2020 NO-SPEND FEBRUARY RECAP

no-spend February recap

HOW MUCH DID WE SPEND? HOW MUCH DID WE SAVE? WAS IT WORTH IT? FIND OUT IN THIS NO-SPEND FEBRUARY RECAP!

I’m laying it all out in this post! A Life on a Dime participated in No-Spend February. Spoiler alert: it was much harder than I anticipated! I’m sensing a pattern here with these challenges. Remember the No Plastic December Challenge? Here is my No-Spend February recap.

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links.*

NO-SPEND FEBRUARY RECAP – BY THE GUIDELINES

Referring back to the no-spend guidelines, spending was banned in several categories. I’ll go through each one and tell you how we did on them individually.

NO CLOTHING PURCHASES

I was initially going to budget socks and underwear as we’re slowly replenishing these items, but after we strayed in another category. You may have already heard if you watched the No-Spend Challenge YouTube video (you can read all about that below if you didn’t). I chose not to continue with this for February, so we actually did better with this one than I anticipated.

NO MAKEUP OR JEWELRY

I don’t wear a lot of makeup so this one wasn’t very easy. In January I had just replaced the chain for my favorite pendant and accidentally snagged it clean off my neck with the hairbrush fairly early on in the month. I put it away for safekeeping and will replace it later. I didn’t wear it for over a year before I remembered to get a chain while I was out, so another month or two will be okay.

NO DINING OUT

There were a few nights I found I had missed something on the grocery list or we didn’t have enough leftovers for leftover night. A couple of those times I managed to whip up a homemade meal anyway from the pantry without wreaking further havoc to the meal plan. Then there was the time or two it didn’t…

It was a little too easy to go out to eat once fairly on in the month. Dinner wasn’t working out according to meal plan and I really wanted curry. We quickly decided to adjust the budget and treat ourselves the one time. So we loaded up and stopped at the local Asian restaurant… only to find it was closed that week.

We drove on into the next closest option, but it didn’t seem too kid-friendly (looked more geared for the college crowd based on all the signs in the windows) and we decided not to mess with it. So we drove back to the local Mexican restaurant that is a tried and true favorite with us all and I shared an order of quesadillas with the toddler.

It was a lively meal and we enjoyed the time together, so I have a hard time calling this a fail. The next two times we ate out didn’t come from the budget, so I’m not going to feel guilty about that.

NO ALCOHOL, EXCEPT ON VALENTINE’S DAY

We did well with this one and stayed under budget. I continued to try to up my water intake this month as per my monthly health goal, but coffee consumption increased dramatically for me due to a toddler who boycotted sleep almost every night. I have decided to give up coffee for Lent since I’m feeling a little too attached to it right now. Pray for me!

ENTERTAINMENT

We forgot STEAM night at the school was in February. Admission is free, but all the activities were raffled or required tickets/money and there was a food truck. We sat that one out. The Glow Dance party is also in February. We considered going, but the kiddo opted to go to Dairy Queen for a rare treat instead. The cost was about the same, just under $12. 

TOYS AND GAMES

We actually identified a few toys that could be donated this month. We stay away from toy stores and toy aisles with the kids so this really isn’t much of an issue. Problems only arose when the kids fought over the lone set of mega bloks.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have them saved on my Amazon wishlist.

NO CONVENIENCE FOODS

We did not spend money on any random convenience foods or drinks at the register. There were no special little treats purchased while grocery shopping, or for my husband while out and about at work. This did save a bit of money

Our first grader did not participate in any school-sponsored sports last summer as we had her in martial arts as a birthday gift. I made a rookie mistake then too of not asking what the price to continue was and the “affordable” classes soon looked more like a second mortgage would be needed just to stay in for the year.

We had talked about enrolling her in T-ball or another sport this coming summer as a fun activity and to give her some much-needed socialization. She is a very social child and prefers to be surrounded by other kids her age. When we found out that T-ball registration was in February and it would be $50 we knew we were signing her up no-spend month or not.

Luckily, due to her age, we don’t have to purchase much equipment, but they did recommend athletic pants and a mitt. She needs new tennis shoes anyway as she has just about torn through the toes of the pair purchased just before school started. We bought a bit big so luckily they still fit her.

