You can sign-up for the Uber Frugal Month Challenge any time! We take the Challenge as a group every January and July, but you can start it on your own whenever you’d like. Sign-up in the box below to join the January 2024 Group Challenge!

By taking the UFM, you’re joining hundreds of thousands of fellow frugal sojourners who’ve already taken the Challenge and committed to taking control of their finances. We’ve had Challenge participants from Luxembourg, Prague, the Netherlands, the Seychelles, Egypt, Japan, South Africa, Finland, Hungary, Romania, Germany, Australia, Ireland, England, Wales, Canada, Scotland, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, New Zealand, Russia and more! What this tells me is that there are a lot of us who no longer want to be part of the consumer-driven machine. Who want more out of our lives. Who want to be authentic people, not merely consumers designed to spend money.

Our collective goal is to save as much as we possibly can during the Challenge month, but that’s just for starters. The Uber Frugal Month is designed not only to save you money for one month, but to restructure your consumer mindset and ultimately, turn your Uber Frugal Month into an Uber Frugal Life. What I’ve found is that after a month of extreme frugality, it’s unlikely you’ll return to your previous level of spending. Participating in an Uber Frugal Month (UFM) interrupts the cycle of hedonic adaptation and lifestyle inflation that we all fall victim to and instead enables us to discover the peaceful simplicity delivered by frugality.

Before we get started, be aware that UFM is the equivalent of frugal tough love. Yes, Frugalwoods is a judgement-free zone and yes, I believe there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to frugality and yes, we all have unique circumstances and factors at play in our lives. However. The Uber Frugal Month is intended to push your boundaries, stir your emotions, and yeah, possibly make you frustrated. But its frustration with a purpose. You’re expanding your understanding of your finances and–by extension–your life. So don’t short-change yourself; you’ve committed to doing it, now dig deep and really do it!

Homework Time (similar to Hammer Time, but without the dance moves)

Consider this your official UFM rubric, guideline, outline, and to-do list. Pour a glass of seltzer (or wine), snuggle up to your nearest greyhound (or armadillo), open a word document/spreadsheet/notebook (or all three if that’s your jam), and settle in for a financial mapping exercise.

Step 1: Establish your goals.

Write down your answers to the following questions and be as specific as possible. Avoid vague responses such as, “to save more money.” Instead, identify the heart of why you want to save more money and exactly how much money you want to save.

Without an overarching reason or purpose, frugality is tough to maintain.

Goal-setting questions:

  1. Why are you participating in this Challenge?
  2. What do you hope to achieve?
  3. What are your longterm life goals?
    • Where do you want to be in 5 years?
    • In 10 years?
  4. What about your current lifestyle might prevent those goals from happening and what can you do about it?

For more guidance on longterm goal-setting, check out: How I Figured Out What I Want To Do With My Life (And How You Can Too!)

Get Your Partner in on the Action

If you have a partner, it’s ideal to attack this exercise together. If you sense your partner might be resistant, you can blame me.

Tell your parter the following: “I’m doing this Uber Frugal Month Challenge in an effort to maximize our savings and build a better future for our family and, as part of the Challenge, we’re supposed to discuss some questions with our partner. Can we sit down and talk through this? It would mean a lot to me.” I recommend broaching the topic with tasty snacks.

If you’re the frugal half of your partnership and your other half is reluctant to embrace your frugal charms, check out the following for some guidance:

Frugality Is NOT Deprivation

The basis for successful, joyful, longterm frugality is a defined life goal(s). The idea is to want more out of life than what you can buy in a store. With that backdrop, we become willing to sacrifice longterm gains for short-term desires. Frugality isn’t miserly deprivation, it’s sheer liberation. We are freed from needing a lot of money, we are freed from competing with other people in a material goods arms race, we are freed from the futile pursuit of happiness through consumerism.

For more motivation and insight into successful, goal-oriented frugality, may I recommend:

Step 2: Review last month’s spending.

We can’t move forward if we don’t know where we’ve been. You know how I harp every month on how important it is to track your spending? Here’s why: It is 100% impossible to create a savings plan if you don’t know how much you’re spending. If you haven’t been tracking, fear not frugalyte, now’s the time to start!

I use and recommend Empower for this task because it’s free and easy to navigate. Did I mention it’s free? Go sign-up now if you haven’t already (affiliate link).

When reviewing your past spending, don’t get mad at yourself and don’t get discouraged. You’re participating in this Challenge because you want to improve. You’ve taken the first step towards making smarter spending decisions and frankly, you’re going to rock it. We’ve got ZERO time for whining and moaning (as I tell my children on the regular).

Step 3: Categorize your expenses.

This is another step that’ll be easier if you’ve been using Empower or another finance tracker. But if you haven’t, it’s OK, you can use a spreadsheet, a piece of graph paper, or the back of a napkin.

This is no ordinary categorizing of expenses, my friends. This is the UFM categorizing of expenses and it goes like this: Fixed Mandatory Expenses vs. Discretionary Expenses.  

1) Fixed Mandatory Expenses

These are your cannot change them (easily) expenses. Hint: groceries do not count and you shouldn’t have many items in this category. Fixed mandatory expenses are things like: rent/mortgage, debt repayments, and health insurance. This isn’t to say that these expenses couldn’t change in the future, but they’re pretty darn stable at present.

2) Discretionary Expenses

Everything else goes here. Welcome to the murky abyss into which our money mysteriously evaporates. But it is mystery no more: it’s now exposed on your spreadsheet/graph paper/napkin. This is the stuff we’ll frugalize together.

Step 4: Which expenses can I eliminate?

Now that your expenses are divided between Fixed Mandatory and Discretionary, set aside the Mandatory items for the moment (we’ll come back to them later).

Take a good, hard look at your Discretionary list and ask: what can be obliterated?

Hint: this is stuff like take-out, restaurant meals, pedicures, dog grooming, cable. Anything that’s superfluous to your survival needs to go. This is the Uber Frugal Month after all and it’s your chance to try out a lifestyle of extreme frugality. Let go of the unneeded expenses in your life and remind yourself of the goals you set in Step 1.

In addition to deleting expenses, this is an opportunity to simplify your life.

A few years ago, I was stressing over where to find inexpensive makeup. I spent a ton of time trying to piece together coupons and sales, when I had an epiphany: why not just stop wearing makeup?! Instead of struggling to consume something I didn’t need, I stopped needing it. I transformed my outlook on what constitutes a need in my life and did so while living in the city and working a 9-5 professional office job. I still wear make-up on occasion, but I let go of the idea that I “should” wear it every day.

What in your life can you stop doing and stop needing? We build up so many unnecessary things in our minds as must-haves, when in reality, they’re only weighing us down. For example, if you’re panicking over how to get your favorite cable shows without paying for cable: what if you simply gave up watching those shows? What would happen? What would you do with your time instead?

Here’s a few posts I’ve written on giving up just such things:

Step 5: Embrace the art of substitution.

I’m sure there were items in Step 4 that it pained you to eliminate–pained you to your core. Fear not, we have a frugal solution and it’s called “the art of substitution.” For elements of life that you’d rather not delete entirely, the key is to find their frugal analogue. Substitution is how Mr. FW and live a luxuriously frugal life.

We don’t eliminate the things we love most, we do them for less.

Here’s an example: a prime candidate for substitution is a gym membership. Exercising is a good thing–don’t eliminate it from your life! But, it’s also something you don’t need to pay for. I’ll expand on this example to help jog your creativity for creating your own substitutions.

How we exercise for free:

  • I love yoga and so, I used to volunteer at my yoga studio’s front desk for 30 minutes a week in exchange for free classes. My studio isn’t unique in offering this type of exchange–I’ve heard from friends and readers all around the world who have a similar arrangement with their yoga/pilates/ballet/CrossFit studio. Read more here: How Does Free Yoga Help Our Financial Goals? and also here: Reader Suggestions On How To Exercise For Free (Or Cheap!)
  • When we lived in the city, we took lengthy walks from Cambridge to Boston, around the river, and up and down the city thoroughfares. Free entertainment and exercise rolled into one (yes, even in the winter).
  • Also in the city, Mr. FW biked to work every day (yes, even in the winter).
  • Now that we live in the country, we hike through our woods almost daily. During the winter when we have sub-zero temps and feet of snow on the ground, we put our snowshoes on and bundle the kids into a sled. Except in the worst blizzarding conditions, we’re out there on the trail.
  • For indoor exercise, I like free yoga classes on YouTube. There are TONS of free exercise programs online and you can find the style and level that suits you. Another one I like a lot is the 7 Minute Workout (probably because it’s only 7 minutes long 😉 ).
  • There’s also the time-honored parent exercise routine of chasing your children around…
  • Mr. FW gets most of his exercise through farm labor–splitting and stacking wood, shoveling snow, clearing trails, etc.
  • If you’re a dedicated weightlifter or avid runner (or rower, etc), consider equipping a home gym with weights and a treadmill–but only if you’re actually going to use them. Craigslist and garage sales are often rife with second-hand exercise equipment you can score for a fraction of the price!
January sunrise

Here are a few other substitution examples:

Bottom line: identify what you love, what makes your life fulfilling, and then find cheap–or free–ways to do those things.

