Frugality Report: February

By on February 28, 2017

Awesome frugality or not, February has been a good time for us. I’m doing more freelance writing, Mr. COD is busy interviewing, we enjoyed a frugal birthday for our two-year-old, and our weather here in IL has been freaking INCREDIBLE. 

Here are some of our frugal highlights for this month!

  • No Valentine’s Day gifts or dinner out. In typical COD fashion, we kept it low-key. I baked my heart cookies the weekend beforehand, which we enjoyed for several days (and had plenty extra to take to church). I did get a kick out of seeing the multitude of guys purchasing flowers, balloons, and candy the night before!
  • I finally went to a children’s resale shop that is literally two blocks from our house. I happened to end up there on a sale day when all clothing was $1! Wahoo! That sale scored us a bunch of stuff for Junior COD, which was great since we’re starting to run out of hand-me-downs as he grows bigger. I found two sets of swim trunks and rash guards, several shirts, a pair of pants, and some really nice sneakers for him, all for $13.50. Only the shoes were “full” price, which was $4. Much better than $15-20 or more, which is not uncommon for kids’ shoes. 
  • I refreshed my pasta-making skills a couple of times, and my technique is improving!
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  • Last week I also took on (for the first time) Mrs. Picky Pincher’s homemade tortilla recipe, which was a big win! It’s a super-duper easy recipe to follow. If you want to check out her new e-book, that’s where I found this recipe (plus a ton more recipes and a detailed four-week meal plan): 
  • Slash Your Grocery Bills In 28 Days: Eat like royalty on a shoestring budget

    Tasty tortillas!

  • Mini COD’s birthday festivities were fun, but also mellow, as we’d hoped! On the actual birthday, we grilled out for lunch on our deck (never thought we’d do that for a February birthday in the Midwest). I made his cake from a boxed mix because I had one in the pantry and just wasn’t in the mood to make it from scratch. His PJ Masks figures became the cake toppers instead of getting wrapped up, and they’re perfect little toys for him. We didn’t have a party, just the four of us at home, a few presents, and cake, and it was just right. Since we’re both homebodies and slightly lazy when it comes to celebrating, and he’s too little to care, it was perfect for us! 

    that’s about as fancy as my decorating gets!

  • A trip to the children’s museum was a big hit one Saturday. It does have an admission fee, but since we squeaked in there before Mini’s second birthday, he got in for free! Woohoo!
  • The nicest weekend weather led us to Madison and the Henry Vilas Zoo, which is totally free! We met Mr. COD’s sister and her family for the day and the boys were ecstatic to hang with their cousins and aunt and uncle. It was so gorgeous out that we ate a lovely picnic by the lake as well. Super frugal fun!  

    not sure what exhibit this was…

  • Our Madison picnic view…an icy lake on a 65° day!


    the view of the zoo from the adjacent park

 

Frugality Fails:

  • Groceries got waaaay out of hand this month, which is a bummer after we kicked some grocery budget butt during Uber Frugal January. We got lazy and got back into old habits like going to the market four days in a row. That’s what happens when we don’t plan meals and shopping! Over $500 in the shortest month of the year = dang it!
  • Along the same lines, we ate out quite a bit. Honestly, though, we’re not sorry. We found an awesome new sitter the boys love, and dating your spouse is important! Once those kiddos are grown up, it’ll be just Mr. COD and me again, so we gotta stay connected. 
  • Too many gifts for Mini COD! We gave him two resale shop board games, which were cheap, but he’s still not ready to play them. He liked the other toys we ended up buying, but a week later, they’re already largely forgotten. Plus (and this is the worst part), Junior COD was definitely watching, so he’s been sharing his birthday wish list for the past week. Whoops. We may have set too high a precedent for him that will make it harder to stay frugal and limited when he turns 4. Plus, that’s not for another three months…sigh…

How about you guys? Any big frugal wins or flops this month? Hey, at least if we failed, it can’t be as big a gaffe as that one on Oscar night…


Uber Frugal Month Is Done!

