Making May An Ultra-Frugal Month

My wife and I have been talking a lot about making significant lifestyle changes related to frugality, and so we’ve decided to take a one month test run at it to see how it goes. We decided to make a list of twelve frugal initiatives to try for the month and then at the end of the month we’ll take a look at our finances and see how we’re doing, as well as decide which ones are worth adopting on a more permanent basis. Here are our twelve initiatives to make May an ultra-frugal month:

We will only drink water and milk at home. Water is the best beverage you can drink, and we’re retaining milk because of the nutritional value both for us (skim milk) and for our child (whole milk). We get our milk from a local dairy farmer (seriously, at Picket Fence Creamery) and it doesn’t have all of the hormonal additives of high-throughput milk.

We will only go grocery shopping twice the whole month. This challenges us to get into a routine where it becomes clear what we actually need and what gets put into the back of the cupboard only to be forgotten about. Plus, fewer grocery store trips means fewer incidental buys.

We will do all of our produce shopping at the local farmer’s market Farmer’s markets in the area have started up again and they’re already surprisingly well-stocked, as some people grow things year-round in indoor situations.

We will only do free activities (with a couple necessary exceptions) We won’t pay a dime for any activity during the month, with the exception of costs related to attending a graduation.

We will read at least one hour per day as a family How will we do this? This will happen in two half-hour stretches, one where I read to our son and my wife reads to herself, and then we switch. It’s a free activity that sets our son on a lifelong path to learning.

We will not use the clothes dryer Our apartment complex has a clothesline, so for the month we will use that in lieu of the clothes dryer. It takes more time, but it’s far cheaper, as a dryer load costs $0.75.

We will not eat out at any point (excepting meals related to the graduation and freewill meals) The only meals we will eat out this month revolve directly around travel and graduation celebration, which shouldn’t number more than three.

We will not prepare a meal that costs more than $3 per person Since there are three of us, no full meal for all of us should have a bill higher than $9 unless it produces leftovers, period. Since we are already committed to healthy eating, this makes for an interesting challenge – can we dodge the high fructose corn syrup on the cheap?

We will buy no entertainment or hobby items We can, however, trade for them or get them for free using services like the library or PaperBackSwap.

We will not run the air conditioner unless the temperature exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit If it’s cooler than that, then we’ll either go outside or keep the windows open to catch a breeze through the apartment.

We will not watch anything but broadcast television This means ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and PBS here. Since the majority of our television programming comes from these, we’ll see if we can live with just watching them. If we can, then we’ll eliminate our cable at the end of the month.

We will attend fifteen community meals There are at least fifteen available meals in our area in which you can eat for free or for a small donation to a good cause. We’re going to try out a lot of these this month to see what’s available and what’s worthwhile.

How much will this save us? It will be hard to get a precise accounting at the end of the month, but we are anticipating hundreds of dollars in savings.

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65 thoughts on “Making May An Ultra-Frugal Month

  1. Tyler says:

    Booyah! I’m doing this with you Trent! We’ll see how it goes!

  2. Anne says:

    I commend you for doing this! I will likely do something similar in summer when I get no paycheck (10 month stipend) and have to painfully pull back out part of the savings I put away for these months during the year.

    And to answer your question: YES, you can avoid the high fructose corn syrup on a budget. I buy No FOODS with HFCS on my limited food budget (which isn’t as small as it could be I guess because I will not sacrifice my, in some cases organic, produce).

    But yes, you just have to start reading all the labels because if you’ve never looked, it really is in everything. In a few cases this meant no longer buying a certain food, but usually I could find an “all natural” version of it for maybe just a bit more, a local version of it (like jam or apple butter), or sometimes a different brand simply doesn’t use it.

    One example is my yogurt. Nearly every normal brand I looked at had HCFS, but the organic was more than I can afford since yogurt is one of my favorite snacks and I eat it at least once most days. So I dug around and found that Yoplait KIDS yogurt is HFCS-free! About the same price as the store brand, so I went with that.

    I also don’t buy foods with trans fats which adds an extra layer of complexity to my shopping trips.

  3. alex says:

    Devil’s Advocate: This doesn’t sound like a very fun month. Yes you could save money by scrimping and denying yourself all of life’s little pleasures, but wouldn’t it be worth retiring a little bit later if it meant you could enjoy your pre-retirement life? Maybe never eating out and never watching cable wouldn’t hurt too much, but for most people this type of ascetic life involves way too much denial, and way too little enjoyment.

