A girl and her hound

There’s no perfect time to start being frugal. Come to think of it, there’s no perfect time to start doing anything! Life, by its very definition and practice, is messy, imperfect, laden with surprises both quotidian and profound, and undeniably averse to our best laid plans. And that, my friends, is perfectly fine.

Frugality doesn’t magically descend upon your life in a crystal moment of divine, idyllic proportion where everything on your to-do list is complete, all of your children (and pets and partners and roommates) are behaving graciously with excellent manners, and you look like a super model chiseled from stone.

No, I’m sorry to say, that’s not how it works. Rather, frugality infuses into your imperfect, normal life at the precise moment that you decide to allow it to happen. You could spend years–YEARS, I tell you–waiting for an ephemeral, non-existent moment of perfection to commence your frugality journey. Or, you could just get off your butt and start right now.

Congrats To Our July Uber Frugal Month Challenge Participants!

Today is the last day of our July Uber Frugal Month Group Challenge (UFM) and I want to offer a hearty congratulations to the thousands of frugal acolytes who participated in this month’s Challenge and charted their way to a healthier relationship with their finances. More than 19,500 folks have taken the UFM to date and you can sign-up to start at any time. We take the Challenge as a group twice a year–in January and July–but you can take it on your own any old time you want.

June on the homestead: a massive rhubarb crop!

I received quite a few messages from folks about how they couldn’t take the Challenge in July (or back in January) because of any number of life events they felt would prevent them from donning the mantle of frugality: vacations, new babies, weddings, kids being out of school/in school, home renovations, and the list goes on. But the entire point of embracing the wholesale frugality that I peddle is that you make frugality work for you no matter your circumstances.

Frugality doesn’t happen to the exclusion of the rest of your life–it happens concurrent with your real, messy, wonderful life. Successful, joyful, longterm frugality–which is what I practice and preach–is continuous, daily, and constant no matter what else might be happening in your world. Frugality blankets your life, becoming a comfortable lens through which you view the world. It doesn’t happen on the sidelines, it permeates everything you do. My worldview is frugality; ergo, everything I do is frugal.

They Day I Decided To Be Frugal

Was a very ordinary day. In fact, as I made my decision, I was sitting in a coffee shop with my husband drinking a latte and eating a scone I’d purchased for a very hipster-like, un-frugal sum of circa $11. So, you know, maybe not what you’d immediately think of as the birthplace for a worldwide movement of extreme frugality. But hey! It’s where I was and it’s when I started.

Me drinking a latte! Sorry about the cupcake face… it’s a holdover from when we were anonymous here on the blog and I’m too lazy to re-edit the photo. Just sayin.

It was March 29, 2014 and it was the day Mr. Frugalwoods and I decided to change our lives. We were unfulfilled and unhappy with our spendy city lifestyle of working all the time and spending money in a futile effort to make ourselves feel better about our lives. We realized that, rather than mete out money every week trying to soothe our discontent, we needed to simply (hah!) change everything about our lives.

We wanted to move out of the city, live on a homestead in the woods, and quit our traditional office jobs, all of which we did in May 2016. We started on our plan that very day. That moment, in fact. We had plans to go out for dinner that very night and we cancelled them. Instead, we stayed in, ate a frozen pizza, and started reviewing all of our finances in order to calculate how much we’d need to save and how long it would take us to reach our goal. It wasn’t like we chose some ideal, pre-ordained time to get started, it was just some random Saturday in March where we decided we’d had enough with living a life we didn’t enjoy.

There’s nothing to gain in delaying your start on a goal. What does that get you? Lost time, regret, wasted effort. If you want to change something in your life, start now and don’t look back. You have nothing to lose by tackling a goal immediately, but you have quite a lot to lose by continuing in a pattern that makes you unhappy and doesn’t drive at your true purpose.

This mentality extends to quite a few things other than how you manage your money–you could apply this approach to how you eat, how you exercise, your personal relationships, and more. Right now, I’m applying this principle to my herculean (if I do say so myself) effort to clean out our wretched pit of a basement. So trust me, this is an ongoing philosophy you can bring to bear in your life over and over and over again (I have to re-learn this lesson, oh, every few months or so… ).

I’m Frugal No Matter What

Our first family photo, taken by the nurses in the NICU, where Babywoods spent her first week of life.

