90 Day Frugality Challenge Update – Frugal Successes and Failures

One month ago we started our 90 Day Frugality Challenge. In short, I wanted to balance out an expensive Q3 with an extremely frugal Q4, but I’m quickly learning this challenge is much more than being frugal. This post will highlight the frugal successes and failures so far through our 90 Day Frugality Challenge.

Oh, and before I forget…

Frugal Successes and Failures - picture 1

Happy Halloween!!

Similar to halloween, frugality can be seen as a scary thing It gets a bad knock. I’m not sure why, since the definition is basically, “being efficient with your resources.” Inherently, anything outside of being frugal is being wasteful, so I’m happy to be labeled frugal.

I’ll wear, “frugal,” with a badge of honor anyday!

Now that I got that out of the way, I’ll detail out my frugal successes and my soon to be successes (currently in the “failure” bucket).

Successes – More Time with Cooking, Reading, & the Gym

As part of my battle for efficiency, I’m not only focusing on positive habits but I’m also working on my negative ones. This translates to me trying to waste less time on social media or in front of the television. I love interacting with my Twitter followers, but I know I’m wasting time when I find myself scrolling through my Facebook news feed without any particular purpose to it.

Now that I have additional time in my evenings, I focus on a good thirty minutes in the gym. By spending time in the gym it helps support two additional frugal activities. First, I focus more on a healthier diet which means less take out and more home cooked meals. Second, since I’m working so hard on my body, I feel less inclined to indulge in whiskey or craft beers. I still enjoy a drink with friends on a game night or on the weekends, but I’ve noticed less money going towards this category.

Cooking!!!! I’m falling in love with cooking so much that I wrote an entire post on it being my latest frugal hobby (be on the lookout Friday for that article). I’m spending a good 8 hours on Sundays grocery shopping, preparing meals, cooking, and cleaning. Altogether, I end up with a week’s worth of food for two people – including soups, appetizers, entrees, and even some desserts – all at a cost of less than $100 per week.

Frugal Success and Failures

This is just a sample of what’s to comefrom Friday’s article! 🙂

Those 8 hours also help me with the last success element in my challenge – reading. I love to put on an audiobook and spend my Sunday mornings grocery shopping now. By the end of the day on Sunday, I can easily go through an entire book.

The other half of my reading habit involves spending an hour or two each night (instead of watching TV) where I dive into a book. Currently, two of the books I’m reading are on Stoicism – and it is fueling my 90 Day Challenge. I’ll need to write a recap on what I mean in another post soon since it is very helpful.

Overall recap from the successes:

To develop better habits, it helps to first eliminate wasteful, unproductive habits.

“The chains of habit are too light to be felt, until they’re too heavy to be broken,” as Buffett puts it.

Failures – Doctors, Cell Phones & Ice Cream

Technically, most of these aren’t actual failures. Well, maybe the ice cream thing is — I’ve developed quite the sweet tooth (more on that below).

Mrs. Distilled Dollar is set to have knee surgery next week to replace a lateral tendon who decided to retire early…

The, “failure,” element here is that we haven’t followed up with the doctors/insurance companies to resolve our billing issues and potentially, reduce our total spend.

Another example is a vet bill that should have been covered, but there is a breakdown in communication between our vet’s paperwork and the claim status. The failure here is that I haven’t completed the paperwork, yet.

Another example is a lab culture my fiancee had to get which first showed negative result, but then, after symptoms got worse, turned out to be positive for a bacterial infection in her kidneys.

We’re not doctors ourselves, but we feel we have a case against paying $40 (outside our insurance coverage) on a test that produced an incorrect result. Maybe we’re in the wrong on that one, but I know it is worth a 5 minute call to see if I can remove that $40 charge.

The last part of the medical aspect is we’re trying to see if we can prepay for the surgery and receive a small discount. Big props to the Frugal Woods who gave me this idea. Mrs. Frugal Woods mentioned she did something similar prior to having a baby and it saved them 10% of the total bill.

Our phone plan right now is running us $85/month. I’m convinced we can get that cut in half before the end of the year. Thank you to anyone who emailed me or left comments on different phone companies and plans. We intend to fully utilize these comments when we set up our new plan. If all goes to plan, I’ll be writing a post on this topic before the end of the year.

Lastly, and most critically of all, I’ve developed a sweet tooth, particularly for ice cream. A pint a day keeps the doctor away? Or something like that.

I’m not sure what it is or how it happened, but it happened. I’m typically one to favor savory foods over sweets, so I’m not sure if the frugality challenge is changing me on a fundamental level. It might be because we’re happier now than at any point in our relationship.

