How I saved $1,712 in 60 days

There it is, folks. I told you I had big news. There. It. Is.

There have been few times in my life when I’ve been really proud of an accomplishment. Frankly, this one ranks right up there with birthing babies and earning my master’s degree.

Let’s recap.

August 4th I had an Aha! moment. Actually, it was more like Frodo screaming “Noooo!” as Gandalf the Gray let go in Moria, except it was our finances that had plummeted to the center of the earth amidst fire and smoke.

Behold, our finances now: 

I…am Gandalf the White.

Let me break it down.

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Holy bleeping bleep balls, Batman.

Remember how I said I had secret goals, and I wanted to pay off our debt, and I wanted to go on a girl’s trip to Italy with some pals, and I was like wah-wah-whoah-is-me-I-don’t-have-the-monaaayyyy-waaaah?

Well. There’s my plane ticket to Italy, right there. Plus some. Boom. It took two months to save half of what I’d need for my trip to Italy. Or Greece. Or Barbados. Or wherever we decide to to.

I’m not going to spend this money on that. I’m going to apply it toward our debt snowball, but you get the point, right? All of the crap I was buying before was worthless. Meaningless…as in devoid of meaning.

$1,712.84.

That’s how much meaningless crap I didn’t buy over the last two months. This information is simultaneously inspiring and depressing, but I’m going to focus on the future. I’m gonna be Samwise. Not whiny little Frodo.

Let’s get to it.

How did I save $1,712.84 over the last 60 days?

I packed my lunch.
I don’t think the notion of saving lots of dough by packing your lunch is earth-shattering. But a lot of people don’t succeed. Why? Because eating out is a habit. Mine was so bad that I even knew what I liked to drink with each meal. Burger? Well, you can’t drink water with a burger – gotta have Diet Coke. Chicken? Sweet tea, of course. Duh. When you get to that point, you go into some physiological spiral where your brain and taste buds are literally trained to think you have to have this or that.

I started with a manageable goal.
I told myself I could pack breakfast every day (How hard is it to grab a banana, granola bar, and a handful of nuts?) and pack lunch a minimum of 3 days a week, with a goal of 4 days. Remember, in my case, I was often eating both breakfast and lunch at my employer’s cafeteria. A funny thing happened when I made it those first few days. I realized how easy it was. I stuck with the 4-day goal for the first month and before I could say “one ring to rule them all” I was blowing my goal away and had gone a couple of weeks packing every. single. day. Once I realized it, I couldn’t give up, so I then made it my goal to do the last 30 days 100% packing, 5 days a week.

Packing lunch is easy if you follow the two P’s: plan and prep. Some keys to success are

  • Eggs. Eggs, eggs, eggs. They’re incredible. They’re edible. That’s what the T.V. tells me, anyway. Bonus: they’re cheap and good for you. I try to boil and peel a dozen at the end of each week and put them 2-by-2 in small Tupperware containers. I was paying $1.50 for two hardboiled eggs at the cafeteria at work. I prepared an entire dozen for that price at home.
  • Grab-n-go. It’s no good boiling eggs if you don’t take the time to peel them and pre-package them in adorable little containers that make you feel special. That’s true for anything in your pantry. You can have all the fixin’s for a world-class lunch, but if it’s not already prepared and ready for you to toss in your car as you’re rushing out the door, you’re not going to win at this. Trust me. Unless you’re one of those weirdos who wakes up at 5 a.m. to read the paper and get in a workout before work, you’re likely not going to slice last night’s meatloaf and taters and toss them into a tin when you’re already late and the dog just barfed on the rug again.
  • Make meals with leftovers. So simple, you guys. Make dinner. Scoop the residuals into single-serving Tupperware bins. Stack neatly in the fridge. Done. The other benefit to this is that you won’t get bored packing your lunch. Lunch does not have to be cold meat sandwiches and PB&Js with a baggie of chips. This isn’t junior high. Let’s keep it classy.
  • Screw classy. Occasionally. There are times when you just haven’t had a chance to hit the grocery store and you’re running on beans and fumes. (Possibly fumes from the beans.) Or maybe your delightful children refused to go to sleep one night and you simply couldn’t boil eggs and pace back-and-forth whilst holding a 30 lb. toddler in a dark nursery all at the same time. You know what? That’s when champions are born. Dig deep. Pack a quick turkey and cheese sandwich and some Ritz crackers if you have to. You won’t die.

Moving on from lunch-packing basics…

I instituted a 90-day Amazon spending freeze. In the beginning, this was kind of hard. I mean it’s cheap. They have everything. And ohmygah Prime. Hubs and I shamefully order from Amazon more than either of us visits our beloved grandmothers. It’s pathetic. Enter the 90-day spending freeze. Why 90 days? I don’t know, it just seemed doable. Once the freeze is over in November, we’ll need to have a serious discussion about our future with Amazon. The good news is that we’re no longer contributing directly to the horrendous realities of an economy and workforce where Amazon is king. For now.

I stopped shopping on my lunch breaks. I quit T.J. Maxx cold turkey. This wasn’t hard at all. Once I saw what I was spending there, I became indignant. No one tells me what to do and what to buy, least of all some jackass named T.J.

I am in control, T.J. Not you. So back the truck off.

I started using my lunch breaks to walk on the paved trail near my workplace or go to the library to write. Sometimes I work through my lunch or take a shorter break so I can leave a bit early on the days the boy has Taekwondo.

I committed to a list at Dollar General. The first 30 days, I only saved about $12 over July’s DG spending. Eventually I got the hang of shopping at DG without meandering down every junky aisle or, better yet, skipping it all together. The ghastly disarray of our local Dollar General had previously been a bewitching treasure hunt. What if I found an amazing As Seen On T.V. product hidden beneath the Cheerios or behind the garden hoses with a clearance tag? Oooo, tea towels for only a dollarrruh? I’ll take six!

As I may have mentioned, DG is the rural woman’s target. You go in for milk and come out with a cart full of picture frames, baskets, some shower curtain rings, in-season holiday decor, last season’s clearance holiday decore, Matchbox cars, a ream of paper, and a two-pack of toilet bowl cleaner.

We stick to the list. If we need milk and dog food, we buy milk and dog food and get out of dodge before the carny music starts playing.

One final note: you may be thinking that we spent more on groceries, cutting back the way we did on eating out. We didn’t. We stuck to our grocery budget like Gollum to the Precious.

I can’t tell you how many nifty unexpected perks have come as a result of these changes over the last couple of months. I’ll get around to a whole blog post just about that.

Until then, happy budgeting!


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4 thoughts on “How I saved $1,712 in 60 days

  1. BeautyandtheTraveller says:

    I am so tempted to try something like this myself, I have literally spend so much over the summer a 60 day detox sounds good. Only challenge is Christmas shopping! This post definitely has me thinking! Great post, Mary x (beautyandthetraveller.com)

  2. Dianne says:

    Another great blog, Chris. Love how you wove Lord of the Rings into it too. (I secretly love Gollum – he’s so ugly he’s cute and I love his voice! ) More inspiration for me too. If you can do it with a family, I can without one at home. Even tho I got a little swept up in QVC this week, I can at least remind myself that more than half that total was for Christmas gifts. Almost. 🙂 Keep it coming – you always make me smile, or think, or feel, or save!!!

    • Incredulous Mom says:

      Thanks Dianne! Oh lord, it’s a really good thing I do *not* have QVC. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called Nick to talk me off the ledge because I saw something during an infomercial lol!
      There are good deals sometimes! Good thing it was mostly Christmas presents in your case 😉

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