The $20 Challenge has been a glorious and mysteriously easy experience thus far (knock wood), but it’s not all rainbows and cupcakes. I imagine that if any of you were to take up a similar challenge, your success (and mental breakdowns) would depend on where you started and how determined you were to save money, stop accruing debt and start paying off those debts. Today I’ll share with you what I’ve given up, because I think it’s worth examining what that triggers in you (Oh! I could never give that up!), and next week I’ll share what I’m NOT willing to give up right now, even at the risk of being met with Oh! You must give that up!
- First off, the obvious: I have been to Starbucks only once in the past 2 months. I was meeting a friend who had to be somewhere else nearby quickly, so it wasn’t something I set up — but it was worth it to see my friend, of course! Frequent specialty coffees are the financial world’s metaphor for our culture of overspending. It’s got to stop.
- This wasn’t specifically part of the challenge, but we don’t have cable TV any more. We cut our Comcast bill from $180 for TV, phone and internet to $100 for phone and internet now down to $50 for internet only. We watch the Roku or the Amazon Fire stick and rarely rent movies except for the free ones at Family Video for the kids.
- So yeah, we don’t have a land line any more either. That’s just not worth the money to me. I feel safe enough with my cell phone.
- I used to get fairly regular deliveries from Stitch Fix, even though at the time I really couldn’t afford it. My closet just looked so empty…I felt like I deserved new clothes…and it’s surprisingly addictive. But now when I have extra cash, I shop at Old Navy, Marshall’s and Target. I could try the cheaper options from Stitch Fix, but their system really works — when you get a box of clothes and accessories delivered to your door, you will do ANYTHING to keep it. I don’t like being put in that position.
- I’ve had to cut way back on my essential oils, unfortunately. In the past, the minute I ran out of anything, I’d panic. (Okay, I would still panic if I ran out of my DigestZen because of all my dietary restrictions.) But right now I’m out of peppermint, melaleuca and the DigestZen capsules, and, well, I’ll get them when I can. In the meantime I have lots of other options that I can always use in place of what I’m out of.
- Another obvious choice is eating out. We used to spend DOUBLE what we’re spending now in the “Food & Dining” category on Mint. Double! So, for example, no more weekly Old Neighborhood House salads at Buona Beef. (I’m sorry, I love you, but I just can’t.) No more weekly Greek salads at Panera. (Seriously, now my mouth is watering.) No more pizza; no more chicken fajitas; no more McDonald’s for the kids; no more eating out just because it’s easier than cooking. It’s NOT easier on my wallet OR waistline.
- This will make some of you cringe, but I’ve (shh) stopped buying books (gasp!). Yes I’ve been going to the library for years, but I’ve also been charging up my Amazon card every time I start reading something I’ve taken out and conclude immediately “I must own this book.” No I must not. Most of the books on my bookshelf have never been finished. Some I haven’t read past Chapter 1. I consume the first few pages of self-help books like s’mores around a campfire, but after a while the excitement wears off and I’m like a kid with a short attention span. Look! A squirrel!
There’s probably a lot more I’ve given up that I’m forgetting, but I don’t want to depress you. Just seriously, if you are considering saving money before the holidays (I will have an upcoming post on that exclusively) or if it’s simply time to face facts and stop going over budget each month, try little things like making your own coffee taste more delicious each morning or shopping for clothes ONLY when you have extra cash. I keep shaking my head and wondering how this is even all working for me, that’s how egregious I feel like our overspending used to be. So if I can do it, you can do it. It just takes that first step.
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