NO-SPEND FEBRUARY RECAP: SO HOW MUCH DID WE SAVE?

We did manage to put an extra $250 to savings. That is a success in itself. That may not seem like a lot to some readers, but we live on a single income and this was a significant increase to our monthly savings. We send money to savings every pay period, but it was very nice to see it add up just a little faster.

All in all, I’d say we did alright. We did manage to save more than usual, which put us closer to our current emergency fund goal. Having said that, I am so glad it’s over and I am more than ready for March!

I am so excited we’re going minimalist this month! I really hope you join in as a frugal friend and go minimal for the month with us! I’ll be back with another post on Friday, and until then stay frugal and minimal my friends!

no-spend February recap

 

GO MINIMALIST IN MARCH WITH A LIFE ON A DIME!

minimalist in march
march into minimalism

JOIN A LIFE ON A DIME AND LET’S GO MINIMALIST IN MARCH

I am so excited about March! No-Spend February is winding down and it’s about time to start some Spring cleaning! Why not go minimalist in March with me? What better way to get into the Spring of things than to unload some clutter and make room for the new than to jump into minimalism?!

HOW A LIFE ON A DIME CAN HELP YOU GO MINIMALIST

If you need some extra inspiration to get into Spring cleaning or have been curious about minimalism (maybe even checked out my YouTube mini-series) or just feel it’s time for some good old fashioned decluttering, then this is a great time to become a Frugal Friend!

What are Frugal Friends? Well, simply put Frugal Friends are subscribers to a Life on a Dime, but it’s so much more than that! As a Frugal Friend, you don’t just get post notifications (although you do get those), you also get a weekly newsletter with a free meal plan every Monday!

You also get a little extra motivation in your inbox during savings challenges, exclusive content, and a heads up on things to come from a Life on a Dime! What you won’t get? Frugal Friends will never get sent emails just to tell you that you’re paying too much for your phone bill or that you have to take advantage of this exclusive offer. I don’t do that to my friends! I don’t hesitate to click unsubscribe when it happens to me, so I sure don’t want to do that to you.

Rest assured, if you become a Frugal Friend you can look for fun tips and motivation for the Minimalist in March challenge, weekly meal plans, but no spam. And to make it easy, you can just click the link to sign up as a Frugal Friend.

JOIN THE MINIMALIST IN MARCH CHALLENGE AND KICK CLUTTER TO THE CURB!

I plan to do some major decluttering in my house and will be sure to include you in the fun! We’re a couple of months past Christmas. I’m sure the kids have already broken some toys and more than a few are collecting dust. And if you haven’t worn that sweater from your Aunt Louise by now, you probably aren’t going to. Why not get a good declutter going on?!

Be on the lookout for some clean/declutter with me videos, some checklists, and challenges to help. I don’t know about you, but my house could sure use it right about now so let’s just march right in with some minimalism!

WEEKLY EXERCISES AND TIPS TO KEEP YOU MOTIVATED

Every week I will announce a new little challenge or exercise pertaining to minimalism. Frugal Friends will get the scoop first, along with a little extra encouragement.

Go Minimalist in March will also take over the YouTube channel so be sure to tune in every Thursday! This might be a good time to get some Frugal Friends in on the fun. I sense a few collab posts and videos coming up!

FOLLOW #MINIMALISTINMARCH ON SOCIAL MEDIA

If you follow along with the weekly challenges use the hashtag #MinimalistInMarch on social media. A Life on a Dime is on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, so be sure to share your minimalist adventures with the hashtag! I’ll post under it, follow it, and share some in my stories and tweets as well!

THE FUN STARTS MARCH 1ST

Frugal Friends can expect some details and tips beforehand. If you know anyone who might be interested to go minimalist in March or have questions, as always feel free to contact me. Bloggers looking to collaborate can fill out the Work With a Life on a Dime form and I’ll be in touch!

If you’re curious about minimalism you can check out all the Minimalism articles on the site.

IF YOU’RE STILL NOT SURE YOU WANT TO GO MINIMALIST IN MARCH CHECK OUT THESE VIDEOS

I have a short video where I address 5 Myths of Minimalism. There are a lot of misconceptions about what it is and isn’t. Here are 5 things it definitely isn’t to help clear up any confusion! It’ll take no time at all to watch and should answer some of your questions.

