Exciting news – I started this year out with a promotion!
Of course I celebrated the way everyone does when they have a few extra dollars in their pocket; by deciding to increase my savings.
Armed with the budgeting app Mint, I set out with a goal to save 50% of my income in January. I wanted to start the year with a fresh savings mindset, but even more than that I just wanted to do a fun challenge (I have a strange idea of fun).
Now that January is over I’m happy to report that I SAVED 50% OF MY INCOME THIS MONTH!
It wasn’t easy – in fact, I came in just $3 under my goal – but I did it! I’m excited to share how I saved 50% of my income last month.
How I saved 50% of my income
I went into this month with some ground rules for spending money:
- Only purchase things I need (rent, groceries, necessary items like toilet paper, etc.)
- Avoid purchasing wants (unnecessary snacks, decor, etc.)
- Say no to shopping (other than grocery shopping)
- Don’t spend money on eating out
- Cook more
- Pack a lunch for work every day
- Stretch leftovers for as long as possible
- Don’t take ubers/lyfts (drive/walk only)
- Get creative with ways to save!
Following these rules, I spent the vast majority of my money on rent, utilities, and groceries. I definitely saved money by not eating out, but it was still eye-opening to see how much groceries cost, even for just 1 or 2 people. I realized that I can definitely do a better job of grocery shopping more financially mindfully.
Throughout the month, I tracked all of my spending through the app/website Mint. I created a new budget limiting myself to 50% of my income this month, and and used Mint to stay updated on my budget all month long. (Click here to learn how I use Mint).
Here are some purchases that helped or hindered my savings this month:
I normally set a $40/month budget for Starbucks (I have a problem). However, last November Starbucks ran a promo where if you purchased a certain cup for $40, you got free coffee every day in January. I took total advantage of this and went to Starbucks 22 times in January, getting free coffee free every single time. Totally worth the purchase..
I bought 2 bottles of wine for my boyfriend and I at the beginning of the month. This purchase is technically a need, because The Bachelor airs on Monday nights and cannot be viewed without wine in hand.
Cost: $22 – We save by not being picky wine-drinkers. Give me Barefoot any day!
I had a $30 rebate check to send in from purchasing contacts from 1-800-contacts, (always take advantage of rebates!) and I needed a stamp. I was not about to spend $20 on a book of stamps during a low spend month, so instead I venmo’d my boyfriend to buy a stamp that he already had. That’s called creative budgeting!
I received a $51 parking ticket. While this could’ve put a kink in my savings plan, I knew I didn’t deserve the ticket! I immediately went on-line and disputed it. The final verdict on the ticket is TBD, but I didn’t have to pay it this month (and hopefully won’t at all).
Cost: $0, pending
I broke my “only shop for needs” rule because Rite Aid had Christmas wrapping paper on sale for 90% off. I bought a roll of Christmas paper for next year because thet sale was just too good to pass up!
I picked up my anxiety medicine prescription. I have new insurance this year, so I wasn’t sure how much this was going to cost me!
Over MLK weekend, I traveled to Florida to vacation with my parents. Lucky for me, lodging was free and meals were provided by my parents. (Thanks, mom and dad!) So I had a few days that were both free of money and free of mind. On my last night of vacation, I paid for dinner to thank my parents for their hospitality.
Cost: $40. We had tacos. Delish.
I bought a sandwich locally before heading to the airport because I knew airport food would be at least double the cost. Also, I never board a plane without a sandwich. I also brought a refillable water bottle and filled it up once I was through security. (See my carry-on packing list here).
Before my return flight, I made a sandwich so I could skip airport food again!
Much to my dismay, I had to break my no Uber/Lyft rule when I returned from Florida. While my boyfriend was able to drop me off at the airport for my flight out, I had to order a Lyft to get home.
Cost: $21 (Dang, these things are expensive)
I went out to dinner with my boyfriend one night. We often split the bill, but he very sweetly paid on this occasion. (Thanks!)
FINE, I confess. I ordered dinner in! While I did break one of my cardinal rules, ordering one meal in a whole month isn’t bad. I also definitely made the most of it – my boyfriend’s salad had a ton of extra chicken, and he was going to toss the excess. Instead, I stuck the extra chicken in the fridge and made it last through TWO of my lunch salads at work. That’s how you budget creatively!
Cost: $13 (lasted for 3 meals)
That’s how I saved 50% of my income this month – by grocery shopping, cooking, and saving creatively. This challenge was definitely as much of a mind exercise as it was a financial exercise. I had to remind myself over and over again that I couldn’t just buy non-sale Oreos, or grab ridiculous Valentine’s Day socks off the shelf.
I’m going into this next month feeling even more empowered about my finances, and eager to continue saving. (Just maybe not 50% next time – I miss my favorite sandwich spot).