How To Turn An Uber Frugal Month Into An Uber Frugal Life

Our pond in the fall

Today marks the conclusion of the Uber Frugal Month Challenge for our inaugural class of hardcore frugal superheroes! Over 10,000 people signed up for my Challenge in this first month and I’m thrilled to congratulate this awesome group! It’s a major accomplishment to stick with anything for a full month–let alone something related to changing your financial behavior. P.S. You can sign up to take the Uber Frugal Month Challenge at any time and you’ll start on Day 1, so you won’t miss a frugal thing!

Even if you feel as though you didn’t save quite as much as you’d hoped, or that you didn’t adhere to the Challenge in every aspect of life, you should still feel supremely proud. By taking the Challenge, and dedicating yourself to thinking about, discussing, and examining your finances, you’ve put yourself far ahead of the vast majority of people. You’ve taken the crucial first step towards better managing your money: you’re not ignoring it. So, pats on backs all around!

UFM mascot: Frugal Hound

The Uber Frugal Month (UFM) is designed to perform several different functions for participants:

  1. Provide a framework for holistically evaluating your financial life.
  2. Offer guidelines on how to reduce spending in every category of your budget.
  3. Prompt you to identify your overarching life goals and bring your spending into alignment with these goals.
  4. Reset your spending and hedonic adaptation/lifestyle inflation expectations.
  5. Transform how you think about money and eliminate urges to impulse shop and pursue short-term treats that will ultimately derail your long-term aspirations.

Wow, sounds pretty lofty when I put it like that, but hey, that’s what the UFM is designed to do! Although the Challenge itself is only one month long, in order to reap all of these benefits, you actually need to embrace frugality for a more substantial period of time. If you just panicked at the thought of doing this for another month–let alone for the rest of your life–fear not because the first month is absolutely the hardest. Through my own experience of living extreme frugality for the long-term and from my conversations with all of you, I’ve come to realize that we experience stages of frugality–and the first stage is the most difficult.

During the Uber Frugal Month, you probably felt frustration, and even anger, about the ways in which the Challenge encouraged you to question nearly every aspect of your life. Effective frugality entails a wholesale transformation of how we live and that’s not an easy thing to do. But soon, you’ll start to feel the elation that comes from seeing your frugality bear fruit.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Hiking Mt. Eisenhower a few years ago

After completing the Uber Frugal Month Challenge, I encourage you to perform an exercise very similar to what we did at the outset with categorizing our expenses. Get out a pen and paper (or open up a spreadsheet) and start recording your efforts. Better yet, use Personal Capital, which organizes and categorizes your expenses for you (don’t worry, it’s free!).

If you have a partner or a friend or roommate you’re doing the Challenge with, now’s the time to grab them and discuss your results together.

This is a wonderful opportunity to analyze the changes you want to incorporate going forward. During the UFM, you stripped away all of your non-mandatory spending. Now’s the time to reflect on that experience and consider how you might continue living a sustainable, tenable, joyful life of frugality.

After completing the Uber Frugal Month Challenge:

Step 1: Make a list of everything you decreased or eliminated from your budget and the corresponding dollar amount saved. For example: Take-out, $110 saved.

Step 2: Categorize each item as either “easy to give up” or “hard to give up.” For example: Take-out, $110 saved, easy. Look at your list and identify everything that was extremely difficult (painful even!) to give up and everything that wasn’t all that tough to reduce or eliminate. Which cuts feel sustainable for the long-term? Which feel impossible?

Step 3: For everything that was easy to give up, hooray! You can now remove these expenses from your life and not think about them again. Bye-bye unnecessary spending!

We gave up most eating out a few years ago.

Step 4: Ok but not everything was easy to give up, right? So, take a closer look at your “hard to give up” list and focus on the items that saved you the most money. For things that were extremely difficult to give up but didn’t save you much? You might want to simply add them back into your budget. For example, if you decided to forgo spending $2 on chocolates but were miserable without them? I’d just add them back in and not sweat it.

Step 5: For anything that was hard to give up but that also saved a significant amount of money? This is where we’ll concentrate our efforts. Chiefly, I encourage you to seek refuge in the art of frugal substitution. We touched on substitution at the outset of the Challenge, but let’s review:

Frugal substitution is finding a free or cheap alternative for expensive items or experiences that you don’t want to live without. (hint: you must first live without them for a month to truly understand what life is like in their absence).

Here’s a stellar example: I heard from a family of four who stopped using their second car for the entire month to test out how life would be as a one-car family. In case you’re wondering, THAT is what I’m talking about! This family has considered giving up one of their cars for some time, but weren’t sure how their daily routine would pan out until they actually tried it for a month. After doing this for a month, they can now accurately evaluate how life would function with just one car.

Our old house: the TV, chilling on its Craiglist stand, next to a Craigslist chair, below a Craigslist valve wheel-turned-wall-art

Let’s explore another example together. Say you gave up cable as part of your Uber Frugal Month and say you felt quite miserable without any shows to watch after long days at your beekeeping job. Since cable is extremely expensive and you’ll save a fairly large sum by eliminating it, the best solution is to find a substitution. A few cheaper options: purchase a Roku (that’s what we have), subscribe to Netflix, or enjoy the wonders of free public television. All of these alternatives deliver a similar product–shows to watch–but at a vastly cheaper price.

Substitution is one of the primary ways that Mr. FW and I live a life of luxurious extreme frugality. We do all the things we love, but we’ve optimized and frugalized each one of them. Substitution can be applied to nearly everything in life–Mr. FW and I use it for: coffee, seltzer, wine, TV, yoga, our furniture, Babywoods’ baby paraphernalia., our cars… the list goes on. As we’ve discovered, there’s a frugal alternative to just about everything in life.

Step 6: Identify any sacred cows. You may uncover some items that you both can’t live without and can’t create adequate substitutions for. These are your sacred cows. These are items you know you’re paying a premium for, but you’re content with the trade-off in your life. What I will caution here, however, is the temptation to categorize everything you like as a sacred cow. The very nature of a sacred cow is that it’s rare. And in almost every instance of a sacred cow? There actually is an opportunity for frugalization. Think creatively about how you might reach the same desired result for less money.

Step 7: Do some math. Don’t worry, it’s fun math! Tally up how much you saved during your Uber Frugal Month and then multiply by 12 to see how much you could save in a year if you continued on at this rate. You may recall this exercise from Day 4 of the Challenge, but it’s a whole lot more fun to do now that you know your actual dollar amounts saved this month. And so, permit me to recap:

Don’t worry, I am here to help you with your math

For every expense you’re debating eliminating permanently, do yourself the favor of some simple arithmetic. How often do you pay for the thing in question? If it’s a monthly bill, such as cable, multiply by 12 so that you’re face to face with how much you spend on cable every year. Then, consider how much that total amount would net if it was instead invested. Here’s an example (with real live math!):

Let’s say you spend $75 every month on cable. Not a huge amount of money on its own. But multiplied by 12, that’s a whopping $900 per year on television. For two years? $1,800. I don’t know about you, but I can think of quite a few better uses for my $1,800. Now, to take this exercise a step further, let’s say you instead invested that $900 in low-fee index funds, and enjoyed a 7% return (which is considered an average annual market return over the long-term). Imagine you kept that same $900 invested for decades (which is the wisest way to invest) and added $900 to your investments every year instead of paying for cable.

In 30 years, your measly $900 would’ve grown to $91,865.74. Yeah, you read that right: $91,865.74. 

Try this calculation out with your own numbers using this handy dandy compound interest calculator!

Step 8: Now think about the UFM experience more broadly. Frugality, at it’s heart, is about much more than simply saving money. It’s about restructuring our mindset in relation to consumerism. It’s about creating a life where you’re content with simplicity and with what you have–not constantly lusting after what you want. So, ask yourself:

  • What was difficult?
  • How did I feel during the month?
  • What was easier than I expected?
  • What elements of the UFM are sustainable?
  • How can I bring mindful frugality into every aspect of my life?

Frugality Is Not Deferred Spending

Frugal Hound gave up her coffee shop habit.

Although one aim of the Uber Frugal Month is to save as much money as you possibly can during the month of the Challenge, it’s pointless to do so if you turn around and buy everything you held off on buying as soon as the Challenge ends. There’s no gain in that scenario. Similarly, there’s no gain if you pre-purchased everything you possibly could prior to starting the Challenge. You’re still spending the same amount of money because frugality is not deferred spending.