By on February 7, 2017

Like many of you (I think over 10,000 at last count), Mr. and Mrs. COD joined the Uber Frugal Month Challenge inspired by the Frugalwoods. The purposes of this little experiment: to spend as little as possible and to reset our spending defaults. Let’s look deep into the January 2017 COD expenditures…Can you stand the excitement?!

UBER FRUGAL GROCERY SHOPPING

The biggest reduction we hoped to see was in grocery spending, and we definitely kept that lower than usual. Woohoo! We didn’t quite squeeze by under that $300 mark I was eyeing, but that was a long shot anyway. The mere thought of our Uber Frugal Month was motivation enough to help us exercise restraint in our shopping excursions. (Plus, we have you guys to hold us accountable!) 

Ways we limited the grocery expenses this month:

  • A hallmark of the frugal mindset: shopping in our fridge, freezer, and pantry before heading to the market. We roasted a big ol’ turkey to use in soup and other meals. We finally ate a few of those canned vegetables that have been lying around forever. We cooked one of three (three!) rotisserie chickens we also had frozen. FYI, brining chicken in simple water, salt, and garlic rub for a few hours, then grilling it? OMG, perfection! We kept snacking on it long after dinner was over because it was oh so good. 
  • Keeping track of each trip to Aldi or elsewhere, plus having a running total as the month went along. This was a bit tricky, as I like to be in control, but Mr. COD went a couple of times to pick up items I’d forgotten or neglected to buy. 
  • Checking on what we already had before each shopping trip and writing a list down. This helped limit spur-of-the-moment buys; I knew we could get by without stocking up on every single thing. 
  • Eating quite a bit of soup, eggs, and vegetarian meals. We can eat for pretty cheap if we bulk up soups with beans instead of meat.

UTILITIES THE UBER FRUGAL WAY

We’ve continued with our adjusted default house temp of 65 (down from 70-71 a month earlier). I know some frugal folks keep it way lower, but that’ s where we landed without feeling like we’re living in the tundra. The newest bill hasn’t arrived yet, but we know we saved something by lowering the thermostat. I can tell I’ve changed my default because when at my parents’ or anywhere else, it seems really warm. Mr. COD and I are now used to wearing multiple layers in the house, too.

SPENDING BREAKDOWN

  • Groceries $356.43. Totally stoked about this! We’ve been more in the $500/month range, so it’s a fantastically low number. Let’s keep that uber frugal train rollin’!
  • Dining out: $135.30. This is abnormally high for us, which is ironic during an Uber Frugal Month.  Sigh. We finally had enough of these 3-month droughts between date nights. Time to connect with each other, without kids, is vital. We’ll spend a bit to make it happen. Add in a couple of times out with old friends, and that’s how this total came to be. Not bad when combined with our lower grocery bill!
  • Babysitter for one date night: $36. See above. But at least our first date of the month was when the in-laws could watch Junior and Mini COD! For free😁. Yay for grandmas and grandpas!
  • Gas for vehicles: $89.39. This is one of those expenses that are hard to break down by month. (I know we also filled up on December 31st, but that number isn’t included here.)
  • Household items: $457.32. This is a bit high, as it includes a bunch for paint for some touch-up work and items needed for redoing our floors (DIY house beautification in case of rental or sale this summer). Also included: thrilling things like toilet paper, cat food and litter, etc.
  • Gifts: $31.93. This included $8.93 for takeout lunch for a friend of mine. In addition, we picked up a few birthday presents in advance for Mini COD (turning two in February) and a DVD for car rides. The resale place had decent prices, so for $23 we got two board games, a large toy truck, and the movie. We don’t expect to spend any more on his birthday, as I’ll make his cake myself and we won’t have a big party
  • Miscellaneous: $16.99 for WeeSprout Double Zipper Reusable Food Pouch – 6 Pack – 5 fl ozreusable baby food pouches, $38 for my ticket to an upcoming women’s Christian conference, $28.02 for a jewelry purchase to benefit an organization that helps refugees.
  • Ultra Miscellaneous: $550. New laptop. Grrr. So remember that computer screen Mr COD had to replace a month ago? Yeah… It’s still not working. The motherboard might be replaceable, but that’ll take time to learn. He has to have a reliable computer for doing work-related tasks  at home (and completing job applications), so it was pretty much a necessary expense. Quite the un-frugal bummer!
  • I’m only documenting expenses that could possibly be limited or frugalized somehow. Things like our mortgage and internet use, I’ve left out as they aren’t things we’re changing anytime soon. 

