100 Little Things

January Money Diet

Dear friends,

As this no-spending month winds down, I want to thank each one of you who participated in this journey. Thank you for showing up, and sharing your creative ideas and thoughts, and trying new things. It’s been so good to be with you during the January Money Diet.

As we each continue our journey in 2017 with a desire to be good stewards and accomplish extraordinary things with money, the best approach might incorporate a lot of little steps practiced faithfully over time.

Maybe we cook a few more meals at home, grow a little more produce in our gardens, get creative with leftovers, use up things we already have in our freezers and pantries, and the net result is that we save $100 on our monthly food bills.

Perhaps we fix some drafty places in our homes, conserve water by retrofitting our toilets, switch a few more incandescent lightbulbs to CFLs, and save $25 on utilities every month.

Maybe we continue decluttering and creating space, and sell a few unused items each month to net an extra $25.

Perhaps we put our credit cards away in a safe place so we’re not tempted to use them for impulse buys, and faithfully apply the extra $150 to our balances each month, so that our interest payments drop, too, until on day we have the glorious feeling of being debt-free.

The beautiful thing is that none of these steps will affect our quality of life in a negative way. The upside is less worry about money and more financial freedom to focus on the things that matter.

Some of the steps we take to steward our money wisely will produce bigger results than others, but together they form the basis for a better financial foundation. This month we explored many strategies:

  • Whittling down monthly expenses
  • Saving energy and water to reduce utility bills
  • Eliminating wastefulness
  • Cooking good food at home
  • Fixing and maintaining the things we have
  • Giving generously to others
  • Growing our own food in a garden
  • Setting up an emergency savings account
  • Using things we already have at home
  • Paying off debt
  • Figuring our net worth
  • Making things with our own hands
  • Nurturing our health
  • Creating peaceful, uncluttered spaces at home
  • Earning extra money
  • Finishing projects
  • Saving for the future
  • Being mindful about every dollar spent

Future Shopping Strategies

Many of us 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? Is it well made? 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. I don’t shop 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 with the help of 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 once wanted a particular energy-efficient ceiling fan for the kitchen that was out of my budget. I created a custom search on eBay, and several times a month I received e-mail notices about auctions featuring my fan. I bid several times unsuccessfully, stuck to my budget, and finally got lucky.

By being willing to wait, I finally upgraded the fixture and got the fan I really wanted; you can see the old and new fixture here.

If you know what you want and can be patient, you can often find the item of your dreams on sale or at a greatly reduced price. It’s when we want something NOW that we usually pay top dollar.

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, or canning supplies to preserve food from your garden, or quality scissors that you use for kids’ haircuts.

Other things might be worth investing in for long-term savings: rechargeable batteries, an antenna that brings in free television, solar lights, perennial food plants like berries and asparagus, fruit trees, window film, insulation, and energy-efficient or hand-powered appliances. These are decisions we will have to weigh carefully and research thoroughly.

Can I innovate instead of spending money?

Figuring out a solution for little or no money is not only fiscally rewarding, but personally satisfying. I love the Budget Living section of Apartment Therapy, where readers show their amazing hacks to transform spaces for little or no money.

Young House Love is a fun blog with tons of DIY home projects, and LifeHack has numerous articles for saving money and repurposing.

Let’s continue what we started

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.

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 2017, I promise that these steps will add up and produce real, lasting change in our finances.

How about you?

I did the math this morning, and we saved $600 as a result of practicing the January Money Diet this month. It’s going straight into savings.

What specific results did you achieve as a result of your participation in the January Money Diet? I invite you to share your experiences in the Comments section of this page.

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.

Prize Giveaway Tomorrow!

If you have completed the 5 January Money Diet Challenges, be sure to leave a comment on each of the challenge pages (see links below). Tomorrow I’ll choose one lucky winner who will receive a January Money Diet gift box with a $35 Amazon gift card, cookbooks, and an assortment of fun household goodies.

Here are links to each of the Challenge pages:

Challenge #1 – Give 31 things away.

Challenge #2 – Figure your net worth.

Challenge #3 Do something to earn an extra $25 or more this month

Challenge #4 – Reduce one monthly expense

Challenge #5 – Open a savings account

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.

Enjoy this last day on the January Money Diet, and you’ll hear from me again tomorrow.


The signature for Eliza Cross

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.

9 comments to 100 Little Things

  • Sara

    I saved 45% of my net income this January, and used the sum to pay of my yearly student loan repayment plan in full. This year I also participated in the JMD together with my boyfriend, we had fun supporting each other packing lunches for work etc. and it also sparked some interesting questions regarding financial values and priorities. My livingroom looks much cozier and has a Spring feel to it after the nesting challange. Also, the free yoga workshop I attended gave me a few good tips regarding technique that I can utilize in my practice. All in all,it was a lovely and very rewarding month, and I really enjoyed reading everyones comments and learning about the financial journey of the whole JMD-community! Thank you Eliza for providing this opportunity!

  • This is amazing Eliza. Changing the way you look at stuff can really have a massive impact on your life. It loosens your grip on the material and let you enjoy the more important things in life.

  • Susan Trimble

    Eliza thank you so much for your help and all of the information in the January money diet. I got quite a few things done and plan on repeating it several times this year.

  • Barb

    Have been doing the Money Diet for several years now. This year I sold some items that were not needed and have a box to donate. Hope to be able to carry on into February. Your posts are very informative for young and older (retired, as I am) persons. Thank you.

  • Glenda

    I did a lot this month beginning with giving away 31 bags of stuff. Once I got started the ball rolling the parting with things was very easy. Even my daughter got in on the great give away. I also dropped the cable which shaved about $125 off the monthly bill. I started up a savings account and have a plan to contribute regularly. I am also selling books that are in demand and that I don’t want to reread. That money will be going in the savings account. And I plan to keep this up at least for another month.

  • Kimberly

    Best challenge. Did a lot. Added to savings , not much but every cent counts. Going to continue this. Got a find a way to blog or something to make a little money. Need my life to change. Started to exercise also. Woke this morning so sick. Couldn’t push myself to do anything. I got to win.

  • Jayne

    Wow! What a life changing month this has been. I had so much fun participating in the January Money Diet and I’m thrilled with the results. My personal achievements were:-
    Cleaned out and donated more than 31 items of clothing from my closet.
    Cancelled my cable ($119 monthly cost) and signed up for Sling (first month free with Costco promo). I purchased a Roku for this which meant I didn’t have a completely purchase free month.
    I renegotiated my Internet Bill and got a $20 monthly reduction.
    I sold some old toys my kids had outgrown and a mirror I don’t use and made $80.
    I switched out a bunch of incandescent lights for LED so will wait to see the cost benefit in my next electric bill.
    I already had a savings account set up but automated some monthly transfers in the reverse 52 week savings plan your suggested. Love that method!
    My family has gone on hikes, rented movies from the library and just found other ways for entertainment this month. Such a fun month! Thank you for setting this up!

  • Colette

    In general, I have come away after this 2nd January Money Diet with better habits and an even stronger resolve than ever before! Thank-you Eliza and all who left comments for your ideas and encouragement! It has been a great success for me!

  • Lyn

    Best outcome this month? Finished a project I’ve had in a box for 15 years — before my daughter was born, I was going to make her a quilt out of my old sundresses. I cut square pieces and then got busy…she no longer needs are wants a quilt, but instead I took the pieces and sewed them in a fun way onto a sloppy flax jacket I’ve had for years. It’s imperfect with uneven stitches (I sewed by hand), but it’s colorful and fun and I can’t wait to wear it this spring! Thank you for inviting me to complete a project this month!

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