Saving Over Half Our Income with 14 Frugal Strategies

Last year, we embarked on an eye-opening Frugality Challenge that pushed our savings rate to an all-time high of 60%. It felt incredible. We enjoyed the experience so much that we will be embarking on a new-and-improved 90 Day Frugality Challenge Round II (2.0) this quarter.

In fact, we’ve already started the challenge- we’re already doing better than before and we’ve already prepared some of the actual, frugally awesome stuff we’re doing this quarter in the post below!

As for if we will achieve a 65+% savings rate, you’ll know either way within the month.

See which tip will work for your lifestyle — OR — join us and attempt the 90 Day Frugality Challenge as we implement all the strategies below. My favorite part about this year’s Frugality Challenge is we are only spending 5 minutes a night making it happen (# 2 on our list).

When you are ready, feel free to begin!

Saving Over Half Our Income with 14 Frugal Strategies

  1. Eliminate the last of our credit card debt by paying $95 a day for 71 days straight.

This one is first because our entire frugality challenge revolves around this sucker.

We racked up nearly $7,000 of credit card debt (at 0% APR) at the end of an amazing, but expensive engagement weekend last year. The 0% interest is coming to an end at the end of this quarter, hence our desire to avoid paying any extra money to the bank!

To make this step a lot more exciting, we created a sticky pad with 71 pages that we will gladly tear off as we make the $95 payment each day!  Excitement and structure means we have our emotions and a high level strategy aligned here, and here’s the specific way we will be executing on paying down debt:

Potential Savings: $100’s

  1. Reconnect for 5 minutes each night to add up that day’s spend, pay off that day’s spend, and pay the $95 mentioned in #1 above.

The below clip is us in action on Day 1 of our 71 day countdown. If you want more behind the scenes look at our #90DayFrugalityChallenge, then follow us on Instagram, as my fiancee shares pictures and her perspective on what it takes to hit a 65% savings rate.

We picked 9pm as our time to write down our daily purchases. At most, recording our expenses has taken 3 minutes. The next minute we pay the CC’s and then the best part…

…The final minute has basically been spent celebrating and dancing as we inch one day closer to #CrushingDebt!!

Potential Savings: N/A but this step is essential to provide structure to our approach

For an audio highlight on ways we are saving money, check out this podcast episode:

  1. Meal Planning (aka Cooking, but taken up a few frugal notches)

Food is the largest opportunity in our current budget, so naturally, we are going to give it all we’ve got. By batch cooking on Sundays, we benefit from weekly savings on every meal we eat vs a meal we would have purchased on the go. And we enjoy netting out a savings with our time too, since our  cooking and cleaning time is condensed into only one session.

Cooking once-a-week instead of twenty-one-times-a-week, leaves us with a need to be much more creative with the dishes we prepare.

Be on the lookout for what will likely end up being another 2,000 word post, which is rare for me! I don’t want to turn into a food blogger BUT I know food is one of the BIG3 expense items that can lead to major savings.To prove this point, here’s how we cut our grocery bill by 50%.

Potential Savings: $100’s – 1000’s

  1. Living on only $100 a week.

If we’re gonna keep it real, we have definitely had days where purchases NEEDED to be made and we did exceed the $100/week goal. However, we have also had many weeks of successfully sticking to this commitment solely because we made it.

The gif above mentions a budget, so I suppose we can say our budget each week is $100 to spend. Had we not decided on this tactic, we’re about 110% confident we would have exceeded the $100 limit much more frequently.

  1. Forgoing this summer’s concert line ups!

As part of #5, I skipped seeing my favorite band when they were in town. I decided to skip because I value the money over the experience given where I my currently am in my life, today. If I had not seen them already 9 times, then I would easily have spent the money for the experience – but not during the Frugality Challenge Round II.

Potential Savings: $100’s

  1. No more going to the movies.

We have an incredible movie theatre a 5 minute walk away – but the last movie we saw ended up adding up to over $100 when we included dinner, drinks, and the tickets!

