Wow, this special month of ours is really zooming past.
By the time you read this, the Money Mustache Family will be deep in the high desert of Southern Colorado, camping out at the Great Sand Dunes National Monument.
But I thought it would be handy to share some thoughts on the hardcore savings challenge some of us have embarked upon this month.
The best part of the challenge is simply seeing people excited about hacking their own lifestyle to bring themselves greater efficiency, and having fun in the process. Check out this recent comment from a reader:
There’s still a week left in March, but I’m doing so well! Turns out that by bringing in my lunch every day (why stop at 3-4 times a week?), the frugality seeped into other areas of my life as well – I’ve gone out for dinner just once per week, and I’ve done absolutely no extraneous shopping. The results? I’m going to be saving close to 60% of my take home pay this month! I guess saving “at least half” wasn’t an ambitious enough goal!
Next on my list: I’m going to see if I can get my phone moved over to the company plan (fingers crossed!), and then I’m going to break the news to my cats that we’re living a frugal lifestyle now and they’ll have to make do with slightly cheaper food.
Nice.. very nice. Now I not only have consumer products companies, husbands, and wives begrudging my frugality-spreading ways, but cats as well. I should probably stop publishing my picture all over the place soon.
The MMM family has embraced the challenge as well, with the following points of success:
- The car has only been used three times this month (two for hiking trips just outside of town, one trip to the store for building materials)
- Grocery spending is down, due to more vegetarian home cooking, some tweaks to the menu (food planning article still in the works), and reduced impulse shopping on my part for things like dark chocolate and various organic foo-foo food temptations.
- I made a plan to accept one day of paid work, but it ballooned into about four partial days for various people, yielding at least $600 in extra income for the month.
- We scaled down our road trip – the original plan was to get all the way out to Vegas and even the Grand Canyon, but once we plotted out the days of our young lad’s spring break, we realized we could stay plenty busy and have fun without traveling so far. And save a bundle in the process.
- Both Mr. and Mrs. MM. did exactly zero lunches and dinners out, and made zero purchases other than groceries (excepting of course the supplies I bought for my work days, which were billed to clients). This seems to happen pretty often, actually – we already have so much stuff that shopping is only necessary in the rare months that something wears out.
The final thing I did, just to put the Maximum in MMMarch, was signing up for another one of those ridiculously-high-cash-bonus credit cards in order to get the $500 signing bonus. A couple of months ago, I did an article on a $400 business card I signed up for. I was a bit skeptical, but the transaction did go through, I collected the bonus, and I ended up keeping the card and just abandoning my previous business card.
When setting up the credit card referrals page for this blog, I found a $500 Visa card in the mix, so I applied for that one as well. In theory, I will actually get a commission for signing up for a card from my own website, plus the bonus. Now THAT is maximizing the mustache. I promise myself that I won’t spend all my free time doing stunts like that, but just this month I thought it would be fun. This is the card I used , in case you decide to try the same thing*.
When you add up all of these efforts, I estimate that I earned or saved about $1900 more than I would have if the challenge had not been thrown down. With so much already chopped out of our spending compared to the average middle classers, I find that income boosting has a bigger effect than spending cuts for our family. But for people with fixed salaries and high expenses, the opposite will be true. Either way, I’m excited to invest my $1900 to further boost the stream of lifelong investment income. (At 5%, it translates to an extra $100 per year for as long as I live!).
Regardless of the specific actions we’re all taking for MMMarch, I am hoping that the overall experience turns out to be like the one in the quote above. Setting short-term challenges and making things a game for yourself can be a powerful way to trick yourself into acquiring new habits that actually stick.
In our household, we’ve created permanent improvements in our eating habits, just from trying a few new recipes this month and finding that they were easy to make and rather yummy. I’ve really been sticking to my workout regime and expanding on it, and while it seemed like hard work the first week, it now seems like an easy habit to follow from our vantage point here at the end of the month.
I hope you have had a great month as well. What have YOU discovered about frugal living and even extra income this month?
Editorial note: The camping trip has us out until Monday night. Unpredictable writing schedule until then. Try the Random Article Selector above whenever you want to pretend there are new articles.
*Be warned that this blog will get a ridiculously nice commission if you do get the card through my link, so if you don’t want that to happen, you can also apply directly on the Chase website.
take lunch to work – check!
credit card with reward points – check!
reduce grocery bill – check!
bike to work (nope) that idea went over like a lead zeppelin. My folks lectured me about it even though I haven’t lived at home, or even in the same state for well over a decade. They tell me potential medical bills will kill any possible savings. I guess parents are always parents. My spouse is also asking me to reconsider, so I might have to back down. We live on a two-lane road full of hills and curves and no shoulder where the posted speed limit is 40 MPH & most drivers go much faster. Since we carpool & my job is on the way to his job, I guess it’s all the same, except for the exercise component. We do have bicyclists that use our road, but they travel in groups and bike on the weekends.