The frugality that we practice is one of consistency no matter what else happens in our lives. And quite a few things have happened in the intervening three years since committing to living out extreme frugality.

Here’s a brief list:

  • We had a baby, something notoriously considered ridiculously expensive but which we found a way to frugalize to the extreme. Our daughter is now almost two(!!!!), thriving, happy, and totally oblivious to the fact that we spend barely a dime on her.
  • We bought a new house and moved, another commonly touted over-the-top expense. And yeah, we spent more money the month we moved than we did the month before we moved, but we maintained our ethos of frugality throughout.
  • We’ve gone on vacation. Quite a few vacations, in fact. But we spend very little on these delightful jaunts because we apply our lens of frugality to everything we do.
  • We’ve celebrated anniversaries, birthdays, family weddings and parties, and countless other life milestones. Here again, our frugality guides our spending and facilitates our enjoyment of these events without spending a load of dough.

These are some high water marks of the past three years but we’ve had countless other normal things happen to us like car repairs, illnesses, unexpected home repairs, vet bills for Frugal Hound, stupid mistakes, etc. Throughout it all, our philosophy of frugality coursed through our decision-making (most of which is chronicled here on Frugalwoods) and enabled us to weather these storms with nary a scratch to our net worth.

So Wait, You Never Spend Money?

Quite the contrary! Frugality doesn’t mean you never spend money, it means you only spend money on things that matter to you. It means you are conscious of your spending and aware of your longterm aspirations and how they align with your spending. What the Uber Frugal Month challenges you to do is identify your goals. Not just your goals for tomorrow or next month, but for the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years. When you know what you want out of life–what you truly want to do with your time on earth–molding your spending to match those priorities becomes a straightforward proposition.

What frugality did for us: a homestead in the woods

The minute Mr. FW and I articulated our dream of moving to a homestead in the woods and quitting our jobs, it became–dare I say–easy to give up our pointless spending on road-bump opiates like lattes, clothes, and fancy haircuts. That stuff didn’t hold a candle to our hope of one day living in nature, working side by side on our land. And your goal probably isn’t to move to a homestead in the woods, but I’m willing to bet you want more out of life than simply slogging through it as a mindless consumer. You have dreams. You have goals. So start spending your money in service of those aspirations. Prioritize what you want your money to do for you and then only part with it when you truly want to. When what you’re buying facilitates those deep-seated hopes.

Identify what you want to do with your life and your money will follow. Spend on your values; let the rest fall away. When you reach that point, you are frugal for life because you’ll realize there’s no other way to live. Frugality yields tremendous benefits beyond merely saving money and when you unlock that magic? There’s no turning back. You’re in it. But in order to get there, you have to start. You have to put in the hard work upfront.

These days, my frugality is easy. I rarely even think about it, it’s so ingrained in my daily actions. But it wasn’t that way from day one. People, I had to first physically remove myself from the chic coffee shop I was sitting in (drinking latte; eating scone) in order to get started. Clearly I had some work to do. The first month is the hardest, which is why I created the Uber Frugal Month Challenge. If you can get through an Uber Frugal Month–and actually complete all of the exercises and read all of the emails and posts–then you are golden. You will have all of the tools, resources, and motivation you need to make a permanent, lasting change in how you manage your money.

But What If Something Expensive Happens To Me????!!!!

The kitchen in our Cambridge house, where all our appliances decided to die at at the same time…

Don’t stress, I can almost guarantee it’s going to. I am in the fortunate position of receiving mountains of feedback from Uber Frugal Month participants, which I love reading!!!!! A recurrent theme are panicked emails about an expensive, aberrational thing that popped up. A car repair, a broken water heater, an unexpectedly complicated birth of a child, a dog’s illness, etc. And my response is always that it’s OK. These things are the stuff of life. Pretending that expensive, random events will never occur is folly of the worst proportion.

Accept and acknowledge that something expensive is gonna happen to you at some point. Sometimes–as happened with the revenge of our appliances last year–all in the same month. Don’t stress about it. Just because one expensive thing happens doesn’t mean you’re doomed to non-frugality in perpetuity. Extrapolating one expensive event as an excuse to spiral into an abyss of overspending is very much a ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ situation. Pay for the thing and move on. Don’t wallow in grief and comfort yourself with a new pair of shoes and a dinner out. Pay for the thing and move on. One expensive episode does not a budget break (or make). Pay for the thing and move on.