Another valuable tactic is the frugal art of barter and trade, which I assure you is alive and well, as evidenced by the outpouring of reader responses I catalogued in this post: How Barter and Trade Enhances Frugality and Community. Frugalwoods readers are bartering and trading for everything from childcare to legal services to home-cooked meals! Need something but can’t pay for it? Barter and trade.

Step 6: Reduce spending on discretionary expenses.

Now’s the time to reduce spending on the things we need to sustain us, but that have wiggle room. My favorite example: groceries! It’s easy to gloss over line items like groceries because they’re necessities. And while yes, food is a requirement, expensive food is not. Since food expenses are one of the most oft-cited reasons by readers for participating in the UFM, let’s dig into some tasty examples. Note that it might take some work to find the cheapest, healthiest grocery options, but once you figure out your frugal system, it won’t take you any more time! It’s a ‘set it and forget it’ type of situation, so don’t fear the cheaper.

We eat organic produce, delicious cheeses, local meats, and more on the cheap. Here’s how:

An otherworldly January sunrise

Other opportunities for reducing spending in this category stem from sources you might’ve previously thought untouchable, such as your utilities!

The easiest way to save money on your utilities? Use them less. Our electricity bill is usually quite low since we’re cognizant of how much we use on a daily basis. It’s not some formal, regulated system within our home, but rather an overarching awareness that we apply to how we live. The bonus is that this approach will turn you into an environmentalist! For more tips and insight, please enjoy:

And another item for this category: Clothes! Clothes! Clothes! Let’s be honest: most clothes-buying is not strictly out of necessity (speaking from personal experience here… ). I was such a rampant clothes horse that I put myself on a clothes-buying-ban that lasted FOUR years. Four years, people. You don’t have to be that extreme, but I’m going to guess you probably have enough clothes in your closet to see you through at least a few months.

Need some clothes therapy? I sure did so I wrote all of these posts:

Step 7: Empower yourself to insource!

My glamour shed in winter

Identify every line item where you’re paying someone else to do work for you, such as a housekeeper, a lawn care service, dog groomers, hairdressers, dry cleaners, photographers for family photos, home repairs–you get the gist. If you’re serious about taking your frugality to the next level, it’s time to get serious about embracing the awesome power of insourcing.

By doing all of this stuff ourselves, my husband and I reap a four-fold benefit: 1) we save tons-o-money; 2) we learn new skills; 3) we permanently eliminate these expenses from our lives; 4) we grow closer in our relationship.

A few tips for getting started on your own insourcing journey:

Step 8: Examine your habits.

Spending money is a habit and, like any habit, you have the power to change it. If you don’t like the fact that you rush out the door every morning and buy a $6 latte on the way into the office (that used to be me… ), change it. Make your coffee at home and take it in a travel thermos. If you’re frustrated that your water bill is so high every month, examine how often you’re doing laundry and how long your showers are.

Evaluate your habits: you are what you repeatedly do and in this case, your budget is what you repeatedly spend.

Think through a typical day–a weekday and a weekend day–and write down every juncture at which you spend money. Then, write down solutions to instead save that money. I did this exercise a few years ago and outlined the results in this post: A Day In The Life Of A Frugal Weirdo. By bringing my attention to my daily spending habits, I was able to cut them out of my life permanently. More on this: Put Your Life On Frugal Autopilot

Step 9: Plan ahead.

A LOT of frugality has to do with planning ahead. So many expenses can be avoided by making a plan.

Long-term planning ahead example:

I scour yard sales every summer for stuff for my kids. Since yard sales only happen in the summer here in Vermont (owing to our obscene amounts of snow in the winter), I try to buy everything I THINK they’re going to need for the upcoming year. I do this because used kids’ stuff is plentiful and dirt cheap whereas new kids’ stuff is super expensive.

I buy second-hand snow boots, snow pants, jackets, Christmas dresses, and toys, which I use as Christmas and birthday gifts for both kids. I spend around $100 on used stuff every summer and usually, by the time September rolls around, I have several boxes of things for the coming year. By doing this, I’ve avoided needing to buy new clothes, new outdoor gear, new toys AND new Christmas/birthday gifts for over seven years now!

I also yard sale with my girl friends and we pick up toys and clothes for each other that we know the other needs for her kids. Share your needs with your friends and help each other out! For example, I knew my friend R. needed a size 18 months snowsuit and so, when I happened to find one IN A FREE PILE at a yard sale, I snatched it up for her! Similarly, my friend M. knows that Littlewoods loves Madeline and so she bought a Madeline doll for $1 when she found one at a garage sale.

P.S. YES, I 100% give my daughters used toys for their birthdays and Christmas. I’m sure this will change and evolve as they get older, but it’s a fabulous system so far! Both are THRILLED with their gifts, so we will keep on this train until it doesn’t run any more.

Ongoing planning ahead example:

Glamour shed: “Halp, I’m being swallowed by snow!”

Cook your meals ahead of time and pop ’em in the freezer. We do not cook every night. NOPE. Mr. FW typically cooks a gigantic batch of chili/soup/Thai curry/chana masala/etc once a week. We then either: 1) eat it all week; or 2) freeze it in portions and defrost other previously cooked meals so we can eat something different every night. By doing this, we avoid the temptation to get take-out or go to a restaurant because… our dinners are already cooked!

 Short-term planning ahead example:

Pack your lunch for work the night before. If you’re worried you’ll forget it in the morning? Put your car keys/metro pass on top of it so you can’t leave the house without it. Same goes for kid lunches, coffee thermoses, water bottles, etc. Basically, just take food with you everywhere you go.

The ultimate post on this: How Planning Ahead Saves Us Serious Money

Step 10: If you do buy stuff, get it used (or cheap!).

For things you legitimately need to buy, are you sourcing them as cheaply as possible? The used market–Craigslist, garage sales, thrift stores, and of course the Holy Grail hand-me-downs–are your best bets. Also, join your local Buy Nothing Group–or, if your town doesn’t have one yet–start it! What I like most about shopping used is that I’m usually able to find higher quality, more durable items on the used market than I would if I bought cheap, low-quality new stuff. Plus, it’s more environmentally-friendly! Wins all around.

Need some motivation to start shopping used? May I recommend the following:

For the stuff of life that can’t be bought used (toothpaste, dog food, sunscreen), price check to ensure you’re getting the best deal. Every week, Mr, FW and I make a grocery and household items list. For anything on our list that I don’t already know the price of, we price check between Amazon, Wal-Mart, and BJ’s (affiliate links).

I then purchase it wherever it’s cheapest. Since stores are unfortunately not uniformly cheapest on every single item they sell, I find this strategy to be an effective way of sniffing out the best deals. This takes us maybe 15 minutes a week and it’s well worth it for the savings we reap.

Bonus: if you find price-checking super annoying, it might encourage you to buy less stuff!

Step 11: Banish excuses.

I’m going to bet that for each of the preceding steps, the non-frugal part of your brain reared up with an excuse (I know this to be true because it’s what my brain does ). The Uber Frugal Month challenges you to restructure your ingrained spending habits and it’s probably not going to be easy. Here’s the thing: you can make excuses all day long about why you can’t be more frugal, but at some point, you need to sit down and think through each of your excuses. You don’t have to justify your decisions to me or your friends or anyone else and you don’t even have to share them with the Uber Frugal Month Community. But you do have to be brutally honest with yourself about why you’re spending money.

Yet another sunrise view

Changing your spending habits is as much psychological as financial, because how we handle money is largely driven by our emotions.

The actual mechanics of managing money are simple and straightforward. As with most things in our human experience, saving more money entails changing how we feel about our money. So consider this a self-led financial therapy session and do yourself the favor of entering into it with honesty and a desire to change. Let go of defensiveness and knee-jerk excuses.

The two most common excuses I hear for not embracing frugality:

1) I live in a high cost of living area!

Having lived in NYC, Washington, DC, and Cambridge, MA, I’ve been there. And I assure you it’s entirely possible to live frugally in the city. Actually, as I outline in this post, it was cheaper for us to live in the city than it is out here in the country! Here are a few inspirational posts for you city-dwellers: How We Live Frugally In The City and The Ultimate Guide To Frugal Boston Living (works for other cities too, I promise).