a favorite cheap date activity: walking around the university campus (where Mr. COD earned his doctorate)

 

 

UBER FRUGAL MENTALITY: A LONGTIME PHILOSOPHY

The psychology of this mission was fascinating to me. It was awesome to increase our frugal mindset. I felt like we had been living so frugally the past few months that now would have been the time to let go a bit. But the pressure/encouragement of Mrs. Frugalwoods’ daily emails kicked up my motivation. It helped me to avoid Dunkin’ Donuts when I really was dying for an excuse to take the kids out. It helped me decide to bring my own coffee to the library for some “me” time one evening. It prevented a bunch of little shopping trips that inevitably lead to buying more than planned. 

When you live without overspending, it affects your mentality every day. I fancy myself a fairly frugal gal, but this past month I managed to push myself a bit more than usual. Practicing a frugal mindset enables us to put our frugality on autopilot, where saving money is actually easy and spending unnecessarily is super painful!

STUFF WE DID THE FRUGAL WAY

  • No haircut. I haven’t gone anywhere for one since last March, so I’m totally breaking all the salon rules. It’s beginning to bug me slightly, but I held off at least for this month and saved that money. (I don’t have any appointment set for anytime soon, either.)
  • No little “treats” like a cafe bagel for me and the kids to brighten up weekday mornings. (We make muffins at home all the time anyway.)
  • No Redbox rentals. Not that we do that very often anyway, but we stuck with our plentiful entertainment options like Netflix and Amazon Prime shows, plus have started checking out movies from the library! Frugal win!
  • Plenty of free fun for the munchkins. We visited the library, went on walks, and even hung out at the pet store a few times. Our public library even shows free movies about once a month or so, but we haven’t had a chance to partake in one yet!
  • Junior and Mini COD on a recent excursion to the park

AN UBER FRUGAL SLIP-UP

  • When a friend came into town for dinner, we took our whole family out instead of inviting him over to our home. (Face palm!) Not only was it more expensive to eat out, but our kids also aren’t exactly at a great age for sitting quietly in a restaurant. One of us had to take Mini COD outside to walk around for most of dinner. At home, we can cook, and the kids can run around the house all they want, so we should have just asked our friend to come over! 

Need some uber frugal motivation? Check out the Frugalwoods’ tips for making frugality your default mindset!

How’s your frugal mindset these days? If you did the Uber Frugal Month, what did you learn from the experience? Was it harder/easier than expected?

 

Uber Frugal Month Update

By on January 16, 2017

Since Mr. and Mrs. COD are working on their Uber Frugal Month Challenge, inspired by the Frugalwoods, we thought we’d check in with a little halfway update! See how they’re doing in their quest to be frugal weirdos! 

Mini COD assisting me in the kitchen, pressing the Ninja button (the MOST important job in frugal muffin making) 

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My Food Budget Experiment

By on August 30, 2016

I realize that a food budget is not the most scintillating of conversation topics, but I thought I’d bring it up anyway. Strict budgeting has never been my forte, mainly because I’ve never been so low on funds that it was necessary. I am grateful for the privilege of not stressing over food costs.

However, sometimes I wonder if it is a blessing to experience really tight funds, just for a brief time, in order to force us to learn sound budgeting habits. (more…)