Overall recap from the failures:

It is funny how the things we used to value, such as eating at a nice restaurant, do not make us as happy as enjoying a home cooked meal from Tupperware on a Thursday night.

Are you seeing any major successes or failures in your budget this year, this quarter or this month?

Master Distiller

13 comments… add one
  • Financial Shaper Oct 31, 2016, 4:27 am

    By the end of last year we started to tackle our fixed costs block, especially insurances and memberships. This is beginning to pay off, we could substantially boost our savings rate over the last months. We applied one or several of following measures: compare, (re-) negotiate, substitute, slash, insource.
    We too, made the observation over and over again that a down to earth lifestyle makes much happier than costly habits.

    • Distilled Dollar Nov 6, 2016, 9:43 am

      Nice work! The fixed expenses are a great feeling (when we remove them) since it becomes a monthly annuity that keeps paying us back. Luckily for us, we’ve just about eliminated most of those fixed costs but we still have a few large ones left (like the cell phone bill).

  • [email protected] Smarter Decisions Oct 31, 2016, 5:59 am

    I’d definitely call about that test and try to get the charge removed. My husband had blood drawn and they sent it to the lab and they did the wrong test on it. When he had to go back, they wanted to charge us another co-pay. Wrong… The cooking thing is something we are taking on this week too. And yea, we’re headed back to the Y to workout now that the weather is getting crappy here too. Sounds like some real positive changes. The social media is a clear time suck – and one that can always be used better!

    • Distilled Dollar Nov 6, 2016, 9:58 am

      That’s good to hear!

      Cooking has been mostly enjoyable so far – it helps to have music or audiobooks going while I’m cooking. We’re more than thrilled in the changes so far – and October was by far our lowest spend we’ve had since we started tracking monthly spent (about 15 months ago). So yes, haha, we’re more than happy with it.

  • Financial Panther Oct 31, 2016, 9:51 am

    Going out to eat is still the big weakness in our household. We don’t spend a lot on other stuff, but we just can’t resist going out to eat. It’s not great for the wallet or the waistband – and we probably need to cut down on our food since we’re getting married and all that next spring.

    • Distilled Dollar Nov 6, 2016, 9:57 am

      We’ve struggled/still struggle with eating out as our biggest expense. As you mentioned, we know cooking is healthier and better on our budget, but we still fall into traps of thinking it is better. I’m hoping this 90 Day Frugality Challenge will help us stick to eating home cooked meals more often.

  • Matt Spillar Oct 31, 2016, 12:24 pm

    Very interesting reading about your successes and failures so far in the first 30 days of this challenge! However, ice cream is good for the soul, definitely not a failure there 🙂

    • Distilled Dollar Nov 6, 2016, 9:59 am

      Haha yes! We definetly need a good amount of soul food in our diet these days 🙂

  • Finance Solver Oct 31, 2016, 10:41 pm

    I really like the humor in your posts, Matt. I’m a firm believer that the saying I heard was that a pint a day keeps the doctor away. Wouldn’t want you to have a big medical bill if you haven’t heard that before.

    That’s great that you’ve been reading more frequently! I haven’t been reading as much and I regret that so much. I haven’t been able to devote time into it. I think I finally feel like my life is on a schedule though to where I feel like I’m in control of my time so maybe I will switch!

    • Distilled Dollar Nov 6, 2016, 10:01 am

      Reading is awesome! If you can’t find time for it, see if you can fit in audiobooks or podcasts or anything that is more, “on the go,” which might help you out. I still prefer to hold a book, but sometimes an audiobook makes for a great substitute.

  • Jon @ Be Net Worthy Nov 1, 2016, 8:01 am

    Matt, great update! I’m jealous that you knock out a week’s worth of cooking on Sunday – that full fridge looks awesome! I’m sure you’re saving a ton of money by not going out to eat. I don’t mind cooking either, it’s fun once you get into it a little bit.

    Keep up the good work, I’m looking forward to following along and seeing how it all goes!

    • Distilled Dollar Nov 6, 2016, 10:02 am

      Thanks Jon! The Sunday cooking show is about 80% happiness and 20% struggle – haha. I love the final result and am really starting to enjoy more of the process – so that struggle % should be inching down.

      We’re pretty excited so far as well – and we’re definetly on pace for another record breaking quarter in the DD household.

  • Melanie of Mindfully Spent Nov 22, 2016, 9:13 am

    Sounds like many more wins than challenges to me! I’m excited to hear more about your cell phone changes. We spend too much in this category.

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