And since I’ve outlined 5 things minimalism isn’t, I also have a video on  5 real Benefits of Minimalism that can come from adopting minimalism just in case you’re still not sure about giving it a try. It just might convince you.

And, if you decide not to become a full-fledged minimalist the worst that can happen is a little less clutter in your Spring cleaned house. Let’s give it a go, shall we?!

Until next time, stay frugal my friends! I’ll see you next month. Let’s go Minimalist in March together! I can’t wait!

10 FREE OR FRUGAL HELPFUL MOM HACKS

10 helpful mom hacks

…BECAUSE MOMMING AIN’T EASY!

No one ever said momming was easy. My mother quite accurately told me it wasn’t for wimps. Here are ten helpful mom hacks I try to use to make life (just) a little easier. As a bonus, they are all free or frugal to implement!

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links.*

I really needed to write this post apparently… Sometimes adulting is hard. Every once in a while you just want to sleep in or watch your favorite show or spend the afternoon reading a good book but you just can’t because… you’re an adult with responsibilities.

And yes, I started this post with a toddler on my lap. Talk about an adventurous Saturday morning! So, whether you’re a new mom, a seasoned mom, have 1 kid, 12 kids, or none and just don’t find adulting fun, this post just might help.

HELPFUL MOM HACK #1 -TAKE A SHOWER

You might be thinking yeah right, but this seriously helps. I may not get my legs shaved every day, but I can honestly say that hospitalizations during pregnancy aside I have never missed a shower because I had kids. I have taken showers at 5 AM and I have taken showers at 3 PM, but I haven’t missed one yet!

One of the running mom jokes in memes and comments I see on social media has to do with not showering. Granted I have lots of company most mornings (but if they’re not with me then just what are they doing?) and rarely make it through even a short shower without interruption, but I still do it. I need it. I don’t like having greasy hair and feeling yesterday’s deodorant and it feels better even if you take the shortest of showers. This is one I have simply refused to give up.

#2 – STAY HYDRATED

The world just seems like a happier, brighter place when I’m hydrated. I also feel a little more prepared to be a part of it. By hydrated I mean 12 ounces of coffee, a shot of Ningxia Red, and a few glasses of water. Every day. Additionally, I like to throw on some lip balm for good measure. You just feel better with a little something on your lips.

Yes, I know I don’t drink as much water as I should, and am making efforts to drink more. It certainly makes a difference in headaches; while I may still get a headache from lack of sleep it makes a big difference when dehydration is not thrown into the mix.

#3 – I TRIAGE MY TO-DO LIST

No one around me may see the effectiveness of this, but I do it for my sanity, not their satisfaction. If things get out of hand (which this week they have) due to kids being sick, whatever… my to-do list gets backed up fast.

I tend to cope with this by choosing to do the most neglected or urgent of tasks. If someone won’t have clean underwear tomorrow I’ll do a load of laundry. If I can’t find the countertop I’ll reload the dishwasher.

Once that one task is done I might feel satisfied. If I’m sick I might take a break. This might ease my distracted mind enough to update the budget, finish a blog post, or do some other task. More often than not it’ll spur me into a very productive mode. But, even if it doesn’t, I got what I absolutely needed to do done.

I may have only gotten the one load of laundry washed and dried in-between breaking up squabbles or getting a meal on the table. I may have started with the dishwasher, tackled the handwash dishes, cleaned the countertops, and vacuumed the whole house. It really just varies depending on the situation. But I got the most urgent thing done, so I call it a win.

HELPFUL MOM HACK #4 – I MAKE THE BED

It may happen at 7 am and it may happen at 4 pm, but most days I make my bed. The great thing about doing this is it instantly makes the rest of the bedroom look less chaotic. It also rarely stops with just making the bed. I’ll usually move on to tidy up the rest of the room and drag the hamper to the laundry room to start a load.

I was not in the habit of making my bed as a child unless I was made to. Now I feel like if I don’t make my bed everything feels more disorganized. Somehow tackling this one simple task makes me a little more focused.

