January Money Diet Day #11 – Weigh In and Win

Weigh in during the January Money Diet

We’re 33% in, and this is the stage of the January Money Diet when we may need to encourage each other to have extra willpower.

Like most diets, after the initial rush of enthusiasm we may have to re-commit to be strong. We can accomplish such good things with our money this month, if we all stick together and keep on keepin’ on!

Let’s begin by taking a look at last week’s expenditures. How did you do? Here’s what we spent in the last 7 days:

  • 1/3   Doctor co-pay (my son was sick) – $20.00
  • 1/3   Prescription – $10.00
  • 1/4   Oil change for car – $24.97
  • 1/5   Groceries – $19.12
  • 1/5   Sprouts* – $9.62
  • 1/7   Groceries – $11.14
  • 1/7   Total – $94.85

*This is for fresh-ground organic Guatemalan coffee, which for me is absolutely essential.

These are few random observations from last week:

New Shopping Habits Save Money

I stopped at the store earlier this week to pick up a prescription, and after paying for it I turned to walk around the store a bit. Then I had an epiphany. When I stop in a store to pick something up, I realized I have a habit of walking all around to look at everything. Inevitably, I find something on sale or something I think we need. So I turned around and walked out of the store, with just my prescription.

I was tempted again a few days later when I went to pick up milk and two specific things we needed at the store. The end caps were filled with tempting sale items, but I forced myself to pay and leave.  How about you? Are you good about dashing in and out for something specific, or do you tend to wander the store aisles like me? This is a habit I intend to break permanently.

Exploring the Meaning of ‘Essential’

Have you wrestled with what, exactly, is an essential expense this month? Me, too.

“Is wild bird seed an essential?” I asked myself. I decided yes, because the birds visit often and rely on the feeder–especially when the weather is cold and the ground is covered with snow.

On the other hand, I decided to hold off on buying new washcloths, even though (true confession time) ours are getting ratty. We can survive worn washcloths a little longer, and keep saving money this month. I will also pray that Michelle Obama doesn’t happen to drop by and ask to wash up here.

Planning for the Future

Citrine at Mavens in Medicine shared a great idea on her recent post about her January Money Diet experience. She’s keeping a running list of things she wants after the diet ends. I totally copied her and started jotting down the things we need around the house (new washcloths!), and things that need restocking like the pricey little halogen bulbs for our kitchen pendant lights. Since I don’t need these things immediately, I can spend a little time after the January Money Diet researching deals and spending thoughtfully.

How About You?

Confession is good for the soul. If you’d like to share your expenses from last week or the practical ways you’re making the money diet work, we’d love to hear from you. Just leave a comment on this page.

The Quinoa QuookbookTo make things interesting, I’ll give away a copy of my cookbook “The Quinoa Quookbook” to one of you who comments on this post. (This cookbook also happens to be featured on an Amazon giveaway this week – enter here to win one of two copies.)

Also, if you’re blogging about the diet, will you let me know? You can leave a comment here with a link to your blog, or e-mail me at elizagcross (at) gmail (dot) com.

Have a wonderful Monday and stay strong! You’ll hear from me tomorrow with a new challenge.


The signature for Eliza Cross

Photo:  Franklin Heijnen



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.

January Money Diet Day #11 – Weigh In and Win

  • Kris

    Darn Kohl’s coupons!! I’ve been wanting a new pair of boots so I went to Kohl’s with two coupons-$10 off and 30% off. After stacking my coupons and finding a great sale, I got a great pair of boots for $17.03. Totally worth cheating on my diet

  • Carol Rehme

    I inventoried my pantry for odd foods I hadn’t used up (or, frankly, forgot why I bought them. Am I the only person who does this?). Next, I plugged various ingredient combinations into Google (or just typed a singleton: Anise Seeds) to discover a world of recipe ideas! We’re experimenting with new dishes and are finding winners. (Anise Seed cookies are fantastic.) My grocery bill is lower. My husband is thrilled. Win-win-win!

  • Kim

    I have spent $105.00 for groceries. Sunday I went to buy milk & kleenx and did the walk around thing and spied the Christmas discounts but I only bought 2 rolls of Christmas wrap for .24 cents each. I desperately need a hair cut $30.00 just can’t wait till next month. So other than that I should not have to buy anything else except milk. Lol no walk arounds, in / out!