It’s not like Mr. FW and I are going to wake up one day and say, “Ok, frugality is over! Time to go buy the 9,897 things we haven’t bought over the last X number of years!” It doesn’t work that way. Successful frugality is sustainable, joyful, and long-term. The Uber Frugal Month is the kickstart to what I hope will be a lifelong appreciation of how good life can be with a small amount of spending.

Everything we sacrificed to get here was well worth it!

Eventually, if you continue persevering with a frugal lifestyle, you’ll reach a two-fold plateau of: peak frugality and luxurious frugality. This is where Mr. FW and I are now and I’d say it took us at least a year and a half to get to this place. We’re actually slightly less frugal than we were during our initial month of frugality, because there were some things we wanted to incorporate back into our lives. The crucial thing is that our frugality is sustainable for a lifetime: we have everything we need and we don’t feel deprived.

Furthermore, my level of frugality is probably not your level–you might save much more than I do, or much less. And that’s fine. Tempting as it is to compete with one another, there’s nothing to gain in doing so. Your savings level is entirely dependent upon your family situation, your goals, where you live, and to a certain extent, how much money you make.

As I discussed in my mega food post, if you have five kids, you’re highly likely to spend more than I do on groceries. Conversely, if you’re single, you’re likely to spend way less than my family of three. Defining your own parameters for tenable, sustainable frugality is the ultimate goal of the Uber Frugal Month Challenge.

You Can Do It!

Our woods make me happy; not something bought in a store

Thanks to your dedication and commitment to the Uber Frugal Month, you now have a toolkit for incorporating extreme frugality into every aspect of your life for the long-term. Through the UFM, you’ve done the hard work of questioning your spending, identifying your priorities, and transforming your mindset in relation to the idea that buying things makes us happy.

Now you have the opportunity to decide how and if frugality is something you want to sustain. I also think it’s important to note that you don’t have to commit to a lifetime of frugality–you could decide to go another month and see how you feel at that point. Frugality is an evolving lifestyle choice that’ll be different for you at different times in your life. But the universal truth is that frugality makes life easier by giving you options. When you’re not in debt, and not living paycheck-to-paycheck, and not terrified of losing your job, your stress level is lower and you have greater discretion over how to use your most precious resource of all: your time.

Congratulations again! And, please share your thoughts on the Uber Frugal Month in the comment section!

I want to hear what you learned! What was most useful to you during the UFM? What could you have used more of? What should I do differently next time? What was your favorite aspect of the Challenge?

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97 Responses

  1. Linda says:

    While I must admit my month did not end up being UBER frugal, it certainly made me more mindful. I had unexpected expenses when my canine furbaby got seriously sick with a bout of pancreatitis. Trip$ to the vet, blood te$t$, $hot$, pill$, $pecial food – ugh. Then my (frugal) mechanic and I had a discussion about car tires and decided it was in the interest of safety to get new. But to concentrate on the positive – which is actually things I did NOT (negative) do: Several days the weather was not at all conducive to going outdoors, and I kept thinking I should just get out and go somewhere, just to walk indoors, just to “window shop”, but I knew I would see something I thought I had to have and would spend money, so I stayed home and found things to do. While I ate out a couple times with friends, there were a couple other times when I was driving past fast food and very tempted to get something for the next meal, but talked myself out of it and found something in the freezer. I also concentrated on keeping my grocery runs very minimal and using up things from the pantry. In truth I don’t think I have much to show for savings this month, but I am going to continue my efforts in February.

    • Caroline says:

      I think you’ve done incredibly well. Those vet bills literally could not be avoided, and as for car tyres, well, no point having millions in the bank if you’re dead, is it? It sounds like you did extremely well under very trying, stressful circumstances, and will go to greater heights as time goes on!

    • Dee says:

      Absolutely Linda! You did great considering the unexpected expenses that came up! Great job!

    • Kirsty says:

      I think your story is the perfect example of what UFM is trying to help us do – look at the little things that we take for granted and pay every month, or on a frequent basis, so that we are able to afford the larger emergency items, without them causing us financial stress. $75 per month on a cable bill forgone will allow us to prioritize our pet’s healthcare when necessary.

  2. While I didn’t participate in the challenge this time (We have a lot of recent moving parts due to my wife’s employment status change does not lend itself to tinkering quite yet) I think the idea of using a frugal month to identify what you value and cutting the rest is a great idea. Your right though its only good if you make the cuts permanent. I might see if my wife is up for a month of our own at a later date.

  3. Woop woop! Thanks for hosting this challenge, Mrs. Frugalwoods. We’ve been able to sniff out new ways to save money, so I appreciate stretching our boundaries.

    At the end of the day, it’s all about staying mindful with your spending. Money can be kept on autopilot, but spending needs to be carefully monitored for patterns and substitutions.

    Here are our frugal wins for UFM!

    1. We decreased our cost per meal to $2.50/meal. This was at $3/meal before the challenge. Two years ago this was at a whopping $10/meal. Ouch!

    2. We increased our savings rate from 50% to 55%. My goal was 60%, but I’m still proud of what we’ve accomplished. 🙂

    3. We found new ways to save. We eliminated Sling TV and switched back to a cheaper Netflix plan (Monthly savings: $15), we’re buying our own modem instead of renting one (Monthly savings: $10), and we’re brewing our own beer (Monthly savings: $50).

  4. Rosie in SoCal says:

    This big win for me was our grocery bill– down from a target of $400/mo to $215/mo for two people. I used up a bunch of leftover holiday items and pantry goods. We’ll see if I can keep that up for February! I’ve been itching to spruce up the house so I bought a pair of nightstands and a dresser on craigslist for $100 instead of buying new. My husband and I did enjoy a weekend getaway to the mountains, which might be considered un-frugal, but we packed a cooler, avoided the overpriced ski towns, and stayed at a cute budget motel. The snow was free! Travel and house expenses will definitely be the biggest challenge for me in the future. Everything in moderation!

    • Denise B says:

      This sounds a lot like our January! We reduced out grocery/eating out budget (for two of us) from an average of $800/month to $430 in January. I did splurge and buy a beautiful lamp at Goodwill for $8.00; it was 1/2 off. We are going out of town for the next two weekends, and I have already been batch cooking so that we can take plenty with us; gasoline will be our biggest expense too.

  5. Sandy says:

    This UFM challenge was easy and fun for my husband and me! We chose not to give up one thing that is our sacred cow: housekeeping service every other week. We both HATE to clean house, but we both love a clean house. We gave up weekly cleaning years ago, when we became empty nesters, but we’re unwilling to even consider eliminating this expense. Aside from that, we had already made a lot of frugal changes: eliminated one car (we have to plan a little but don’t miss a second car after three years of being a one-car family!), eliminated cable (ditto; don’t miss it), reduced dining out, etc. The most significant thing we learned during UFM is that we cut our grocery bill almost in half–and we’ll continue to do so. We also decided we’ll limit dining out but will still go occasionally, especially for food I can’t duplicate at home (yes, we’re foodies). This was a wonderful experience, and the $2,000 we saved is going to pay down our mortgage (our only debt) because I plan to retire in five years and want to have our house paid off by then. Thanks, Liz, for your inspiration!!!

    • Caroline says:

      I totally hear you on the house-cleaning. We live in a place where domestic cleaners are fairly standard, as both childcare and to do housekeeping and I am very spoiled because I HATE cleaning, but loathe dirt! We made the decision that we did not need the amount we had, and so cut it down by about 2/5 (roughly, actually a bit more than that), so that the housework we really hate is still done, BUT we aren’t just being ridiculous. Everyone has their thing that really makes their life happy, and I’m with you on that one.

      We decided to be far more frugal with food. We already do the vast majority of our own cooking, but I was finding myself nipping out and then obviously not just buying specifically what I needed… but plenty else as well. I’ve made a sincere and concerted effort to be disciplined and limit my time going to the shops AND to sticking quite clearly to our list / having an approximate meal plan to work to.

  6. stacy says:

    Helping to identify goals was great and making a spreadsheet to see where we were spending
    before was eye opening! We are planning to continue frugal changes because the goals
    we can reach in five years (60 months sounds better) are worth it.
    Cut out Netflix and Hulu
    Made a meal plan to curb insane grocery spending/waste
    Stopped impulse/on line shopping for one month and realize I don’t even remember after 72 hours
    what it was I just HAD to buy before…well other than need to buy online razors!
    Thanks

  7. Robin says:

    Wow is all I can say. The challenge made me aware that just because I work doesn’t mean I have to spend it. I had the attitude that I deserved it!