    For me and my family: being frugal involves moderation: the occasional restaurant meal, the occasional luxury good purchase (I absolutely love my Tivo), without feeling the need to engage in the game of conspicuos consumption, and always having to keep up with the Jones. So I say: darn the 75 cents, use the dryer!

  4. Matt says:

    I know you’re playing Devil’s Advocate Alex, and I disagree with what you said. I think that trying a month or two like this will let Trent find what he and his family miss, and then add those back into the budget. Those community meals might be quite enjoyable, and may expose Trent’s family to all kinds of interesting people and interesting activities.

    Also, living frugally when not required to is about freedom. If I can save fifty or a hundred bucks a month by not doing something I care little about, I could spend that money on something I do care more about. It’s not entirely about saving for retirement.

  5. Chicky says:

    I have lived a little over a year without cable. On top of that, I can’t get Fox or PBS. Even with 3 channels, it is more than enough. And some shows you can find on the internet for free. Once in a great while, I will wish that I could watch a house flipping show or the like, but it’s not enough to make me pay for TV. It really is easier than you think.

  6. Vincent says:

    @Alex: some people actually prefer clotheslines because the clothes smell better and the sun gets whites whiter.

    I do agree, though, this would be a bit too much for me to handle for a month.

    Trent, have you ever heard of PeerFlix? It’s like PaperBackSwap, for movies.

    http://www.peerflix.com/

    I’m not a member, because I don’t own many DVDs, but it seems like a pretty sweet deal if you’re looking to cut down on entertainment costs.

  7. Cindy says:

    Sounds like some great ideas! If you want the feeling of eating out, you could go to the park & do a picnic lunch or invite friends over for a pot luck dinner. The library is also a great place to get DVDs or CDs.

    I think you were also going to be planting tomato plants? Some other vegetables that would do well in a container are lettuce, spinach, radishes, and snow peas if you give them a small trellis to climb. Would save you from spending at the farmer’s market.

  8. Amelia says:

    Trent, I think this is a fabulous idea. It’s just one month and that way, you’ll see what you really do miss. You may decide that the $0.75 for the dryer is worth it, but cable is not. Who knows? But I agree that it’s totally possible to do what you’ve outlined for 30 days and I’m sure it will be really worthwhile. You truly will see what you want to be “moderate” about and what’s just added junk. I do NOT think this will be a boring or painful thing to do. I have a feeling you may end up having MORE fun spending time with your family and getting creative about your activities instead of spending money on them.

  9. Chris says:

    I’d think that may would be a bad month by itself to judge dropping cable by. Since it’s may sweeps and the networks pull out all the stops to get you to only watch them this month anyways. If you can manage it in june as well then I’d say it’s safe to drop cable.

    but I’m really looking forward to the month end recap to see how much each of these saved and in terms of opportunity cost which ones seemed the most efficient.

  10. I just finished my ultra frugal month and saved 76% of my gross income. It was a a huge challenge and perhaps not repeatable in the fashion I achieved the goal I did ‘clamp down’ in all areas yet I can say it was one of the more enjoyable times of my life given the impacts. So my best advice based on my experience is go for the gusto yet at the same time if you need to ‘treat yourself’ and it is reasonable, it adds to the experience and makes it go by faster.

  11. akl168 says:

    Good stuff! I’ve lived for a year without cable, and 5 months now without tv. Trust me, not only will you not miss it, you’ll wonder where all the extra time is coming from.

    I don’t think I can live without a dryer. I don’t like how the clothes become all saggy. Plus I like throwing a piece of Bounty in there and getting nice soft clothes.

  12. RG says:

    I went the entire month of February without using the dryer (I’m in Arizona). It was no big deal at all and we prefer it! Our clothes last longer and I LOVE being outside hanging up the clothes. It was not a sacrifice at all, instead it has become a time when I can meditate, listen to the birds and feel the sun on my face.

    Also, in February we did not go out to eat at all (except for one time and my aunt was buying). Didn’t miss it at all. We went from eating out multiple times a week to not eating out at all. We never felt deprived. Instead, we packed picnics, ate at the park, etc. That was more fun for us.

    Your plan sounds fabulous! You’ll find such enjoyment and satisfaction from it!