  • Marlyn

    I have posted my challenge on my blog. I found I had to really think about essential items because I have fear of a storm hitting and leaving me without food and water. I live 54 km from any store, so my must have essential items is food.Other then that put me in a cabin in the woods and I would be fine.

  • Betty

    I am in the habit of recording all my expenses – started that about 3 years ago. I found it just keeps my spending down and my priorities straight. So looking at my expense sheet – there is not much on it yet this month. I have not been to the grocery store yet this month but that will change this week. I went out for 2 meals with relatives – spent less than $5. Per meal because my sister was willing to split our meal and I didn’t think order coffee at the noon meal which keeps the cost down. Actually, the only $ that went out this month so far was payment for the cable bill and I reduced that by calling the company and they gave me a discount for being a loyal customer. That is “Dish network” – it pays to call them occasionally and they will give a discount to keep you for a customer. I’m having no difficulty at this time to live without spending money but I keep a well-stocked pantry and other home maintenance supplies. It would get harder as I went along without spending. The only inconvenience that I have experienced was that my watch battery died and I used a second watch that I have and then that battery died too – it was a test – I am wearing my husband’s too big watch – just put it high up on my sleeve. A watch battery will be one of the first things I purchase in Feb.

  • Kathy

    That cookbook looks great. Quinoa is one of the very few seeds/grains that everyone can eat in our household. I really hate shopping so I usually get in and get out as quickly as possible. I will usually even get pretty creative with the last bits of the refer and pantry to put off a trip to the market as long as possible. Not always a good thing because my thoughtful husband will stop by the market on the way home and even though he is really good about keeping to our healthy food plan, he usually brings home lots of treats (candy, flowers, luxury bath salts, soaps, creams, lotions). All lovely and all not necessary.

    My downfall is the computer. I have been in the past shopping on the Internet to keep out of the shops. It is also great to have things delivered saving me both time and money. I usually am very specific about what I purchase usually food and household products. However I have my moments usually involving purchasing too much makeup, too many gifts and handbags. I have stopped this habit this month, just by being more aware with this money diet. I am pretty pleased with my resolve to stop this habit. A tote bag I have been eyeing for over 10 months went on sale for 50 percent off. It finally sold out in the color I wanted. It was almost the perfect tote for my life but there were still a few things about it I would have had to settle with. Still a nice tote would have made my life easier. No regrets. Money saved.

    So far this month I have spent just under $75.00 on groceries and household. Not bad for a vegan/vegetarian household with food allergies and special diets. I am going shopping today because we need a few things, but I think I will do ok. One of the side effects is that with less treats coming in from the husband we seem to have lost a few pounds.

  • Kimberly

    We started this last year. If I see something I want or think I need I right it down plus the price. My husband and I have a meeting on it and decide if its a buy or not. I have to wait a month before it is a go. If we agree yes then after that month wait I get it if it is still there. If it was no then after that month I have to put that money in saving or if it is no longer there. Makes you really think about things doing it this way.

  • Mila

    We hadn’t shopped, except for milk, since before Christmas. So today we hit two stores and spent $180.
    I do not usually deviate from my list but when I walked by the Asian section I realized I needed a few things.
    I sale shop whenever possible. We live in a small town and only have two grocery stores.

    Todays shopping will last us about two weeks to three weeks. (Except for milk and a few fresh veggies) But the sale items I bought in bulk will save me money in the future.

  • Amy

    I spent $129 on groceries (family of 7-plus 2 cats and 2 dogs)
    $55 on pet food and cat litter
    $425 on car repair (17 year old hit a curb-broke car)Thank God for emergency fund)
    and am generally staying out of stores.
    Even returned two items today from Christmas that decided we just didn’t need–savings of $76

  • Lynn Louise

    I bought gas for the car and 2 trips to Aldis which only added up to $11. Haven’t made any non-food item purchases. We didn’t even get pizza for the football game on Sunday like we usually do. Today I was in the store on my lunch hour just to “browse” and kept stopping to look at all the clearance Christmas items and clothing. Kept telling myself “no, don’t need” and then I started adding up all the items I WOULD have probably gotten if I hadn’t been on the money diet. It added up to $58. Walked out of the store with nothing so very happy. None of the things I left behind were anything that I HAD to have and now writing this I can hardly even remember what everything was.