    Calls to the businesses I use, i.e. satellite, phones, insurance, have netted us $130.00 a month in savings. All I did was tell them I was leaving and they were very generous. We used to spend between $300 and $400 a month eating out and this month we spent $116.00 for a savings of $200.00. I collect patterns, silk, and linen for my stitching hobby, spending hundreds a month, and I only bought one time. Miraculous!😂

    So it was all about awareness. We have always put away for retirement and into a savings, but now it’s just fun to have cash in the bank. I don’t want to leave this earth with my kids having to figure out what to do with all of mom’s stuff, so the key is to quit buying it.

    Thank you for a great month and here is to the rest of my life! By the way, I am 56, so a little late in life, but better than never!

  8. Ginger says:

    We reached our goal of $1,200 of savings this month! Daily emails were great and helped keep us on track! Major wins – $0 spent eating out, $0 spent for cable, household expenses and grocery bill were reduced, but we never felt deprived. We did have a few unexpected expenses this month, so I am interested to see if we can actually increase our savings number in the future! Looking forward to keeping it going next month. Our “sacred cow”? Household cleaners that come 2x per month. We own our own business and there never seems to be time to “deep clean” the house. We lived without it for a couple of years, but it was too stressful. We started with a cleaning service last year, but only agreed to every other week instead of weekly. We are keeping our on on it, though, because eliminating this expense would save us $300 a month…

  9. Mary says:

    I found this month to be refreshing to be devoted to spending less. I analyzed purchases and feel freer at saying no to things I really don’t need (but thought that I did at the time). We actually spent much more than usual because all three of our greyhounds are sick. We spent $2k on tests and teeth extractions as one has a large mass in his lung, an absessed tooth, and the other had some intestinal thing going on. (You really don’t want to know details.) The other needs special food now. Iin the future, we will re-think having three pets at one time.

  10. We gave up cable a few years ago. In place of it, I bought an HD antenna that picks up all the local channels in great quality, and amazon fire as we already had a prime membership. No longer do we have a DVR full of shows that we feel obligated to watch. I have just a handful of shows that I watch on amazin when the full season comes out. Saves us money and opens up a lot more time to pursue activities that make us more happy that sitting on the couch watching TV all the time.

  11. I also didn’t participate in the UFM, but that’s because I pretty much live it every day! I probably have a little wiggle room in my expenses, but if I go much lower I become a cheapskate. That’s not what this lifestyle is about!

    Like you, I’m living the life I want. Saving a bunch of money while needing very little. It’s certainly a great place to be!

    • I’m with you Linda! I have been working to live a happy and frugal lifestyle, so although I did sign up to participate, I have already made a majority of the cuts I wanted to make. For example, about three years ago I got rid of my car and now primarily get around by bike. This has reduced my daily transportation costs, but over my lifetime not having a car will be a huge cost savings.

      I signed up for the UFM because I had already set a savings goal of 75% for 2017, which for January I managed to save 74%! So I appreciated the daily emails that offered refreshing reminders for why I have pursued this simpler, yet more fulfilling lifestyle. Also, as part of my Sustainably Happy Project, I dedicated the month of January to decluttering and organizing our house, which was also incredibly helpful for reinforcing my interest in having and needing less stuff.

  12. - N - says:

    I decided to make the Uber Frugal Month my daily challenge. Each morning I read my email, and every day I wrote my thoughts on it. This took away time from some of my other pleasures, but the big picture, I knew, would be even bigger than ever expected. This has turned out to be true.

    As we have been working toward our goals with a debt snowball as retirement approaches, we are already on the path. The daily reflections have helped refine things and to bring to the forefront little things. In turn, we have changed a few things.

    For one thing, we have reduced our cell phone bill. We have 4 people on our plan, two of whom spend a lot of time abroad. We have international calling at no extra charge along with unlimited data. This is a good savings overall – not great, but still a savings.

    We also budgeted $350.00 for food for all of January. The last few days were – are – awful as we had only 2 cents left!! Creativity came in. We realized that $87.50 every week is good – it averages $350.00 for four weeks – but pushing those last few days is not realistic since we buy groceries every Friday and patch up the vegetables and fruits toward Monday.

    In this time period, I also created a spreadsheet so I can project costs and savings and debt reduction over the year . . . that is rather inspirational.

    Altogether, we have refined our finances and reviewed priorities. The challenge has been challenging and eye-opening. It’s been a really great experience!

    Thanks for the challenge!

  13. Stephanie says:

    We didn’t really save anything since we had the better part of $1000 in medical expenses this month but l only spent an extraneous $30. That money was thought out and greatly enjoyed. We made a point of eating what we have and l took a much needed inventory of the girls future clothes- l am skipping the thrift store and using consignment credit to fill the very small gaps for spring and summer. Sandals may be from eBay. I also cancelled a subscription that l wasn’t enjoying enough to keep. I am content with how we did and have some ideas for later.

  14. Megan says:

    Thank you for hosting the UFM as it was an eye opening experience. Food was the area in our budget with the most tangible savings. Prior to starting the UFM we were spending mindlessly on our favorite Thai takeout and local restaurants all while going over our grocery budget. The UFM shined a light on these detrimental and wasteful habits and helped get our spending in check. I managed to stay within our (fancy) grocery budget with ease and actually enjoyed spending 10 minutes meal planning for the week. Added benefit: we completely cut out food waste.

    The UFM was also perfectly timed to get my husband and I to discuss our financial goals for the coming year and we have decided not to pay down our house but instead to invest that money in low fee index funds (already doing this within our retirement accounts). The discussion was calm, thoughtful AND short. To me, the UFM was a practice in mindfulness. This is something that we will do throughout the year as a way to take stock and re-asses our spending and savings goals. Thanks again for putting so much work in to this challenge!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s wonderful! Sounds like you really internalized the mindfulness that’s inherent to long-term frugality. And, congrats on deciding to invest :)!!!

    • cathy says:

      Megan,
      I think it’s interesting that you and your husband decided not to pay down your mortgage because that’s the same conclusion we’ve come to. After years of agreeing to disagree, we’ve found that by not tying up our funds in the house, it will give us more options. As we get closer to being empty nesters, we want to have the option to downsize or maybe move out of state. If we invest the extra money (when there IS extra money), we figure we can always throw it at the mortgage later if we decide not to move.

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        Yes!!! SO happy to hear this!

      • Megan says:

        Cathy, that is too funny! I feel a sense of peace having come to that same conclusion, and as an added bonus, it was actually my husband who was outspoken on this direction. A nice change-up because I am the spouse who is more interested in the topic of money (for fun – ha).

  15. Traci says:

    Reading your blog is the ultimate luxuriously frugal thing I can think of!

  16. Thanks so much for leading the Uber Frugal Challenge!! It was a great reset.

    Our family tends to do well with extreme frugality for a while, but we inevitably burn out, loosen our reins and get off-track quickly (especially around the holidays). I suppose we have a tendency to let our “sacred cows” overtake us. For example: take out. On normal months, we do well with spending only $30 each month on one take-out meal. But, in times of big spending in other areas (moves, holidays, birthdays), we slide and one take out meal becomes 4 or 5 ($150 each month-ouch).

    The UFM was a big help in refocusing our savings efforts, and this post is a wonderful reminder that we need to continue to work on building long-term, sustainable frugality into our lives. Thank you for leading by inspiring example!

  17. JD says:

    I saved $135 this month on groceries ( serious organic/locavore here) and saved about $10 on our already very modest eating out budget. I also upped our savings by about $50, and switched over to a no-minimum interest bearing checking account. I had higher than ordinary vet bills, but I own these animals, therefore, I will take care of them. As Mary said above about re-thinking owning so many pets at once, I plan to have a serious talk with my pet collector husband about owning so many pets, as these “leave us” — we have a very elderly cat and an elderly dog, but THREE younger animals. Too many, although I love them all, too. I turned down some purchases I would have made, realizing they weren’t needs. I’m planning more long-term on expenses, which means I’m paying some things, like house insurance, monthly still, but simultaneously putting aside money each month to make a single annual payment next time. It’s more expensive now, like having two monthly payments, but I’ll be glad next year that I did it, and I’ll save the monthly fees next time.

