January is No Spend Month at our house this year. We are doing it to bring our current spending more in line with our new one-income status and as a detox after the consumer-centric holiday season. Of course, buying less stuff will help us be more green and more resourceful as well. We usually spend about $500 on groceries each month. Instead, this month we will be budgeting to spend only $500 on all non-bill expenses including groceries, gas, household items, dining, entertainment, and yes coffee!
What We Spent
Last week we only spent $120. We spent $54 at Whole Foods and $8 at Safeway. As always, $43 went to a box of organic produce from our CSA. We also paid $14 for parking.
How We Did It
One day I cooked a roast in the slow cooker. The next day I made Beef and Barley Soup with the left overs. I made fajitas and saved $4 by making my own tortillas. Almost once a week we make a big entree salad with canned salmon on top. We spent a little more on meat than last week, so we went vegetarian two nights. I made a Moroccan inspired Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew and we had Quinoa and Black beans again.
What We Learned
Over the past few months, we have gotten a lot better at meal planning. Everyone talks about meal planning like it’s some mystical art, but it is really pretty simple. We have learned that the better we plan, the more we are able to save. We sit down together over the weekend and look at what we will get from our CSA that week. Then, on one side of a sheet of paper we write down six dinners we’d like to eat that week, with enough for leftovers for lunch. On the opposite side, we write down any ingredients that we don’t already have or aren’t getting in the produce box. Of course we figure in breakfast, but we eat almost the same thing everyday. On Monday I go to the store and purchase only the items on the list. It ensures that we always have enough for the week and only what we will really use.
As one of my readers reminded me in the comments, I was planning to look into our monthly payments during No Spend Month to make sure we are getting the best deal on all of our accounts. This week I talked to our insurance agent and compared other companies. I am confident that there isn’t much extra savings we could get out of this monthly payment. However, I did find out we are being charged a $1/month fee for having automatic payment set up through our insurer. I will change the method of payment and save $12 per year. It’s not much, but every dollar counts, right?
At some point, we realized that doing No Spend Month this January was even hard than it might otherwise be because there are five Monday grocery shopping trips. We only have $106 left, and two more weeks of groceries to buy. It’s time for some serious budgeting and creative meal planning!
Do you have any tricks for negotiating lower monthly payments on services and insurance?