For those of you who haven’t known me long, you may not know that I’m not much of one for New Year’s Resolutions. In general, I think it is really important to step back and examine our lives and ask ourselves if we are living to our full potential. I just tend to think it’d be equally great if we could do it more than once a year. I’m introspective by nature so instead of waiting for the new year to resolve to change something, I normally just work on changing it the moment I realize it needs to happen. But don’t get me wrong – I’m not against NYR! It’s just not normally my thing.
However, this past year Christopher and I gave ourselves a challenge of sorts which was the closest thing I’ve ever done to a NYR (simply since it started on January 1st). We wanted to pay off as much of our student loans as possible. This meant a few things. 1. I sacrificed a job I loved to work one that pays more. 2. We sold everything in our house that we could. In fact one day while I was clearing out stuff to sell, I had asked Christopher if there was anything he didn’t want to go and he said, “Don’t sell the TV or our computers. And probably don’t sell Oreo.” Ha! 3. We wanted to see if we could cut some of our biggest budgets in half so we could pay more toward our student loans. Here was our budget challenge:
Cut our eating out, clothing and coffee budget by half.
Having such a small budget for eating out meant that we had to make some big decisions. Decision #1: While in town, eat out ONLY when asked by friends. This meant no grab-a-quick-dinner-on-the-go or I’m-stressed-and-don’t-want-to-cook. It meant more planning – especially always having ingredients for a quick meal to throw together not to mention always packing a lunch on workdays. But it also meant that we enjoyed eating out more than we ever have before because it became such a treat. Decision #2: Since eating out while traveling is necessary, as often as possible we split meals and nearly always ordered water. This was difficult for Christopher because he loves to try new things and he really does love sweet tea. But truly portion sizes are huge across our nation so a meal for 1 is nearly always actually enough for 2. Thanks to careful budgeting, we had $50 left in this budget on the last week of December so we went out to eat THREE times that week just the two of us! And we ordered separate meals!
Our clothing budget was much easier to stick to than I had originally thought. Even though we already had plenty of clothes, it is really difficult for me to pass up a good deal. However, knowing that we only had X-amount for a year meant that we had to plan carefully what we would buy. For us, that meant shopping at thrift stores and clearance racks at places like Target, Kohls and JC Penney’s. While that is where I spent most of my time shopping before, now I had a dollar amount that I had to stick to very carefully. We shopped so frugally for clothes that we had 20% of that budget left at the end of the year.
The coffee budget was by far the hardest. Not for me. I very seldom pay for coffee (I have to get decaf, sugar free and soy so I’d rather just make it at home, haha), but Christopher really loves it. So the budget was mostly all for him. It was gone by June. Since he didn’t want to break our budget plans, he has pulled money from his birthday money to pay for coffee for the second half of the year.
I know this is a super wordy post, but I’m sharing it because I’m proud of us. It was a big challenge for us and we made it. It helped us think very critically about our spending and make better decisions. It was a great last year. So great in fact, that we aren’t lifting the restrictions. The clothing budget will be lessened, the coffee budget will be expanded and the eating out budget will remain about the same.
Oh, and we paid off 25% of our student debt this past year. !!