2) I have kids!

Me too! It’s certainly more expensive to have children than not, but this falls into the same category as most other elements of our lives. We can choose to raise our children frugally, or we can choose not to. It’s not quite that simple, but I also don’t think being a parent precludes you from frugality. I will point out that some of the most notorious frugal weirdos have children: me, Mr. Money Mustache, JL Collins, Root of Good, 1500 Days to Freedom… the list goes on.

A few posts for inspiration:

Step 12: Consider Major Lifestyle Changes

If you’ve done all of the above, crossed your frugal grocery t’s and dotted your frugal no-eating-out i’s and still can’t save at the level you’d like, something major needs to change.

Uber Frugal Month = freedom

It’s time to look at your Fixed Mandatory Expenses because at a certain point, you can’t trim around the edges any more. At a certain point, you need a larger reserve to draw from in order to save more.

This, my friends, is the major lifestyle change component of the UFM. These changes are unlikely to happen during the one-month timeframe of the UFM, but you can start considering the below questions as part of the Challenge. As I mentioned in Step 1, if you have a partner, you need to address these questions together.

Here are a few major lifestyle change questions to ask yourself/and your partner:

1) Do you need to earn more?

  • Can you change jobs or advance in your field?
  • Are you interested in taking on a side hustle to supplement your primary income?
  • Should you sacrifice work-life balance in the short-term in order to be promoted at your current job?

2) Would moving help?

  • Is your rent or mortgage draining your reserves every month?
  • Could you move to a lower cost of living area or home?
  • Do you need as much house as you have?
  • Could you consider downsizing or perhaps renting instead of owning?

3) Should you get rid of your car (or one of your cars)?

4) Are you paying to work?

Sounds bizarre, but many of us spend a ton of money in service of maintaining our jobs. No joke! Here are a few examples:

Childcare. It’s exorbitantly expensive and necessary no matter where you live or what method you use (daycare, nanny share, etc). Examine this expense and consider:

  • Do the salaries of both parents effectively outpace your daycare costs?
    • Could one parent stay home with the kids?
    • Can you contrive a creative arrangement with either your current employer or by freelancing/consulting/working from home?
  • In the age of the internet, I no longer think it’s a binary decision to work or not work. If you stay home with kids, you’re not necessarily cut off from the world or from earning money.
  • Sometimes paying for childcare is the best decision for a family. In that instance, make a plan for how you’ll use that money every month once your child(ren) is out of daycare. Make certain that you know what you want to do with this money so it doesn’t evaporate into increased spending. Will this money go towards debt repayment? Towards a down payment on a house? A new-to-you car? Retirement accounts? Investments? Make a plan now so that you won’t be tempted by lifestyle inflation with that influx of cash every month.
  • More here: Childcare: Controversial, Expensive, Complicated, Necessary

Commute. Is your commute so long that you’re spending tons on gasoline, take-out, and other conveniences because your time is so strapped? Could you move closer to your job to facilitate walking, biking or taking public transit to work? Or, could you work from home? If moving isn’t an option, could you find a job that’s closer to your house?

Treating yourself. Do you hate your job? Does this cause you to spend money in order to ease the frustration you feel over your work? Our culture teaches us that if we’ve had a hard day we deserve to treat ourselves–with take-out or a drink at the bar or a new pair of shoes. But all this cycle does is ensure we have to keep working a job we hate in order to treat ourselves to soothe the balm of working a job we hate… For inspiration on breaking this insidious cycle, check out: Treat Yourself? More Like Defeat Yourself!

Conclusion (we’re finally done, I swear!)

I know this was a lot to get through and no small amount of work. But, this work will create the basis for your financial future, which in turn will dictate the type of life you lead. What we’ve discussed today are the mechanics of the UFM. These are the practical steps you need to take in order to save as much money as possible.

Throughout the month, my daily emails are what will keep you in the right frame of mind to accomplish this. As you’ve probably surmised, the most important element of saving money is your own mindset.

You have the power to decide whether or not you’re going to open your wallet and spend money. It’s something wholly within your control. And I, for one, have faith in you.

With that, I hope you find time to reflect on why you’ve chosen to participate in the Uber Frugal Month Challenge. The crux of successful, joyful frugality is spending in service of your goals and on the things that matter most to you.

By identifying what you want out of life and eliminating spending that doesn’t get you to that final destination, you will succeed. I’m so happy you’re and delighted you’re taking the Uber Frugal Month Challenge! P.S. If you haven’t signed-up for the Challenge yet, you can do so in the box below.

What do you need from me for a successful Uber Frugal Month? Let me know how I can help!

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Signup

We all need some encouragement and inspiration! Starting the day you sign up, I'll send you an email a day for 31 days. Each email will have a tip, meditation, or other frugality enhancer.

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  1. I am ALL about the substitution method. I love my luxuries a little too much to give them up entirely, but there are SO many ways to do them for less. ex. I get my hair cut and colored at top NYC training salons. FREE 🙂

  2. I am hoping perhaps you, or even other participants leaving comments, can specifically address frugalization for senior citizens. Some of your suggestions would be more doable than others. For example, insourcing lawn care. I pay to have my lawn mowed. I cannot really physically do it myself. The first thought that came to my mind was perhaps bartering for the service, but I’m not sure what I have to barter with that anyone would be interested in. Looking forward to the month project, to thinking outside of my own box, and hearing from other people what they are doing and how things are going. Thank you for doing this.

    1. How about doing a little bit of babysitting, tutoring, or cooking/baking? These are all things people need help with! What are you good at?

      1. I would check with your county to see if they offer free or reduced lawn care or other services for seniors with lower incomes. Also, many seniors’ Medicare plans offer Silver Sneakers – which is essentially a free membership at participating gyms. Finally, if you’re a retired senior, you may have more time to do things like cook, air-dry laundry (free humidifying during the winter if you do this inside), or research prices at various grocery stores, which can save you money in the long run. I’m with you on the challenges facing seniors, though – your largest earning years may be behind you, which is scary!

    2. Being supportive with some ideas: 1. Visit your doctor with every prescription/supple!ent you take and ask what is truly necessary. 2. Visit your neighbors and see who may need their mail brought in while they travel, or their cat fed – tbey may be willing to come mow your lawn ince or twice in return. 3. Ditch the lawn in favor of a garden or other lower maintenance cover. Some cities have incentives to help with this. 4. Volunteer- lots of seniors do extra shopping to fill their need to get out, but there are plenty of cats and dogs at the animal shelter that need to get loved. 5. Have a yard sale – many seniors have years of accumulated goodies that someone else can benefit from. Happy frugalling

    3. Are you using a service or a local neighborhood kid? The local kid, I think, would be cheaper(less overhead). It would keep the money uber local and also potentially lead for other “chores” they could perform for you at rates cheaper than a true professional

    4. Have you considered calling a local civic group, church or asking neighbors? A lot of high school students need community service hours as well.

    5. I know this is several years late, as I just stumbled across this site. Local high schools and colleges and even church youth groups, often have kids looking for volunteer hours. You could check with them.

  3. Wow! I’m going to have to read this several times to absorb all this great information. It’s a lot of food for thought. I’m glad we have a head start on 2017.

  4. I’m excited to get started. Our expenses were fairly low for 2016, I think we will come in right about $29,000 for our family of 7. But I am always looking for ways to add value and reduce cost.

  5. I am so excited about the challenge and having the opportunity to both encourage and be encouraged by other like-minded people!

  6. Looking forward to participating. It will be a bit difficult since hubby and I have a week’s vacation scheduled in January to help a family member, but we’ll just incorporate that and make it as frugal as possible. I’d like to follow up the January challenge by making February a “no spend” month.

  7. This is AWESOME. I’m signed up for the challenge and can’t wait to get started on January 1! Mr. Picky Pincher and I have had a few spendy months of late, so I’m hoping an Uber Frugal Month will be just the remedy for us. We’ve started our 18 month $65,000 student loan debt payoff, so every cent counts!

  8. Thanks so much for the free yoga links! I’m proud to say that I’ve finally have a successful home yoga practice. Many years in the making and it’s not perfect, but most days I get around to doing something on my mat. I’ve been using yoga fightmaster on youtube, and it’s great, but more options means more yoga! The only debate for me has been whether or not to dedicated one of our bedrooms to a yoga practice or offer it up to my side hustle as a professional animal caregiver and use the room for boarding cats. I’ve done it in the past with limited success… I make a little money, but it’s literally like taking your work home with you each night and I always end up spending too much time with the cats and not giving my energy to other areas of my life like personal health and my family. I contemplated it for several months and only came to a firm decision in the last couple of weeks. When I look back at what I wish I had done more of I always say “I wish I had done more yoga”. It’s such a stabilizing force in my life. I know it sounds nutty, but just having a whole room devoted to yoga in my house feels like a luxury!

