Monday, April 12, 2010

The Beginning of Goal #54

Last Saturday, Devin and I celebrated being married six-months. It has been a wonderful six-months full of joys, but also sprinkled with plenty of trials. Trails that, by God's example of love and grace, have only served to draw us closer.

So with that in mind, why not add a self-imposed "trial" to the mix and grow even closer? Crazy right? Maybe not. (Hopefully not.) Here's our plan: We have agreed that our six-month-iversary will mark the start of Goal #54: Live six-months radically frugal. (Technically, this was Devin's brain-child, but I put it on my list to show that I was on-board.) It's perfect timing too, because apparently April has been dubbed by our President, Financial Literacy Month (but I'm not even going to touch that political inconsistency with a ten-foot pole).

Now,  Devin and I are a pretty frugal couple to begin with - we have an older apartment, we drive used cars, we don't have cable, we don't eat out all that often. But for the next six-months, we will be taking our frugality to the next level. I'm not entirely sure what "the next level" looks like, but I'm sure it will be intense at times. Here are some guidelines we have:

  • Borrow instead of buy (example: my best friend just happens to wear the same size as me and I have already started raiding her closet for the occasional borrow)
  • Make instead of buying (example: make dinner instead of going out, even on date night!)
  • Buy used instead of new
  • Use coupons and gift cards
  • Eliminate excess and make use of what we already have (example: eating what is already in the pantry before we stock up on food again)
  • Question the necessity of every purchase - give all "needs" a second thought and avoid "wants"

We'll be ending this little venture of ours on October 10th - our first wedding anniversary. Why, you may wonder, would we do this to ourselves during our first year of marriage? A time that is supposed to be filled with joy and boundless happiness? I'm so glad you asked.

We want to be able to live simply in order to save more and give more. We want to learn to live opposite of our consumer-driven culture. We want to be excellent stewards of what God has given us - to not hoard it for our own pleasure, but to use it to bless others more. We want to "test the financial waters" in preparation for me staying home in the future (which will cut our income considerably). We want to create good spending habits for the future, so that even when these next six-months are over, some of the lessons we've learned will stick.

A few years back, before I even knew Devin, I realized that I was spending a large amount of my merger student income on clothes. Sure, the clothes were on sale (a justification I clung to), but they were also clothes that I did not need. So, I made a commitment to not buy any clothes (used, on-sale, or otherwise) for one year. I succeeded too.

That year taught me a valuable lesson about what I really need and don't. A lesson that still affects my spending habits, some three years later. Even after my "clothing fast" was over, I had developed the habit of pausing before I bought clothing and debated with myself as to whether or not I really needed this item. Of course, 98% of the time I did not need that new article of clothing and about 80% of the time (hey, I'm not perfect!), I would put it back on the rack and move on with my life (and what's more, survive without it just fine).

I'm thankful for that year-long clothing fast of mine, because I think it will help to give me stamia over the next six-months as we pause and question every purchase we make. Here goes!

 (image borrowed from this living frugally blog)

Q4U- Any tips for living extremely frugal that you'd care to pass along?


  1. LOVE IT! Ok, you have just inspired me. There is no way Im going to do it for 1 year, but I am not going to buy an article of clothing for 6 months. (unless I get pregnant) I dont need any clothes. Its ridiculous. John and I need to be more like you and Devin. The not buying anything until the pantry is cleaned out is a great idea!

  2. Jen~I Love your ZEAL and passion for attacking things head on!!! you have a refreshing way of motivating others by your "living and loving outloud" mentality....I am proud of you and excited to be a part of your cheer team! ;)) You GO GIRL!!!

  3. I'm very proud of both of you. You are living the dream....just not the dream many strive for. A better dream.

  4. its a small tip but it works for us: we get our veggies and fruit from its like 15 or 20 lbs of fruits and veggies for 15 dollars. Also, since you never know what you are going to get it makes every week a cooking challenge which is fun! Good luck with this 6 months, it's a great idea!!

  5. I hope you keep us updated on your frugal discoveries!!! I'm always looking for fresh ideas to save!

    Some frugal ideas that work for me:
    --use your local library's inter-library system and borrow books, movies, cookbooks, magazines, CDs, etc.
    --Rearrange the rooms in your house for a new look instead of buying new items
    --I just learned that olive oil takes off eye-makeup and have been doing that the past month and it works great! You only use a couple drops.
    --Don't go to Target (or whatever store you want to buy everything from!)

    I love reading your blog Jen! It's so inspiring and motivating!