10 helpful mom hacks

#5 – REACH OUT TO OTHER MOMS

I’ve learned that when I feel stressed or discouraged it can be very helpful to speak with other moms. Sometimes just knowing you’re not the only one feeling that way makes things so much easier. Chances are it’s a common problem shared among moms. You’re probably doing better than you thought, and if not you can get some great advice.

I’ve recently made more of an effort on this to talk to other moms. And to check out Parent Twitter from time to time. The tweets are pretty funny and always relatable. I am also making more of an effort to connect with my friends on a (more) regular basis. It helps so much!

HELPFUL MOM HACK #6 – PRAY, PRAY, PRAY

This is really number one on my list of helpful mom hacks. I pray all day. I pray about everything. I don’t get enough sleep at night right now to want to get up earlier or stay up later. While I may not have a chance to read a devotion uninterrupted I can talk to God any time. So I do.

Some mornings I pray for patience so I’m kind to my kids. I may pray for strength when I’m especially discouraged or annoyed. Wisdom and guidance are usually at the top of the list. “Lord please help me guide her through this and teach her how to (insert whatever life skill necessary).”

HELPFUL HACK #7 – BETTER OIL UP BUTTERCUP

If I feel anxious I use A calming roller blend from my sweet oily sponsor. Some days I wear Stress Away over my heart. If a soothing bath is more your style it even comes in a bath bomb! I might diffuse it or Peace & Calming when I want the kids to wind down as well.

I sleep with lavender and cedarwood in the diffuser and/or massaged into my feet at night. My daughter sleeps all night with or without any help and my son doesn’t so lately I roll just lavender in a carrier oil behind their ears.

This is one of those helpful mom hacks that is more frugal when you keep it simple. Find the most effective oil or oil combination that works for you and stick with it. I don’t like to overcomplicate things when it comes to oils. Costs add up when you aren’t using them in ways they work best for you. This applies to more than just oils as well.

#8 – ENCOURAGE INDEPENDENT PLAY

No lie, I only get as much done as I do because my two-year-old will happily play independently. I can usually get one or two chores done with few interruptions. While I type this post he is cooking mega blok cakes, among other things. I can get through a full post in two or three sittings.

This isn’t really the case with my first grader, but she was my daycare child and expects constant entertainment. I get as much done as I can while she’s in school. On the weekends I sometimes get a little work done when daddy gets home from work and the kids are all over him for a bit.

#9 – TREAT YOURSELF, HOWEVER SMALL THE MANNER

I mentioned in Self Care for Mamas: Self Care on a Dime that taking the time to paint my nails (or fully removing old polish) can give me a boost. It doesn’t have to be something big or expensive to be considered self-care.

And I cannot stress this enough – please do not compare yourself to other moms. I have come to accept the fact that there will always be someone prettier, thinner, smarter (insert any insecurity here)-er than me…

And that’s okay. It does me no good mentally or emotionally to compare myself to others. The best thing I can do is just be myself. And be happy just trying to be the best version of me. This might even be one of the most important helpful mom hacks of them all.

#10 – ASK FOR HELP – AND GET THE KIDS TO PITCH IN TOO

This is one of the helpful mom hacks I need to use more often. I am a terrible delegator; just ask anyone who knew me when I was in management! I just try to forge ahead and try to do it all on my own. Slowly I’m realizing either it either won’t be done right now or I can ask for help.

I still have to remind myself I am not teaching my kids anything or preparing them for anything if I continue to do everything for them. Sometimes I catch myself (or my husband does) doing it after I’ve asked them to. Surely I am not the only one guilty of this.

So I try and resist the urge to take over. Instead, I should remind our daughter to take her dirty dishes to the sink and push in her seat. Then I endure the meltdowns when I tell her to put her clean laundry away. And she’s older I will endure the eye rolls and “why do I have to?”s when I teach her how to wash and dry her own clothes.

After all, even toddlers can help put their toys away. You just have to remember not to be too picky about the results! I’m still working on this one too. I can always reorganize and deep clean when I go through and declutter periodically.

HAVE ANY HELPFUL MOM HACKS OF YOUR OWN?