    • Good for you! I think you deserve extra kudos for getting so close to making those purchases and walking away. May you get to do something EXTRAORDINARY with the money you save this month. I am so proud of you. xoxo

  • Lynette

    I am lucky, my husband does our grocery shopping so I have not needed to visit any shops. I am not tempted to buy impulse products as I have a philosophy of only buying hand-made or second hand. I have a few favourite stores I like but need to avoid if I don’t want to impulse spend. This past week the only non-food item bought was a tin of paint we ran out half-way through a project. This coming week we will have to buy back to school supplies so lots of money there unfortunately.

  • Joy

    so funny! this caught me. I realized a couple of days into January that I had let my facial primer run out–I am 61 I need primer! But I squeezed and twisted and continue to get more primer out for now. I am trying to wait until February. I am a store wanderer sometime and I too go to the “whoops” bread section for bargains and the “market manager” specials for meat deals. I just try not to over buy. I have to really be careful at the year round farmer’s markets and over buying fresh salad greens which we love. I learned last year from doing this January diet I was making some very expensive compost if I was not careful at the FM.

    • Oh, I get in trouble at the farmer’s market, too, Joy. (Your comment about expensive compost made me laugh so hard.) And I can’t even walk in Whole Foods because I don’t trust myself. You are doing great! xo

  • Cheryl Ciccolo

    I have been following your money diet with mixed results, but I AM trying! In order to avoid shopping while picking up my prescriptions, whenever possible I go to the drive through at the pharmacy. It saves me a ton of money. Thanks so much for your posts!

  • Sara

    I abstained from buying sweets, latte, tulips at the store and a lovely package of body butter at the pharmacy. I will try to make this past Sundays grocery shopping last the whole week. My trick to avoid shopping is to stay out of the stores as much as possible. On the other hand I spent on train tickets to go visit a friend over the weekend. I made that an exception.

  • Karin Thyr Eriksson

    I just DONT stop at the store… Still no one has gone to bed hungry but the dinners are somewhat strange…..:)
    It is really hard and I realize I do impulse shopping a lot.
    Hang in there folks!

  • And in terms of wandering the store… well, I have mixed feelings about it. Last week I spent more on groceries than I might have because I hit the mother load of sales in the meatless freezer section. I went to buy meatless breakfast sausages, but found burgers and nuggets at 75% off, so I stocked up.

    The way I see that I spent a tiny bit more this week than I might have, but I saved a bundle because I’m set for several months in the protein department. Same thing with apples – organic Fuji apples (my favorites) for only 99 cents a pound! I bought 3 times what I “needed” so I’m set for several weeks.

    Just curious what others think of this strategy.

    • You scored! (I stocked up on organic apples this week, too – so happy.) Especially for protein items that you eat regularly, in my humble opinion you made a great purchase that will save you money in the long run. I am really enjoying all the ideas and comments you are sharing, CatLady. xoxo

  • Jessica

    I have definitely noticed that I tend to wander the store and have had to conciously stop myself. Awareness is the first step.

    In reading the posts, I have to wonder what am I doing wrong on grocery shopping? We are a family of three and spend much more on groceries than what I’m seeing here. Would love if anyone has tips to share.

    • Mary Ann

      Each month can vary greatly in how much I spend on my family of three. Several months ago I bought and stored 25 pounds of oats , 10 pounds of sugar, a GIANT bottle of vanilla, several cans of evap. milk on sale for 2 for a dollar. etc. . . My husband is a farmer so we are blessed with free wheat, rice, sorghum, walnuts, pecans and various amounts of gifted sweet potatoes, persimmon and oranges. So my monthly expenses this month should be minimal if I actually use what is stored instead of buying precooked things. I have just spent $100 this month on milk, eggs, lettuce, and parmesan. If I am careful, I am done for the month.
      You can’t tell how much people are spending by looking at just one month. Food allergies, location, and work schedules determine so much of a budget. For me, I am a success if I plan and cook most meals and we are all eating 5 – 7 fruits and veggie servings a day. My boys are very good about not complaining about the lack of variety when I am going through a case of sweet potatoes though I do try and get creative.
      I also have game breakers. I am on a diet and need quality protein. I like one brand of cottage cheese so I went to Sam’s and bought it in bulk even though generic was cheaper. And I tried the evap milk in my new milk frother (Xmas gift) and I nearly choked. Back to milk but I need make pumpkin pie with the left over evap. I tried couponing but realized that my hourly wage made it not economically sound. Instead, I plan menus around what Grocery Outlet has on sale.
      Given all that, I try to spend $300 on groceries monthly on average.