Frugality, here again, will help you weather this storm–whatever it may be–in two fabulous ways:

  1. Since frugality is ingrained in your psyche, you’ll look for the most economical method of dealing with the problem. For example, let’s say your car dies an irreconcilable death and you need another vehicle. Since you’re frugal, you won’t rush out and buy a new car on financing. Rather, you’ll search for a reliable used car–which you can pay cash for–and that’ll cost you a fraction over the lifetime of the vehicle (here’s a full post on that math).
  2. Springtime rain clouds over our homestead

    Since you’re frugal, you’ll have enough money on hand to deal with the problem. Frugal people have more money saved up than they need. Hence, when something catastrophic occurs, we don’t have to go into debt in order to cope with the issue. We simply withdraw cash from our robust account and take care of the issue. We pay for it and we move on.

Frugality = An Endless Gift You Give To Yourself

Frugality compounds goodness in your life–you spend less money so you have more money and you don’t have to stress about money because you don’t need very much of it in order to live the good life, but hey, you have more of it anyway! You can only get to this place if you start now.

So if you skipped out on the Uber Frugal Month Challenge in July, or last January, now’s your chance to take it. You can sign up for the free UFM at any time–today included–and start right away with charting a path towards a happier, more sustainable future. And oh yeah, you’ll save a ton of money! Don’t wait for a perfect time to start–it’ll never come.

Did you participate in the July UFM? How was it? How do you combat the desire to wait for the ‘perfect’ time to get started on a new project?

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  1. Great advice Mrs. Frugalwoods! And not only does it not come down and strike you until you decide to make the change, you can’t expect your habits to change overnight. It’s about accumulating win and win and staying consistent with the goal. One step at a time accomplishes a lot more than attempting to overhaul everything immediately.

    Can’t believe Babywoods is almost two! It’s almost time for her to get a new name!

      1. How about Bumbershoots! Kind of organic and natural??? I think they should put this up as a possible contest…lol

  2. One of the big realization around frugality for me over the past few years (and during the Uber Frugal Month) is how flexible it can be. Life will continue to happen and the unexpected will creep up. But frugality is not a rigid set of rules one must adhere to, it is a framework that informs our approach and decisions going forward. So while it can be frustrating when things go awry, unexpected expenses hit, or there is a more pricey month due to circumstances/events, that does not negate frugality or mean that frugality does not apply. It is hard to see it that way sometimes, but it helps to keep me consistent when I see frugality as applicable at all times, not just when it is convenient and fits more naturally. Thank you for putting on the challenge again! I am excited to see it will be offered year round now 🙂

  3. Like you there is no perfect time. I always try to jump in whenever I feel like I’ve had enough. I know a ton of people like to wait for the New Year to change whatever bad habits that they have but I’ve always been of the mindset if I can change it now I might as well do it now. So taking action in the moment when I have momentum has worked for me over the years 🙂

  4. I took the Uber Challenge earlier in the year. Working out goals, doing a budget, setting up a savings plan, only spending money on what is important to me; frugality is central to all of it. It’s second nature to me now.Thanks Frugalwoods.

  5. We have tried to explain this to so many people. We don’t feel that we’re missing out by being frugal. We spend money, but only on the things we feel are worth spending the money on. It really becomes so easy to be frugal when you look at it that way. And honestly, being frugal allows us to feel more comfortable with the idea of something happening. Because our frugal lifestyle has allowed us to save more than the normal lifestyle would have and since we spend less on a regular basis, we can afford any of the issues that might pop up unexpectedly.

  6. “Frugality doesn’t mean you never spend money, it means you only spend money on things that matter to you.”

    That’s a very key point to me. I make a big distinction between what I call being Freaky Frugal versus Stupid Frugal. A Freaky Frugal person is someone who saves money but realizes there’s a Happiness Return On Investment (HROI) in spending money on certain things.

    What’s a HROI? A high HROI means that you gain much more in personal happiness than you lose from the dollar cost of the expense. A low HROI means you don’t gain enough personal happiness to justify an expense. If an expense is really low or even free, it’s pretty easy to hit a high HROI.

    But a high HROI can also come from spending a significant amount of money. A fixing a broken hot water heater is a great example of something that has a high HROI even though it’s could cost hundreds to fix.

