blogging · el cheapo · fame and shame

Does this mustache make me look cheap?

Mr. December just turned me on to a blog that I’m now devouring religiously: Mr. Money Mustache. His basic premise is that you can retire early (possibly even VERY early) by cutting your spending drastically and saving most of your income. Sure, lots of people have written about extreme cheapness as a means to financial independence, but Mr. Money Mustache does it without hampering his quality of life: he still eats meat, fresh produce, etc, still has home internet and a phone, still owns a car… he just does it a bit differently.

So, after a year of near-record spending (for us,) we’ve decided to grow a money mustache of our own. We don’t have particularly expensive tastes, but reading MMM has opened our eyes to the fact that you can almost always do the exact same thing for less money.

Take groceries, for example. When K was born (in the dead of winter) I used grocery gateway for a while. Very convenient, and very expensive. I finally started making the effort to drive to Fortino’s, which cut about $30 off my weekly grocery bill. You can imagine how self-congratulatory I was about that. Then Mr. December went on paternity leave, which left us with a seriously reduced income, and he convinced me to try No Frills (think Costco, but with smaller packages.) The exact same groceries at No Frills still added up to less than they had at Fortino’s. Our new resolution was to only do our grocery shopping at No Frills. Savings (over the original, inflated grocery gateway bill): $40 a week. That’s big.

kosher grocery flyer

But wait, there’s more! A few months ago someone clued me in to the fact that No Frills will match any advertised price from any competitor. Suddenly I found a use for the massive sheaf of grocery flyers that land on my porch every Thursday. I’ve gotten into a routine where I peruse the flyers to find products I usually buy, then enter the product name, competitor’s price, and competitor’s name into a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet and relevant flyers go into a plastic envelope with my grocery list, and I hit No Frills at 9 a.m. on Mondays, when it’s relatively empty. On an average week I save about $20 using price matching. This week I happen to have saved more like $40. Add $20 to the previously mentioned $40 drop just by shopping at No Frills, and you have a grocery bill that is a mere shadow of what it used to be. And that makes me happy.

 

Keep in mind here that I haven’t changed what I buy, just where and how I buy it. We still eat all kosher meat and dairy (for those out of the loop, Kosher generally = expensive) and buy a ton of fresh produce, even in the winter. We use real maple syrup on our French Toast and oatmeal. I even splurge and buy convenience items, like frozen garlic cubes, that are completely unnecessary but really nice to have. So our quality of life hasn’t diminished at all. We’re just doing the same thing more cheaply.

Same with clothes. I’ve been buying most of my children’s clothes (as well as their dress shoes) at a local secondhand children’s shop. The clothes are often brand-name items, very gently used, and cost me roughly a quarter of what they would cost new. I bought N’s entire fall/winter wardrobe for about $50. That and two pairs of pants I made him have him outfitted in style.

It’s taken me ages to be able to do this, but after reading Mr. Money Mustache I was determined to see if I could cut back my own clothing budget (doubtful, since I’m hardly a clothes horse.) I went to the thrift shop and looked for a skirt to wear to shul. $6 later, I now have a really cute skirt that has already earned me a few compliments. It looks completely new. I decided to try my luck again (maybe the skirt was a fluke?) and wound up finding a pair of jeans, the exact same brand and cut as the ones I usually buy at the mall, for under $10. Excitement! It’s starting to look like I can outfit myself nicely for about $200 this year (I’d say $100, but I need a cold-weather wardrobe and a warm-weather one, too, and I need to buy new stuff because most of what’s in my closet is still maternity wear.)

This is BIG NEWS, people. I’m eating the same food and wearing the same clothes, but wayyyy less money is leaving our bank account.

Mr. Money Mustache points out that there’s a difference between being frugal and being cheap. Frugal is buying the same food in a more strategic way so as to end up spending less. Cheap is buying worse-quality food or less healthy food because it costs less. Armed with MMM’s bloggy wisdom and our own grit and determination, Mr. D and I hope to save more in 2013 than we have in any other year of our marriage.  If we succeed, we’ll be well on our way to growing a money mustache of our very own.

I can only hope it's more tasteful-looking than this one.
I can only hope it’s more tasteful-looking than this one.

So… what money-saving strategies can you share with me?