These are the little hacks I like to try to use to make momming just a little easier. I’m not great at all of them, but when I do they all help. Have any helpful hacks of your own? I’d love to hear them! Bonus points if they’re frugal!

Speaking of frugal – No-Spend February is just about wrapped up. Anyone still hanging in there with it? I have to admit this was quite a bit more challenging than I expected! And we’re pretty frugal to begin with. Be looking for a recap post coming up soon.

And don’t forget! A Life on a Dime is going to March into Minimalism next month! Be sure to subscribe as a frugal friend to get all the details on that when they go out. You will also be sure not to miss new posts and get your free meal plan in the newsletter every Meal Plan Monday! Until next time, stay frugal my friends! Take care of yourselves so you can take care of your families!

5 MONEY MISTAKES TO AVOID

money mistakes to avoidFIVE MONEY MISTAKES to avoid you may not realize you’re making

There are lots of obvious money mistakes; spending more than you make, not paying off credit cards, getting a degree that won’t pay for itself, not having an emergency fund, and not budgeting among them. You have a budget and emergency fund, right? While these are rather obvious, I’m going to talk about five money mistakes to avoid. You might not even see them as mistakes. Here’s why I do: 

MONEY MISTAKES TO AVOID: #1 – NOT CONTRIBUTING TO RETIREMENT WHILE PAYING OFF DEBT

The first big money mistake to avoid is one that I made. I wish I HADN’T listened to Uncle Dave on this one; it is the idea that you shouldn’t save for retirement while paying down debt. I waited until the last year I worked full-time to take the advice and stop retirement contributions. I wanted to pay down our debt so I would be able to stay home with our kids. It seemed like a logical thing to do at the time, but now I seriously regret that decision. Until that point, I had contributed at least the amount of the employer match since I was 21. 

I walked away from free money. Let me repeat that. I walked away from free money! Why would I do that? Why does anyone think it’s a good idea not to contribute toward retirement? Thanks to compounding the earlier you start saving the less you have to contribute. The future income you rob yourself of far outweighs any debt payoff traction you could get. And let’s face it, three to five percent of your pre-tax income probably isn’t going to be that big of a hit to your paycheck. I’m just glad I didn’t stop contributions sooner than I did.

I still have some retirement savings, but after cashing out early (which is another no-no, but the past is the past) what is left sets in a Roth IRA I currently do not make regular contributions. You best believe I am kicking myself for stopping my contributions when I had a regular income and employer match.

#2 – NOT ADDING SINKING FUNDS TO YOUR BUDGET

Even if you’re paying off debt or on a tight budget there are unavoidable expenses you need to build into your budget. It is much easier saving a smaller chunk out of your monthly budget than dipping into your emergency fund or using a credit card (when you can’t pay the balance in full) for an expense you expected. I have a big love for sinking funds

If you have a car you need a maintenance fund. If you pay insurance premiums quarterly or yearly that needs to be accounted for in the budget. If you plan to go on vacation next summer why not set money aside for it now rather than put it all on the credit card and figure out how to pay for it when you get back? It just makes sense! Plan ahead and have the money set aside before the expense happens. It just makes life so much easier!

MONEY MISTAKES TO AVOID: #3 – BUYING VEHICLES NEW

This money mistake to avoid may seem like a deserved luxury. You can afford the payments, want reliability, so you go ahead and buy a vehicle new. It feels like such a treat and there is probably even an “I made it” moment or two when you show it off to friends and family the first time. I get it; cars are a status symbol in our society.

But I also get the fact that cars are a big expense and an asset that depreciates over time. Rather quickly too. We borrowed money on all the cars we’ve driven as adults, but we paid them off early. We also still own them for years after payoff. Driving used vehicles and not having a car payment saves us hundreds of dollars a month. I’d rather have that money in the bank or put to better use toward my family’s financial goals than tied up in a vehicle parked in the driveway. 

In order to maintain our vehicles so they last longer we do keep an auto maintenance fund in which we contribute to monthly. Even then, the cost is a fraction of the average car payment of $554 for a new vehicle according to Credit Karma. If I’m spending $554 a month on something it’d better be a good investment! Currently, the ONLY monthly expense we have that is greater than that is our mortgage. If we had two new cars the payments would be more than it costs to keep a roof over our heads. That makes little sense to me.