  7. The reason I did this challenge the second time around was because I had lost my way since the last challenge. Your scone story reminded me of when I took my parents out for brunch on Fathers Day this past June, and while the food was reasonably priced, I treated myself to a mimosa that came out to be $11!! It felt like a punch to the gut to shell out that kind of cash for a hint of champagne and OJ. Thankfully this July challenge brought me back to some humble frugal ways. I spent many evenings this month enjoying whiskey on the front porch with the neighbors for entertainment, and making all my meals at home, trying new things (like chicken fried rice for the first time ever – this may be my new Sunday lunch prep!). I also paid off a credit card and took care of some odds and ends to clean up my budget – I feel a lot better about my spending now!

    1. I think you will have to share the recipe of the chicken fried rice; I just had my lunch but this sounds soo yummy…thanks for sharing that.

  8. One of my favorite quotes, an old Chinese Proverb – “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

    1. Love it! It underscores the notion that frugality can begin not just any day of any month, but at any point of your life. You don’t have to be thirty-something to redefine your goals. I’m turning 55 and am enjoying seeing from this frugal perspective.

  9. Thank you for sharing your story, Mrs. Frugal woods! As for me, I have always been frugal since I grew up in a low-income family and saw how hard my parents worked to make money.

    I have been wasteful a couple of times in my life thinking I should enjoy life a little. But it didn’t make me happy in any shape or form. I’m happier being my frugal self.

  10. I feel like I become more and more frugal every year. I’m always looking for ways to keep more of my money. I’ve recently discovered how great Aldi is at keeping my grocery budget low and it’s awesome! That, plus all the great produce from my mom’s garden that she gives us once a week really helps keep spending in check during the summer months.
    I’m really happy with my frugality. I love seeing progress towards my early retirement every single month. And I’m not wanting for anything! Life is pretty great these days. 🙂

  11. ALthough I’ve been frugal most of my life, I think I got serious when I got engaged. With so many upcoming expenses, we knew we had to start saving more. The good thing is, we’ve been married 7 years and continue to be frugal now.

  12. I don’t know that I know how to combat the “next week” impulse of putting things off other than the fact that I’ve just realized I’m not getting any younger. I’m not old by any stretch, but there’s something really neat about being in my 30s where I feel much more in tune with the present. So I just jump a lot more frequently now. And you’re so right. Once frugality becomes a lifestyle, it doesn’t require much thought. That’s pretty much where we are now, but we do frequent check-ins to see if there’s anything else we can optimize.

  13. Yes! The time is now, not someday.
    I don’t remember when I decided to be frugal for life, but it came sometime around the time I discovered The Tightwad Gazette through a relative. Okay, that really dates me, but anyway….
    It’s a long learning process, and I surprise myself, or my husband surprises me, now and then, with the realization that something we’ve always mindlessly done could be done more frugally. I took the January challenge to apply fresh vision to our lifestyle, to see what we’ve been overlooking. As stated in the post, life is always going to throw something expensive at us that we can’t avoid, so it pays to be frugal the rest of the time. Your appliance death story reminds me of my parents’ story — they bought a brand new house and at the 20 year mark in their house, their dishwasher, stovetop, furnace, water heater, garbage disposal, and central air conditioner all went out. At least it was one at a time! Fortunately, they’d always been frugal and could replace all of it, with my dad doing much of the work himself, but it was a really expensive year for them.

    1. I just got TG from the library the other day and am loving that book. It finally makes sense to me!

  14. I can’t say I took the uberfrugal challenge this month, but I do have two things to “crow” about. I have now been tracking every single expense for a full year. This gives me definite benchmarks and a clear view of annual, fixed and non fixed expenditures–this knowlege is power. Secondly, I’ve committed to a side gig that will bring in extra cash, not a whole bunch, but something, and if I’m any good at the gig, it will become much more significant amount next year. My uberfrugal January success puts this month to shame, but the fact is I see where I need to make changes and I love the advice and support you FIRE bloggers and posters offer.

  15. Yes! There hasn’t been a moment in our financial journey that I’ve regretted spending more mindfully. And that’s all frugality is. You don’t have to wear rags and live in a cave, which is what many people think frugality is. It’s a way of life that acknowledges that we don’t *need* very many things, and that we should spend money on what matters.