  18. The. Frugal Pirate says:

    Thanks for hosting this challenge! Even as an already pretty frugal couple, I think we learned a lot from the challenge. We also started tracking our spending in detail for the first time (just having finished reading Your Money or Your Life) which really helped us get a handle on things. We are in Canada so unfortunately can’t use Personal Capital but the Mad Fientist has a great (and editable!) spreadsheet to use.
    I guess if there was one thing I would like to learn more about it would be investing and money management in a Canadian context – obvs this isn’t your area of expertise but if there are others out there with wisdom on this I’d love to hear from them!

  19. Laurie says:

    I tried my best to be frugal this month, but we bought a new house and moved in the middle of it. On the bright side, we had more than enough in our savings account to cover the 20% down payment, so no PMI for us. We recruited our family to help move the larger items and moved them all in one day to cut down on the expense of the U-Haul. All of our smaller items and boxes were moved using our regular vehicles so we put less mileage on the U-Haul. We used boxes and packing materials we scored for free on craigslist. And our new home is a lot closer to work so it cuts down our 50 minute commute each way for both of us to 30 minutes each way. And my husband found a way there using back roads that shortens the drive an additional 10 miles each way.

    The move was also a good excuse to eat all of the food in our old home so we didn’t have to move it! Meals started getting weird at the end, but I was happy to have a bit less to move and save some money in the process!

  20. Lissa says:

    I did not participate in the challenge but I really, really looked at our current finances to see where we could cut. Some of it having to do with me personally.
    1) I am growing out my hair and not dying it. That will save me about $150 every 8 weeks.
    2) Stopped wearing full face make-up. Now I just put on some concealer and mascara. Once that is gone I will be done.
    3) We turned down our thermostat. No one has said a word yet! Can’t wait to see what out electric and gas bills look like this coming month.
    4) Bought handkerchiefs and flour sack towels to replace using tissues and paper towels. I know we won’t be able to eliminate those completely but at least decrease the use.
    5) Cable will be turned off soon which will save us about $100 per month. Can’t wait!

    I have some specific goals in mind over the next three years and I know we are off to a good start. 🙂

  21. Chris says:

    I did not participate in the uber frugal month. However, since starting to read personal finance blogs perhaps three years ago, I have gotten rid of my home phone and purchased a Republic Wireless plan. (My husband still has his flip phone). We canceled our boat insurance on our 21-year-old, and I have started buying discounted gift cards. . I think I save about $700 a year on the phone, $40 a year on the insurance, and ?? $$ on the used gift cards.

  22. Laurie says:

    Thank you for putting together such a great challenge! While we did sometimes fail at being uber frugal this month, we did:

    1. Cut our normal grocery spending in half!
    2. repair my winter boots instead of buying new ones
    3. Participate in free entertainment (free tickets to a local womens’ college bball game)
    4. Start budgeting a little differently using YNAB
    5. Line dry our clothes instead of using the dryer. I don’t know how much we saved yet, but I suspect a lot since we live in frigid NH (in the Upper Valley, near you actually!)

    I know that writing those daily emails wasn’t an easy task, and I appreciate it! I was inspired each morning to read a new tip on frugality. Thank you for a great frugal month!

  23. Dogmom says:

    This month started late for me. I did not find the frugal month challenge until I was two weeks into the month. That being said. I did my actual verses projected budget and was please to see the gains I made. The most profound of which was getting my husband on board! I saved money on groceries and became keenly aware of how both of us were spending money on extras. I called my insurance company and made some money saving changes to that bill and paid off one loan which will have a long run money saving effect. My husband called the cable company and made arrangements to cut TV out ( but leave internet on) for another monthly saving. We came up with a 10 year plan with short term and long term goals. We did have a setback in that one of our dogs needed two trips to the vet for an eye problem that required two different types of medications. My plan is to re-take the Frugal month challenge in February when I can get a full month in and have the changes in some of our bills show up in the monthly actual spending.
    Part two of this challenge is to see how this plays out in our Mustache savings plan toward my early retirement.

  24. Chris says:

    Oops, that was supposed to be 21-year-old BOAT. lol. Also, we do not have any type of television service or cable or Netflix. That saves a ton! We have only ever paid for less than six months total online streaming type things ever, and we have been married nearly 30 years. I know that has saved us a lot!

  25. This was such a great idea. I really looked forward to receiving your emails every morning! It made my public transit commute (withthermos filled with home brew in hand!) a lot more bearable – may I even say, something to look forward to!

    I’ve deferred my Uber Frugal Month to February (I had a bit of a spending “situation” occur in January that threw me off my game) and I’m amped to go after having this great exposure to your articles this past month. Looking forward to tallying some numbers at the end of February!

  26. Justine says:

    I am naturally fairly frugal, so have enjoyed this exercise as it’s made me appreciate what I always loved; do-it-yourself food and fun! My partner and I made a real, concerted effort to plan our weekly meals and shopping, spending less than £30 the last two weeks by looking at our pantry and using up what we already have. We have had some difficulties, as we live in London, where it takes an hour to get anywhere via multiple forms of transport. Whilst we do cycle, it’s a challenge to do this all the time with an hour plus commutes via bike (and often rainy/dark/cold + no idea where we are going/multiple bags/no shower facilities) and so transport is a huge bite into our potential savings. Where we can we have tried to work around it, inviting more people around etc., but that can be a big ask if someone lives on the other side of the city! I can’t think of any way to work around this issue, ideas are welcome! It has made me recognise that big city living and an uber-frugal reality (at least in transport) is hard to marry up.

  27. shannon says:

    We didn’t do the UFM Challenge because we moved across the country in the middle of it.

    BUT I have to share a frugal victory here…at my job on a large university campus for the last year, nearly everyone pays $58/month for parking. I either walked ~1/2 mile from off campus each day or had my husband drop me off at work (public transportation options were not good for my route from home). The $58/month went into a separate investment account that now has over $700! That is money that would literally be GONE now if I had paid for parking…plus it was a desk job so I really needed the extra walking time anyway. Three cheers for frugality!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Fabulous! Walking is such a great example of the auxiliary benefits of frugality–of which there are tons!

  28. Jody says:

    Thank you so much for hosting the challenge! I am pretty frugal by nature anyway but am always looking for areas to improve. Some of mine involved not only saving money, but improving my personal health as well. I did a no spend month which eliminated all mindless spending. No Target, Amazon, etc. Instead I took walks when I was bored, distracted, stressed out, etc…I also took a serious look at our grocery habits/diet and was able to eliminate most junk food ( except DH’s pretzels) and unnecessary snacks. The results: 15 pounds lost and a nice extra cushion in the savings account. Your challenge was just the catalyst I needed to jump start both areas that needed some attention. I especially appreciated the daily emails which I read and re-read for extra motivation! Thanks again!

  29. Nicola Van Hoff says:

    Last night I mentioned to my partner, “one more day of our challenge!” and his response, “I’m not planning on doing anything different, this was worth every penny saved.” JOY. It really has brought us more joy. We have found new ways to entertain ourselves, dinner out was replaced with comical dining in, which consisted of whatever food we had in the house. My stress of trying to make a “perfect” meal vanished, and is now, “here is what we have in our pantry, enjoy!” Going to a movie or coffee date is now a dance in our living room or curling up to watch something we already have. We have wanted to cut back on consuming meat and this happened naturally on this challenge and we weren’t expecting that. Although I don’t have much to show as “saved”, I was able to pay off 3 bills that have been tagging along for months and in total were almost $700. That’s amazing. Amazon and dining out were getting that prior to this challenge. When we did decide to eat out, it was after unexpectantly marching for 5hrs in the Woman’s March as a family, and we had taken public transportation and getting home would be even longer, we were famished. We discussed food options for several minutes debating if it made sense and found a cheap place and purchased our own meal to stay true to our individual challenge goals. On the way home, we both agreed, with better planning, we could have brought our own sandwiches and next time we need to think about that. That conversation was one of many we had together of future planning which has strengthened our bond and will be a great example to our little one (7mo) one day, which is great. Neither of us had parents that set a good example for finances or ever openly discussed their finances and we want to be different with our family. We are excited to be more present as a family and create meaningful memories by being more diligent and responsible in our choices. Now, we are determining to cut our cable and invest that bill instead.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      How wonderful! Congrats! So happy to hear this :)! And, I know you’ll have those frugal sandwiches packed next time 😉

    • Julie Rogers says:

      I had to comment. I had the same realization that serving what I have removed tons of stress about making sure a meal is up to par! What an unexpected benefit!
      Plus, I threw away store flyers instead of feeling obligated to search for the best grocery deals. I had no idea that was all stressing me out!