#4 – IGNORING YOUR CREDIT SCORE

We don’t like to keep a credit card balance. At this point, we do not travel hack (although I’m not ruling this out as a possibility in the future) and just avoid using the card for the most part. This is a money mistake to avoid because even if you plan to live debt-free you still need to monitor your credit. You can do this free annually.

With identity theft so prevalent I don’t understand how people manage to ignore this one. Set a calendar reminder on your phone to check your credit annually. Don’t just worry about it when you’re getting ready to borrow money. More companies report information to credit bureaus than you realize; make sure it’s correct and that incorrect information isn’t damaging your credit. Your landlord and even your utility company report your payment history to the credit bureaus.

Bad credit doesn’t just affect your ability to borrow money; it can also affect your ability to get certain jobs. Federal law allows employers to check potential employee’s credit reports to help determine the likelihood of potential risks such as fraud or theft (with consent). Unless you’re in one of the eleven states that don’t allow this it is a possibility that a potential employer will ask for consent to run your credit history.  

#5 – LISTENING TO ONLY ONE EXPERT’S ADVICE

I have been guilty of this one. You may have been guilty of it at one point too. You pick a favorite “expert” or “guru” in the personal finance rule and after a while find yourself believing everything they say. Until… you don’t. Real-life experiences, regrets, and my own intuition have caused me to take pause at some advice offered by experts whose advice I genuinely trust. Being involved more online and in the debt-free community on social media has further opened my eyes.

I love taking the opportunity to broaden my exposure and delve deeper into the topics and discussions and allowing myself the freedom to disagree, change my mind, or consider things from a different perspective. This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy listening to the same podcasts on occasion and take away nuggets of truth or inspiration.

I’ve simply come to acknowledge that I don’t have to agree one hundred percent with anyone. If I don’t understand the argument or the principle I have to take it upon myself to learn more. It is my responsibility to educate myself and to put the work in myself, not to blindly follow whatever I read. And it’s your responsibility to do the same. 

money mistakes to avoi

WHAT MONEY MISTAKES HAVE YOU MADE WITHOUT REALIZING?

If you’ve handled your own finances for more than ten minutes I’m sure you have made at least one. Have you made any of these five money mistakes I’ve outlined? If so, do you regret it or do you feel that it was the correct decision for you? There’s a reason they say personal finance is personal after all! I’d love to hear what you think about what I consider money mistakes to avoid.

I took a money management course in high school that supposedly taught me more about personal finance and budgeting than the average adult at the time knew. It did give me a good foundation to build on, but most of my knowledge has come from life experience. I found out I didn’t know a lot and decided to learn how to budget and live a frugal life. And I’m still learning! I don’t think we should ever stop learning – and not just in the personal finance field. I want to be a lifelong learner about all areas of my life so I can live the best one possible! This is probably true for most of us. 

DON’T FORGET ABOUT NO-SPEND FEBRUARY!

Also, No-Spend February continues (with a $105 appliance repair bill thrown into the mix)! How are you doing? Share your progress on social media with #NoSpendFebruary and I’ll follow along and share in my stories! I give daily updates on my Instagram Stories, so be sure to check those out! Also, be on the lookout for a No-Spend themed YouTube video going live Thursday morning. Did you catch the minimalism mini-series?

I should also be back with a new post on Friday. Until next time, stay frugal my friends! And have a great no-spend week!

FUSS-FREE VALENTINE’S DAY ON A DIME

FUSS-FREE VALENTINE'S DAYDAY IDEAS

EASY AND FUSS-FREE WAYS TO DO VALENTINE’S DAY ON A DIME!

Looking for something sweet to do with the kids when they get off the bus today? Maybe you’d rather just make a memory together than get your little Valentine gifts this Valentine’s Day? Forget you volunteered to set up for the class party? Either way, Dollar Tree has you covered! Check out these sweet ideas for a quick, easy, and inexpensive new tradition and put together some awesome fuss-free Valentine’s Day ideas! I’m sharing how we do Valentine’s Day on a dime on our house every year in this post.