  16. I’m definitely of the camp that thinks I need to wait for the perfect time to start being frugal! But this post is a great reminder that you just have to dive in. We’re having guests over next week, but I’m going to challenge myself to just make do with what we have instead of trying to stock the house when they get here!

  17. I signed up, again, even though I just completed July. Why? I want to do a Frugal Year. Actually, I want to do a Frugal Five Years. I intend to retire then, and I want my house paid for by then. Will I move then to be closer to some of my kids? Will I move a couple of hours south to the coast? I do not know, but I want the option to sell and not stress while I am doing so. Frugality is about options being expanded. I want options. I will be doing this on an average income. I can still do this. I also want to enjoy the five years, while I am doing this. Frugality is not about drudgery and hating life. I love state and national parks and will be visiting them a lot in the next five years, as well as the rest of my life.

  18. Such a perfect ending to the Uber Frugal Month! My husband and I realized last Friday that this could be our lowest spending month since we started tracking all of our expenses in December 2014! As long as we spent less than $30 over the weekend this would have been the case!

    We both fully realize how arbitrary that is though, and on Saturday in a fit of inspiration (and required routine maintenance), Mr. Kiwi decided to spend the day replacing the front brakes on both our cars, rotors on one, and a sensor too. Since he did all the work himself it only cost us $130.

    As cool as it would have been to have our lowest spend month, it’s much more advantageous to keep our cars in great running condition. We plan for this expense and instead of stressing about it, we celebrate that our frugalness gives us the flexibility to take what life throws in our path!

  19. I just finished my first UFM, although I’ve been practicing frugality and following frugal blogs for a couple of years now. And yes, a very expensive dental emergency occurred during UFM. But we won’t let it set us back too far! I really enjoy frugality and our family lifestyle. My hubby and I get to do work we love and are good at, without sweating the paycheck.

  20. There really isn’t a better time to start being frugal immediately if not yesterday. I definitely agree that you should follow and spend on your value rather than material things or keeping up with the Jones. You can definitely afford anything but not everything.

    Once frugalness becomes a habit, it really engrains into your lifestyle and lets you to focus on things that matter to you more.

  21. This has been a good month! The UFC has created some great conversation between The Husband and myself. Goals are being fine-tuned. Frugal accomplishments are being celebrated. We are analyzing the cost-benefit of many optional expenses. Biggest wins: My husband’s car needs a $6300 repair (engine block). We just spent $4000 on a new transmission a couple months ago. Instead of immediately ordering the “fix” or trying to figure out how to replace the vehicle, we are exploring a very unconventional solution for two working people living in a metro area (with NO public transportation to speak of)…we are SHARING a car. We’re only two weeks in but we’re making it work. There will be challenges some weeks, we know, but I’m already seeing some nice benefits — on the days when my husband picks me up from work, we run errands together which is nice. I’m spending more time at home on the weekends (when he needs to car more for work) which is giving me more time to prepare meals in advance for freezing, etc. We are definitely taking lemons and making some lemonade. We are people of faith so we already have a great cheerleader in our court, but the UFC helped my husband and I take a more thoughtful approach to this “crisis.”

  22. Thank you so much for hosting UFM once again. My husband and I have always been Frugal, raising two children on one income. When I returned to the workforce when our children were teens, we slowly began to “spend” . Compared to most of our friends, we were still frugal, but no where near what we had been. We have always travelled, but now we were not searching for “deals” or monitoring our spending while away.
    I’m sorry to say this went on for several years. January saw me leaving a long time position ( with substantial pay) with plans to take a few months off work. I stumbled upon your UFM and hubby and I jumped on board.
    It has now been 7 months since I’ve worked! I have spent weeks at a time with my daughter and her family helping with a new grandson.
    We are planning a 21 day tour of Europe next summer and at present I am not planning on a return to work.
    Thanks to the kickstart of renewed Frugal Wierdness we have been saving over $1000 per month toward our adventure- all on one wage!

    Thanks again for sharing such an inspirational month. I look forward to remaining part of the Frugalwoods community!