  13. Elizabeth says:

    I’m with Alex. This doesn’t sound like a very fun month. But, hopefully it will help you figure out what is actually worth the cost– like the dryer. (I call this “What’s it worth to you?”)
    Also, have you thought about how any of this will affect your son? One month won’t scar him for life, but he probably won’t understand why he can’t have/eat/do things that he used to. I’m sure he’ll enjoy the attention he gets from reading and not watching TV, but he will most likely be quite upset about not getting any more apple juice.

  14. RG says:

    My kids only drink milk or water and they are not scarred from that. Unless by scarred you mean healthier . . .

    But really, my kids don’t care. Every once in a while we get juice and it just sits in the fridge because no one wants to drink it.

  15. Lori says:

    There was an interesting article along these lines at msn.com/money. It was called something like “Live with a ’70s budget.” It basically stated that if a family lived like it was in the 1970′s in today’s world, they would save some big time money. Things like driving one car, no pay TV, no meals out, no A/C, etc. I remember growing up this way. A trip to a restaurant was a twice a year treat, not a daily stop. My dad took the bus to work everyday so my mom could drive the one car we had. The point of the 70′s budget was that we can all get by on less – we did just 30 years ago. I think trying it for one month sounds great. I may try my own version of this. My downfall is convenience foods and restaurants. I can’t wait to see what I have saved at the end of the month!

  16. Sarah says:

    I’m with Lori – your plan sounds just like my childhood in rural Georgia with a non-AC house. I spent a lot of time outside playing with natural stuff in the muddy shade. Tip for staying cool and entertained: the library. It’s air-conditioned and full of wonderful freeness – and kids’ books are GORGEOUS.

  17. Q says:

    This is completely hardcore frugality! I am linking to this article – this list is just crazy. You are a rock star if you can pull all of this off. I would melt into a pile of jelly if I didn’t drink wine with dinner.

    I wish you the best of luck!

  18. Joe says:

    Life is short, and you should live every day as if it were your last. Go out to eat! Have fun at the bowling alley! Use the dryer!

    Saving a few hundred dollars a month is not worth the restrictions you put in place for yourself — life should be about fun and adventure, not scrimping and saving.

  19. paula says:

    I grew up without a dryer and didn’t use one regularly until we moved to a house that had no place for a clothesline (yep, the suburbs). Transitioning from a dryer back to a clothesline can be hard. But think of how you are helping the environment: 75 cents is your cost for a load of clothes, except that doesn’t include the environmental cost. Just like a gallon of gasoline has an environmental price tag far above what you pay at the pump.

    For those who complain about stiff clothes: I understand you can dry the clothes in the dryer for 5 minutes and then hang it up (if you have your own dryer, that is!). Because I am allergic to fragrances in fabric softeners, my clothes come out pretty stiff, so some things we do dry in the dryer and others (jeans, sheets) we hang up on a sunny day. In other words, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing after your May experiment, Trent. Best of luck to you, and keep walking gently on the earth!

  20. M says:

    that is hardcore man!

  21. Ladarzak says:

    Not to brag, but I do all but 3 of these every summer month and only use the dryer in winter. Since I live in the Okanagan, nearly a desert and baking hot all summer, I’m astonished to see only one laundry line besides mine in my neighbourhood!

    :) Thank you for joining me. :)

  22. db says:

    Trent:

    In April I went on my April Grocery Challenge, where I didn’t go to the grocery store all month (I had quite a bit at home). I’ve still got stuff to go through, so I decided to make a single trip to the grocery store at the beginning of May and extend the grocery challenge into May.

    Best of luck! I like your plan.

  23. val says:

    Warning if you have allergies: drying clothes outside when the pollen is high in the spring may not be a good idea……

  24. lorax says:

    We already do about half of this, and almost all to a lesser degree. We trade off time for money in many cases.

    We buy groceries at the supermarket or in bulk. We’d burn an hour’s worth of gas to get to a farmer’s market.

    Entertainment is cheaper when you have kids. :) They can watch the same dvds forever. And kids computer games and websites are basically free. My personal opinion is to ditch TV and get netflix or some equivalent inexpensive service to supplement the library. You’ll get to decide what to watch and not have to sit through commercials.

    Using Vonage, or equivalent, is also a decent monthly cost reduction.