That same price of $100 gave us our Roku device which allows us to stream the countless “life-changing” shows that we still haven’t binged on.


Potential Savings: $100’s

  1. No more La Croix drinks AKA “always opting for water.”

La What?



La Croix is merely enhanced/flavored water that sells for $3 per dozen. Not too bad on the price but the Distilled Dollar household has started drinking these by the dozen. Since they are basically water, I’ll be opting for actual water in this challenge instead of my new favorite drink.

As a general rule of thumb, opting for water at a meal has been the Starbucks equivalent in my life. What do I mean by that? I can’t recall how many $2 drinks I’ve passed up during lunches at Chipotle. Your stomach might thank you too!

Potential Savings: $100

  1. Reducing the total credit cards we have from 7 down to 4.

We removed 2 cards already and we plan on closing out the 5th card soon to get us down to only 4 cards.

I’ve spoken in the past on why I don’t recommend credit cards and we may eventually make the switch to be cash only. Any little money trick that keeps more money in our pockets wins for us. Any thing that drains funds or leads to a negative net worth is what we shy away from.

Potential Savings: $100’s – $1000’s

  1. Reviewed our automated spend, particularly the Amazon purchases.

We save a little over $1,000 each year thanks to the 20 Subscribe & Save items we order through Amazon. The added bonuses are the delivery occurs to our door and we don’t need to worry about impulse purchases when we are at the store.

That being said, we still have some subscriptions that can be skipped for one cycle – so we spent about thirty minutes digging through and skipping about 7 orders.

Technically, I’ll need to revise down that $1,000 savings stat if we reduce our volume, but in the meantime, the current savings for our cash flow is still helpful.

Potential Savings: $100 (much more if you’re new to to automating spend)

  1. Postponing furnishing our new place until Q4.

Originally, we planned on taking a trip to IKEA or pick up some items from Craigslist, but instead we moved in and are living with only what we had.

We are creating a short list of items we want, but we have everything we need right now.

If there is anything we absolutely need then it will be me driving through garage sales (or online) looking for the absolute best deals.

Potential Savings: $1000’s – $10,000

  1. Once a week on, Sunday nights, we will review our weekly spend for only 5 minutes, utilizing Personal Capital.

The plan here is to check in and see if we are on schedule for our 90 days. If we are not, then we need to reassess. If we are on track, then we are good to move forward to the 2nd part of the 5 minutes – discussing the following week.

The 2nd parter takes no more than 2 minutes to make sure we’re aligned on any big purchases coming up and that we’re all set for the following week. We have had some big disagreements in here, but they get resolved within the 2 minutes still. If we face any larger obstacles that break up this 5 minute recap, I’ll be sure to detail them in the future.

The reason we have an extra 5 minutes structured into the challenge is because it provides clear space for the discussion to take place and inherently, this leaves the remaining space free to not think about money.

Potential Savings: N/A, but similar to #2 above as it is critical to the overall challenge.

12. No more cabs.

We are pretty good at this already, but deciding to walk more or bike more should still leave us with at least a couple extra benjamins.

Potential Savings: $100’s

  1. We do not plan on taking any vacations during the 90 days but we are planning on a short vacation before the end of the year and a week long vacation in January.

HOWEVER… If the challenge is going a 10/10 then we will likely book one or both of the trips during this quarter.

As we did with our ten day Hawaii trip that only cost $1800, we will look for ways to save on travel.

Potential Savings: $1000’s

  1. Frugal Dates

Earlier this quarter, my fiancee and I celebrated our 1 year anniversary of being engaged. The big wedding is still a ways a way, and keeping in mind with our goal to pay CASH for our wedding, we are opting for frugal dates.

In the past, a dinner out in Chicago typically costs us at least $50. When we split a bottle of wine, the price can easily hit $100.

Potential Savings: $100’s

The 14 Frugal Strategies above are only a highlight of the actions we are taking this quarter to save and invest towards Financial Independence.


