To kick off the first instalment of the QuickQuid “Frugal Year Challenge,” I outlined how I saved more than $300 in January — $50 more than the $250 goal — by eliminating a few expenses that I could trim. Those cutbacks included eliminating a daily weekday trip to the coffee shop, canceling a magazine subscription, taking my lunch to work more often, ordering takeaway less, and walking to work instead of using public transportation.
The challenge for February is a little bit harder. Rather than cutting back, you’re asked to abstain completely from a few costly items in your budget. Once again, so you can have a workable outline, support from someone who’s lived it, and real results to reference as you embark on the challenge, I’ve also participated.
The first thing I did was look at my monthly expenses to see what I could cut out completely to the tune of $250 for the month. I couldn’t identify one single item that would add up to that amount, so I had to choose two — neither of which were easy choices to make.
Public transportation was the easiest choice of the two to do without. Remember in January when I told you that instead of purchasing my monthly $108 public transportation pass I decided to instead purchase two $20 passes to use sparingly when I needed it? Well this month, I decided to completely eliminate public transportation all together, instead choosing to walk, ride my bike to further distances, or accept rides from friends in an emergency.
My office is about a mile from my home, so walking to and from is fairly easy. When I adopted this practice last month, not only was I able to save money but I lost a few pounds as well. Walking is great exercise, after all. But with my total ban on public transportation, I had to get creative on how to get from one place to another, most of the time choosing to stay within my own neighbourhood. I thought this might be tough at first, but it wasn’t so bad. In fact, I was able to find lots of new places in my neighbourhood to check out.
When I had to go someplace outside of my neighbourhood, I mapped it out online and pulled my bike from the basement and pedaled my way to my destination. Mind you, the weather is cold and I had to bundle up, but the movement of cycling helped warm me up after a while.
Of course, I knew there would be times throughout the month when I would have to go someplace beyond where my feet or wheels could reasonable take me. One trip I had to make was to my doctor’s office and the other was to the train station to embark on a pre-planned trip to visit my family. In both of those instances, I asked a friend if they would kindly drop me off in the car, and they obliged. I explained to him the challenge that I was taking and he was happy to help. He even said that he might like to try it too, so perhaps I’ll have the chance the repay the favour sometime soon.
The next area that I chose to eliminate — and this was a tough decision — was cable TV and DVR service for the month. My cable bill is about $140 and the DVR service is $12 per month. The first few days were very difficult — how would I watch my favourite shows? — but I used my resources to make the situation more bearable.
I didn’t cancel the Internet because I need that to work on freelance projects, so I was able to use that to catch up online on shows I may have missed. On nights when there wasn’t anything online I wanted to watch, I simply popped in an old DVD, rented a movie from library, read a book, or invited a friend over to hang out and play games.
I thought a month without TV and DVR would be the death of me, but it was surprisingly refreshing. Not only was I saving a bundle, but I was able to get a lot more done around the house and at work because I didn’t have those distractions to prevent me from more important projects. I don’t think I can last forever without these distractions, of course, but it was a manageable sacrifice for the month in order to save extra money.
Now for the tally of what I was able to save by abstaining:
Transportation: $108 for the month
Cable TV Service: $140 for the month
DVR Service: $12 for the month
Grand Total: $260
Like last month, I was able to save more than the goal of $250, albeit not as much as I did in January. But while these budget eliminations helped me put away a little more money, I’m not sure I can totally live without them going forward. I can certainly cut down on public transportation (the way I did in January worked well for me) and I wouldn’t even mind getting rid of the DVR service for good (I’ve lived without it for most of my life anyway), but I’m not sure I can keep the cable TV turned off indefinitely. Perhaps there’s a compromise in there somewhere where I can only bring back limited channels for a lower cost. I’ll look into that.
While you’re challenging yourself with this month’s goal, remember that I’m here to help. Feel free to comment on this post or reach out to me on Twitter @mikeyrox. I’m always happy to help and provide support. Until next month, good luck and happy saving!