  30. Hadilly says:

    I also appreciate you inventing and hosting the UFJ. Probably the most important thing I did was to finally set up Personal Capital. Very eye opening to see where our money goes. We also had a talk about our values and priorities. It will be good to sit down and look at our spending this past month and see how they align, and what we can do to make them align better going forward.

    I found eating down our stores to be only mildly helpful. We don’t keep that much on hand and I felt like I needed to replenish it pretty quickly. Since we don’t throw away food, I decided I am comfortable keeping a few non-perishable goods on hand.

    I did consider ordering pizza one day last week, realized it would be $65 to get it delivered, and did not order. Instead, I made pizza the next night. So much cheaper!!!!!

    I had a feeling that we were spending a lot on kid activities, and using PC really showed that to be true. Well, going forward, we will see how we can drop that number.

    Happy February to you and your family!

  31. Congratulations to everyone who accomplished the UFM Challenge! We didn’t participate in this for the actual month, but we do enjoy spurts of extreme frugality in order to gauge our level or cost savings. We definite ditched cable a while back… bought a Roku for our main TV and my wife was gifted an Amazon Fire Stick which we plugged into our secondary TV. Boom, that’s all the TV we need.

  32. cathy says:

    We already live pretty frugally, so I took advantage of what I could, and didn’t worry about the rest. (There’s no way to save more on make-up when you don’t use any!) Our biggest success was groceries. We eat all-organic produce, and organic/natural/fair trade for virtually everything else. Four-person household including two teen boys. Have to accommodate some severe food allergies including wheat, so certain foods/ingredients (like gluten-free flours and pasta) are much more expensive. That also means I cook 3 meals a day, every day. Even so, the UFM challenge got me to use even more out of my freezer/fridge/pantry than usual. I’ve been trying–unsuccessfully–for a couple of years to see if I could get our food groceries down to $400/month. I came close–once. But this month I crushed it. We spent just under $230 on food and $43 on non-food groceries. We didn’t eat everything in the house, didn’t have weird meals, and certainly didn’t give up coffee or chocolate. If I saw a rock-bottom price on something we regularly use, I still stocked up. But I’m estimating we’ll easily save $1800 over the course of a year just by making these few adjustments to shopping and cooking. Thanks for the inspiration! BTW have you thought about hosting an on-going facebook page for Uber Frugalness to provide a space for this community? I know Katy of The Non-Consumer Advocate has a fb group that’s very active.

  33. Sara says:

    I didn’t participate in the challenge, but the bit you wrote about investing the cable money and the calculator caught my eye and I clicked on the calculator just to see what would happen if I were to contribute $50 a month to the spousal IRA I opened last year with a maxed out $5500 that I happened to get as a windfall. In 29 years I’d have almost $95k! So I’m going to try to defer half of my monthly “blow money” into it starting this year. Thanks for the information and the inspiration to take a small step in the right direction. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to contribute enough to start maxing it out yearly.

  34. Cynthia says:

    Liz the UFM Challenge was difficult for me especially having to play catch up with our spending over the holidays! I however, really enjoyed seeing the UFM e-mails every day to give me a little kick in the pants as we tried to get our finances in order this month. I am quite pleased that I came out on top $300 this month even after paying off holiday expenses. The most useful tip for me was delaying shopping trips for things I thought I needed and only spent money on essentials like toothpaste and diapers. I also avoided Target like the plague this month! Thank you for all the great tips!

  35. katscratch says:

    The overall theme of mindfulness via frugality is something I’ve worked toward over the last year, so for me having SO many awesome people to glean ideas from, and share with, was the biggest benefit of this month. I LOVE reading comments with tips or little things people have changed that make a bigger difference than we think, and just the overall support of a community of folks open to the idea of living life differently.

    THANK YOU for that!

  36. Laura HTexas says:

    I was mentally and emotionally ready to start the new year with increasing my saving and I found your website! I started the month on 1/3/17 and enjoyed every single email. The final results are:
    -increased deduction from my paycheck to max my Roth IRA
    -increased deduction from my paycheck to $5 annually into my 457 (I’ll have to revisit this item…)
    -increased deduction from my paycheck to my credit union liquid savings account
    -spent $60 towards my sister’s baby shower for her 3rd child ($20 box of diapers as the practical gift, kept it to small group, cooked the small meal, baked the cake, used donated baby clothes as decorations)
    -cooked EVERY meal (I even started baking dessert to avoid buying premade cookies or I bought box cookie mixes that were on sale.)
    -I went to the Asian market and bought a $3.5 bag of 20 single serving packets of instant coffee that have creamer and sugar already in it. (I don’t have a coffee machine and incorporated this item into my grocery list.)
    -I’m going to do the Uber Frugal Monthly Challenge every other month to help me keep this lifestyle change
    -If I was asked to do something, other than the baby shower, I would state that it would have to wait until next month because I was on a financial fast.
    -I started unplugging items that were increasing my light bill and I noticed a $20 savings! I was so excited.
    -I will not buy clothing for myself for 5 months.
    -I got the hubby to join my frugal month when he noticed I reduced the weekly grocery cost from $100 to $70-$80 a week.
    -I got my teen daughter to respect my frugal month by letting her know my goal is take her on a trip for her high school graduation. She’s on board and doesn’t expect a Spring Break trip or a dinner after the graduation ceremony with our immediate family (20 – yikes). If we decide on a dinner, we have already committed to ourselves to only having a homemade dinner at our small home for our immediate family. It’s too hot in Texas for a gathering at a park in June; however, I will be looking at the weather reports that weekend.. This weekend we are window shopping for prom dress to find out if $200 (or less) is a reasonable price on a prom dress. She agreed to research websites for prom dress rentals – crossing my fingers this is an option and she finds something under $100!

    • margo says:

      Well done Laura, the more you achieve the more it spurs you on to finding ways to save and be content with what you have.
      Please consider ditching the instant coffee packs they are not at all good for your health, a frech press will make a lovely cup of coffee at home with no fuss and if you grind your beans fresh each day or 2 it will be outstanding.

  37. Viki says:

    LIZ, Thank you so much for sponsoring the UberFrugal challenge. I looked forward to your emails every morning and I read them a couple of times each. I managed to pay off all the holiday bills but the thing that I am most excited about is that I managed to replenish my buffer. At the end of January, I have all the money for my February bills just waiting for the Bills to come in and be paid. All the money that I will need in February is ready and waiting! Including savings! WIN!

  38. Jo says:

    Hi Liz, l thought l was doing okay finance wise and then signed up to do your UFM. It was an eye opener, especially when looking at what l spend on groceries. The daily emails were a good reminder of why l wanted to do this. Thanks for setting the challenge and thanks for your great website:)

  39. janey johnson says:

    Loved the UFM challenge. The biggest benefit that I have seen is in changing attitudes with your thought provoking articles.

    For example; this month we had a leak in our roof, one roofer quoted £450 to fix a cracked tile that he said was causing the problem. Also our favourite hotel had an amazing unmissable last minute weekend break offer.

    Previous to the challenge I would had just paid the money out, as i know nothing about roofing. and gone on the weekend with my husband, we would have had a lovely weekend but would have spent loads.

    This time our weekend was completely different, after a leisurely pot of coffee, we looked at the roof and realised that all that was the problem was some mortar missing near the guttering. We fixed the problem and sorted out the damage caused by the leak for £23, then spend the evening at home together with a lovely roast dinner and a glass of wine.

    We both really enjoyed doing DIY in a leisurely way, saved money and learnt a new skill. We both think and solve problems in different ways, but are even better when we work together. We both thought the weekend was amazing and we went back to work feeling happy and refreshed.

    Thanks for such a great UFM challenge that has something for everyone no matter how far along your journey you are.

  40. Samantha says:

    Thanks for hosting this challenge! While I do not know how much I saved, I can tell you that I stuck to my goal of not buying any food outside of a grocery store. No restaurants, no fast food, and no booze! I don’t think I have ever gone a whole month without at lease one of the three. This has taught me to purge the cupboards of the food I already have and to plan ahead with meals and snacks for the family. It’s also been a lot of fun making all my own food – building on a skill that could always use practice with!

