Money

How to do a spending freeze

What are you saving for? An emergency fund? Home renovation? Pay down debt? Vacation? Whatever it is, you can kickstart that dream by having a spending freeze.

I told you last Thursday that we are moving! It’s all very exciting, but also very expensive. Home inspections, appraisals, surveys, mold tests, title reviews, moving, hook-up fees and a partridge in a pear tree just when you think you’re done. All this means we are in a full blown spending freeze. And when I say freeze, I mean if you want to buy a stick of gum you’d better talk to me first. We wanted to put as much on our downpayment as possible so we’re doing it for a little over a month.

I love posts that inspire me to get serious about saving, so I thought I’d share with you what we are doing to save as much as possible. We will loosen up after we move (just maybe you’ll get that stick of gum), but this what we’ve been doing the last four weeks.

Spending freeze rules

1. Set dates.

First, set the dates you would like to have the freeze and talk it over first with your spouse and then with the kids. Be specific so everyone knows it’s just for a period of time. It’s easier to do it when you know it won’t last forever. Pick a week, a month, whatever. If you’ve never done one before it’s probably good to start with one week.

2. Set a goal.

How much money do you need to save? Pick a realistic number so you have something to visually work toward. Maybe one night of extra work or one sale on Craigslist will put you within your goal. It helps to have something to strive for.

3. There is no crying in spending freezes.

You have to look at this like a goal, not a pity party. Not spending money doesn’t label you as poor. It doesn’t mean you don’t provide for your family or even that you have been irresponsible with money. It just means you work hard to achieve a goal! And you’re teaching your children that too.

3. Say no.

No buying anything unless it is absolutely necessary during the set time. I’m talking only gas, bills and minimal groceries. I can’t think of anything else we’re allowing right now. Oh, we will not stop tithing. That stays.

So, if you see the superduperest sale you’ve ever seen, let it go. I’ve actually ordered a couple things online and went back and canceled the order!

If your friends invite you to dinner or moms are going someplace with kids that charges admission, just tell them you’re in a serious spending freeze and will have to pass this time. Don’t worry about seeming cheap. Being honest is better than making up a silly excuse. Your friends will appreciate it. Or have them over for a potluck!

Spending freeze rules

Ways to save money

Ok, so those are our rules, next I’m going to talk about how to save money and earn a little extra.

Food budget

Food is the hardest one for us. I usually spend about $600 a month on food/household supplies, but I switch gears during a freeze. First, I take inventory of my pantry and freezer and aim to use it all first, before we buy more food at the grocery.

Because we’re moving, I got even more serious about it this time so I don’t have to pack any canned goods! I even stuck all my cans out on the counter so I can’t ignore them. I’m making some chili with those beans and some chicken broccoli rice casserole with the cream of mushroom and frozen broccoli. Marcello made a salad and put corn, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, tomato, olive oil and salt on top. Sounds weird, but it’s really good! And don’t forget about breakfast for dinner. My point is: Get creative with the food you already have.

If you are just doing a week you could freeze grocery spending all together, but we have kids so we don’t freeze it entirely. When I do a week, I buy something like milk, fruit and one fresh veggie. Everything else come from the freezer or pantry.

During this month-long freeze, I’m aiming for $50-75 a week because I’m leaning heavily on what we already have. Although, during this last week we’re going to have to up that to $100 because we’re running out. And that’s a good thing! It means we have almost used up everything in the pantry and freezer.

I’m not shopping at Costco because I’m not trying to stock up, I’m just trying to supplement. I’m shopping at the grocery store and buying only things on sale. Like this: Super tight grocery budget. This cuts my grocery bill in half!

A few grocery shopping rules:

  • Make a menu.
  • Make the menu around the store’s sales and what you already have.
  • Take a calculator if you need one.
  • Only go to the store once a week to avoid overspending.
  • Don’t eat out unless it comes out of your grocery budget.

Toiletries

I’m not buying paper towels until all my mismatched paper napkins are used up! I have five napkins from this baby shower, 10 from that one, 15 forgotten Santa Claus napkins … I don’t want to pack these!

We might have enough toilet paper to pull us through, but I’ll just buy small packages on sale when we need it — enough to hold us over.

I’m not buying soap or shampoo. We’re using Marcello’s stash from when he travels.

