January is gone, and I think this has been one of my most successful Fiscal Fast months ever!
Groceries: When it comes to cutting back on spending, groceries are always the lowest-hanging fruit, because 85% of the time, we just go buy whatever we want, mindlessly throwing things in the cart, and end up spending $200 or more at a time. Which is how we end up with a thousand bucks spent in groceries in just one month (December 2019). Ridiculous. So during FF months, I set a weekly budget of $50, and use sales and coupons to try to stay under this amount. We knew we might not hit this goal every week this January, since we had just started our keto diet and knew that might require specialty products that would put us over budget. We started out very strong, and as we ran out of must-have food (specifically, meat), the spending went up a little. However, I consider any week we are under $100 for groceries to be a success, and any week we are under $50 to be near miraculous. January groceries by week went: $35, $54, $74, $88.
JAN 2020 Groceries: $288.43
JAN 2019 Groceries: $366.88
JAN 2018 Groceries: $300.53
JAN 2017 Groceries: $338.00
JAN 2016 Groceries: $447.09
So you can see, Jan 2020 is our best/lowest year for groceries since we started this in 2016!
Dining Out: Going out to eat is something we love to do, kind of as a hobby. I have “go to 20 new restaurants” on my list of goals for 2020! But in January, we had to really dial that back and just go out for necessity. We allowed ourselves to go out to eat when bringing a meal was impractical (day-long volleyball tournaments, or when we are in town at dinner time before picking S up at vball practice). However, I have religiously packed breakfasts and lunches and snacks every day for work and for weekend tournaments where I know we won’t get to dinner until evening. We also tried to keep our meals confined to places a) not too expensive, and b) keto-friendly, like Chipotle and Sweet Tomatoes. My dining out category shows a few trips through the McDonald’s drive-thru, but obviously these were for the kiddo, typically due to volleyball-related starvation.
JAN 2020 Dining Out: $160.64
JAN 2019 Dining Out: $216.69
JAN 2018 Dining Out: $ 53.13
JAN 2017 Dining Out: $ 38.55
JAN 2016 Dining Out: $301.31
So you can see here that Jan 2017 is the winner for least $ spent dining out since we started this! 2017 is also conveniently BEFORE we started doing volleyball and spending 3-5 days/nights in town every week. We don’t have a set budget for dining out, other than just “keep it down,” and we obviously succeeded.
Shopping: Shopping is something I vowed to do zero of in January, and by shopping I just mean buying “things.” The goal was to buy no clothes, shoes, toiletries, gym stuff, household stuff, books, songs, or anything non-consumable in January. I succeeded 100% for January 1-29, but on January 30 I made the command decision to order my spring garden seeds. I wanted to make sure they had enough time to arrive before my free weekend (Feb 8-9) so I could get all my hot peppers and tomatoes planted ASAP. So I spent $74 on January 30 for a whole bunch of seeds. Other than that, I bought absolutely no “things” in January! It can be hard to buy nothing in January, simply because my kid’s birthday is on February 2. So some years I start ordering her some gifts in January so they will arrive by Feb 2. This year, however, I just told her we would shop for her birthday together Feb 1-2. So no birthday spending this year in January!
JAN 2020 Shopping: $ 74.25
JAN 2019 Shopping: $642.96
JAN 2018 Shopping: $113.32
JAN 2017 Shopping: $ 25.40
JAN 2016 Shopping: $409.46
January 2017 was the winner again with a total of $25.40, but 2020 was a close second place with $74.25! I am pleased with my results this year, and happy to report that my spending on the seeds was something I really thought about, weighed the pros and cons, and then made an educated decision. I wasn’t just like OOH SEEDS BUY BUY BUY!
So those are the three main categories I track and compare every January. I think that for me, Fiscal Fast was a great success this year, and I plan to continue FF-ing as much as possible for 2020. I haven’t decided yet if I will continue to report my days here… we’ll see! Could be a fun exercise in accountability.
I typically think of the use-it-up challenge to mean eat what’s in the pantry and freezer, and don’t buy new shampoo.
Food: If you could see our freezer right now, you’d know that we succeeded in that aspect! What we have left in there right now are 2 whole turkeys and 1 whole chicken, 2 packs of bacon, a lot of frozen green chile, and a few containers of mystery leftovers. It was harder to eat out of the pantry, due to our keto diet which does not allow beans, pasta, rice, lentils, pretzels, or graham crackers (what we have the most of in our pantry). We did finish off a case of green beans, and have been making a noodle option for Sabrina most nights. I also donated a box of graham crackers to the volleyball “snack table” at a tournament recently, so I wouldn’t have to buy anything new, and just to rehome 1 of our 7 boxes of graham crackers (leftover from Christmas house building). Another way we succeeded at Use-It-Up in January was by eating leftovers until they were gone.
Toiletries and such: We have a ton of partly-used shampoos, conditioners, and fancy body washes. We haven’t finished any of them off in January, but it won’t be long before we start emptying them here and there. Obviously, I always add water and shake them up to get a couple more uses out of them. I would like to find an alternative to all the plastic waste the comes with shampoo/conditioner — maybe a bar of some kind? It’s worth looking into.
Laundry Soap: I typically buy our laundry soap at Dollar Tree for $1, which is a great price. I also get their Oxiclean knockoff, which is like a stain-removing booster to add when needed (dry powder). I have 2 containers of that stuff that have lasted me probably 8 months so far. The DT laundry soap does not have the “easy-pour spout” so I just buy it and pour it into an old Arm & Hammer laundry soap jug that does have it! Same with fabric softener. Buy at DT, and pour into a mess-free Snuggle container. I’d like to find a plastic-free option for this as well. I have the wool dryer balls which are reusable in the dryer for years, but in really static-y seasons, they don’t cut it and I end up having to use dryer sheets and liquid fabric softener. It’s a whole thing.
Paper Towels: Since I started making reusable “unpaper” towels a couple of years ago, our consumption of paper towels has decreased by 95%. We bought a 12-pack at Costco a while back, which should last about a year. We use cloth towels for drying hands and cleaning up easy messes in the kitchen (coffee spills, water on the counter, etc.) and save the paper towels for gross stuff like grease, raw meat, etc.
So that’s the wrap-up for Fiscal Fast January 2020!