 😀

  52. Emily says:

    Every time I read your posts I feel so uplifted and motivated! I’m heading home to Australia after a month-long vacation in the USA & Caribbean and an uber-frugal month sounds exactly like what I need to reign it in and sort out my priorities. Thanks again 🙂 and Babywoods is absolutely gorgeous!

  53. Louise says:

    Grab a bag of iron on patches to cover up stains. You can find some fun ones at fabric stores and craft stores. (Or even Walmart).

  54. Janine says:

    Hi Mrs. F, I commented in January after reading your above post, suggesting trying an uber frugal month. (In that post I mentioned that I had survived breastfeeding twins and sent you well wishes on your baby-feeding endeavors! I also wanted to compliment that you are looking very well, and you seem to be no exception in the “breastfeeding melts that baby weight right off” camp. I was the same way. A nice perk, eh?) Anyway, I wanted to share good news and abysmal news from January.

    The great news is that January’s Uber Frugal Challenge went FABULOUSLY. I gave myself $100 cash to spend on non-budgeted items, and ended up spending only $65. I also ended up saving $600, which was $100 over my goal. I was thrilled!! However, it was also during the month of January I had a massive migraine headache scare (my first ever!) that landed me in the ER (also my first ever). An MRI ruled out the possibility that my brain was hemorrhaging, (whoa, took me about two minutes to spell that correctly) ..and I now have the consolation prize from my big night out: a bill for $2000.

    I AM SO DEVASTATED!! Such a set-back to the momentum we have been building. I have been thinking outside the box and even called the hospital HR today to see if they would work out a volunteer/work trade to work off some of the charges.. No go. We will figure it out, but what an ugly ogre in the way of my shining savings plan. Send us some good vibes from those Frugal woods, would you?

    This got long, but thanks for reading. P.S I agree completely with your comments regarding FB. Such a love/hate piece of our culture. That and the internet….!
    Sincerely, J9 the Jocund

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I’m so sorry to hear you had a health scare like that and very glad you’re ok! Please don’t feel down about that expense–that is one of those unavoidable (and wise) expenses. Heath is a priority and it’s far better to know that you’re healthy! Also, I love that you called the hospital to ask about working off the charges. Bummer that they didn’t offer you anything, but it never hurts to ask. And, congrats on doing so well in every other part of your budget–that’s all any of us can do: control the expenses we can and don’t worry about the rest.

      You are very right about breastfeeding being excellent for weight loss! It’s been awesome! And, I feel extremely fortunate that Babywoods latched well from the beginning and eats like a champ. I am incredibly impressed that you breastfed twins!!! I truly cannot imagine the coordination and perseverance that must take!

  55. Dear Mrs. Frugalwoods,

    I have accidentaly found your blog and I think that the idea of being Frugal is fantastic by all means.
    I read many of your articles and I admire you and absolutely agree with you.
    As I work in a core shopping centre of Prague, I go for lunches to one shopping mall quite often and it happened to me several times that I purchased clothes just because I saw them.
    I am definitely going FRUGAL this month! Fingers crossed

    Kisses and greets from Prague, the Czech republic
    Mrs. Gooseberry

  56. Ash says:

    Hi Mr and Mrs Frugalwoods,
    My sister got me onto your blog in March 2016 & I started with this post here, setting myself the challenge of an Uber Frugal Month (I thought I was doing OK before this, managing to save around £800 a month)… fast forward to almost 3 months later, I’ve cut my monthly spending by around £1500 ($2200) and I’ve almost doubled my life savings (which let’s face it, weren’t that large to start with – but i’m still stoked with such a great result). Now I’m looking forward to taking my next steps in developing an investment strategy.
    I absolutely love your blog & can’t wait to read more about your Frugal Adventures.
    Best wishes,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get new posts via email. No spam, we hate it like greyhounds hate having their teeth brushed.