The results of my 30-day spending freeze

Are not so much good. But I did learn some things over the past 30 days that have been helpful and I can use to re-evaluate my budget and spending.

I realized that the only way our family functions without accumulating debt is largely due to:

1) Mr. KB’s amazing talent of being able to fix anything and everything for a fraction of the price of hiring the job out or buying a new beebob;

2) My constant awareness and ability to plan for and predict future needs for our family and, for the most part, have provisions in place to cover these needs;

3) Stockpiling food and other consumables through price-matching, couponing and attention to detail (even though this means that I make the actual shopping trip(s) less about fun and more about function);

4) Ensuring that I maintain separate budget lines and accounts to cover most expenditures – both expected and unexpected, large and small. My one oversight, I have learned was not having a new-to-us car fund started to buy a replacement daily driver. Getting on this now so maybe when the need arises (as we expect it to in the near future), there will be some money available to help fund the purchase.

5) Our combined efforts to make purchasing decisions based on function and price/cost rather than impulse and glitter.

We are so fortunate that we can largely be a one-income household (because can you believe that no one is paying me to write? No, really. I can’t believe it either. Gaw.) Our combined contributions and talents make this possible and while we don’t pack up the family for a week in the Caribbean or Disneyland every winter, we do have family vacations, go to movies, go out for dinner, the kids participate in school pizza days, we hit at least one town fair a year, have swimming and dance lessons, take in a couple of big Rogers Centre events a year, and summers include cruise nights and beach days. And we do it all without racking up expensive, soul-crushing, consumer debt. We use credit cards for the points, gas discounts or other freebies and never carry a balance. If Murphy has been a particularly big bastard, I cut back in other areas to make up the difference without tapping into credit.

These past thirty days have not been the big money-saving adventure that I envisioned it would be. But, staying aware of our family spending and making sure that I’m creating balance, between saving and shopping has been useful. Did I follow all of my original parameters? No. I didn’t. When I find flip-flops for the kids at 75% off, spending 25% of the money now, rather than 100% of the money next summer just makes sense for the way our family and budget works.

Luckily though in terms of reducing the amount of ‘stuff’ I did quite well this past month. We tossed and donated a lot of clothing, household goods and toys. We still have more to go through, but we made a great start at it. Was I sad to say good-bye to some of the clothing that I’ve been hanging on to for ‘one day’? Yes, but the lightness I felt seeing my newly tidied closet and easily closing drawers more than made up for those sad feelings.

The next 30 days, I’m going to work on continuing to reduce our ‘stuff’ Broken or outgrown toys need to go, VHS tapes that no longer play need to go, outgrown clothing needs to go. With this many people in a house, hanging on to every single thing is not reasonable or plausible. I’m all for fame and fortune but the last place that I need to find that fame is on an episode of “Hoarding: Buried Alive” 🙁

Another day, another self-inflicted challenge designed to increase my awesomeness. Or to reduce my already limited sanity. Same thing.

I know. It sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Increase my awesomeness? Reduce my sanity? It just cannot be done. I hear you, I do. But stay with me on this one, just for a minute.

Ha! I jest because I’m a fool. But it is another day. And I have decided to challenge myself to do something for the next 30 days. But it has nothing to do with my awesomeness (or lack thereof). No. This challenge has a few objectives, but mainly:

  1. To slow the rate of speed at which things (stuff, crap, treasures of little to no value) accumulate in our home;
  2. To use or re-purpose items we already own rather than introduce something else into our space, and to widdle down our current stockpile without adding to it;
  3. To save money;
  4. To follow through with an initiative that I decide to start (other than marriage, kids, work, etc) for longer than two weeks. I’m committing to 30 days initially, and then will re-evaluate to see what’s working, what hurts, what I need to change and what I need to continue going forward;
  5. To prove (to myself) that I can stay on task and on point when it comes to something not terribly fun but still important.

The challenge? No shopping. The only exceptions are: groceries (within budget only), prescriptions (if needed), back-to-school or seasonal clothing or shoes to fill in the gaps that their constant growing has created in the kids’ wardrobes (I have an abundance of ‘nothing to wear’ in about eight sizes, so I shall survive no matter what the weather throws at me). Also excluded from the spending freeze are items NEEDED to repair the house when I break it (as happens a little far too often). Other than those exceptions – no shopping. No picking up that clearance tee-shirt, cute picture frame or that awesome Hello Kitty notebook. No toys, no clothing, or knick knacks or kitchen stuffs. No electronics or entertainment. If it costs money and is a tangible doo-dad – it’s a no go for this chica for the next 30 days. Now, in the interest of fairness, I am going to have to host a birthday party for two my boys during these thirty days, but I have that cash set aside and it should not result in any non-consumables coming into our home.

Believe me, I would love to make the challenge longer, but I’m a chicken-shit at heart and while I feel fairly confident that I can pull this off for 30 days, the thought of trying, at least at this moment, much longer than that makes me feel nauseous and anxious. So, in the spirit of being a bit more gentle on my pathetic, wimpy self, I’ve decided to start with 30 days and go from there.

It will take better planning on my part, a little more creativity, and a lot of willpower to stick with only the necessities and not load up on the ‘deals.’ I’ll just need to remind myself often that the deals will still be there in thirty days. And then sob like a baby when that amazing hair conditioner never goes on clearance again and I missed my last chance to get it for nearly free (with a coupon!). But I’ll recover. It’s what I do.