    I donno about eating at community meals. From what I’ve seen of the prep side of these, they are expensive for what you get. Pancakes, spaghetti, and frozen red meats are the mainstays, along with refreshments from Costco’s “bakery.” Salads are pre-saturated with motor-oil style dressing. Ugh.

  25. Curtis says:

    Trent, I love your blog and am now a daily reader.

    Up until a couple years ago, I was in terrible shape financially and didn’t know the first thing about looking after myself. Then I met a girl — now my fiancee — who taught me how to enjoy life without blowing money. Two years later we own a beautiful place together. We have no debt except the mortgage; my retirement savings are growing; and we’re planning to pay cash for a $25k+ wedding. (With some help from parents, but still!)

    All this is to say that a lot of these comments make it sound like saving money is the opposite of enjoying yourself, and that you have to do one at the expense of the other. While that’s sometimes true, I think a lot of people would be surprised to discover just how little they miss much of the stuff they used to blow money on.

    Stepping away from routine is a great way to discover which things you actually miss and which ones you could care less about. It’ll help you enjoy spending money on the good stuff in the future, and stop spending money on things that weren’t making your life any better anyway.

    I applaud your experiment and wish you well with it — and I think you’ll have a better month than some of the naysayers seem to believe.

    Kudos on the reading with your son, too. My mom read to me a lot as a kid and I can’t begin to describe the number of ways her gift of literacy has improved my life. I’m sure your son will feel the same way.

  26. Lori says:

    To Joe:
    I can appreciate your comments regarding living life to the fullest, not scrimping, etc. But who says living life to the fullest has to involve spending money at every turn? I am finding out that people are finding that their lives are more full and have more meaning when they do not spend money, let alone go into debt. I never thought about spending money at all in my 20′s and I am paying dearly for it in my 30′s. It truely is the little things that add up over time – even in the course of a month- that can spell financial doom and gloom for those of us that earn closer to the average income. I think of it as a wonderful challenge, not a month of deprivation!

  27. HamiHarri says:

    I think M said it best “that’s hardcore”! I’ll be interested to find out how well you do on this stuff. Good luck – but I would miss the apple juice too!

  28. Jason says:

    Aren’t those community meals for low-income families who need them?

  29. Zeb says:

    We don’t pay for TV… We get six channels. Most of the rest of my family have satellite mega packs with several hundred channels to chose from. When I visit I’m always amazed to see there isn’t that much I’m missing. Currently I have FOX, NBC, ABC, CW and PBS… If I could just trade a most of those for the Discovery Channel, Science Channel and the Military Channel I’d be very happy. Seriously those are the only three I ever watch when I’m at work or somewhere with SAT TV. (unless nascar is on)

    I almost make up for it though; we have one of the larger netflix plans, we watch way to many movies a week. But we pay less for a month of netflix than two movie tickets, drinks and popcorn costs once.

    Oh, and we are faithful subscribers to Sirius Radio. But out here in Idaho only the large cities have radio stations, any medium size town have at most a low power relay that works for a few miles.

    The 5 hour drive to my parents house has 20-25 minutes of FM radio on our end and 5-7 minutes of FM radio on their end. Late at night AM will give us another hour worth of radio. We make the trip about once a month, We have a healthy CD collection but there are never enough… Since Sirius Sat radio we haven’t bought a CD either! (two years) Our Sirius costs less than one cd per month.

    zeb

  30. jake says:

    Hanging clothes out to dry has its negative side. Sometimes the clothes dry too slowly so you get this smell of wet clothes. It is horrible when you wear it and walk in the sun.

    Also clothes that are dried out in the sun have a tendency to attract bugs. It gets pretty scary when you wear a shirt and start itching.

    I know all this because my parents did not own a dryer for a very long time. It was extremely hard during winter months when the sun barely came out. We ended up going to a local laundry shop and pay redicuouls fees like $1.75 just to dry!

    From experience I would gladly pay the extra .75 to dry my clothes in about an hour compare to the possibliity of waiting almost an entire day for your clothes to dry.

    I am lucky enough to live in an apartment complex that provides free cable and free internet. The only bills I have are electric bill and gas bill. Which combine is about $30 a month, this includes trash pickup and sewer fees which are half of my bill.

  31. cyndi says:

    I love hanging my clothes out in the sun. In California’s dry climate, I could dry 3-4 loads in one day. My mother used a clothesline in the summers in suburban Chicago and a dryer in the winter. The smell of clothes dried outside was missed in the winter, especially the sheets which were great when somewhat stiff. Regardless, anytime I get to do laundry outside versus inside my windowless laundryroom, I’m happy.

