Thursday, February 24, 2011

March Madness?

Less is More for March.  What does that mean?  Well for the Ryan family that means we are cutting back- way, way back.

In January I read an article over at Chiot's Run entitled "No Buy February" and it really resonated with me.  The basic premise is that you only buy what you absolutely need.  You pay your bills but after that it's only what you need to survive. I kept mulling it over and over.  While our family is frugal in some things, we definitely spend almost all the money that Jeff makes, and I know that we don't need most of the things that we're buying. I think that having to buy a new furnace this week was what made me decide that we're definitely going to give this thing a shot (Jeff's fully on board too in case you were wondering).

Less is More
Why are we doing this?
Well, first of all to stop buying things we don't need (but that's the American way right?)  Is buying things wrong? No, but sometimes I feel like my stuff controls me and that's not a fun way to live.  Secondly, to pay down/off debt and eventually to put more money into savings.  This whole furnace purchase really threw a wrench into our plans.  We have a busy summer ahead of us and we'd like to start the summer out in a good place financially.

- This is whatever you want it to be.  For us it means that we are going to try to not spend any of Jeff's income from his job at a local Insurance company.  When I became a stay at home mom last June, Jeff started working part time for our church to help make up some of our lost income.  While working two jobs is never fun, it was a perfect fit for Jeff since he does so much at the church anyway.  This part time job brings in about $150 a week so that means we'll be surviving on $600 for the month.  Now, for some people that may be a lot and for others that may be unthinkable, but for us I know it will be a challenge.
- No stocking up on goods before or after March.  This would skew the actual money spending in March.

What's Not Included
- Bills: those will still be paid out of Jeff's normal income.  However, we will be looking at all our bills to see if we can cut or eliminate them
- Medical: this is paid for out of our HSA but even if it wasn't, health is necessary for survival

What's Included
- All Food (this includes coffee and alcohol)  I'm guessing we spend at least $600 a month on groceries.  We buy organic eggs, raw milk, and mostly organic meat and dairy products whenever possible.  It all adds up- fast (though I'm sure you all know that)
- Diapers: I currently buy Pampers which sets me back about $30 a box.  With two kids in diapers that's $60 each diaper run.  I know we'll have to buy diapers at least once next month, if not twice. So that's $120 out of our $600 (ouch)
- Gas: Jeff drives a Golf and I drive a Jeep.  Depending on how much we drive it'll be $100-$150 on gas for the month
- Anything else: any toiletries, household products, stamps, clothes, books, craft supplies, basically anything you can buy at Target (I think you get the picture)

What our month looks like
So are we going to hunker down and not do anything or go anywhere this month?  Well, that would make this a lot easier, but March seems to be shaping up to be a busy month. Some of the things we're up to include:
- My birthday
- Hosting two small group meetings
- Host a fantasy baseball draft
- Attending a friends baby shower
- Attending a girls day out
- Traveling to Boston for a medical appointment (this is the one that's gonna make it tough)

Plan of attack
- Food: Since food makes up the majority of our spending this will be my main focus.  Will be we eating pasta and pbj for every meal?  Hopefully not.  I have a pretty diverse menu planned for the month but I'll have to reevaluate it week by week.  This will be a good chance to clean out the freezer and the pantry.
- Entertainment: library, free play groups, get together with friends, I really don't foresee us lacking in things to do.
- Gas: think twice before just driving around (which we generally don't do anyway).  I'm hoping that since we won't be shopping as much that will help cut down on our usage.
- Misc: avoid the mall, Target, and Costco.  Those are my favorite places to shop and probably where I spend the majority of our extra money.
- Put the debit and credit cards away- far, far away.

Final thoughts
I'm really excited about this; I'm also really nervous.  I think the first two weeks will be manageable and then next two, well not so much.  If we can do this (I think we can, I think we can) than we will be able to pay down some of our debt.  If it goes well than I'd like to do this again in October, but let's not get ahead of ourselves...

I'm going to try and write weekly updates on our progress.

Here's another great website about a "No Spend Month."  Rachel and her family only had a budget of $200!!!

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