I’m out of face wash, but after digging in my bathroom vanity I found one didn’t love, but it’ll work fine for now.

Cash, gift cards, rewards

See what you already have in your wallet as far as cash, gift cards or other resources to use up during this time.

I went through my wallet to see if any extra cash was in my secret pocket and there wasn’t (of course, haha!), but I did find a few unused gift cards — $5 to Target, $8 left on a Visa card. I used those to buy fruit (something like apples and bananas) two separate pantry weeks. We also happened to get a gift card for $150 during this month and I used $75 for food one week and $75 the next.

Check and see if you have any cash rewards available on your credit card that you can redeem.

Sell

If cutting back on all spending doesn’t get you where you want to be — or you really want to rock this freeze! — think of what you can sell.

Have a garage sale.

Walk around your house and think of what you don’t use or need or want anymore and sell it on Craigslist — furniture, sports equipment, appliances, electronics, kids’ stuff. I price things slightly below what other people are asking and it always goes fast.

I’m going to sell a few small pieces of furniture. Marcello had a wine vertical he has been collecting and sold it for a handsome price. (A wine vertical is when you have the same wine for several years in a row. I didn’t know either ;) 

Cancel services

Are there any monthly services you pay for that you could cancel for a short while? I cancelled our Netflix subscription. What about landscaping or skipping a hair cut? It all adds up.

Stay home

Staying home or close to home saves on gas money. If you have to go someplace, you can calculate the price by using this trip calculator.

Hustle

Take on some extra work if you can. I design menus for restaurants. Marcello could write a book on side hustle. He’s not afraid to wait tables at night or get creative with other work. Let’s do it. (When he comes home late sometimes I play “Every Day I’m Hustlin,'” by Rick Ross until I get past the 30 second mark. That’s when the language gets dicey and Marcello, in a thick Italian accent, is like “What kind of music are you listening to?”)

Extra tips

It might help to stop going in stores and browsing online for this time. Take this as an opportunity to minimize what have. If you won’t use it now, do you need it in your house?

Do you have anything you need to take back? I had some pants to return. I also had a light fixture part that was $30 that our electrician didn’t need. I sent it back for a credit. $50 closer to our goal.

Oh, and one more thing, and this is me preaching to myself. When your freeze is over do not go crazy and spend all the money you saved! Slide back into your regular budget. Do not super market sweep T.J. Maxx or Home Goods. I will be good. I will be good …

Final thought

This month-long spending freeze has been challenging, but not impossible and very worth it. And guess what, it looks like we have a little more than what we need for all these closing costs. I’ll let you know soon what we’re going to do with it.

How about you? Do you do spending freezes? What tips can you add?

How to do a spending freeze and save money

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6 thoughts on “How to do a spending freeze

  1. This is so cool and so hardcore! We’re doing a no-spend February for the first time- not being as belt-tightening as we could be, but even this is a big step. Excited to see how much we can save when not doing the ridiculous random purchases; I love to follow home/fashion bloggers though and they’re always calling out great sales that I have to resist, so thanks for being an encouragement. :) Good luck with the moving process!

  2. Hi Melanie! So glad to hear we’re not the only ones buckling down in February! I love to follow blog and have a hard time resisting the sales too. But I have noticed that every time we have a long freeze my creativity gets a boost using what I already have, and I get out of the habit of buying. When the freeze is over I know I’ll be slower to grab my card. Best with your freeze! Hope you save lots :)

  3. In the process of both renting out my old house and trying to sell it, we are currently in limbo with no tenant and just had to buckle down on all of our spending as well! Paying our city house rent and country house mortgage eats away at our $$ so fast. So this is a timely post from you! Awesome ideas. I can’t wait to hear how the moving process goes and where you guys end up. And of course, the adventure of living with your in-laws! OMG GIRL. Godspeed. :) <3

  4. I love your ideas! A spending freeze kinda sounds fun as I naturally tend to be minimal. I’m sure your hard work will pay off!

  5. Oh no, Steph. Thats a lot of pressure and a lot of money. Mandatory spending freezes are no fun! I’m praying it works out soon so you can breathe a little. And moving. uggggh. There are so many moving parts, as you know. I’m very much looking forward to it being OVER. The adventure of living with in-laws will be hilarious I’m sure. You’d better come for a visit when your spending freeze is over ;)

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