    Going to the grocery store twice a month is a good idea. I’ve also found that if I make out a menu for the week (a month is just too long) and go to the store with that in hand, I shop much more efficiently.

  32. TiP says:

    Sounds great! I would only suggest that you go cold turkey with the cable – cancel it first. If you have it you’ll be tempted to watch it.

  33. Vincent says:

    It’s surprising, the number of people saying to Trent, “Live your life! Spend money!” This is a personal finance blog, people. The point of his post is that he’s planning on spending as little money as possible. Why would you tell him otherwise?

    Anyway, although it seems extreme to some, others have pointed out that many of us already do these things–not eating out, for instance, or only grocery shopping when we absolutely need to. Or not buying cable TV. The fact is, although this seems a little extreme, it’s done with excellent intentions, and he and his wife and son will be better, stronger people for it.

    Lori mentions a 70s budget, but middle America lived like this until the 80s, when credit became easily accessible and widely accepted. It seems as though the further back you go in American history the more ascetic people’s lives were (except, maybe, the 20s). What’s funny is that after the glut of the 80s, 90s, and modern America, people are returning to what many consider asceticism – Trent’s journey to simplicity being a prime example.

    More power to you, Trent. Even if you decide that you enjoy the trappings of modern life and this isn’t for you, there will never be a time when you say, “I regret that one May when I decided to cut my expenses drastically.” What’s to regret? A few hundred bucks left over at the end of the month? No regrets here! Joe’s dead wrong. Setting a goal (especially an aggressive one!) and accomplishing it IS living life to it’s fullest. Go for it.

  34. varatphong says:

    I seem to recall the chinese listing the essentials to basic living are something along the lines of -

    - rice
    - salt
    - water
    - puerh cha

  35. Congratulations on your decision! I look forward to reading your followup at the end of the month. My husband and I dropped all but the basic cable channels (about $10 per month) and haven’t even notice a difference since we don’t really watch that much tv to begin with. Depending on your viewing habits.
    On the other hand, for us, line-drying the laundry is simply too much work to save $.75 a load. With only the two of us, and a busy enough schedule as it is, I’m very happy to pay to use the dryer.
    Depending on where you live, thisis probably a great time to start trying out the free entertainment option too. With summer beginning, there are all sorts of festivals, free movie nights in the park, and the like. Enjoy!

  36. Mitch says:

    To the clothes dryer people: Maybe it would help people to think of it as a fast. Many people fast during Lent, Ramadan, or other times of “cleansing” or refocusing. The Trent Family is making a month-long meditation on how they want to live. I think it’s a great idea.

  37. ck_dex says:

    Trent, have you read, “Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping” by Judith Levine? She and her partner lived for a year following the program you are going to do in May.

    Not only did she pay off all her debt and save a lot of money on very modest wages, she relished all the time freed up from entertainment and shopping indulgences.

    It’s a very worthy experiment that will probably change your life. Good luck!

  38. lori says:

    Day One – I have already stopped myself from running into a convenience store to buy a bottle of water. (We have no free access to water or coffee at work.) I found an old thermos at home that I filled with water and ice – it should get me through the day. I also found an old automatic coffee maker in the basement that I brought in to work for my coffee (I brought the coffee in from home.) I packed my lunch -it took all of five minutes to do these things. I saved myself over $5 the first hour of the morning! I can’t believe how much I normally spend just to get to work!

  39. Trent says:

    In my area, community meals are open to all with a freewill donation option. These are usually fundraisers for the fire station, for improvements to the town park, etc. We always give some money to the jar.

  40. Q says:

    As someone else alluded to, please consider your health when attending these community meals. I have high cholestorol and have to watch my saturated fat intake. I have cut my sodium intake as well – I would imagine that the majority of community meals are not prepared with nutrition in mind.

    Also, I find whenever I line dry clothes that they feel kind of stiff upon drying. Any tips on how to keep this from happening?

  41. Herkamerker says:

    My wife and I tried limiting our trips to the grocery store, but inevitably we forgot SOMEthing. What are your other options for EATING (and not spending money) if you run out of food at home? Eventually you will have to go back and spend money to eat.

  42. brian says:

    People don’t go to community free meals to meet “new and interesting” people.