  23. Hi
    We didn’t do the challenge this past month but we have been mindful of our spending since the last time you had this challenge in January so we decided to make some changes; one thing at at time…as crazy creatures of habit we are, we needed to replace our bad ones with new ones. So we started to brown bag our breakfasts/lunches, snacks and drinks as in coffee/tea/water 95% of the time. We’ve failed perhaps when we come back from mini to major vacations…but have been very strict that we not buy once we are back to a routine. It’s amazing how much you save! I’ve wanted to take some courses but many of expensive and time consuming to going into classes. As I just wanted to do a beginners approach, I searched through LinkedIn, International Open Academy and Coursera for courses with ease; in some cases they were free courses provided by well reputed Universities and such…right now I’m doing a beginners online Sign language course through International Open Academy that I scored through Groupon …it cost me $5.00!! So it is possible to enjoy frugalness when you are aware of what is needed and what is not…

  24. I’m often pretty mild on frugality as an approach to everything, even though I suppose we end up being somewhat frugal. I tend to think of it as just one tool in the bag, so to speak. And it often is touted as the only tool you need by those who already have really high incomes. For many, many households the real thing they need is a higher family income.

    But I loved this quote: “You have dreams. You have goals. So start spending your money in service of those aspirations. Prioritize what you want your money to do for you and then only part with it when you truly want to.”

    If that’s what we’re talking about with frugality, simply shifting your spending to the things you aspire to, then I’m 100% behind that.

    Great stuff, as always.

    1. The UFM Challenge goes through the exercise of evaluating your income and encourages folks to start investing since frugality is indeed but one tool in the toolkit.

  25. I’ve made a habit out of spending only on what matters for a while now. I admit to having been cheap at times as well (having debt to pay but no job to secure an income was rough) but ultimately I’ve learned to spend on what matters and not regret ‘financing’ what’s important (health, well being and when possible, hobbies)

  26. Since I started saving a bit I have been able to assist my extended family. My son who I fostered years ago got a place and I was able to stock them for a week strictly from my pantry and fridge. I was able to send my son who lives out of state grocery money for his family of four and give money to my granddaughter’s mother for her emergency.

    Buying in bulk rocks in that I have been able to assist my extended family members even though I am a student and single parent. Making the choice to save has really benefited us. I buy clothes retail at Costco for my kids so its very inexpensive and good quality. If I paid retail the outfits would be about $30 whereas I get two for $11.99.

    Being frugal enhances your life. My lifestyle hasn’t materially changed even though I no longer work two fulltime jobs. I am down to just two credit cards and have the ability to stay home and parent so my kids appreciate me more.

    Now slowly I am gaining new skills necause I am doing some of my upgrades like painting myself instead of hiring someone. I have unclogged my toilet and connected my cable rather than paying the company to do it.

  27. The very best advice you gave me for the entire month was, “…eat all the things!” Wow! I looked in the fridge and resolutely began forming meals where the day before I would have said no meals existed. I must have saved close to 50 dollars this month on that single Frugalwoods’ advice!! Revolutionized my eating habits. THANK YOU!!

  28. Love your post, but I have to completely disagree with the title: It’s *always* the perfect time to start being frugal! (So yeah, I really don’t disagree…and love the month-long challenge, too!) We started it at a challenging time, but the rewards were almost immediate.

  29. Couldn’t agree more Mrs. FrugalWoods. Every journey starts with a single step, and frugality is no different. You just start. Take one small step today. take another small step tomorrow, and then just keep going.

    Yes, there will be setbacks when the car breaks or the dishwasher explodes into a mountain of bubbles. That’s life, but with any luck your frugal muscles will be strong by that point. Strong enough to carry you through such setbacks!

  30. I loved reading your take on not waiting to start saving.

    I feel the same way about ‘frugality’. I like to eat, but I can eat just as well at home. It’s refreshing to hear that ‘frugality’ includes spending on what matters. Which is allowed, because of saving enough money to spend where it matters to the frugal individual.

    I think the fear of unexpected expenses is real for so many people and needs to be addressed more often. Great advice: to just pay and move on. It’s so true that one huge expense doesn’t have to derail a long-term goal of reaching financial independence.

  31. Awesome post Mrs. Frugalwoods!

    We just started slowly but surely saving more here and there and now it has exploded into a full on frugal living challenge. My wife and I are pretty competitive so we challenge ourselves to increase our savings rate as much as we can.

    We never planned this around any sort of new year date or special occasion, we just wanted to start saving for some hardwood floors. Now my wife works 4 days a week thanks to us saving and paying down debt faster. We also have the ability to just pay for emergencies throughout the month instead of dipping into our savings account. We had a $400 vet bill that we were able to cover without wincing because of the savings and frugal habits. Great feeling to have!