    1. Oh I’m right there with you on the yoga–I’ve never once regretted a practice! I actually have my yoga mat open all the time in my office, which is a great reminder to me to at least do a few vinyasas every single day. I’ll have to check out yoga fightmaster–thanks for the recommendation!

  9. I’m excited about this spending detox! I think it’ll be a great challenge for us because we have already cut the majority of our spending, but if we look very closely I think we’ll find even more ways to frugalize. The hardest part is the no eating out…we haven’t had a true date night in months and usually splurge over Christmas break. Hope we can get that dinner out before January!

  10. Great post, thanks for the tips. And darn it if I haven’t somehow started early even though I only agreed to try this uber frugal thing starting January 1st. It’s catchy!

  11. I’m so excited about this! At first I wasn’t sure, because I have to make a big purchase in January (travel for March, which means paying later = way more expensive), but that doesn’t really change anything about having a frugal month since it’s coming from a pot of savings I created just for this purpose. So I’m in! And excited!

    1. Hahaha, I can’t participate in this challenge although I love “no spend months”, because we’re buying a house in January! But it’s all according to plan and we’ve been saving all year for the down payment.

  12. I am getting excited about the upcoming challenge. Husband and I have “let ourselves go” financially the last few years. We raised our boys (youngest is a jr. so almost done) reasonably frugal, with one income and 22 years moving around every couple years as a military family. When DH retired from military we got in a bad habit of doing what we wanted, buying what we wanted and eating out whenever we pleased. Although we aren’t in any financial distress (thanks to all the frugal living prior) reality set in with college around the corner and actual retirement sneaking up on us we realized we weren’t saving nearly as well. We’ve lived it before (although more out of necessity) but it’s going to be tougher that we thought to give up the hair salon, mani/peds, dinners out, satellite football package… Oddly things we didn’t know we were missing for 23 years. Thankfully we have still kept many of our frugal ways so this challenge is the kick in the discretionary budget we need.

  13. After reading the comments on the FB page a few days ago, I thought ‘sheesh, people, read the blog’. This was very well done as a streamline, Mrs. FW.

  14. This was a very informative and helpful post. We began our first steps for UFM today by canceling a gym membership and a video-streaming service. We also canceled our CSA produce deliveries because we have really been struggling with food waste (and our local grocery store carries local produce that is significantly cheaper). I’m lucky that my husband is 100% on-board with the idea of UFM, especially since he may be going back to school in the next year, and seminary tuition is steep. Thanks for all the great tips and inspiration.

  15. So proud of you! BUT, I am going to write privately dear G.D. Have some interesting questions and a bit of sharing. Merry Christmas!

  16. Your blog inspired me to do my own clothing buying ban in 2016, the year is almost over and even though I bought 5 articles of clothing, I feel it was a great success. It changed the way I thought about a clothes. Those 5 items I really did need and used immediately and frequently – no more “great deals” that just hung in my closet! (I also purged about 40 % of my clothes before starting the ban) Here’s to another ban in 2017!

    So far for this challenge I’ve cut out Hulu! Barely miss it!

  17. I’m excited to try out some of the yoga videos you linked. I do love hot yoga in the winter though, so long term it may be only a partial substitute, unless I can get a sauna big enough for two people to do yoga in installed in my house! 🙂

  18. Yay! Signed up for the challenge. Will you have a private fb group where we can all connect and support each other?

  19. Thank you for your post! I quit my job three years ago when my third child was born. We had to become frugal because we cut our income in half. So there are not a lot of excessive spending. The problem happens when we have a big expense such as putting tires on the car when we don’t have that money. I’m gonna see what I can do to cut back and save more.

  20. My husband just called our internet/telephone provider (we don’t have cable) and advised them we were thinking of switching to their less expensive competitor, and they dropped their rate by $20 for the next six months. Amazing what you can get if you just ask politely!

  21. I’m kind of scared of failure, and I haven’t even started, but I know that I may have to do many uber frugal months until I reach my goals. I recently went from only having goodwill clothes, to allowing myself new things, and then it became an obsession. Like truly, confessions of a shopaholic. So now, I am trying to bring the reigns back in after having spent 2,000 on Christmas , and reset! and reflect! If I manage to save $1 this January, but get caught up in all of my debt payments it will be successful, but I have a feeling I need more of a reminder, so can you set the uber frugal emails to repeat for me for the next year??? I’m shaking in my boots, but I need a lifestyle change, bad. I went from donating 2016 in 2016 to replacing at least 100 unnecessary items, such as that new gold shirt I bought. 🙁 I regret it now, and plan to return it this coming weekend. I need HELP!!!! I rely on Frugalwoods to be the voice in my head. So thanks for the upcoming daily emails. And I’m going to get on all of these steps tonight!!!

    1. You can do this, Jessica! A fear of failure is not an excuse! I have confidence in you! Be sure to write down your answers to Step 1 and review those as often as you need to–every hour if it helps! Stay strong 🙂

  22. Signed up! Excited to share about this on my blog. I do monthly challenges like this quite often, but never alongside so many other people from around the globe. It will be nice to have all the group support cheering one another on!

  23. I’m excited to start the challenge! My hair caught fire this month. Found out I owe about $1200 in medical bills and $4000 to my divorce lawyer. Yowza. (Yep, I will be emptying out my HSA as soon as my employer funds it in January.) On a monthly income of less than $3K take-home pay.

    The only way up for me will be to find a full-time job. BUT I’m hoping the Uber Frugal Month challenge will help me (a) hang on until I get there and (b) put myself in a good position so that when I do land a better job, I will have my expenses so dialed-down that it will just be lots of money flowing into my savings.

    Side note: In a HCOL like Denver, joining a public rec center ($221 per year) can be a better option than making space in your home. 3 people in a 565 square foot apartment–nope, no room for a squat rack! And that $221 per year is WAY cheaper than a larger apartment!

    Side note #2: I WISH I had enough clothes to carry me through a few months. In reality, I have only 1 winter skirt that fits, 1 more I might be able to alter to fit, and all 3 pairs of pants I own (yes, I currently have only 4 functional bottoms) are sufficiently worn that they are becoming questionable work attire. Will definitely need to hit thrift store!

  24. I am going to start immediately by eating the food in my pantry! Thanks for reminding me to do that! I have several things that I didn’t end up using, for one reason or another, but now I have renewed incentive to do so!

  25. Sigh. I’m enthusiastic, but I’m also not sure how much more I can do!

    Aside from moving (I rent in a high COL area), I’m not sure what else to cut. I spend $1000-$1500 a month above my rent including about $250 for utilities in winter (it’s currently -9 degrees and the house is 60 degrees), about $75-150 a month on food max, $50 on gas, $100 or so on books for studying (not available at the library and very difficult to get on loan) and about $200 a month on charitable giving. The rest seems to go to what seem to me to be necessities- stamps, car repairs, bike parts, shampoo, detergent etc. Buying is not worth it in my area, and my hefty rent (an insane $2125 for a condo) is below market. I save money by not having pets or kids!

    My net after taxes, insurance, 401k etc is about 13-15k a month, and far and away my biggest expense is taxes.


    1. Have you considered exchanging your charitable giving in the form of money to perhaps your time instead? I am not sure if this is feasible as it sounds like you work and go to school (so do I, ain’t it fun ugh).

      Also, what is your profession that you are netting 13-15k a month? Teach me your ways… : )

      1. Yeah also wondering if that might be a typo – did you really mean $13,000 to $15,000 per month OR was it meant to be $1300-$1500? Because I’d say you’re probably doing quite alright if it’s the former!

        1. It’s $13000-$15000 a month- but what kills me is my gross is 24k! Hella taxes! I have a really, really hard job, though, with a VERY high burn-out rate, and it’s also hard to do after age 50 or so (which is fast approaching), so I have to save like crazy since I will basically be obligated to retire at 50, maybe 55. Since the the tax structure is biased in favor of earning low wages for a long time, not high wages for a short time, saving is doubly paramount!

          I give to charity via $$ because it allows me to go down a tax bracket.

          1. This is probably a silly question, but are you maxing out your 401(k) for the tax advantage?

            Just out of curiosity, do you have to pay out of pocket for healthcare? I’m contributing the maximum to my HSA which helps lower my pretax pay.

            Have you investigated other tax-advantaged investments? I’m not yet at that point, so probably shouldn’t offer my half-remembered advice 😉 but it would be worth looking into!

