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 I consider the Big Picture and think about how each one of us might accomplish extraordinary things with money, I believe the best approach incorporates a lot of little steps practiced faithfully over time.
We may have to do 100 little things each month to save money and some 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
- Practicing gratitude
- 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
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 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 craftmanship 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 month 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 at the right price 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 ten 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, 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. Make it and Mend It has tons of DIY ideas, 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 2016, I promise that these steps will add up and produce real, lasting change in our finances.
How about you?
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.
I have some special giveaways for several January Money Diet participants. One lucky dieter will win a $25 Amazon gift card, $25 cash, signed copies of two of my cookbooks, natural beauty and household samples, and more.
You could also win one of three books. I’ll be giving away a copy of A Simple Act of Gratitude by John Kralik to one of you who gave away 31 things during Challenge #1, a copy How to Get Rich Without Winning the Lottery by Barbara Friedberg to one of you who figured your net worth in Challenge #2, and a copy of my book The Quinoa Quookbook to one of you who weighed in and left a comment on Day 11.
You’ll hear from me next this Monday, February 1, when I announce the prize winners from among those who have participated in this 31-day challenge with heart and soul and achieved good results.
If you haven’t completed the 5 Challenges, you still have until tomorrow evening (1/31/16) at midnight MST to finish up. Be sure to leave a comment on each page if you completed the challenges:
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 monthly expenses.
Challenge #5 – Open an inconvenient 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 the weekend, stay strong, and you’ll hear from me again on Monday.