For more on the frugal hobbies that have helped us save in the past and help us save today, check out these post: cooking, reading, gym, and photography.


If you want to dive into the experience of the previous 90 Day Frugality Challenge, then see this opening post along with the update posts covering 5 lessons learned and our failures.

Hopefully you’ll be able to copy the successful strategies that worked for us while avoiding some of the headaches.

As an added bonus to this post, I’ll detail some of the very best ways to begin saving a massive amount of money quickly.

The Best Way to Start A Frugality Challenge


Beginning the challenge is always the toughest part. To alleviate some of the friction we experienced in the first two months, my fiancee and I dug through our entire spend for Q2 and previous quarters to identify any potential hiccups, bottlenecks, or issues that would disrupt our challenge.

Don’t spend too much time here. Ideally, 2 hours max. This will be the only non 5-minute increment time you spend as it takes some time to actually BEGIN.

Specifically, we looked at each category to identify what is a “must-have” vs. a “want-to-have,” and we essentially eliminated that latter category for these 90 days.

We also reviewed our expected cash flows during the quarter to make sure we can accomplish everything we want to do. The cash flows are easy on routine purchases, but we had to factor in for expenses that only came up once a year – such as an annual renewal of a pet insurance policy.

As mentioned above, another KEY part of the challenge is we will be attempting to live on only $100 a week.


This $ amount does not include rent and other fixed costs such as insurance, but is meant to limit our weekly spend primarily on our biggest spend items in the past, aka food, booze, snacks, clothes, etc.

I will likely have a post on this topic in the future all on its own – only IF $100 a week ends up being a big benefit to our challenge. This last sentence can be applied for basically any of the new approaches we are applying this quarter, as we will highlight any unusual breakthroughs.

We’re beyond excited to be sharing with you the the final results, the lessons learned and the mistakes made on this 90 Day Frugality Challenge Round 2.0. Join us or just read along for the next month as we try to best our previous savings rate of 60%.

Have you attempted a Frugality Challenge in the past or any type of savings or no-spend challenges? What were some of the bigger positives from your experience? What were the obstacles like for you?

-Matt

P.S. I’m back! I was out for a month so thanks to everyone who sent word or raven to see if I was okay. Being ‘busier-than-ever,’ is an understatement as I’ve been working on next level course content, videos and in general, how to help people save, invest and enjoy that future FI lifestyle.

If you are at all interested in helping me help you in the future, please take this 1 question survey asking, “What is your #1 Challenge when it comes to money?” Click here for the link to the survey.

20 comments… add one
  • Brad – MaximizeYourMoney.com Sep 5, 2017, 5:16 am

    You guys are doing awesome! At this rate, how long before you’ll consider yourselves financial independent?

  • Mrs. Adventure Rich Sep 5, 2017, 6:38 am

    You are tempting me to take a frugality challenge… 🙂 We have participated in a few challenges (typically only a month or so) in the past and I am always amazed at home much the simple awareness of our spending can help us to save wayyyy more than I originally assumed.

    I like your idea of trying to stick to $100 per month… I’m sure that way a tough one but a great way to really kick savings into gear.

    • Distilled Dollar Sep 5, 2017, 6:48 am

      Yeeess! It’s working! Hah. 100% agree with constantly being surprised at how much less I spend when I make savings a focus.

  • Dora Sep 5, 2017, 7:33 am

    Congratulations on your engagement milestone and future wedding. You are smart to pay for your wedding in cash. We kept our wedding small, close family and friends only, and paid in cash. My husband and I laugh at people that go all out on their wedding when that money could be better spent elsewhere.
    The concert tickets was something that I gave up years ago. Back when ticket prices were reasonable, I would see several shows a year. Apparently, there are hoards of people that think a $300 ticket is nothing, and many pay much, much more than that! No disrespect to the performers, but $500 for a few hours’ of entertainment is not my idea of a good time. For a couple, that’s a serious dent in the monthly expenses.
    I’m an Amazon Prime member but I haven’t used the Subscribe and Save. My bad, but I’ll get on it.