    2. Sounds like you’re doing pretty well, after rent. Sorry but the $200/month on charitable giving is obviously a discretionary expense. That would save $2400/year, more than one month’s rent. The $100 or so on books that you can’t get at the library – not sure what field you’re studying, but do you have classmates you could share books with, or a college that could lend out the books?

      How are you spending only $75-150/month on food in a high COL area? That’s pretty extreme. Rice and beans?

      A condo for $2125 in rent is par for the course in the San Francisco area, but if you’re anywhere else it’s generally possible to get an apartment (smaller or less fancy) for less than that, if you’re willing to consider the lifestyle change category.

      Still, sounds like you’re doing quite well on savings rate.

      1. I get free food at work which brings my expenses down to to probably $75 a month. Food IS expensive where I am but when I’m not working a lot it’s about $150 a month. I don’t know- I cook everything and don’t buy much prepackaged? Food is extremely cheap pretty much anywhere in the US (especially the coasts); what’s expensive is that most people waste half of it.

        My point with the charitable contributions was that I’m not spending much on food, clothes, or entertainment, not that I want to cut them. I would definitely consider a DAF, but I can’t really justify NOT contributing to charity at all with my current income.

        I live in a ski town- rents don’t get much lower as there is a severe housing shortage and it’s one of the ten richest counties in the US. Landlords can make a ton of money on nightly rentals so long-term leases are hard to come by. I’d rather pay more for rent as opposed to spending it on transportation from having a long car commute. In SF at least you have outlying areas reachable by transit. Here that’s impossible! My partner and I work opposite shifts so we HAVE to have two separate places to sleep and therefore we can’t live in a studio/one bedroom until retirement or neither of us would be able to sleep, and only studios are cheaper than what we are paying.

        I’m going to try and spend less on books by trying interlibrary loan AGAIN- they inevitably screw it up and don’t get the books on time. The books are fairly obscure and I’m not in class with other students so there’s no way to share, really. Maybe if I chat (again) with the librarians they will be more efficient!

        I appreciate all the advice.

  26. This has been a very helpful read! I’ve always thought it would be so much work to place all of our expenses on a spreadsheet in excel and track them, but just doing it now alongside your post I was really surprised by how little effort it involved. I did have a question – do you know of a program or application that is similar to Personal Capital that works for Canadians? I checked out PC and it doesn’t support the financial institutions I use. Manually tracking through excel seems simple enough, I think I can do this.

    1. I live in Colombia and am in the same boat. Turns out that after the first month of tracking, which took about 3-4 hours, I’m down to 2 hours max to download (7 accounts, two credit cards here, two US cards, PayPal, and 3 savings accounts… kind of a pain but it works for us!), separate and organize. My husband thinks it’s a game to try and figure out small purchases here that don’t have as much info as a US account. 🙂 We cut about 30% of our spending once I found this blog, which has been downright amazing!! Hope excel tracking goes well for you too!!

    2. Let me ask my Canadian personal finance friends and I’ll get back to you–I don’t know off the top of my head

  27. Great info and super concise! I’ve decided to try and hit a 75% savings rate this year, which I’ve already done the math and should be able to do (I think was around 65% in 2016). I will say deciding to get rid of my car in 2014 was a huge help and was the original reason I was able to initially boost my savings rate (even though my car was paid off and I lived a car-lite lifestyle for years before, it still surprised me how much insurance, snow tires, oil changes, etc. add up!). It probably helps that going shopping is much more of an effort and by keeping a list and going non-grocery shopping only a couples times a year really cuts down on my overall spending.

  28. Where are the frugal chefs out there?? I am a hopeless cook, but not a picky eater. Like the Frugalwoods I have oatmeal for breakfast everyday. But I need to find a way to up my fruits and veggies during the day. If you are already eating healthy AND frugally, do you mind sharing some recipes or tips??

    This is the second winter so far we have not had to turn on out heat. Thanks to living in an apt being surrounded by neighbors who crank theirs through the walls. Frugal win!

    Taking this challenge one day at a time and looking forward to hearing everyone’s wins. This is a great community and I am happy to be a part of this!

    1. Indian food. It’s easy to make ahead, the ingredients are super cheap and easily bought in bulk, and it’s full of fiber and fruits and veggies.

      “Vegetarian India” by Madhur Jaffrey and “Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking” by Julie Sahni will pay for themselves. Available online, as are all the spices needed. Maybe consider a class?

    2. I tend to cook my lunches for the following week all at once – for the past month I’ve been really enjoying on-sale winter squashes cut up, sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and spices (sometimes rosemary, sometimes salt/pepper, sometimes paprika) then roasted (I still always have to consult Chef Google for times). Sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese and sometimes dried cranberries or cherries (cheap at my Aldi) and yummo! It’s like a warm salad.

      When I have oatmeal I add berries and pecans, or diced apples that I simmered in a pot with some cinnamon until they were soft.

      I really love eating soups this time of year to get extra veggies in but haven’t made as many lately. Thank you for the inadvertent reminder 🙂

    3. Hey! I cook all our meals on weekends for the whole week as we both work. I’ve found the best way for me to eat vegetables consistently is to make soup. I picked up an electric pressure cooker, make stock, and then make three kinds of vegetable soup – carrot, asparagus, and beet and kale. Through trial and error have found that I like them pureed instead of chunky. I have some squash to use up so that will be my next soup. Love my Instant Pot!

  29. I admire all your reasons for being uber frugal but I don’t think my motivation will pass your test. I just want to stop spending because money causes me so much stress. I don’t want to think about it. I’m sure I should plan and ponder and set up my dreams for the future but really all I want is to rest from buying, budgeting, adding, subtracting. I’m sorry I don’t fit in. I wish I could figure out your joy. At first I was excited by this challenge and then it hit me that I’d have to think about money. Ugh. Sorry to fail before the test starts.

    1. I think you DO fit in this challenge, Ilene! Because not spending means less thinking about it. Even if there is some work/thinking on the front end.

    2. I don’t think you’re failing at all! Taking a break–in favor of frugality–is very fitting with this challenge :). The danger is when we ignore our money in favor of spending a lot more.

      1. Thank you for the encouraging words. I am going to “reset” my thinking and tell myself that I am instead, “Taking a break-in favor of frugality.”

    1. Yes! I so much agree with this — this is probably the most relatable and encouraging blog I’ve ever read even though my circumstances have been quite different.

      Are you just sick of the actual sit-down-thinking process but you have enough money in your budget? Or are you sick of the process because there’s not enough money? If it’s the first, this challenge might be perfect for you — don’t think about the end result, just focus on only spending on absolute barebones necessities. If it’s the second, I’ve been there, and it took me quite a few false starts to find a method that didn’t result in more anxiety and annoyance about money.

      Either way, I personally have found a ton of inspiration just by reading without actual doing a challenge on my own, so hopefully you’ll still find lots of ideas 🙂

      1. This really helps me. Thank you! I am a senior on a fixed income and I guess I am weary of always being “careful” but I am blessed to have enough and this is a good time to be reminded of that. I can see how restful it would be to think only of buying necessities…forget the word money which stresses me (I was once hurtfully poor) and think of my basic needs as simply as possible. Okay, you’ve got me back on track. Thanks again, katscratch!

    2. Thank you! In many ways, money is life–how we spent or don’t spend it dictates what type of life we’ll have.

  30. It’s definitely a long road to frugality for me. I’ve managed to quit using credit cards (I still keep them for emergencies) and switched to using cash for discretionary expenses, but I keep falling for really silly impulse purchases like designer cupcakes, especially at Christmas. Ugh. That frugal hound with the bananas just might be the inspiration I need for a frugal 2017, though.

  31. I’m excited for this challenge! Although I live in a constant “challenge everything” mindset, if I order something online, things already start going amiss. “I’ve got to make the free shipping” or more recently “I can’t order from this website unless I’m in Europe, so I better take advantage now, while I am here”. All of a sudden a lot of more things are “useful” or I’ve “needed it for a long time”. Thankfully in challenge mode there’s all of a sudden a switch that turns on and I just don’t buy ANYTHING. Groceries go below $50 (per person) right away, no new clothes, sobriety is easy and life goes on autopilot.

    I honestly attribute the “autopilot” to 2 things, 1. Practice and 2. My “Circle of Life” It’s so easy for me to be on autopilot because everything I’d need in my frugal life is within walking distance. There are no excuses because my most simple life is lead so easily. I have friends almost next door, cheap groceries are a 10min walk away, walking to work is exhilarating and I can do it in just 10min more than taking the bus. I also don’t have to own a car because everything is so nearby. Taking all of this into account makes it easy to be frugal and easy to put my energy where it actually matters.