    Thanks for sharing!

  32. I didn’t participate in the big frugal month this time. I feel like I’m in a position now where it’s sort of ingrained into my ethos.
    My investing is going well and I have a small emergency fund ready if needed.
    We have even started foraging for fruits as there seems to be a mass abundance of plums, cherries and blackberries already this year.

  33. I participated in a modified UFMC just because it was summer and the kids are home, etc. I really was just conscientious and judicious in spending. Cash helped defray some impulsiveness. I was able to pay cash for a $800 hot water tank purchase and installation and a $250 deductible for a car repair that covered under a non-accident claim. I was able to STILL have $1,000 in a newly established EF (I had lofty goals to have it be double but didn’t account for the Murphy’s totalling $1050!!). I DID spend $100 on a click-bed (upgraded futon) that was like-new for my sons who had a hideous sectional int their room. (It was from my best friend and I split it into two $50 payments). We are going on a get-away for three days to Cedar Point Amusement Park (funded from some unexpected dog-sitting and non-spent funds). I’m shopping today and we’re taking only planning two meals out since our room has fridge and microwave. I also shopped the used uniform exchange for one of my sons and found like-new Lands End uniform shirts for my other son at Goodwill. Thanks so much for the encouragement. I look forward to sharing how my reformed self (or “smarter” self) does in August.

  34. I learned a ton and was pleasantly surprised by my success in the January UFM – then chickened out in July, and my spending reflects that! Just signed up to have a go for August!

  35. Oh man, I just missed out on the opportunity to do the UFM. Will have to jump on board next time. Love the mindset of frugality and the life you guys have embraced! 🙂

  36. Wow such an inspirational post. I am currently chopping the family budget as we transition to a single income, starting with services we don’t need since our family has much more time. Taking it one day at a time, one frugal decision after another.

  37. I really enjoyed the UFMC. We didn’t go out to eat once, we purchased only things that were in the budget or that we carefully considered beforehand, and we found new ways to have free fun. We spent a lot of time outside as a family. We were getting our spending in check before then, but the Challenge inspired us to take frugality to a new level. And guess what? As a result, we ended up paying off one of our credit cards and reducing our debt by $2000.

  38. This post really hit home because sometimes I feel like I have picked the worst possible time to start working seriously on my frugality. My husband and I are in the midst of a 10 week vacation, followed by a move across the country where we will both be looking for new jobs and hopefully buying a house. But I figure if we can do it now, it will be so easy once we are settled and have a more steady routine (and income). I really enjoyed doing the UFMC in April on my own but I think I would like to do it again at a time when a big group is doing it. Or I was thinking maybe once we are more settled, my husband and I should do it together. Thanks for the great post!

    1. BeetsandLilacs (lovely name)—I think you have picked the perfect time to start working seriously on frugality. Just when your life in in flux (new location, new jobs, new house), you have the opportunities to make the large decisions that will improve your financial life for years and years into the future. For instance, you can choose to buy (or rent) housing that is “less than you can afford” (what real estate agents and bank loan officers tell you “you can afford” has more to do with their hope for a large commission—ignore that number!). You can choose to live near work so you can walk. Before your first paycheck you can choose to sign up for your 401K at maximum and also send a bit to Vanguard (or wherever), money that you’ll never miss if you never see it. You can make decisions based on your long-term goals. At such times of dynamic change, you have the opportunity to really re-set habits! Best of luck to you in your new life!

        1. Thank you, Mrs. F, for creating this marvelously generous community of frugal weirdos. (Isn’t it an interesting paradox how frugality creates true generosity?) And also for your wonderfully vivid writing. Your shared journey has been an inspiration to me and to so many.

  39. We took the uberfrugal month, but didn’t change a thing! Seems we are already pretty frugal…
    The reason we can’t accumulate wealth, is clear after UberFrugal month: the last few years life happened. Non-stop. Hard. Even my dad said that it is time bad luck Knocks on someone elses door. Luckily we are frugal, otherwise we would have been in debt big time!
    So UberFrugal month was for me an eye-opener in another way: we actually do the best we can, but for the moment, accumulating wealth is just not meant for us. After UberFrugal month I feel proud because we do and did our best. I feel relieved beczuse I realise we can’t do better. UberFrugal month gave me peace of mind.