    • Jessica, if you want to learn from the master, I suggest checking out Lili’s blog over at creativesavv.com.

      She feeds a family of five adults (mom, dad & three college age kids) on about $180/month.

    • Jessica,

      Our grocery bill was unusually low last week, partly because we were sick and eating a lot of soup. I appreciate your candid question, and am learning so much from the generous strategies everyone is sharing!

      I happened to read this story over at Simple Most today and thought it had some good grocery shopping strategies. I never thought of bringing my calculator to the store, but it’s the kind of geeky idea that really appeals to me!


      Sending you encouragement and hugs,


  • OK, I’ll bite. Last week I spent:

    Groceries: $49.99
    Breathe Right Strips (6 month supply): $52.85
    Vet Bills: $685.20 Ouch!
    Cat Food: $28.60

    I buy my Breathe Right strips in bulk online because they’re cheaper that way. It’s one of the few items that I am brand loyal to – and I buy only the clear variety! I have sensitive skin and the el cheapo ones tend to weld themselves to my nose causing injury, making them… um… somewhat less of a good deal in the big picture sense. And being able to breathe at night is something that I consider to be essential! 🙂

    And Jasper had oral surgery last week to remove some bad teeth. I am really, REALLY hoping that this will be the year that we won’t have to spend a fortune on vet bills. But I do consider those to be an essential expense. Keep your fingers crossed for us! 🙂

    And I suppose we didn’t really need more cat food, but we were out of Jasper’s favorite canned food and he’s not supposed to have dry until he heals…. Yes, I’m a sucker!

  • Colette

    I think that mine has been a lifelong habit of 1. making sure that I get a deal (to save money), and 2. feeling a “high” when I get something new, even if it’s second-hand. But, when I get a deal on something I don’t need, it’s really wasting money. And, emotional spending can be dangerous! Seriously considering every purchase is the beginning of breaking bad spending habits. My focus needs to be trained elsewhere.

  • Catharine

    I dashed back from the till to pick up stuff I’d seen the customer in front with. Bought small nice present for my friends birthday only to then go overboard and but more presents. WHY !!!

    So must get back to the saving.

    C x

  • Nancy

    Years ago, I realized that if I went shopping, I also purchased. So, I do tend to make strategic, targeted stops at the store. Our store also has an in-store pharmacy, so the temptation is there. There are many good list making apps for grocery shopping, which help on those visits. Since we are eating really clean, I have to shop frequently (would love the quinoa cookbook for that!) and I have a running list of things I always have to refresh.

    As far as essentials, mine tend to land in the health and beauty aid category. 😉 I like the idea presented today about waiting until next month to purchase, as sometimes the “need” goes away and sometimes research makes the purchase smarter.

  • Pam

    Thanks again for the “money diet.” It’s my third year and I find that it makes me more mindful throughout the year. Last week was a good week for me as I kept spending to a minimum. I think it was a combination of the “money diet” and the fact that I’m just over spending after the holidays. I did take back all returnable items that needed a ride back to the store for refunds. That is something that I usually let sit around, sometimes until they are out of season. Then they don’t go back to the store at all! $83 went back in my pocket and almost covers the purchase that my husband made on eBay. I”m hoping that he will be on the “money diet” with me for the rest of the month. Any tips on that?

  • Annette

    I too realized that I tend to wander the aisles of stores looking for deals and bargains! I am really going to try to break this habit permanently. What I have learned this month is to shop with a list and not to deviate from the list. Aside from my regular bills (mortgage, car etc) I have only spent $46 this month and it really wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. You just have to stop and think about every purchase before you pull out your wallet. I love the money diet and the good habits I’m forming!

  • I am so guilty of the wander around the store after picking up exactly what I need. I’m glad you brought that up. I’m going to be more mindful and try not to fall into that money pit.

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