  32. I live pretty frugal life (and always have- I was raised by parents who HAD to be frugal – I am lucky enough to CHOOSE it). BUT I have two teenage boys, so my life is somewhat dictated by their needs. I KNOW that frugal-baby is really little, and I also know (from experience) that being kid-frugal at the baby stage is actually kind of easy (they have no knowledge of what is going on money wise!). The one thing that I have a hard time with is the cost of my kids sports lives – they are both excellent athletes, and I am all about sports myself (playing and watching are my entertainment). The thing is, sports cost money! Some teams are reasonable (our town soccer program is around $100 a season) but some are more (they choose to play extra basketball and that can be $600-1000 a year, I want them to do this but it is sometimes hard to bit the bullet. Also,, like most towns, we have to pay for our kids to be on school sports teams in Arlington Ma – soccer, basketball and track each run $300-400 a season per kid. Those teams, and a few non-school (town) teams, means that I am spending upward of $3500 a year on sports (and that is just fees – this does not include clothing or things like soccer goalie gloves (one kid is a goalie). I guess I am just wondering if you have thought ahead about things like this or if you have any expensive hobbies that you have come to terms with? In my case, I can afford it (because I make a good salary, live below my means, have no debt other than mortgage and have inherited the frugal gene), and I want my kids to play sports because they are good at it, it keeps them healthy and out of trouble, and it allows them to be part of great teams, doing what their friends do. Just pondering how others deal with this issue- more about coming to terms with it than actually affording it!

    1. Hi Monica: You bring up a great point here! So what I’ve heard from other frugal parents of teens is that finding used sports equipment is key–from garage sales, thrift stores, and Craigslist. More importantly, I think that your kids’ sports are an example of spending in service of your values–you value their participation, as do your kids. Hence, I’d look for ways to frugalize other aspects of your life. Living a life of joyful extreme frugality isn’t about cutting out every last expense–it’s about prioritizing. So, for example, perhaps the trade-off is that you pay for your kids to play sports, but you don’t take them out to dinner after a game. We, for example, love to hike and so have spent money on hiking gear over the years. It’s all about answering the questions in Step 1 and then identifying the areas where you’re not spending in service of your goals and your family’s goals. I hope this helps!

  33. Great post and so many ideas. I have had a look at our December spend, the mandatory and discretionary split is useful. It looks like our main areas for cutting back are groceries (>£500 per month for 3 adults in household – UK) and eating out. Will be going though other areas in detail!

  34. Eating the food you have in the house rather than eating out. What a novel concept. We are trying to maximize that concept. A lot of work lies ahead of us starting the garden, the orchard and berry patch. We did have a sucessful fall. Hubby put three deer in the freezer. So we are going to be eating a lot of venison. And he keeps the thermostat at 60, turns it down to 55 when we leave the house. He is doing a few projects around the house, diy insourcing, and he does great work. First year costs in the homestead were higher than we expected and the cold temps have made some be put on hold until the spring. The nice thing about planning to be frugal is that if you make a mistake and spend more than you should have, you dont need to repeat the same mistake. Each decision each day lets us take control over our lives. Just because you had failures in the past do not mean you need to keep repeating them my sister-in-law almost had her car repossessed for not making payments. She still keeps on spending more than she can afford. Getting her nails done every other week and the rediculous amount that she spends eating out 2-3 nights a week make me cringe. I am hoping that sharing this article with her might give her some ideas to get her spending reigned in. Any little bit will help.

  35. Your blog has really helped my family fine tune our finances – so much so that we are now able to finance my husband’s master degree program ourselves after one year of frugal living! I’d love to get some input from other mom’s with children regarding frugal options for children’s lessons (art, music, sports). My daughter wants to take violin. I found a lady who is willing to do lessons every other week (thus each month’s expense is a little less.) I’d love her to take art and gymnastics too, but costs add up and it’s not very frugal!

  36. Our first month living together we were doing frugal to the max! I don’t know what has changed since then, but we’ve let things slip hard! I can’t wait to get back on track again

  37. I think frugality takes time and I totally agree that once you become frugal you likely won’t go back to your old ways. I do think you should be setting yourself SMART goals along the way though, otherwise it’s hard to keep track of your progress.

  38. My mortgage, including taxes and insurance is $372 a month, so I do not think I can get that reduced anymore, and I realize that is an fabulous mortgage (if you are going to have one) for even our low cost area of the country. My car payment is also $320 a month. I do not have a gym, internet at the house (I just use my cheap $38 smart phone, or the library), nor a tv. I also always eat at home, and do not eat very much meat or dairy. However, I do have a weakness, I give money to two of my grown kids all the time, for their electricity, their water bill, etc. It is not my expenses that kill me, it is my weakness involving some of my grown children. I am going to have to curb this, if I am ever going to have any savings. They drain me dry, financially, to the tune of at least $800 a month. Yes, big problem.

    1. Have you ever read The Millionaire Next Door? I thought of that book when reading your post, because he talks about the effect of parent’s helping their kids (hint, their studies showed negative outcomes to the kids). I certainly don’t know all your or your kid’s situation, but that might be helpful for your perspective.

    2. Sounds like you already know the answer, Cindy.
      It isn’t really helping them if they know you will bail them out each month, and by so much!
      I recommend you borrow the book Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend from the library and have a read.
      Cut the purse strings (kindly let them know first) and give them the gift of learning to be financially independent and responsible for themselves.
      That extra $800/month could be going towards paying off your mortgage early, or working for you by the magic of compounding interest in your retirement savings.
      Wishing you all the best.

    3. Sounds like an easy fix to me! Just notify them that as of January 1st, you will no longer be able to pay for their utilities! You are NOT doing them any favors in that way – you are being an enabler! It’s not like they are starving to death! They really do need to learn how to take care of themselves, as you will not be around forever!

  39. Awesome and very motivating write up! I’ve completed the fixed mandatory section of my budget and I’m at $2332 – not including my $500 monthly student loan payment. I live in Toronto so rent is quite high ($1690 plus utilities for a 2 bedroom). I’m curious what others are coming in at for their fix mandatory costs. Am I way about the norm? Thanks!

  40. I am working on my homework! My biggest expense other than groceries is my grooming habits! I loathe my naturally wavy, thick hair and pay to have it blown out twice a week. Honestly, it will be a big struggle for me to accept my hair as it is. It sounds so silly, I am not blind to real issues in our world and I am embarrassed to admit this publicly but I really struggle with this. So silly. So, so silly. It’s a big reason I am signing up for this challenge, I need to value ME, as I am and as others actually see me, hair curly or not! Your blog is helping, so thank you. This challenge will kick my rear, I can’t wait!

    1. I love this!! (as a challenge aspect I mean) and I don’t think it’s silly at all! It’s tough to undo years of cultural conditioning, whether it’s money habits or appearance expectations.

        1. Hey Cari – as a fellow curly who has learned to embrace my waves and curls, check out Lorraine Massey’s book Curly Girl (maybe you can find it at your library or used on Amazon). It is not an exaggeration to say it changed my life by teaching me how to care for my hair so that it can reach its potential for beauty and health.

          1. Maybe not as frugal in the long term, but another option to look into is Japanese chemical hair straightening. I get it done about every 10 months at AU$260 and hair becomes sooo easy to deal with with hardly any effort required. I just straight iron the roots for 5 min each morning after it starts growing out. I used to get blow outs every week too so I feel your pain! This has been a good middle ground.

    1. Hi Sarah–it’s not too late! You should’ve received the email by now. If you haven’t, check your spam folder.

  41. Aah man…I just signed up for internet connection so I can use Netflix and Showmax (South African)…now I have a 2 year internet contract and I shan’t be streaming. This is harder than I thought but I shall soldier on.

  42. Happy new year! I started the morning by signing up for extra services at my job to bring In an additional $800 by end of spring- I will have to give up 4 weekends but it will be worth it.
    My biggest challenge this month will be to eat from my pantry and freezer, I intend to not grocery shop for 2 weeks if possible. I am aghast at food waste in my house and this challenge is going to jumpstart this New Years resolution of mine to stop food waste in my life.

  43. I am a little late to join 🙂 But when my husband lost his job last year we had to start really re-evaluating our financial situation so we have started making a lot of the changes you mention but there is always room for improvement. We have started tracking our expenses honestly and there is a lot of room for us to improve them!
    Excited to be on this journey!

  44. Hi Mrs. Frugalwoods! Just a brief note to tell you that your affiliate link to Personal Capital doesn’t work. In the past, I have tracked my income and expenses in a simple spreadsheet, but now, with your advice, I’ll try Personal Capital 🙂 Thanks!