This challenge is to begin on Saturday, September 26th and finish on Monday, October 26th. I will document just how many times I struggle to stay on track and how it is making me FEEL to not spend, to miss a deal, to have to leave something behind, to have to let a coupon expire, unused. Because I suspect that I am using accumulating things to avoid dealing with my FEELINGS. Because dealing with feelings is no fun and buying five bottles of dish soap for next to nothing is SO much fun.

And so let the adventure begin.


**UPDATED** My Hydro Savings Experiment and Challenge Starts Today

It is no secret.  I hate our Ontario Hydro bill.  But I really love having all of the modern convenience electricity allows me to have – like a washing machine, a laptop, my Kitchen Aid mixer, you know, just the staples of my everyday life *grin*  But, I really do resent it when our hydro bill just goes up, up, up and it seems like no matter how much I cut, how much I reduce, and what changes I make, that no significant difference is made in our bottom line.  Why?   Time of Use billing is a pain in the ass, making it necessary to make my working day even longer, as running bigger, harder working appliances before 7pm is akin to shredding our dollars while pointing a 100w spot light directly into the sun.  Stupid, see?  So, I am always thinking of things to try in order to reduce our usage and ultimately our bill.  I would like to say that my primary motivation is to reduce our ‘footprint’ but I would be lying and I really trying to stop that *grin*, so I will openly admit that my true motivation is to wrestle our monthly bills lower.

So, I hang all the laundry from as early in the year as possible until October/November.  The dryer does not see a day of use during that time.  I have, up until the last two weeks, washed all dishes by hand, no dishwasher.  I turn off power bars, lights, unplug things and we do not run the central air conditioning, for we have found it only keeps the main floor livable and the upper floor (where the bedrooms are) is still a sauna.

A daily sight at our house 🙂

The result?  It still feels like we spend far too much for hydro – and it’s only summer!  When the days get shorter and it gets darker earlier and too cold to hang laundry, the cost is only going to increase.  So I figured out that I really need to know what is and what is not saving us money on our hydro bill.

Maiden Savings Experiment – Doing The Dirty (Dishes, that is!)

I read somewhere that using the dishwasher once a day at off-peak times would save money over hand washing dishes all day long (six people produce a LOT of dishes over the course of a day).  I wash dishes after breakfast, morning snacks, lunch, afternoon snacks, dinner and bedtime snacks (when the smalls have them).  And I use HOT water to clean my dishes.  I scald my hands in the water, but washing them in cold water just feels wrong and like I’m not really cleaning them, just moving the junk around on them, you know?  So that means that in addition to my high-peak time frame shower, I’m firing up the hot water heater at least six times a day to wash dishes.  That MUST be more expensive than using hot water all in one shot, during off-peak pricing to wash a single load of dishes in the dishwasher, no?  I do not know the answer anymore, so I’m going to try to find out.

Starting today (Tuesday) I will go back to hand washing all the dishes, as I always have.  I will record our hydro usage for the day, including the cost of hydro every day for five week days.  So, because this week had a stat holiday on Monday, I’ll record Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Monday.  Then, on next day, I will use the dishwasher after 7pm for the next five week days and record our usage and cost for those five days.  All of our other ‘hydro habits’ will stay the same for this period of time.  At the end of the two weeks, I’ll post the results for all to see.

The battle begins, only one can win. Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!

To be honest though, I have enjoyed my hiatus from the near constant dish washing so I am just a little, teeny, tiny, eensey-weensey bit hoping the dishwasher proves to be a cost saving measure, but either way, I’ll be painfully and brutally honest with my reporting.  The only one it can hurt is, well, me. 😉

So, I am off now, to empty the dishwasher for the last time and then get elbow-deep in piping hot dishwater to wash up our breakfast dishes. 🙂

Now, now, don’t be a hater, we can’t all live the glamorous life of the Keswick Blogger *grin*

Have a good day, ya’ll!

UPDATED (many moons later)

I ran the experiment as outlined above.  And then realized that our hot water tank was leaking like a bastard.  And that it was probably using far more hydro than necessary because of it being a p.o.s.  So, mid-way through the experiment, Mr. K.B. installed a new hot water tank (have I mentioned lately how handy he is?).  And then I started again.  And I checked our usage every morning and honestly, running the dishwasher once a day, during off-peak hours is NOT any more expensive than washing our dishes throughout the day, by hand.  And except for the fact that I have SO MUCH EXTRA time on my hands by NOT washing dishes four to six times a day, I’m kind of weighing in pro-dishwasher right now.

I still hand wash pots and pans, and anything that I need immediately (usually my Kitchenaid Stand Mixer bowl!) or anything I’m not certain will survive the dishwasher.

Oh, and if you forget to turn the dishwasher off BEFORE the dry cycle (which is the smart, frugal and KB-way) and you let the dishes cook inside to dry, just know that little kid plastic plates do NOT fare well.  They get all kinds of warpy and stupid looking.  And then they are not even decent frisbees.  What a waste!

But, back to Hydro – the biggest savings I can see is from hanging up all the laundry for those months (and today!) and forgetting that we had a clothes dryer.  Just doing that one small thing easily knocked around $20 a month off of hydro bill without me getting dish-pan hands in the mean time = Win!