** This post also contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.**

You can buy Valentines with popular characters on them for the kids to exchange at school or get everything you need to make your own there! And as always, everything in the store is $1! Since Valentine’s Day is an approved (small) expense for No-Spend February I picked up everything I needed for the day at Dollar Tree just four days beforehand!

fuss-free valentines day on a dime at dollar tree

Get Valentine’s Day Decor on a dime at Dollar Tree

OUR FUSS-FREE VALENTINE’S DAY PLANS FOR THE KIDS

We do not buy each other gifts for Valentine’s Day, but our daughter is exchanging valentines with the class and having a party. We are decorating her valentine box this year. I volunteered to be a helper. Since she doesn’t do dairy well and they’re having ice cream sundaes I will be bringing her some dairy-free ice cream.

I also thought it would be fun to make a special snack for this week, and already have some frosting and gluten-free baking mixes in the cabinet. I should have some heart-shaped goodies baked up before the kids get off the bus.

We needed to decorate a  box for the kids to drop Ella’s valentines in, so I saved the box from this month’s oily order. For the decorations, I just headed to Dollar Tree and picked up a couple of small bags with sparkly pink and red hearts as well as a pack of red letters to spell out her name. I considered getting construction paper, doilies and helping her make her own valentines, then I found some color-your-own valentines with stickers that I knew she would love. It’s hard to go wrong with unicorns for six-year-old girls!

fuss-free valentine's day haul

My $4 Valentine’s Day haul

She loved the valentines and filled them out Monday night. She colored them in and applied stickers Tuesday evening. Her box turned out adorable as well! After wrapping it with contractor paper left over from the house build I was able to let her loose with the hearts and letters. Easy peasy lemon squeezy as she likes to say! She enjoyed it, not a lot of supervision was required, and the mess was very minimal. That makes this mama happy!

fuss-free valentine's day box

Ella’s masterpiece

DON’T FORGET YOUR SWEETIE! CHECK OUT THE PRICES ON THESE CARDS!

If you haven’t yet bought your sweetie a valentine don’t pay $4 plus at the grocery store! Just head into Dollar Tree and check out their Heartline collection! You can get Hallmark brand cards for as little as just 2 for $1! As you can see they have quite a collection!

I will never pay grocery store prices for cards again! I love the fact that I can get the same quality cards at Dollar Tree than I can in the card stores for a fraction of the price! That is definitely a frugal find! You can check out their Heartline and Expressions collections and more on the Expressions page!

fuss-free valentine's day cards

My husband and I are continuing our favorite Valentine’s Day tradition this year; we got a babysitter and are cooking pizza at home for a quiet meal sans the kids. This doesn’t happen very often since I became a stay at home mom, and I am looking forward to it!

HOW DO YOU DO VALENTINE’S DAY?

Do you go all out or prefer to keep it fuss-free on Valentine’s Day like we do? We like to keep things simple because that’s just how we roll. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy some quality time with your honey and make sure your family knows they’re loved! Happy Valentine’s Day from a Life on a Dime my frugal friends!

 

 

 

 

A LIFE ON A DIME’S FRUGAL & ECO FRIENDLY FINDS

A LIFE ON A DIME’S FAVORITE FRUGAL & ECO-FRIENDLY FINDS
frugal and eco-friendly finds

THE NEW BEGINNING THAT LED TO OUR FRUGAL & ECO-FRIENDLY EFFORTS

One of the goals I set when we moved into our new house in March of 2018 was to keep as non-toxic of a home as possible. I started small, switching to Thieves Household Cleaner and using a few therapeutic grade essential oils. But I didn’t stop there! I first thought it would be a fun idea for a post last summer, so this post was definitely a long time coming! Here are three of a Life on a Dime’s favorite frugal and eco-friendly finds to date.

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links.*

FAVORITE FRUGAL & ECO-FRIENDLY FINDS: THE ONE THING THAT CLEANS EVERYTHING

frugal and eco-friendly find 1

That pretty much sums up Thieves® Household Cleaner. It is a powerful plant-based cleaning concentrate that literally works for everything! There is a whole line of Thieves® products, but I have found that I get my money’s worth just purchasing the Household Cleaner and the oil itself. Using this one product I clean my kitchen, wash the dishes, do our laundry, clean the showers, and once I’m out of the Ecover, I will also use it to clean the toilets!