    People go there because they are homeless bums starving on the street and are happy to have a bowl of spaghetti-O’s that a church is giving away.

    I don’t think you’re going to meet the type of people you’re expecting to at these places.

  43. Trent says:

    Brian: I’ve gone to them in the past and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself. I’ve even picked up some consulting work from them, and I’ve met most of the city council and am on a first name basis with the mayor. I think you’re espousing some stereotypes.

  44. lori says:

    Herkamerker – I understand your comments about forgetting SOMETHING at the store and having to run back out. It happens to me alot. However, I am committed to not running to the store for this month. This means making do or doing without. I know this is how we all lived not that long ago. My parents love to talk about how there were absolutely no stores or gas stations open on Sundays when they grew up. It was unthinkable! If you didn’t have it, you did without it. If you choose to go frugal, you have to rely on creativity and ingenuity. It may not be your cup of tea, or maybe you may want to try it for a week instead of a month. I am trying to get through this one day without spending any money at all! One day at a time, as they say! PS – My bologna and cheese sandwich from home tasted just fine as opposed to the $5 or $6 dollars I would have normally blown on lunch!

  45. Jessica says:

    I spent last summer living in a small town in the mountains of India. No one had a dryer. In fact, no one had a washing machine. We washed all our clothing by hand with a bucket, a rock and a bar of soap. There were no issues with drying in the sun. In fact on a good day our clothes were dry in less time then the dryer. For everyone freaking out about the dryer, remember people, washer and dryers are luxeries not necessesities. When ever I get upset about trying to be more frugal, or live a more green lifestyle, I try to remember that most of the things I’m upset about aren’t even options to about 90% of the world.

  46. Kevin says:

    That is one hardcore list. Good luck! No thanks on the A/C…

  47. db says:

    Re community meals -

    My parents go to these all the time! It’s usually things like the pancake breakfast at the fire station, or the breakfasts and BBQs at the VFW or KoC, etc.

    Plus they make use of the different seniors programs and their lunches. They are in their 70s, but from time to time they take me. They pay $2 whereas I pay $5 for a basic, balanced lunch that reminds me of school lunches.

    Trent is not talking about going to a soup kitchen and taking food from the homeless, he’s talking about community suppers like church potlucks and such. I think it’s a great idea and it made me think maybe I should find some of these myself. Who knows, I might even make new friends there.

    DB

  48. db says:

    Other thoughts:

    –I’d love to have a freezer.
    –I’d really love to be able to hang my clothes outside. I think it’s really funny to read some of the reactions. I hang dry some of my clothes indoors, but they smell really good when hung outside.
    –I already have the $14 cable package. I would drop it if it weren’t for my dad.
    –I am also trying to reduce my a/c usage. It’s going to be a challenge.
    –I am switching to a more vegetarian lifestyle since the price of meats makes me sick anymore.

    Alas I’m an apartment dweller.

    –Travel more Trent!

    DB

  49. Cindy says:

    It’s amusing to see everyone’s reaction to line drying! I’ve been line drying for at least the last 17 years and wouldn’t have it any other way. To me, it’s a very comforting sight to see clothes drying on the line!

    In the winter, I hang the clothes on lines in the basement. For those that are concerned about stiffness, yes your jeans may be stiff for the first couple minutes of wearing. Liquid fabric softener takes the stiffness out of most everything else.

    As far as limiting your shopping, if you keep a well stocked pantry or emergency food storage, you will rarely run out of anything. I have enough food stocked that except for dairy & fresh vegetables we could eat for at least 3 months on without having to go to the store. Trent – perhaps you could do an article about stocking up on food.

  50. Momof 4 says:

    Ask around about a grocery “outlet”. I’m not talking about “Amellia’s” or a big box store. I found, through word of mouth, a wonderful store that stocks it’s shelves with food that is near the exp. date( sometimes after, you have to look) or the case was damaged. It’s not for food snobs. But, as fast as we go through food here (6 of us to feed)it hasn’t mattered. Full size yougart 4 for a buck, “fidge packs” (12?)for 2.99. 2lb bags of frozen veggies for 1.99. they even have meats and cheeses( around 1.99 lb), “good” granola bars 10 fro a buck, Brand name juice 1.50 for 64oz .I could go on forever. I have never-ever had a problem with the quality. I go once a month and spend about 150 there and weekly to the “regular” store at about 40$ for what I couldn’t find on my big trip. I average 300 a month for a family of six including cleaning stuff.(sensitive skin in the kids, have to use certian clothes and skin soap.)I could spend less but I’ve become spoiled when it comes to certian things I’ve found at the outlet that I would NEVER even look at in a “real” store.