  41. Val says:

    I loved this challenge and the daily emails were a great boost to mindfulness when it came to spending. Our grocery bill came at just under $500 for 8 people, the lowest it has ever been!! Now we did eat up a lot of stuff left over from the holidays and our fully stocked freezers but nonetheless it was a good month. I was also able to pay an extra $600 on debt yesterday, along with extra top-ups on some during the month, about $900 extra altogether. We had only one “entertainment” expense this month, something that we had promised the kids before hand, that was supposed to happen in early Feb, but ended up having to happen on Sunday due to scheduling issues. But it was all preplanned so it was still a win. Best frugal win was replacing a broken door know with one from an old door sitting in the corner of one of the sheds, as opposed to going out and getting a new one! Thank you, and I think I will continue on this path going forward.

  42. Julie Rogers says:

    I had no idea I was stressed about planning the best meals or getting the best prices, but the UFM saved us a lot of money and eliminated that stress I wasn’t aware of the cause of.
    Now, I serve the meal and explain why it’s frugal, not why I hope it’s perfect, and I toss store flyers instead of combing them to plan three stops for the best sales. Who needs it when it was ultimately not saving money?

  43. I didn’t do the challenge, but I did hold a personal finance workshop for teenagers. After I went thru several financial examples like you did, I asked “the next time you want to buy the Air Jordan shoes, think about 10 years from now, if instead you bought the Nike stock.”

  44. Anne says:

    In January, I spent £215.81 less that I did last month as well as manage to keep to a £200 food budget for three of us (not sure how this compares to the cost of living in the US of A).

    I did it by shopping little and often. We live two streets away from a Lidl, so I walked rather than do a couple of big “car shops”. I made lists based on what I had in the cupboards and fridge/freezer and if I couldn’t carry it, I wouldn’t buy it. (no “wee” bottle of wine, 2 litre bottles of fizzy juice, extra jars or tins).

    I based two or three days worth of meals around one or two key ingredients i.e roast chicken plus two meals using up the remaining meat, roast lamb plus to other meals using up the rest of the meat, etc. (I don’t use the phrase “left overs” in my wee hoosie………my Mister and The Wee Wummin don’t respond well to it!) We did eat well, we only had one curry and our foodwaste was limited to veg peelings and banana skins!

    I am particularly proud of the fact that we didn’t have a half full freezer to draw on as we had to buy a new freezer in December (bought through using my employer’s discount scheme – saved £27!). We were starting with three more or less empty drawers. But I have to confess to having Christmas left overs and “bits” in for the visitors who happened to bring “bits” with them too.

    We had a child free overnighter (thank you, Brownies) which previously would have involved the grown ups having a meal out and a bit of a pub crawl, but instead I perused the “fancy foods” in the supermarket and made (what I thought was) a restaurant quality alternative for 6 quid and cheap vino plus film on “catch up” as opposed to a £60 dinner plus drinks and £15 taxi kind of night out.

    I did an “audit” of breakfast cereals and discovered 4 boxes in various stages of use (bought before The Wee Wummin started going to Breakfast Club at school). I transferred some of these to work and now have a quick 10 o’clock snack that keeps me going till I get home at 2pm when I eat the official left overs! I’ll not need to buy any til April! I’ve also dropped the fizzy juice at work, replaced it with water and used each fruit tea bag twice (three times is taking things a wee bit too far…..)

    I had to use up holiday as it was the end of our leave year (here we get much more holidays than I understand you guys get – I get 41.5 days), but as my dearly beloveds were at work or school, I had a great (cheap) time walking Loopy Lugs (the “dug”) up a couple of nearby lumpy bits (we have lots of hills here!). He’s still knackered! I also looked up places I have been meaning to go to that cost me nothing, such as museums, and actually did those at my own leisurely pace. A whole week off work and my only extra expense was an afternoon cinema ticket to watch a film I chose to see! Bliss.

    I also made a point of only going to see relatives who live 100 miles away twice during the month (rather than every week) and planned those visits around other events/activities. I did feel a bit guilty at first but saved a fortune on fuel (or rather the tax we need to pay here – our fuel costs are mostly tax, not liquid gold). To keep this up, I’ll need to persuade the family that the motorway goes in two directions!

    Next month my aim is to save £150 (January is traditionally a “quiet month” in Scotland – the pagans midwinter festival was hijacked for a reason!!)

    Today I attended a seminar run by our Occupational Pension Scheme and I figure I have benefits there that negate the need for a couple of insurance policies we have. I just need to read the fine print! Potentially another £60 per month in the bank (the only cheery thing about death in service benefits).

    We have a wedding in February. I’m recycling a fancy dress from last year (third outing, bought for £10 in a sale) and I borrowed a “fascinator” from my wee sister’s (vast) collection. I only had to buy “shiny tights” from M&S’s discount store (£3 for 2 pairs which is an absolute bargain).

    We’ve booked our summer holiday (the first beach holiday abroad in 9 years and pre The Wee Wummin), so I need some summer clothes. I’m taking Liz’s advice and starting to look around the charity shops now so when the time comes I don’t end up spending more than I need to for a couple of summer dresses (which I’ll wash while I am away rather than have one for each evening). Next year, we’ll be back to our trusty 12 year old £42 bargain tent until 2020 when we have our next big adventure planned.

    Thank You Liz…….your emails kept the momentum going and help me focus on what I want to spend my money on!

    • Linda says:

      Love your inspirational email Anne, and all the Scottish references – “The Wee Wummin” cracked me up.! I wonder if our American Frugal friends understood?! I’m from New Zealand, and my grandad was from Scotland. Hope to make it there one day.

  45. Sallyann says:

    What an inspiration you have been. The month hasn’t been perfect but it made me mindful which is wonderful. I monitored all my spending and am really surprised by some of it. I need a month sugar free and this will impact on both my health and my wallet.
    Sallyann x

  46. Well we cut the cable cord, not as much in savings (only 25 per month) but everything adds up. Appreciate all the work that went into the series of posts, I enjoyed. Good time for reflecting this month and thoughts on moving forward.

  47. Kris says:

    Although I did not participate in the UFM challenge I did read the daily emails as a refresher of what more we could do to not only save but also be more creative. We already save a good amount and kept track of all my finances the last two years through excel spreadsheet and Personal Capital(thanks Liz). One thing we did this month was donate my Honda Civic. We were a two car family and figured that since our ten month old baby boy’s car seat is in our Prius and take him everywhere with the exception of driving to work we just thought on donating Civic since I only drove it a few times a month. It saved the hassle on worrying about street cleaning and taking it to the repair shop since it has been giving us problems lately. So far its working out really well.
    Thanks for all the emails this month Liz. Really gave me and my wife more tips to be more happier and creative.

  48. Beth says:

    We were able to save $$ this month in an actual savings account. Plus we got some good deals-like a grocery run where the full price of our bill was $87 and after savings we paid $40 plus got a $1.50 off our next trip catalina coupon AND 20 cents/gallon off gas. Then we found a scratch and dent store that will save us tons on staples every month. And goodwill had a tag sale so I got a badly needed slip and 3 sweaters (still losing weight and need them!) for $4. Also for the first time we added to our mortgage payment extra against the principle. Woo hoo! Thinking through purchases and eliminating impulse stuff makes good things possible.

  49. Diane says:

    Your blog came to me at just the right time and I joined the frugal challenge. I will miss your daily emails so much! However, I got what I needed. Perhaps I will participate again next year if you host this wonderful challenge again.

    1. Not only did I stop buying coffee and a treat every afternoon and feeling badly about it, I QUIT my decades long daily coffee habit! I am much less anxious and much less spendy!
    2. I was taking out $100 every two weeks on payday and spending it on….stuff. The month has ended and I still have $50 in my wallet from the FIRST $100! I am humbled and it feels amazing.
    3. Spent a significant amount on repairing a 2004 vehicle instead of listening to the siren song of the car dealership. The vehicle will live another year, hopefully, and in that time a much more significant down payment will be saved by paying ourselves the car payment for the next 12 months and funneling all found money into that savings account.
    4. Walked away from upgrading our phones to new phones that look like the old phones with some extra doo-dads that we won’t use anyway.
    5. Library. Every. Weekend.
    6. Forced ourselves out of the house on a freezing winter day to participate in a sled dog demonstration at our local park for FREE. Cabin fever busted for just gas money.