  6. Very Inspirational, Jen!! Love it. Already been mentioned, but we LOVE the library. Check out books, books on cd, cds, and all our movies...has totally elimated blockbuster, etc and you might see movies you wouldn't normally classics. FUN.
    You guys are so cute

  7. I want to be frugal too! Well, compared to most people I already am, but that's just because we don't have enough money to not be frugal! :)

    I do the same thing with cleaning out random things in my pantry and freezer before buying more groceries.

    When we want to buy something and it's not a need that's laid out in our budget, we find some other way to make the money instead of just buying it out of our income money. So I'll sell some old books on or take some clothes to Plato's Closet or something like that. Or you could do those things and save the money! Either way. :)

  8. When Kim and I were newly married (21 years ago) we wrote down every penny we spent. This did a couple of things for us. First, we were able to see what categories of things we were purchasing, which helped us plan for our needs, and second, we were very conscious of our spending, and it helped curtail frivolous spending. This was important because we were both still in college for a semester, and then I was a first year teacher, with the commensurate salary. This helped us to live within our means.

    The other thing we did, and continue to do, is to make tithing a priority. We always gave God the first 10% and He has been faithful to give us enough and more.

    We are now completely debt free. Our only debts have been an early car loan, paid off quickly, and our mortgage, which we paid off three years ago. This enables us to give even more freely.

    I commend you and Devin for taking this step. Keep making it a fun game so you don't burn out on it, and keep your own answer to the "Why?" question before you, and I think it will prove to be a very positive thing for your marriage!

  9. Great thoughts and great focus for your young marriage. I know your folks are very proud of you. And I hope you don't mind that I used your post a a launching pad into a good on-air discussion.

  10. keep an eye on how much power you use. Open the windows instead of using the AC, turn off lights when you leave the room, try going every other day without using a blow dryer, hang dry clothes instead of using the dryer, unplug printers and machines when not in can also call your phone and insurance companies to negotiate a lower bill. also, I know you're already thinking about this, but when you do freezer cooking, that's fewer opportunities for impulse purchases to get you. I've switched almost completely to cloth rags instead of paper towels or napkins (I've gone almost a year on one pack of paper towels from Costco).

    I'm impressed you guys are exploring this early on.

  11. The past couple years, we've lived on much, much less than ever before. It's not always easy, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. You get to see God's provision like CRAZY and you figure out that you don't need STUFF to make your life full.

  12. Thanks so much for all the tips and encouragement everyone!

  13. Brian's Better Half (Christy)April 15, 2010 at 10:18 AM

    If you NEED something, look for it on Craigslist (or at garage sales) and don't be afraid to offer a lower price. OR, post your need on FB and see if anyone has one to give you for FREE!

    I second the recommendation to use cloth rags instead of paper towels. We made the switch almost 2 years ago. I just bought 2 dozen 'bar rags' from Walmart - they were super cheap.

    Use vinegar and water to clean.

    Follow the CVS forum at and only buy the things that you can MAKE MONEY on - meaning the item is Free after Extra Bucks and you also have a coupon. There are at least 1-2 items/month. If it's something you won't use, donate it!

    Ask for restaurant gift cards for birthdays and other special occasions. You still get to go out but not on your own dime.

    Eat more vegetarian meals. Cook your own beans instead of buying canned beans. And eggs are cheap - make Huevos Rancheros!

    Cook a whole chicken at the beginning of each week (in the crockpot is easiest) and use it for a variety of meals - taco salad, enchiladas, sandwiches . . .

  14. I really enjoyed your blog. I knew Rod, earlier in life; I know that he has to be pleased that you are such a caring person. By making these choices now, you will not be so devastated by the trials that are to come. Pray for the young people that are marrying and have not been conditioned to make choices that are pleasing to the Lord. Thanks for being YOU.

  15. J'ana DeLaTorreAugust 4, 2010 at 8:10 PM

    Great job! I like your ideas. I've been thinking of some also, since I start being a stay-at-home mom in two days. Since it was my choice to stay-at-home instead of bringing in income(which Daniel completely supports), I decided that I need to also make the choice to help make up for that by being frugal in my spending. I tell myself, "Would I rather have a new sporty pair of jeans, or get to stay at home with my son?" Duh! The jeans go away, the son stays. :) One thing we are going to try to do is to cut each bill down a little. Electricity: turn the air up when we leave. Hot water: Run the dishwasher on normal cycle. Netflix: Downsize to one dvd at a time. Etc! I'm excited as we learn to use our money even more wisely.


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