Last Updated on April 18th, 2016
Back in May 2013, I decided to start watching my spending closely. This was also the time when I started this blog for two main reasons – to help me stay accountable and to be able to discuss my finances openly. Well, as openly as I can; after all, I am still blogging anonymously. I guess I can say that I am one of those people who are “all in or all out” when it comes to embarking on a new venture. So, when I decided to create a budget and stick to it, I cut out a lot of things and set a budget of £100 a month (approximately US$150) to cover essentials. This includes food and personal care products (I count all cleaning supplies into my personal care category).
I decided to set a £100 budget as it seemed to be on the border between “realistic” and “not realistic” and since I love a good challenge (bring it on! ) I was curious to find out whether this was something I could pull off. I set a three-month time frame – from the 1st of June – and after allocating exactly £100 per month, put another £100 away in case I struggled and gave up after a couple of weeks.
If you read my original post about this challenge, you will know that I managed to survive two months on £100 that would buy me food and such essential things as shampoos, conditioners, washing detergents, etc. I created a spreadsheet – I grew to love them and have about ten different spreadsheets now – for my daily expenses and tracked every purchase to the last penny. Yes, for three months, and I am not planning to stop.
Check out my complete numbers below –
|JUNE 2013 – Total Spend £75.44
Personal Care/Cleaning Products £27.22
Note: I didn’t have to buy any groceries for one week in June since I had my parents over who were kindly doing food shopping for all of us (but if I had been buying groceries, I would not have exceeded the £100 mark, and £25 could have easily lasted me another week).
|JULY 2013 – Total Spend £79.43
Personal Care/Cleaning Products £22.35
Note: I was in Italy for one week in July and had a separate holiday budget (which I did not exceed). If I had stayed at home, I would have probably managed to stay within the £100 mark as I had just over £20 to last me another week.
|AUGUST 2013 – Total Spend £114.46
Personal Care/Cleaning Products £21.11
Note: My grocery and personal care spending was £100.16 in August. I spent an additional £14.30 on two things: I paid for deserts on a date and organised a house party where £6 was my share. I also paid £19.58 for my self-hosted website (annual fee), but this was budgeted for separately.
Honestly, I’m pretty chuffed. I think this is a great result for a newbie. I mean, I’ve never budgeted in my entire life before, ever! This was my first budget and it was a tight one. A very tight one. £100 is not a lot.
Was it hard? My honest answer would be no. Not really!
Related post: How I Spend Very Little on Groceries
I had no problem cutting out things like magazines and takeaway coffees. It wasn’t hard to switch to full-time cooking, stop buying processed foods and start bringing lunch into work. I didn’t miss my beauty treatments (do I need a manicure every week? errmm, no, not really!). I enjoy going for a walk, jogging occasionally, and I can work out at home (I’ve got a great workout DVD and a set of dumbbells). It wasn’t hard saying no to after work drinks either.
I’d say the toughest part for me was to miss out on all the fun that my oh-so-cool friends were having all summer long. Music festivals, open air concerts, midnight cinema screenings (oh I love those!), Sunday markets, new restaurant openings (although I sure don’t miss queuing for two hours to get in) and pretty much everything else that my friends got to experience. I didn’t do any of this, not once. This is what my last summer was all about, and it was an amazing, but very expensive experience. Luckily, I’ve got amazing friends. I told them I was paying down my debt and saving for my future travels. I may have missed out on things you have to pay for, but not on a walk in Hyde Park, a picnic by the river with my girls, house parties, watching films at home and chatting all night, cooking with friends and making amazing desserts, and hours of Skype conversations. All this didn’t cost me much (if anything) but all these memories that we’ve created no money can buy. I’m blessed to have such amazing friends.
Related post: 50 Effective Ways to Cut Spending and Start Saving
The truth is, my money habits have changed, and so has my idea of having fun. Sure, festivals, concerts, and new restaurant openings are all fun things to do, but I don’t miss them as much. I’ve been there and done that. I miss spending more time with my friends. But it’s okay, they are still there for me despite my new frugal lifestyle (which is quite different from theirs, especially in the summer months), and that’s all that matters to me. I also get more time to spend with myself. Scary right? Actually, it’s kinda fun. I’ve never read so much in my life. I’ve never thought so much about my life and the meaning of it. I’ve never made so many plans and set so many goals. It’s amazing really, and I’m enjoying it.
Now I know that I don’t need much to be happy. I’m not saying that from now on I will always be living on so little each month, not at all. I still want an occasional treat and an experience you pay for, but I now know what’s important and what’s not. It’s been a real eye-opener for me, and I’m grateful I managed to stick with my three-month challenge and not give up halfway through (I’m no quitter, hehe). In fact, I think I will keep doing it for the month of September. It helps that the summer is over, and I’m sure we’ll be having more house parties than ever as my friends are now recovering financially from an expensive summer and taking it easy until Christmas.
Related post: 12 Easy Things You Can Do Today to Save Money
So there, my story of living on very little but still having the time of my life.
Note: I am in no way suggesting that you should do the same. Please don’t unless you absolutely have to. Even then, try not to. I have a very strong willpower (once I set my mind on something), and this is what gets me through pretty much anything with no (or very little) affect on my physical and emotional well-being. Also, I love a good challenge. 😉