100 Little Steps Add Up to Great Things

2015 January Money Diet comes to an end

It’s officially the final day of the 2015 January Money Diet.

I logged in to my bank’s website yesterday, and was pleased to see over $1000 remaining in my checking account. A month of very limited, essentials-only spending means that all my money doesn’t evaporate by the end of the month — what a concept!

If you’ve followed the diet, perhaps you’ve seen a similar benefit to taking a spending break.

Our fellow dieter Laura shared this comment yesterday:  “With the money we saved this month and from selling a few things, we were able to put an additional $800 towards the student loan!” Hurray!

I am so proud of everything we’ve accomplished together this month. You have been the most engaged, generous group of money dieters yet, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you.

Since January 1, we’ve undertaken many efforts to stretch our money: we’ve been resourceful, we’ve used up what we already had, we’ve fixed things, we’ve planned our meals, we’ve saved energy, we’ve rediscovered the public library, and we’ve reviewed our ongoing monthly expenses.

Many of you generously gave things away, and decluttered your drawers and shelves in the process. We considered the beauty of a simple home, and collectively agreed that less is the new more.

Some efforts produced big results and others are small, but financial stability comes as a result of many efforts and thoughtful decisions, practiced faithfully over time. If we continue what we started together in this first month of 2015, I promise that these steps will add up and produce real, lasting change in our finances.

Thoughts About Spending

Many of us — including me — will continue to stay on a modified version of the money diet in the coming days. As needs arise, we will inevitably shop again. Perhaps we might ask ourselves these questions before handing over our hard-earned money:

Do I love it?

This is now my mantra for every single clothing purchase. Do I love this? Do I feel great when I wear it? Will I want to wear it for years to come? Do I need it? I no longer buy something just because it’s a good deal. I have to love it. Consequently, my wardrobe has shrunk quite a bit. For one thing I don’t go shopping that often, and when I do, I don’t often find clothing that I truly adore. But interestingly, my smaller cache of clothes is evolving into a better selection of nice pieces that I truly love to wear.

Can I plan for the purchase?

If your old hot water heater suddenly breaks, you’ll have to raid your emergency savings account and make a fast buying decision based on what’s in stock locally. On the other hand, if you know your water heater needs to be replaced and you have the luxury of a little time, you can research the best quality models on Consumer Reports (at the library, of course). You can figure out the exact size you need for your family, and choose whether you want a tank or an on-demand heater. You can comparison shop, and watch for sales. Best of all, you can save up the money for the water heater, and replace it before your old one breaks and causes damage and stress.

Can I wait?

I have a weakness for the light fixtures made by Rejuvenation. The designs are classic, the quality is first-rate, and the products are priced accordingly. For a few years I’ve been lusting after an Art Deco semi-flush light with reproduction slipper shades for my office. I created a custom search on eBay, and several times a week I receive e-mail notices about Rejuvenation light fixtures that are listed for a fraction of their original price. My exact fixture hasn’t been offered yet, but the hunt is part of the fun. In the mean time, I have a simple overhead light in my office that illuminates the room just fine.

By being willing to wait, I used this method nine years ago to purchase the exact energy-efficient ceiling fan I wanted for our kitchen at a deep discount; you can see the old and new fixture here.

Will this purchase lower our overhead?

Certain purchases might quickly pay for themselves in future savings — a rechargeable lawnmower that you use instead of paying a lawn service, for instance, or quality scissors that you use for kids’ haircuts.

Denver Water is currently offering rebates up to $150 for certain models of high-efficiency toilets. Some of the models are priced below $150, meaning that if I can figure out installation I can replace our privies practically for free and in turn save water and money. However, I’ve read that some models can require multiple flushes under certain conditions — which would cancel out the environmental and monetary advantages. Guess who will be researching toilets next month?

Can I innovate instead of spending money?

I love the Budget Living section of Apartment Therapy, where readers show their amazing hacks to transform spaces for little or no money. Lois at The Eco Grandma frequently posts about her own and others’ adventures in repurposing on her Thrifty Thursdays feature. Make it and Mend It has tons of DIY ideas. Figuring out a solution for little or no money can be not only fiscally rewarding, but personally satisfying.

How About You?

Did you achieve any specific results as a result of your participation in the January Money Diet? If so, we’d love to hear your experiences in the Comments section.

If you have excess cash left over as a result of saving all month, I challenge you to go stash it immediately in an inconvenient savings account, pay off debt, or invest the money before it drifts into the slush fund.

As you may remember, I have a special Happy Simple Living gift box for one lucky January Money Diet participant. The box includes a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card, $25 cash, pantry staples like bean soup mix and organic quinoa, signed copies of three of my cookbooks, homesteading supplies like soap, candles and eco-friendly cleaning supplies, and more.

I don’t know how I’ll choose just one of you, but early next week I will give away the box to one dieter who has participated in this 31-day challenge with heart and soul and achieved good results.

Let’s Continue What We Started

Although our month-long experiment is coming to an end, I look forward to continuing this journey with you in the year ahead. I’ll be sharing ideas and posting about my money-saving strategies in the coming months, and I encourage you to do the same.

If you have any ideas about how to improve next year’s January Money Diet, I’d love to hear from you at elizagcross (at) gmail (dot) com.