  40. @Nancy So proud of you to come to that realization. Sometimes we need an unexpected “look in the mirror” to see things clearer. It’s nice to see our strengths for what they are. Sometimes they can get mislabeled in our minds and hearts. Keep up the good work
    @ Ms Frugalwoods.. Thank you so much for putting into words the things I believe… but don’t know how to express! You are amazing!

  41. My fiance’s and I’s first day on becoming frugal was a weird day. My mother kept talking to us ( me 19 my fiance 21 at the time) how we could retire when I turned 35 if I just did certian things. You Mrs. Frugal woods is what brought this all up majority of the time. So for the past couple months she just could not get off the topic of us retiring early well one night I ended up going into the hospital due to head ache pains. While I was loopy on medicine my mother was still going on about you and reitrement for us. That day at midnight and being messed up on drugs I decided that, that was the day my fiance and I were going to become financially stable and have the gal to retire at the age of 35. Now for a year and a half we have been living a frugal life.
    We have been set back many times as today we are living that set back struggle of me not wanting to take money out and just fix the situation. I see it as I am loosing my money and to me that is scary.

    now a question for you.. How do you use your credit card so easily without going over board? We have had a tendency to do this and it sucks. I like to pay for everything with cash. Are you the same way or is the credit card the easiest way for yall?

  42. Good article! I did read much of the UFM material. I am a long time frugal person. And I like your blog, so I’ve read most of the articles anyway! It was some good inspiration. At the moment, I am expecting child #5 and having my usual crushing, all-day “morning” sickness. My husband has an excellent job that takes a good bit of time. We have a bunch of kids to care for. Rather than stress about it, I have gone for cheap food when I can, and prepared food/take out food/whatever seems tolerable! when I can’t. Grocery delivery too. Two months of increased food budget is nothing in the course of our life. The trick is that after you have one of these incidents – even a longer one, like this – you go back to normal. I’ve done it before, so I know I will, and nice, motivational articles like yours will help me nudge myself back in that direction as my capacity to do increases. 🙂

  43. I think people have a definition of frugality that precludes spending money in any sense. Sort of a “well I can’t be frugal this month because I have a dentist appointment on the 23rd” sort of approach. An all or nothing take, and one that is alarmingly similar to the “I went over my diet by 10 calories today… I guess I’ll try again next week.”

    But that is not what it means, or at least not to me. My wife and I embrace frugality in all, or at least as many as are feasible, senses. And it surprised a lot of people this last month when we made the decision to purchase a new (to us) vehicle.

    “But you guys are cheap!” We were told by many. “That’s not like you at all!”

    But it was. We purchased a ten year old, 3/4 ton van. Low miles, the largest engine available in this model year, and a massive cargo area. Why? Because my business has grown beyond what my current (20 year old half ton truck with nearly 400,000 miles) work exclusive vehicle can handle.

    I’m the guy who stripped a roof rack off a cargo van, cut it down, and bolted it to my sub-compact sedan. So I could carry ladders and lumber without using the truck. And here I am buying this thing? How is that frugal?

    Because it aligns with our values. Our needs. Because this van should fulfill our needs for the next 10 years and beyond. And because I saved $7,500 versus buying the same platform with a truck body. I’m no fool, trucks have a sex appeal big vans lack, and I’m not paying that premium.

    Many would have told me that making that purchase would have precluded us from taking part in the Uber Frugal Month challenge.

    To that I say: pshaw.

  44. Melanie and I participated in the Frugal Month Challenge, and it felt more or less like any other month. I’ve found that the value added from a lot — even most — consumption is fleeting, and fades away quickly. “The best things in life are free” after all, and it doesn’t hurt to have that extra coin banked either.

  45. “Frugality doesn’t mean you never spend money, it means you only spend money on things that matter to you.” I’m glad you bolded this because it is important! Many people view frugality as living with less or giving up the good stuff, but in fact, being frugal can you the good stuff–the stuff that matters to you!

    I just signed up for your UFM emails and I am really enjoying them. I’ve been eating out of my pantry all week 🙂

  46. Mrs F this is my favourite blog post, it really resonates with me each time I read it. The message relates to everything else in life for me, we have the opportunity to make changes. Just start. Gives me so much energy.
    Thank you

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