  51. hollesdottir says:

    What does everyone think of the free community meals? The only one I know of in my area is a Wednesday night dinner and bible study. Are there other ones to be found? and where? Thanks.

  52. lori says:

    I like the idea of the free meals, but I have no idea of where they are held. If anyone knows of free community meals in the Northern Kentucky / Greater Cincinnati area, please let me know!

  53. You inspired me to do the same – making May a frugal month, which I wrote about.

    Hopefully I can avoid eating out even though I spent close to $50 last month. I know that money could go toward my travel fund or self-improvement fund (for art classes).

  54. EdTheRed says:

    OK, I’ll give up broadband (gasps!). Going from COmcast at $47/month to ISP.com at $8.95.

  55. Bp_968 says:

    No AC is just completely sick. Even here in a mideast with nasty heat and humidity AC rarely costs more then 60$ a month even in a 2000+ sq-ft house (pretty new house). If your finances can’t absorb 60$ a month to live in comfort then I’d look for other areas to improve, like your income. Obviously if you live in Hawaii on the beach then AC is probably redundant but its likely your paying many times more then your AC bill in your mortgage ;)

    Far and away the largest budget killers other then obvious big ticket toy purchases are cars and eating out. I save well over 400$ a month simply by driving old used cars when I could “afford” brand new high dollar cars. And though common wisdom seems to reject the concept, you really *can* fit a family of 4 in a regular car. You don’t need a giant 15 mpg SUV for an average family.

  56. Jean says:

    I applaud Trent for trying this! We do a lot of these things already, and have for years. We do not feel deprived. They are allowing us to spend money going on trips all over the continent.

    We only drink water and milk normally. We make our own juices (like they did in the old days) by picking fresh fruit in the fall (free from friends and family) to make juice to can and freeze. Blueberry and crabapple juice combined are to die for!

    We grocery shop once a week because we need perishables. Our farmer’s market is mega-expensive, so we don’t shop there. Our grocery bill has been $10cdn/day for 3 people for a long time. I think Trent’s goal is really reasonable. It will take searching for some healthy cheap recipes, but it’s doable. I have to deal with cholesterol and allergy issues, so I know it can be done.

    We only do free activities and love it. Our kids are grown, so I haven’t been reading outloud lately. I miss it and am thinking of trying it with my husband.

    We only use the dryer for one load a week. I hang dry my clothes in the basement off plastic hangers on the cold water pipe. I’ve been doing it for years. I figure it saves about $20/mth. in electricity.

    Our problem is eating out. We opt for coffee, lunch, breakfast or dessert. We rarely go for a full meal. Too much food and too expensive. We find cheap places to eat, like mall food courts, where coffee can be as little as $1 (or 63 cents if you’re a senior), and a snack is about the same. If I really feel decadent, I’ll make a cheesecake (from healthy ingredients), slice it and slip folded wax paper between the slices, and slip it in the freezer. That way I have cheesecake and coffee for at least a week for a fraction of the cost of going to a cafe for it.

    Our downfall is hobbies, but that can be covered by disciplined garage saling and swapping with like minded friends. People often try things and then find out they don’t want to do it. They are more than happy to unload their stuff onto someone else, especially if it’s in exchange for something they want to try. I do this often with a group of senior ladies I meet several times a week. I am not a senior myself.

    I’ve never lived in a house with A/C. I don’t have cable. I’m still alive and enjoying it thank-you.

    And community meals? They are a blast! Ours are held at the community center. But I make a point of attending all the ones at our church. I’m finding people more sensitive to restricted diets these days. Our meals often include salad with dressings on the side, and fruit trays. I think it’s a case of checking out the different places to see who is more health conscious.

  57. Carmen says:

    They sound like worthwhile goals for the month. I live a similar lifestyle all the time and I don’t find it a problem – so I’ll be interested to know what your thoughts are at the end of the month.

    In Australia it is normal to line-dry clothes and unusual to use an electric dryer – I’ve never owned a clothes dryer!

  58. John says:

    Can anyone recommend a good resource for finding these “community meals”, particularly in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area? Sounds interesting.