  45. Hmm, I don’t have a facebook account and don’t particularly want one. Not sure where to post questions otherwise so I’ll try here. I ended up with 2 mandatory categories…one for the things that can’t be changed easily and one for things that might be able to be changed (and of course a large additional category for the discretionary stuff). Mandatory/not easily changed is mortgage, property taxes, home insurance, health insurance, auto registration, city trash collection, city sewer charge, and child support. Mandatory/might be changed is annual sprinkler backflow valve testing and blowout, auto insurance, electricity bill, natural gas bill, water bill, groceries, and doctor stuff like dental cleanings, eye exams and new lenses (we reuse frames), chiropractor, dermatologist annual exam, hormones, and tests for hormone levels.

    I’m open to challenges on categorizing these. Would you place some of these in just mandatory/not easily changed and others in discretionary. Groceries goes in discretionary I guess. Pondering all this. I’d love anyone’s thoughts though I think everyone’s moved on to other posts so not many will see this. 🙁


    1. Hi Catherine! So in general, anything that you can control the cost of (such as groceries or a water bill) is Discretionary. Things you can’t control the cost of (or not easily anyway) such as a mortgage goes in Mandatory. I hope this helps!

  46. Just found you on Clark Howard’s site….very interesting reading here….haven’t read half of it yet…..a lot of links too, checking them out too…..interesting….

    Could you please email me the 7-9 emails for this mo. that I have missed……I find all of this really interesting…..

    Am looking for a way to make my cable bill a lot less:) I think $140.00 mo. is just too expensive for really no more than I watch it….I wanted FOX so I could keep up with the election, was paying close to 70.00, without Fox, so looks like in order to keep Fox, I need to pay the full amount and I resent that. I watch no sports or have no movie channels, thought about signing up for one of these other things like Hulu, etc. but all I have called on none has any news…..and that is what I am most interested in…. Maybe you or one of the readers on here can give me some advice, maybe they know more that is out there than I do…..

    Looking forward to reading all of the links and all the comments on here….they are really interesting….

    BTW, your little girl is so pretty……and looks like you live in a beautiful place….great for a young family…….

    Thanks, Mona.

  47. We ourselves live fairly frugal lives but we have one thorn in our sides and that is health insurance. We own our own business so we must purchase our own insurance for our family of four. We are on zero medications and rarely visit the dr and yet our premium is 1200/month for an 11,000 deductible. Once you retire what is your plan for covering your health insurance? We need some advice. Thank you!

  48. In the email I received today (I think it is day 5 of my uber frugal month) you wrote about getting on the same page with your partner. You apologized to all of us who are single for writing something that doesn’t apply. But I say YES, it does apply because all of the points you mention could be used as guidelines for CHOOSING a partner in the first place! Thank you and I look forward as a newbie to being part of the Frugalwoods community. BTW, was referred to you folks by Donna Freedman @ Surviving and Thriving.

  49. Thank you 🙂
    I feel so empowered to start this journey. I started this week with reducing the $ I took to our farmer’s market and our other grocery store and looked through the pantry & fridge first. This was nothing new for me, but I did it with a different mindset, a frugal mindset! I’ve reduced our weekly food bill by 1/2 with this mindset, so easy! I’ve calculated my fixed costs and am ready to go! I feel so good, I know that within only 1 month, I’ll be significantly back on top. I really appreciated the reminder about long term goals, to guide making this achievable. Cutting out my takeaway coffee habit is going to be a big one for me. It’s become a ‘necessity’, rather than a treat. But the ‘frugal month’ is definitely achievable! Haircuts at home today too! Thanks again, you are truly a beautiful person for sharing your ideas 🙂

  50. This may seem mundane, but I’m basically doing this to be financially solvent. I’m a single mom (totally single, no child support, etc.) with a tun of debt, no house and very few savings. I basically started this challenge unofficially a few months ago and am doing really well on some levels, unfortunately for the next few months I don’t see it being enough. All kinds of stuff happened BEFORE I managed to build up the savings to take care of them – car issues, computer issues and so on. I guess I feel I have to do this challenge (I’ve already cut a huge amount off my bills, including my food bill), but it’s been rough going. I’m sticking with it even though I can’t say I see the results. With this challenge I am able to fund a lot of the things in my life (things like childcare, not soda) , but still dependent on help and savings, which annoys me to no end.
    I guess it’s also a mood swing thing. One minute I’m like “I’m going to kill this!” and the next I dissolve in to tears because I feel that no matter what I do, it will never work.
    I’m also very overwhelmed by this change in my thought process. Save, cut, invest, make more, don’t make more, passive income…I’m at the very begging and I have no idea how I’ll be able to do all of this, and it’s very discouraging.
    I guess I wish I was doing this because I felt I had a choice. The choice of course being that I could take it or leave it, but I want to challenge myself, vs. I have to do this to pay rent.
    What I will say that I think I’m a frugal person in a billionaire’s wallet. I know things are a stupid waste of money, but I throw caution to the wind and imagine I can have it all.
    So I’m super, SUPER emotional about staring this challenge. What the emotions are depends of the time of minute you catch me at….

    1. Don’t worry, there’s more of us out there than you think! I’m also a single-income single-parent, no child support mother of two and recently came off the same boat: I separated from my partner last year, hopped into my dad’s basement with both kids, and starting rebuilding my life. In that time to name a few I had been completely dependent on my dad for the first few months until I got a job, caught up on bills and stabilized, my car kicked the bucket and I had no choice but to get a bad-credit car loan on a used car (I’m paying double what it’s worth until I save enough to hit the buyout and end it all), and the timeline on my goals are enough to make me break down because things like my kids will be grown before I can own a house! The stress and fears are overwhelming, and often.

      Having to depend on help and use your savings is painful. I just remind myself that I’m lucky to even have the help and marginal amount of savings – lives are destroyed, families dissolved and people are put on the streets because they don’t have this uncomfortable fortune. In fact, I highly recommend searching for the help! Using every assistance available will help you get a leg up and higher on your ladder towards independence. A small ego sacrifice now is worth the freedom at the end of the road. I’m currently utilizing everything my province has to offer – subsidized childcare, tax benefits, income supplements for low income families, rent subsidy, food bank, low-income housing, reduced fees on swimming pools and entertainment for low income families, heck the city even started a free bike program where they just GIVE you a free bike if you fill out a paper and bring it in! Eventually with a lot of careful dedication to your goals and relentless planning ahead, you will need help less and less. I still need it occasionally but once you get going, the snowball keeps rolling. And eventually, the snowball of cash starts growing too and it’s evermore encouraging to keep cutting your expenses (or just following through with those planned cuts) to make it go faster.

      I hope some encouragement helps! You’re on the right track. 🙂

  51. Just finished the Step 1 questions and had an explosive epiphany: My goal isn’t financial at all! It’s to live an authentic, intention-driven life. My life-long resistance to consumerism is entirely about not wanting to get sucked into the “buy happiness” mentality. I’m really excited about understanding this. Thank you for the clarity! As you suggested, I’m much more motivated now that I see what it is that I want.

  52. I tried this challenge in January but within the first two days regarded every e-mail as a minor annoyance that reminded me of my spendy ways. However, I recently had a major mind shift and have decided that this time I will rigorously follow through with it. Unlike last time, I actually sat down with my husband and answered every Challenge question and received several shocking (but good) responses! (He wants to someday have his own woodworking shop. I had no idea! But I definitely want to help him achieve that goal.) I have also actually outlined all of our expenses and was shocked at just how much money we could be saving but aren’t. I was also rather uncomfortable with how much debt we still have left to pay off. It’s a lot less than most people, I’m sure, but I still dislike it.
    This UFM comes right as I am getting a five day vacation from work (around the 4th of July weekend) which I fully plan on spending at home tackling (and maybe even eliminating some) our unnecessary clutter both materialistic and financial. I was already eagerly anticipating my vacation for this reason alone but to know the UFM will be happening as well really gives me motivation.

    1. I am so excited to hear this! And, you hit on the crucial point of the UFM in your conversations with your husband: it’s ALL about your longterm goals. The money stuff is just secondary :). Good luck and I’m so happy you’re joining us!!

  53. Great info! I was surprised that you didn’t list in your resources for getting things free. It may not be as widespread as Craigslist, but I often find that people are more reliable on the local Freecycle list. We also have a neighborhood group called NextDoor where people can post things for free.

  54. Personal Capitol question:
    I am not comfortable hooking up my credit cards, bank accounts and other accounts to this, or any other, online service. Is there any benefit to using it without doing that? What other personal financial software options are out there?

  55. This challenge couldn’t come at a better time. Over the past three months, my partner and I have made a budget, stuck to said budget, paid off over $2300 in debt, and saved more than $2000. I am driven to pay off our $75K in debt and save for the things we really want. I’m hoping this challenge will allow us to save more than we’d expected to save.