    I could go on and on. Thank you. I live elsewhere now but I am a Vermonter born and raised. It was fun to go back to my frugal roots and set the plan in place for financial freedom. Congratulation to you on your accomplishments, and thanks again for reminding me!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      How wonderful! I’m jealous you got to go to a sled dog demonstration–sounds interesting!

      • Diane says:

        It was fun to meet the dogs and learn about raising them here in New York. We also took a walk in the woods and talked with the park supervisor about our first camping trip of the year. We learned about a telescope demonstration that will be occurring during our July visit so we can finally learn how to use our telescope! I don’t want to wish my life away, but I’m ready for some warm weather to start rolling in.

  50. Kat says:

    It seems like I’m already a pretty frugal spender after reading some of the comments, but I managed to spend a lot less this month (at least $400- $600 than I normally do) and I didn’t miss anything! I’ve never had cable tv, only Netflix. My car is paid off. Only debt is the house which I owe to family. However, my income is probably considerably less than others on here, $15k is by far the most I’ve ever made in a year, so my spending hasn’t been allowed to inflate unless I go into debt which I’ve never done. I feel ashamed being 31 with two college degrees. Nonetheless I’ve learned I can spend less. I fought a few urges to go out and shop. Several times I had a basket full of clearance Xmas decor and I put it all back. There were things I wanted, but I didn’t need them, so I put them back and knew at the end of the month I wouldn’t regret buying that xyz item. I did need some new under garments so I waited to shop for end of season sales and I did well by finding them on clearance and not buying anything else. I’m looking forward to keep doing the challenge next month. I can still spend less.

  51. Jo says:

    We had a ridiculously spendy month, including moving ourselves in 40°C(104°F) heat, but paying for truck hire and Thank you meals for helpers. Then of course paying for flyscreens, air conditioning to be serviced, and our decking to be retreated and waterproofed in our property we now rent. But we saved on take out meals ($20-30 per week), groceries were halved to $50 a week (christmas stockpile helped!), gym membership cancelled ($20 a week), petrol reduced (I cut my working days, and we can now walk to shops etc), and cafe coffees will be eliminated, except when replacing our restaurant meals once a fortnight for dates (saving $30)
    We didn’t really save money this month, as my pay has reduced, but the move from a 4bed house (bought to be used as an investment) to a 1bed flat has allowed me to pursue my dream of studying nursing.
    We will be paying down our mortgage as my husband and I get $12000 a year each tax free to do so, and as we were advised to do so for the next couple of years before revisiting and diversifying our investments. Retirement funds are maximised. If we needed to, we can easily redraw the excess we pay off, but for now it’s reducing our interest repayments (and tax free, compared with interest earning accounts in Australia).
    Thank you for helping us to really sit down and rethink a lot of our choices! I’m sure we’ll be revisiting and tweaking more often, now we’ve had the jump start!

  52. Sandra & the 2 Spaniels says:

    I learned a lot in the challenge: most importantly, I now “think” before I spend dime one. When I first started with Personal Capital & reading your blog, I thought well, I can get a handle on what I spend. Now? I think before I spend anything! Case in point: Saturday a girlfriend came over that I had not seen since Christmas. We went to lunch-my cost was ZERO because I had a gift card to the restaurant. She wanted to go visit some resale shops. We hit 3, count ’em! Three! My cost was ZERO. I found some nice things, I found things that fit, but meh……My new Frugalwood thinking kicked in. And the bottom line, I did not need any new clothes. So I had a lovely Saturday that cost me ZERO! I am going to reread Mr. FW free tv. Cannot wait to kick DirecTV to the curb-at $100 a month! For $100 a month, I could own an entire library of DVD’s, if I wanted to. The only people who spent money were the cocker spaniels. $112 on medications for skin problems & upset tummy.

  53. Congratulations to everyone for making it through the first one!

    I managed to not eat out at all in January and I’ve saved about $300.00!

  54. Sandy from over the pond says:

    I have to admit I’ve struggled, mainly due to the realisation I mainly spend to alleviate boredom. I live alone, have no siblings so have a lot of spare time on my hands so I’m going to aim to cook from scratch all my food over the next few months as I am continuing the frugal challenge. I work full time so its mainly weekends and evenings I need to find an alternative to spending. Going to start by reorganising and decluttering my flat.

  55. Deb says:

    Thank you so much for hosting Uber Frugal Month! I really started to be aware of all the “little things” I was spending money on (impulse buys like magazines, quick coffee runs, etc) and have increased the amount I am saving from each paycheck. Am planning on using February to continue these little lessons, then in March or April I’ll likely revisit an Uber Frugal Month. Will be interesting to see how these small changes add up, and how I can learn to build on them.

  56. Jill says:

    I’m one-third of the way through my “no-buy quarter”, and it’s going so well that I feel like I’ll want to extend it well into the summer, or just keep going all year. It was SHOCKING how much money was left after just…not spending it. I haven’t had a meal out or a coffee I didn’t make myself, and I stopped shopping (I need *nothing*, which was great to realize). On a recent visit to my in-laws, my mother-in-law asked if I wanted to hit the local thrift shop, and I reminded her that I wasn’t shopping, and suggested we visit her mom instead. We had a lovely visit, and I didn’t spend any money. We’re putting the savings from the no-spend months into paying off our credit line, while also making sure we stop using said credit line.

    We’ve been adhering to my excel sheet meal plan, which has been really fun to create, and makes food prep and planning much easier. We’ve also been working on incorporating more vegetarian meals, and getting some of our food from local farmers. The local stuff isn’t cheaper, but I like the idea of being more connected to our food, and trying to support our community.

    Thanks for the fantastic posts! I really enjoy each piece you do 🙂

  57. Louise says:

    We’re fairly frugal folks by nature and love to find a need/service for cheaper, but we decided to follow along with the frugal month challenge. We ate out of the pantry and only bought produce/dairy items. It was amazing how creative we could be and no one starved-it was actually quit fun! No eating out or paying for entertainment (movies, sports games, etc.). We stayed home. We ate at home/packed lunches for work. We cleaned our home. We organized our home. We found things we bought we forgot we bought (oh the shame!). We watched movies on Netflix. And you know what? We loved it! More than saving money was the peaceful, rested, contented feeling we received. You can’t put a price on that! We’re continuing a frugal month challenge into February. Our sacred cow is traveling and we have a big trip planned for June. This is where our passion is and this is what we choose to spend our hard earned money on. Thanks for your blog and for the inspiration!

  58. I was about to praise the article but it pails I’m comparison to those pictures of your pooch! Really made me smile. I think its amazing that you reached so many with this challenge, a pat on the back for you seriously!

    I didnt take part, I’m not at the right point right now, but I did experience the liberation of my first no spend weekend during the month. One fascinating thing I learned was that, whilst I saw the UFM as a much bigger challenge Im not ready for, one of the participanta of the UFM challenge told me they weren’t ready for a no spend weekend. It really underlined for me how different we are and everyone’s financial journey is different 🙂

  59. diane says:

    Each persons frugal month looks different, of course. My goal was not to use credit cards for the month and I was very successful. I probably saved over $500.00 this month with that. I also cut down by eating from the pantry and freezer. Most of our expenses are fixed but some things I wanted to keep…cable TV, fresh prepared special meals for the dogs, someone helping with the cleaning 2x/month. Also, I kept some month in the budget for occasional outings with my husband (community theater). Overall, the credit buying has been my hang-up for years and I worked very hard to reign that in. I plan to continue this month as well. Thanks for all of your encouraging posts over the past month. They really opened my mind to think about places I could cut money from and that I can be in control of my money.

  60. Centsai says:

    The first month of changing your lifestyle to be more frugal is the hardest! Your steps on going from a frugal month to a frugal life were very helpful! This was a great article, thanks for sharing with us!