Hugs and high fives to each and every one of you,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. If you survived the 2015 January Money Diet, you’re entitled to post this badge wherever you like. (To copy, right-click the graphic with your mouse and save the image):

2015 January Money Diet graduate

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

100 Little Steps Add Up to Great Things

  • Lois

    Eliza, thank you for mentioning my series on re-purposing. A very old friend used to tell me that if you wait long enough what you need will show up. Well that often does happen, there are times I don’t want to wait and will see what I can reuse to solve my problem

    Congrats on your January savings. 🙂

  • Cindy

    This has been a great month and has helped me see some of my thought patterns that don’t serve me. Before spending money, I am now asking myself whether I really need it or really want it, not just whether I can afford it.

    As a result of things I have done this month, I have sold items for $40 and have other items listed for sale. I have returned items for $600 (which really helped me realize that I need to be more conscious of my buying habits), I have borrowed items instead of buying them, and I have eliminated a lot of clutter, which has translated into giving useful items to other people where they can enjoy a new life. I feel lighter and freer, and my bank account is fatter. That’s a win!

    I will be continuing with this thought process and de-cluttering process throughout the rest of the year.

  • Jennifer

    I forgot to mention our family’s new motto: “Make do our do without”.

    When my son broke the broom handle, I resisted the temptation to run to the store and found a rake handle in the garage instead. It fit perfectly and we have several other rakes that won’t even see the light of day for a few more months anyway.

    It really is amazing what you can come up with if you try. Plus it can be a great recycling effort!

  • Ronnica, Striving Stewardess

    I love the question, “Can I innovate instead of spending money?” Trying not to spend last month if at all possible, I found that many things I could do without (or find something else to work), or if I really could use it (in my case, an oil spritzer, as pouring oil to grease a pan isn’t exactly efficient).

  • Laura

    This has been such great motivation to start new frugal habits for 2015! Thank you so much for the jump start!!

  • Eliza, this month was such a great jump start to our savings. I am hoping the habits we acquired of thinking before spending stay with us! I am grateful for the inspiration and encouragement all along the way!

  • Lisa

    As I mentioned earlier, I was going to start a similar concept in February, but your posts/emails got me started early. Thank you! We did have a few unexpected expenses that I didn’t forsee – graduation gown order and textbooks; and last night I totaled up our monthly spending by category, and saw that we still need to do better on the grocery shopping/Walmart runs. This gives me motivation to do better in February – a short month right? Those of you who saved such great amounts – congratulations! We saved a few hundred dollars this month and I hope to double that next month.

  • I was doing really well and then a 30% off Kohls coupon set me off track. I spent about $38, but did only buy things I knew I would use.
    My fall off the money diet inspired this blog post: http://lifecoachlinda.com/coupons-discounts-shopping-zombie-syndrome/

  • Lisa F

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Your timely posts/emails have motivated me. I just wrote a mortgage check for DOUBLE our normal amount due!!!! I reached my goal!

    Many happy blessings,

    Lisa F

  • Lynn Louise

    I was a newbie to the January Money Diet and I truly can say I loved every email and every challenge. Somethimes all it takes is just someone to encourage you. It can make all the difference. I put everything on my credit card…..food, gas, clothes, meals out, etc. Everything. And usually my balance it upwards of $1200. I just checked my balance for this month and it is $250!!!! I can’t believe it. By watching what I spent I saved almost a thousand dollars. And I honestly don’t feel like I deprived myself or my family of anything. We still ate healthy wholesome food. We are warm and comfortable in our home. And we are happy. And to add to that, the house is more organized and clear of clutter. I can’t think of why I would ever go back to the way I use to spend without thinking. Now every purchase that I make I really think about whether I need it or love it. We always have focused on saving energy and being frugal, but this challenge has taught me new ways to continue to make a difference in saving money. Thanks Eliza and I look forward to recieving your emails througout the year!

  • Tricia

    Thank you for putting forth this challenge. It was a tough but good experience. I am aiming to continue this for the coming months and years.

  • Catherine Godfrey

    Some parts of this month where harder than others. I saved $550 which is unreal for me. I’m geared up to keep increasing the savings. We caught up on all our bills & paid more toward student loans. Our 14th anniversary was 01/27 & instead of going out for a high priced meal we grilled out great steaks. Our total cost including drinks was $11. Our gift to each other was an item we needed. We are going on vacation in April & this is our first vacation w/ an actual budget usually we just spend whatever. My husbands been working out of town a lot & earning hotel points so our hotel is totally free.
    My mom & I did restorative yoga today & it was soooooo fabulous. That did cost $20 each, but it was worth every single penny.
    Thank You soooo much for everything this month.

  • Jennifer

    Thank you so much for the great advice and motivation! We were able to catch up on monthly bills and even pay ahead on some. It has been awesome! I am grateful for the new habits that we are forming together as a family.

    I do plan on splurging just a tad and start out by taking two more bags to The Salvation Army. Then we will have a family dinner out to celebrate our hard work this month. I want to make sure that we keep ourselves in check but also reward ourselves when we do a job well done!

    Congratulations to all who joined and made it!

  • Kris

    Thank you for creating the January Money Diet. It was the perfect spring board for me in my journey of getting out of debt in 2015. I saved a total of $700 by only buying essentials. (Minus a top and bag for my daughter). I’ll be using the extra cash to pay down one of my debts!! What a great way to start the year. You are a blessing from God. Thank you.

  • SanDandy

    I am going to try to live the diet for this year. Wish me luck!

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