March Spending Freeze – Did We Pass or Fail?

Last month, we went on a spending freeze to reset our spending and increase our savings.

As we wrote about here, our goal for March was to eliminate all unnecessary spending — to go on a spending freeze or “buy nothing” month. Did we pass or fail?

Here’s how we did and what we learned.

Groceries + Eating Out

Goal $650 (stretch goal was < $550)

Actual: $543 – Pass!

Our eating out goal was $0, but we ended up spending $39 in March, which included reloading our son’s school hot lunch punch card ($26) and two purchased lunches ($13) at my husband’s work because we forgot to bring a brown bag lunch. We rolled these unplanned eating out expenses into our overall food/grocery budget and still came out below budget. It’s been a while since we’ve been under $600/month for food/household expenses!

Our monthly grocery budget includes anything we buy at a grocery store, so in addition to food it includes school snacks/supplies, household items like TP and cleaning supplies, personal items (deodorant, soap), etc.

If I take out the approximate $40 we spent on non-editable items, that gives us a per person, per meal cost of $1.34 (we’re a 4 person family and this assumes three meals a day). Not too shabby! Knowing our per meal anchor costs also makes buying that $4 latte or $3 happy meal totally ridiculous.

A few factors that helped us stay under budget last month for food was:

  • Weekly meal planning
  • Not buying alcohol
  • Keeping it simple – sticking with meals with just a few ingredients and shopping sale items and in-season produce
  • Reducing food waste by making sure to eat oldest items (or left overs) first
  • Not buying a lot of processed or pre-packaged snacks (though we did buy a couple items for hiking snacks)
  • Using freezer meat – we have a deep freezer with a fairly good inventory of meat, so our food costs were artificially lower (last fall we bought a quarter cow and half a pig)
  • Eating Keto – My husband and I both eat a keto (high fat, medium protein, low carb) diet. While we pay a bit more for quality fats and meats, this way of eating keeps us full longer and we often only have two meals a day (plus bullet proof coffee and some snacks).

 

Handy charts via Personal Capital

Travel

Goal: $100

Actual: $90.27 – Pass!

We traveled to see family on the other side of the state, so our budget included an additional $100 for extra gas and a “date” while we were there. We spent a total of $90.27 on travel – $8.20 for our coffee house date and $82.07 in gas.

Gas/Fuel

Goal: $100

Actual: $66 – Pass!

We also came in under budget for gas. Because we were minimizing paid kids’ activities last month, I also found we drove less and spent less on gas. We prioritized activities and hikes close to home and rode our bikes quite a bit to get around locally. My husband rides his bike to work, so this is our expense for one car.

Misc. Expenses & Unplanned Purchases

I spent $5.29 on Easter supplies for a school activity and Eric spent $187 in unexpected/unplanned bike expenses (he converted his bicycle to an electric assist bike). We agreed the bike expenses were necessary, as he has a longer bike commute now and the electric assist will help him reduce commute time.

Unplanned purchases aside, we saw a huge reduction in spending for the month of March and will continue this mentality in April.

Other March Goals

Here’s how we did on other goals we shared in this post.

Cut the crap: Purge the office and my closet.

Fail. I purged my closet and bathroom, but did not complete the office.

Rental Property Acquisition: Connect with a real estate agent and confirm our financing to be ready to look and place offers on our first rental property – we’ll share more on this soon as well.

Pass. We made great progress with our rental property project. Our financing is in place (we updated/increased our HELOC this month) and my husband has a trip planned to scout rental properties this month.

Complete daily chore charts with the boys and report on how it goes.

I’m going to call this a “pass” even though I wasn’t 100% consistent. Even though I didn’t use it every day, it helped with structure and consistency – and with the boys pitching in more around the house. I still had days when I wanted to throw the TVs and screens out the window, but that’s a post for another day.

Publish two blog posts a week.

Fail. I posted 4 blog posts in March, so average of one a week, but I’ll keep working toward two blog posts a week in April.

Update our FI spreadsheets. 

Pass. Savings rate: Currently, our savings rate is 44% (not including payments to mortgage principle) and 66% if you include our payments to mortgage principle as savings.

Years to FI: We have a couple different scenarios running for years to financial independence (largely dependent on income), but our current target/estimate is 2024 (6 years).

Accountability Rocks

Last month I learned I am very motivated by accountability – knowing I am going to report back on my non-spending really did impact decisions not to by necessary things last month. It was also a great money mentality to share with our kids and a nice reminder you don’t need to spend money to have quality time together.

Related: Spending Freeze – 10 Tips to Make it Successful

How was your month? Did you do a spending freeze or buy nothing month as well? Tell us about it below!

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