  61. Paul says:

    Liz, I have been following your blog for about a year now after finding a link to it on Clark Howard’s (Consumer Guru on WSB in Atlanta) web site. I worked in Atlanta, GA for 32 years before returning to central NY where I grew up. Who retires to the north??? people ask me and I tell them have they driven in Atlanta lately. I was there at Thanksgiving and I don’t miss the traffic. I have to say that at 71 my goals are a little different that the majority of your readers. However one is never too old to embrace frugality. Both of our cars and house are paid for and I still work in Golf Operations at Turningstone Resort and Casino (owned by the Oneida Indian Nation). This allows me to play for FREE on the 3 championship courses which range from $125-$220 to play. Since I am considered a part time employee I was able to sign up for their 401K plan and while I won’t be working there long enough to save a lot of money I can’t turn down FREE money. Additionally, I was able to roll my BellSouth 401K plan into the Oneida Nation plan and don’t have to take any money out (70 1/2 year rule) until I leave their employ. I wish I could have had your kind of guidance back when I was younger and I commend what you have achieved. During and now after the Frugal Month Challenge I find myself, either in the grocery store or any other, stopping to think about “is this purchase necessary?” Most times it isn’t. I have trained myself to say “what would Mrs. Frugalwoods do?” I will continue to enjoy your blog and will continue frugality even in this little later stage of life. Paul

    • Diane says:

      Hey Paul! I am in CNY too and loving it. Thanks for the tip on working part time for Turning Stone Golf Operations. The greens fees have kept us off that course, and I can’t wait to tell my husband about this! He’ll retire in 6 and a half years if the plan works out. Maybe we will meet you there!

  62. Johanna says:

    The challenge was very exciting and eye-opening.
    I saved half my income “yay”, but had some additional costs (meds for a stomach bug, tax for car and car insurance were due for the year,…) but I am pretty satisfied with the success.
    The best Thing was: I now see my weaknesses!
    – presents for friends and Family to cheer them up, to be percieved as generous, to see them happy
    – the weekly lunch out with the team at work
    – cheap ebooks on Amazon (I’ve got a stack at home that is still unread…)
    – funny little things on Amazon (Cookie cutter in the shape of cute animals…)
    – Little home-improvement Projects that cost 50€ in materials at a Baumarkt (think Home Depot)
    – being tired in the morning and sleeping too late, not taking the time to make breakfast and getting a coffee on the way to work (but I succeeded in only doing it twice this month instead of 2-3 times a week. 🙂
    – buying interesting (convenience) Foods at Aldi while being hungry (but I succeeded in nearly emptying my pantry! 🙂 I still have stuff in the freezer though.

    Greetings,
    Johanna

  63. Wade says:

    I loved the UFM challenge. The daily emails were inspiring/refreshing. I openly looked for ways to not spend money. Multiple times I online shopped for something and then didn’t buy it. Thanks again for your inspiration.

  64. Laura says:

    I was a vicarious participant in this UFM challenge. There was just too much to tackle post-holiday, like pet grooming, car repair necessary for emissions testing and subsequent sticker, college textbooks for my daughter and myself, and other things. That being said, I did price shop for my daughter’s textbooks and I borrowed what I could for myself, and am reading from the books on hold at the library (saving $250).

    I am approaching February with zeal and zest for minimum spending. I have some targeted goals: $2,000 in savings and capping weekly spending on gas/groceries at $180 (family of six and three cars), and not exceeding $1,900 in TOTAL for living + utilities. I think it can be done.

    Thanks for hosting! And inspiring!

  65. Cindy in the South says:

    I like your comment about actually adding things back to your budget, because I found that doing this challenge, I was a lot happier spending $100 for groceries for the month, rather than the $70 I spent for groceries for the month. I already do not have a tv, nor computer (I go to the local library or use my $38 cheap smart phone), nor washer, not dryer, in my house. I also do not generally eat out. However, I had an emergency health situation on the last day of January, and stopped for fast food after seeing doctor, and pharmacist. The fast food cost me $3.14. However, if I had not felt so ill, and felt like I had to take the medication immediately on a full stomach, I would have gone home and eaten what was in the fridge. I was 20 miles away from home and did not want to delay the meds. I am also debating whether to pay off my mortgage or put extra in savings. I bought a 912 sq ft house, built in 1950, with a decent yard, in a working class town, for $25,000. I bought it in 2014, and I owe under $18,000 on it. At the moment, I am putting extra in savings. I know I will not get anymore out of the house if I sell it eventually, because of location, although I will not lose money. It was very well built, and I have no plans to update it because I would not get my money out of it. Besides, I am not trying to impress anyone. If they do not like my thrift store decor, and old bathroom fixtures, they can not visit….lol. So, at the moment, I just feel like it is not a smart thing to pay it off. I just view it like a car loan, except it is a post World War 2 house and yard….lol.

  66. MrMoneybanks says:

    I love the mathematics! I’m forever calculating how much I save a year by cutting my own hair: £240 per annum! Over the past 15 years that’s £3,600 saved! Uber frugal life! Keep up the good work

  67. HeatherLiz says:

    Mrs. Frugalwoods, thank you for the challenge! While I thought I already was living a frugal life, the increased scrutiny of spending and the sense of playing a competitive game with myself really helped make it fun to work on finding areas to cut costs. This month I focused on groceries and miscellaneous spending. I want to tackle other areas too, and continue this into February. I started a blog to track daily spending, and found it was a good way to take notes on all the random dilemmas I was thinking about (such as, what do I do when all my coworkers are going out together to commiserate January 20 while supporting a local business, and I want to be included but not spend money? How can I give a coworker a nice baby shower gift without feeling pressured to spend money and contribute to overconsumption?) I got our grocery bill down to under $300 this month–quite amazing for 2 adults and 1.5 young adult men–by implementing a lot of your frugal food strategies. Daily oatmeal, lentils and rice for lunch, and counting fruit. Simple genius!

  68. Carol says:

    Although I did not take the challenge, I had to cut back out of financial necessity, after a brief hospitalization for my elderly mother. Between less pay from losing work time and paying hospital bills, I’ve had to make changes which I should have made some time ago. It was so helpful to have been keeping up with your blog! The repetition about cutting back on food expenses stayed in my head, and I knew that I could work with that. I switched supermarkets to one which is only five minutes further walking distance and has a coin machine; I have been able to use close to $100 in coins, even with the 10-11% fee for getting a slip for cash, rather than a gift card. This store has good deals on household paper products. My local pharmacy also has continuing discounts which I add to my store card from email notifications. My outlook has changed as I now automatically think how far $20 can go on groceries. I am also thinking of letting my hair grow in order to save money on haircuts. I am very grateful to you and your audience for sharing ideas with humor and encouragement, as well as the wonderful photos of scenery and family, including Frugal Hound’s fantastic wardrobe and poses.

  69. Seymore says:

    Liz,

    Thank you for all of the work you put into getting the Uber Frugal Month challenge out to all of us Frugalwood Groupies.

    I have not convinced hubbie to get on the frugal bandwagon, but I did not let that deter me from participating in the January challenge. My average monthly grocery expense during 2106 was $575. In January, I spent just $243 without putting much effort into it. Even hubbie was impressed with that. I will do even better in the months to come.

    I plan to tackle the spending over which I control (vs. the things that hubbie purchases) one category at a time. I figure if I can work on one category at a time, soon the bottom line expenses will reflect the Uber Frugal savings I hope for. And maybe the numbers will convince hubbie that we can make a difference in our financial future if we work together.

  70. Kristen says:

    I was all set to sign up to start in February but then received some medical news that requires some unexpected purchases. I think once that is all sorted out, I can start my frugality!

  71. Lynda says:

    I have tried several times to register for the Frugal Challenge, but I never receive any emails. It does say success ! so I do not know what is going wrong.

  72. Lynn 123 says:

    Hi, loving this challenge. I just started in February. Today I didn’t receive the daily email, so thot I’d let you know. Please know that you’re helping our situation so much! Thank you!

  73. Monica says:

    This was an awesome month! Thank you for your thoughtful emails each day. My biggest takeaway was patience and micro movements. At the end of the month, I felt like I learned a lot but didn’t save a lot. But when I looked back at my finances, I saved $299.76! So I think it’s important to remind myself that these small steps contribute to a bigger picture.

  74. Dan says:

    We own two cars. The older car is a two door Coupe for a family of 4. I also bike to work, so daily, at least one car sits in the driveway at all times. My wife has begun to rotate use of both cars, so all the miles don’t go on our newer (2001 vs. 2008) model car. However, each time I think about getting rid of the car, I can’t help but think, why bother? We pay the following; $60 per year in registration expenses (low I know, it’s TN), $150 or so in liability only insurance for the year, on the second car (no full coverage), and the rest of the expenses such as repairs and maintenance as well as gasoline would probably only shift to the first car. Also, now that the car is 16 years old, resale value is low.

    Perhaps I just need to write a post about it. What are your thoughts? I did read where you went back to having two cars, instead of one.

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