    • Distilled Dollar Sep 5, 2017, 12:10 pm

      Well said! Especially with the cost of tickets these days being as you mentioned, $500. Crazy!

  • Working Optional Sep 5, 2017, 2:41 pm

    Holy cow! You are frugal on steroids! Seriously, it’s obvious you’ll have a plan, and are hustling. Inspiring to see such energy… Keep it up and good luck!

    • Distilled Dollar Sep 6, 2017, 10:10 am

      Hahah, well can’t you see these huge Frugal muscles? *flexes the portfolio*

      Glad you commented on the energy as it does take a lot of energy to get to where we were. The good thing is much of our previous energy has basically been turned into momentum via smart habits and knowing what we want. It is much easier to apply more energy when the wave is already moving fast AND there is an underlying current helping push us along too!

  • Cubert Sep 5, 2017, 3:48 pm

    I was beginning to wonder!
    Great list and ideal mindset. I’ll admit we struggle with date night frugality in the AC household. Maybe we feel the urge to splurge as a reward for raising twin toddlers, I dunno…

    • Distilled Dollar Sep 6, 2017, 10:13 am

      Frugal date nights would be MUCH more difficult if we also had two little folks running around 🙂

      That being said, in Chicago we see a lot of couples bring their kids to free events in the parks (such as movies or dance lessons). I’m not sure if that’s an option for you, but it can be a way to do a Frugal family date night.

  • Matt Spillar Sep 5, 2017, 4:54 pm

    Welcome back man, missed seeing your posts! Glad to hear all is well, you guys are killing it!

    • Distilled Dollar Sep 6, 2017, 10:17 am

      Thanks Matt! We’re real happy with our progress so far and of course, it is looking like another record year for the DD household.

  • Nicolas Sep 6, 2017, 12:22 pm

    Thank you so much Matt. I had no idea Amazon offered such a good deal on Subscribe & Save items — I simply assumed they gave you 10 and 15 cents discounts here and there. I will subscribe and pay with the Amazon gift cards I will buy at my local grocery store — getting an extra 4% cash back on my Visa card in the process. Score! 😉

    • Distilled Dollar Sep 6, 2017, 1:05 pm

      Glad it helps! I know so many people who are already receiving shipments via Amazon and they may even receive 10+ a month but even they don’t know about the Subscribe & Save feature. Either way, glad to see you’re now gonna be benefiting from those savings!

  • Chris @ Keep Thrifty Sep 7, 2017, 9:00 pm

    Awesome challenge and great plan! I especially like the post-it stack for paying off the credit card debt. Having a visual/tactile reward every time you make a payment is going to be a huge help!

    Good luck on the big push here – excited to hear how it all turns out!

    • Distilled Dollar Sep 18, 2017, 11:25 pm

      Thanks Chris! Ya, the post it was a new idea this round, and will def play a few more roles in the eventual “3.0” version of the challenge lol!

  • Feldon Sep 17, 2017, 9:52 pm

    I love this. We aren’t using stickys but we have a little notepad we use each night to write down our expenses and we set a weekly budget. We are slowly reducing it closer to 100, because before it was monthly and much harder to stick to. I find that making a weekly budget is better than monthly, at least personally, because it gives you an opportunity to make changes, adjust, and fix mistakes in the next week rather than the next month. Thanks for sharing!

    • Distilled Dollar Sep 18, 2017, 11:35 pm

      Thanks for the comment Feldon, and glad to hear you enjoyed the post! I love the notepad approach, and used it myself a few years ago. Hearing your comment inspired me a bit to incorporate the notepad into our 3.0 challenge, since we are trying to use less electronics. Thanks again!

  • Joe @ Average Joe Finance Sep 20, 2017, 2:07 pm

    Meal planning is such a great way to save! I started making meals for week on Sunday just to save time, but it’s amazing how much you can save when you plan ahead. Before I would be more likely to go out to eat since I didn’t want to make anything, but now that the meals are ready it’s so much easier to stay home.

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