  59. daydreamr says:

    I think some people are confusing community suppers with soup kitchens. And it doesn’t matter how wealthy you are for either. In fact, many rich people eat at soup kitchens (that’s part of why the are rich). I’ve eaten at soup kitchens and the food’s just fine, they always have more than enough.

    It all boils down to instant gratification. We want it and we want it NOW! We can’t entertain ourselves, we have to have that in-your-face excitement (TV, movies…). It’s what society tells us we need. Want to create a lot of mayhem? bring down the cable lines. People wouldn’t know what to do without it.

    We are so wasteful and take so much for granted. Just one flush of the toilet sends more water down the drain than an average person has in 13 of the poorest countries. I wish I was able to dry my clothes/linens on a line. The next best thing is my rack. It saves my clothes. I use the dryer too but it shrinks things. One thing I really like are the dryer balls. I don’t know if anyone has seen them or tried them but they really cut down on the drying time. I think they work better if you have 4 of them though. I got mine at a junk store and they were only $2. They also take away the static without dryer sheets.

    I think this is a great idea. He’s teaching his son some valuabel lessons about survival too. He will grow up to apreciate things. And things like juice should be treats anyway. Even 100% juice isn’t very healty, it’s got a lot of sugar. Eating an apple is much better. And, it’s recomended that juice be limited to 1 c. a day anyway.

  60. N'Awlins Kat says:

    Re where to find community suppers…check your church first! There’s some kind of dinner going on at ours almost every week, depending on which organization is meeting. We have dinner dances every couple of months, the singles group (which also welcomes married couples) has a dinner each month that’s a potluck, my husband’s Men’s Club has a steak night once a year for volunteers and the church holds a luau-type dinner. During Lent, the Men’s Club holds fish fry dinners each week. They’re $6 each, since they’re a fundraiser for the school, but each dinner is enough for two meals, so still a bargain. My husband is one of the cooks, so we eat a LOT of fish during Lent (like five or six meals a week!) Check your newspaper, too; there’s often a community fundraiser going on–often $5 a person or less.

    Re the laundry issue: I’m allergic to perfumes and dyes in detergents, too; I use 1/2 a cup of vinegar in the rinse of my washer. It gets rid of soap residue and it’s a great fabric softener, and no smell! Works wonders.

  61. LC says:

    Living in a big city, I actually spend less money when I take a weekend to go to the country, hiking or camping or something. Or maybe a day bike riding would also keep the wallet mostly closed, if you bring food. Lots of fun, the best things in life… There are also lots of free/cheap concerts to be found in the nice weather. By all means, have fun!

  62. steve says:

    I actually have more fun line drying. It requires more lead time before you get the dry clothes to wear, but it’s easy to plan a day ahead once you get used to it.

    re: car conventional wisdom

    there is a huge group of people that have been convinced that they need to trade their car after 7 years. You really don’t–if you have a reliable model and keep it up (that means more than just oil and gas) it can last a LOT longer. I’ve noticed that many of my women acquaintances are particularly

    In my own case, I choose to keep a 16 year old Honda Accord that I bought for $3200 9 years ago and which is doing great. It’s fully paid for and never lets me down. It’s probably got a good 4 years left in it.

  63. steve says:

    One more comment about clotheslines–

    they work in the winter, too. Many people, even those who use a line during the warmer months, seem to be programmed to think that they “need the dryer to dry clothes in the winter.”

    You don’t. They dry at least as well in the winter inside on a rack or line as they do in the summer.

  64. Kitty says:

    WOW! I’ve been doing all this for 2-1/2 years, as I wanted to pay off $32,000 in consumer debt (car house and credit cards.) I’ve got $2,500 to go. I think I’m a better person (not haughtier, just better) knowing I can make it on very little. When the consumer debt is gone, I plan to continue doing this. Saving is the only way I’m going to have a decent retirement, as I’ve never made a lot of money and inheritance isn’t in the picture. Frugal does not mean austere to me.

  65. Kitty says:

    Commenter #55. When you say mid-east, do you mean Arabia or Turkey or Iraq, etc. I live in Georgia (admittedly ABOVE the gnat line) and when my A/C went kapuat about 15 years ago, I didn’t replace it. Ceiling fans do the trick for me…no more summer colds, etc. As for $60 per month, last summer, I had friends whose A/C bill ran close to $600 per month.

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