  56. Amazing grace mrs and mr frugal, I salute you….I’ve really enjoyed reading the above post as there’s so much information and guidance thank you….now I’m about to follow in your footsteps one day at a time.

  57. This is something that I want to try.
    I grew up with my grandma and she was really into reusing and saving every penny, because of this I always been on the other side. wanting to spend money and get expensive things and the joy that shopping brings me. Now, that I’m older and a mom I realized that those things were unnecessary but, I really don’t want my daughter to go through the same things as me. dwelling on an expensive over the top life because I was surrounded with people who focused on saving. That’s my fear going into this.

  58. Ahhhh. Found you. So look forward to this challenge. Please send me the emails. I thank you for the time and challenge.

    1. You can sign-up for the Challenge by putting your email address in the box in the post. Thanks so much for taking the Challenge :)!

  59. I did the challenge last year and continued tracking my expenses all year. There were several times that I wasn’t sure what category to put a purchase. I’m just using my own spreadsheet. Where would I put a Halloween costume? Face lotions & potions? A rug & lamp? I have a category for household items, like light bulbs, cleaners & all the household items I buy mostly at Target. I’ve thought that is the category that might be a fit for the rug & lamp. I was also putting my face lotion in that category, but now after spending $75 on makeup & beauty supplies, I’m wondering if I should have a separate category.

    1. I have a category called “Personal Care” where I put expenses for skin care, hair cuts/coloring, etc. They can add up, so it’s helpful to see them separately and get an idea about your average monthly spend for those things. For household items, I put them in two distinct categories: Home Maintenance and Home Improvement… so anything like cleaning supplies, lawn care supplies, etc. go under Maintenance and purchases like furniture or major projects like building a new fence are considered Improvements.

  60. I signed up – I need all the reinforcements I can get as I’m starting a 2018 year of no shopping (other than groceries and gas). I’m trying to surround myself with like-minded people – virtually – and blogging about the experience periodically to keep myself on track.

    1. You can sign-up by putting your email address into one of the boxes located in the body of the post above, or you can sign-up by clicking on this link.

    1. You can sign-up by putting your email address into one of the boxes located in the body of the post above, or you can sign-up by clicking on this link.

    1. You can sign-up by putting your email address into one of the boxes located in the body of the post above, or you can sign-up by clicking on this link.

  61. Thanks for an amazing guide on how to save money!
    I redid my budget a couple of months ago using your template and I have saved 1.764 USD so far.
    I never thought I could save so much money!

  62. I found your website after searching online for ways to bulk up my savings account. I’m 28 and going through a divorce with a 3 year old. I had to move in with my parents bc paying for daycare full-time sucks up all of my money! I had managed to pay off about $4k in about 5 months to eliminate a lot of old debt from my previous marriage! And I was insanely proud, but my savings account was depressing… So I took a look at your blog and re-evaluated my spending habits. Which is mostly reward based and habitual instead of useful. I made a couple of changes, and am already spending less! I’m hoping to continue the frugal methods until I save up enough to buy my own house! (I already have a savings plan and my employer is going to start offering a 401k plan soon!) I’m in a much better place and I’ve already started spreading the word about your ideas. 🙂

    1. That is wonderful, Emilie! Congratulations to you!! I’m so glad to hear this! Stay strong and hang in there 🙂

  63. Hi from Dubai. I went on an unusual shopping mode over the weekend as the Dubai summer surprise shopping season has started. Almost all of it was impulse buys and I regret most of it. Also ended up making a very expensive purchase this morning. Feeling very guilty after all that. Now I have joined this challenge mainly because I dont want to bring anymore stuff inside my tiny home. Its annoying and frustrating to declutter every once in a while. Thank you for this challenge and I am really hoping to make an everlasting change for the better. ❤️

  64. I have tallied my Personal Capital expenses.. since April… and I see I spend about half on “discretionary” entertainment… granted: I was (a) doing lots of travel, (b) not trying to curb or substitute my spending… so there’s LOTS of room to build my Frugal muscles. Of course, maybe I am reading the Personal Capital wrong: when it says this month I am -145 in a category, is that what I spent or did I spend $145 less so far than last month?

  65. Just found you FrugalWoods and signed up for the UFM for January 2019. And just read this post. Whew! Super stoked, here I go….next step to FREEDOM!

  66. Hi we are really trying to get out of debt and just starting journaling and planning on doing a budget and want to be debt free as soon as possible in every way possible.and want to spend the very least amount of money as possible

  67. Thank you for this post and for sharing your struggles and thoughts with us. I am naturally frugal, but have started exploring deeper levels of frugality with more intentionality after listening to ChooseFI and reading several of your posts. I have switched auto insurance (to the tune of $700 savings/year), decided to eliminate eating out entirely, am working on a plan to telework one day a week to reduce childcare costs, and pursue more free entertainment options. I especially love the wait 72 hour rule! It is magical! One item on my reoccurring expenses list is my Amazon Prime membership, now at $119/year. I use Amazon for shopping (mostly gifts, household items, books I can’t get at the library). I noticed you recommend Amazon as something you use, and in fact you got your mattress shipped for free. Have you found the approximate $11 per month is worth it when you account for the shipping cost you might otherwise have to pay?

    1. Hi Julia,
      I don’t have an Amazon prime membership but I never pay for shipping. I order things bundled together for more than $35 and thus pay no shipping. Sometimes the limit is only $25. Now, these items don’t get to me in 2 days, but they are almost always delivered within the week that I order them. Something to consider when deciding whether to pay the $11 per month fee.

  68. I really appreciate all this helpful, free info! And I love how you’ve been very clear about your own privilege and how it affects frugality in past posts. I’d love to see it called out here again though. In my area, a person needs to make twice the minimum wage to afford a two-bedroom apartment. Moving to a lower-cost area involves of course finding a new job (probably at a lower wage) and significant costs to move, which are out of reach for many people. Getting the education needed for a better-paying job requires money for tuition, child care, transportation, and time (which the person working one or more minimum wage jobs has in short supply!). The continued concentration of wealth among the upper 1% means that frugality is simply not an option to many in the United States. Not to mention our broken health care system and the high costs associated with medical care for many. I know you aren’t responsible for this system and certainly can’t fix it, but calling it out and recognizing the realities that poor people face would be much appreciated. Thanks again for the times you have done this already!

  69. This is my first time leaving a comment and I am enthusiastic about this time around. I am getting older and it seems that there are so many surprises happening however I am confident about this change. This is can be done and I intend on doing my absolute best. As it has been stated I appreciate all the time and education out there for this challenge.
    I wish the best success to all the Frugalwoods out here for this challenge.

  70. Well, I am not exactly answering the RIGHT question, but I figured I HAD to start my Uber Frugal Month with this update: The 2007 Prius is in the shop, with 240K miles on it and in need of at LEAST $5500.00 worth of repairs (some of the repairs need to be made before the mechanics can investigate further to potentially find more problems). So… here’s my dilemma: ditch the Prius and buy a ‘new to us’ used car for as cheap as possible cash or pay the $5500.00+ to repair the Prius. Thoughts?

    1. Tough decision. I really loved my Prius but then after about 5 trips to First Auto and around the same amount spent that you’re contemplating spending I jumped the Prius ship. The electrical problems were crazy. The mechanics got computer read outs they’d never seen before. We’d replaced the big battery ourselves (YouTube videos and it wasn’t that hard) but then more problems occurred. So I bought a $6500 Honda Civic (2009) from a co-worker who upgraded after a second baby. The Civic had about 80K miles on it and I’ve now got 120K miles on it 3.5 years later. The Prius was great for many years but the Honda’s a simpler car and honestly, until we buy a fully electric vehicle, I love it. If you get your Prius fixed for $5500, great. If the mechanics find more, I’d consider a new to me car, Prius or otherwise.

  71. Hi there from Rachael in Cumbria England. I think you are absolutely brilliant and I’ve enjoyed spending a morning reading your website. So many useful words and ideas. You are a genius!

  72. Even older kids can enjoy used gifts. I have a teen who has enjoyed thrift and antique stores from a very small age. She likes books I always encourage friends/family to get her used ones (even on Amazon) so it saves them money and she would appreciate it. Occasionally during the year we get her things that are new (we bought her Beats headphones last year after she used the ones I was given constantly – she also uses them for sensory problems when we go out) but we do try to get used when possible and she takes care of and appreciates the things she does have.

  73. Like Cla, I’m happy to be back here too!!! As far as this frugal challenge, I would like to hear ideas on how our current inflation rate figures into a frugal life esp for folks living in their retirement years. Thanks in advance!!! And Thank You for all you do to help us all!!!

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