Spending freezes have been announced at a couple of blogs I follow, Jana Says and The Frugalwoods. They’re slightly different: Mrs. Frugalwoods wants to help you “restructure your frugal mindset,” while Jana invites us to join her as she learns “to start paying attention again.”
While leaving a comment on Jana’s post I used the phrase “hypothermia of the budget.” That’s where DF and I are this January, and probably for the next six months. Or maybe longer.
In order to reach a couple of private financial goals, we’re embarking on a measured money slowdown. Financial hypothermia is gradual; a spending freeze is fast and hard, albeit short-term.
Generally the point of a freeze is not just to save some bucks but also to get control of one’s cash. Although some people stick to the concept of money minimalism, most go back to their normal spending patterns after 30 days.
Our slowdown will last longer than that. Not that we were spending like drunken sailors before, mind you. Neither of us has bought clothing for at least a year, and we tend to mend the garments we own. When DF purchased a car two years ago he paid cash (since the previous car was 14 years old he’d had time to save up).
Entertainment costs are a series of frugal hacks:
- Sunk-cost season tickets to the symphony (paid for last summer).
- Sunk-cost discounted gift cards for movies (I’ve got at least $200 worth).
- I review theater and restaurants for the local paper (love it when someone else buys).
- Free gift cards for movies and food from rewards credit cards, rewards programs like Swagbucks and My Coke Rewards.
- Spending time together – talking, cooking, reading, doing garden projects (we are still entirely stupid about each other)
In the past year I made several trips Outside (that’s what Alaskans call the rest of the world), but one was to a conference paid for by my LLC and the others were super-frugal thanks to buddy passes, frequent-flier miles, a hostel, and the couches of relatives and friends.
Of course, the conference trip turned into a medical emergency and I wound up spending about $1,000 more than I’d planned – and most of it was not reimbursable as a business expense. But that’s why I have an emergency fund.
Right now I’m working on Vol. 2 of “Your Playbook For Tough Times,” so I’m not bringing in a ton of freelance monies. Later this month I go in for cataract surgery, which will mean missing a few days of work and then figuring out how to deal with one improved eye and one that still needs serious correction. Since it isn’t clear whether insurance will pay for surgery in the second eye* just yet, one of two things will occur:
- I’ll pop the left lens out of my glasses and carry on, or
- I’ll pop the left lens out, work that way for another six weeks, get the second surgery done and then get new glasses.
As with any surgery, complications are possible but I’m determined to hope for the best. Even so, the little eyeglass dance mentioned above might slow down my earnings as well. (Picturing headaches or other issues with computer use. Hoping that won’t happen.)
Thus even if we didn’t have those personal money goals it would still be a good idea to take some nips and tucks in our relatively modest spending. Fortunately we already have a deep pantry; last month we spent less than $170 on groceries, and that included some foods for a holiday get-together plus a bonus turkey for canning.
Thanks to the hacks and habits noted earlier, it doesn’t cost us much to be entertained. Being easily amused is one of the greatest money-savers ever.
Readers: Are you doing/have you ever done a spending freeze? Got any tips to share?
*The ophthalmic surgeon said the condition in the other eyes is deteriorating, so even if the insurance won’t cover surgery right now “they probably will by the end of this year.” Um…yay?