Take the Frugal Month Challenge This February

By Raechel Conover, Cheapism.com

The holidays may provide a festive reprieve from the daily grind, but as a rule of thumb, they're not good for your wallet. With January comes a return to real life and living on a tight budget as you pay off holiday bills. So, here's our February challenge to you: a no-buy month.

Take our challenge and see your savings grow!

Related: Which is the best: Walmart, Kmart or Target

What's a No-Buy Month?

As blogger The Frugalista explained last year in The Washington Post, the idea is to save money by going an entire month without buying anything other than the bare necessities. This means you pony up for your house or apartment, utilities, groceries, and gasoline or public transit, but that's it. No dinners out, no trips to the salon, no shopping, no toys for the kids, no smartphone apps or music downloads, no cappuccinos or lattes -- nothing, even if you spot a great sale.

The Frugalista reports that this started as a way to clear out debt and regularly saves her almost $400 in the months when she takes the plunge. She points out that February makes a good no-buy month because it has the fewest days and falls early enough in the year to instill good spending habits. The family behind Learning the Frugal Life has completed four years of similar challenges and saved up to $754 by forgoing allowances, turning off lights, timing showers, and adhering to the other no-buy-month tenets.

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This year, yours truly will join them and others in embarking on a Frugal Month Challenge to see how much a family of three can actually save. Let's go over the rules:

What are your thoughts?

Nothing extra. For my family, the bare necessities are rent and other monthly bills, groceries, and gas, but that's pretty much all the spending allowed during our no-buy month. There will be several tough spots for us. We'll have to forego smartphone/iPad apps and Kindle books, and eating out is forever a temptation -- there are days when I just don't want to cook. Grocery shopping is also a challenge. We set a budget but always exceed it, and usually not for the sake of necessities. Instead we fall into the trap of buying our 2-year-old son something he wants or go overboard on snack items. Not this month!

Don't overcompensate. Abiding by the spirit of the challenge means resisting the urge to overcompensate in the days before or the month after. I've already had to stop my husband from stocking up on his favorite beer (not a necessity). Likewise, it won't do you any good to plan a no-buy month for February and then run out and shop till you drop the first week of March.

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Get creative. You can still live a normal life without spending extra money. The goal is to save, obviously, but also to take stock and appreciate what you already have. Frugillionaire suggests borrowing books from the library instead of buying them, packing your lunch instead of visiting the local diner, and brewing coffee at home or at your desk instead of stopping by a coffee shop. Budget-friendly activities abound in every community, and we recently recommended six cheap indoor activities for kids to get you through long winter weekends.

Inspired to take the Frugal Month Challenge? Check back at the end of February to see how my family did and share your success stories.


More from Cheapism:

What are the best travel sites to help you find deals?
Amazon vs. Walmart
Inexpensive diet plans that work

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