One to two capfuls diluted in a full-sized glass or stainless steel spray bottle is potent enough to get all the surfaces in my house clean! There are countless recipes to be found for just about every cleaning need. The best part? Even though I use it to do all those things, one bottle lasts me over six months! This makes it a very safe AND economical cleaning solution!

COLOR-SAFE SHAMPOO FREE OF SULFATES, PARABENS, DYES, ETC…

frugal & eco-friendly finds 2a

I must admit, I did love Young Living’s Copaiba Vanilla shampoo and conditioner. It worked really well for my color-treated hair… until it didn’t. The problem with essential oils and hair color is so many of them will damage or strip the color. The good news is I used the shampoo up and the conditioner that’s left can double as a body lotion! Copaiba is a very relaxing scent, so I think this will be my new bed-time moisturizer. I have heard that vegetable glycerin can be added to natural shampoos to help with this problem, but I have not tried it yet.

I know coloring my hair isn’t that eco-friendly; in fact, I debated just last month if I should cut it short and just stop dying it, but here I am an auburn again! I am seriously tempted to try Madison Reed color. Has anyone reading this tried it? I’d love to hear! But, I digress…

Then I was excited to try a shampoo bar. Just think – clean hair, less clutter in the shower, and only a paper wrapping to recycle?! It sounded wonderful. It said it was safe for color-treated hair so I gave it a try. There was just one problem; try as I might it never fully felt like it rinsed out and by the time I finished blow drying my hair I felt a sticky residue on my fingers! My hair also looked a bit greasy. Not good. Not good at all. But, since I am frugal and like to “use it up” I still used the bar til there wasn’t really anything but a paper-thin sliver left.

Enter my new frugal and eco-friendly favorite: Love Beauty & Planet Murumuru Butter & Rose Blooming Color Shampoo and Conditioner. I could type out the list of items it doesn’t have, but I’ll just show you the label.

frugal & eco-friendly favorites

If you’re still looking for a frugal and eco-friendly Valentine’s Day gift idea or just want to pamper yourself, check out this bath and body gift set or just buy her the whole collection!

And in case you’re wondering why I’m buying new products to try in February, one this is an allowed expenditure as I had almost used up the entire shampoo bar, but I also used a gift card from my taste-testing side hustle to pay for the conditioner! I didn’t feel like making a special trip to the store or online order just for the conditioner.

FAVORITE CLEANSING BASE

I love Castile soap! And when I say Castile soap, I mean Dr. Bronner’s Hemp Baby Unscented Pure Castile soap. It is easy on the skin. Add  Thieves® Household Cleaner and water to it to make a multi-purpose dish and hand soap in the kitchen. I add water and a few drops of whatever oil suits my fancy at the moment for non-toxic scented hand soap (use Thieves® oil for a non-toxic antibacterial hand soap).

favorite frugal & eco-friendly finds

I even make my own body wash using 85% Castile soap and about 15% pure almond oil. Since I wash my face with it, I usually add Bergamot and either StressAway or Lavender oil. It is a very versatile product that is also easy on the skin.

STAY TUNED FOR MORE FRUGAL & ECO-FRIENDLY FAVORITES FROM A LIFE ON A DIME

I am always on the lookout for options that are more frugal and sustainable, so this post may become a regularly quarterly thing. Do you have any favorite frugal & eco-friendly finds you’d like to share in the comments? Have any questions about the items I mentioned in this post? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time, No-Spend February continues so if you’re still hanging in there use the hashtag #NoSpendFebruary and I’ll follow and share updates in my tweets and stories!

NO-SPEND DAYS OR WEEKS: THE PERFECT MINI CHALLENGE!

NO-SPEND MINI CHALLENGE

THE NO-SPEND MINI CHALLENGE!

 

WHEN YOU’RE NOT UP FOR A NO-SPEND MONTH BUT STILL WANT TO SAVE MORE MONEY

A no-spend month may seem like a daunting challenge when you’re new to budgeting. Or stretched for time. Or trying to tackle too many things at once. That’s okay! You don’t have to commit to a full month of no unnecessary spending to make a difference in your finances. You can focus on intentionality with a no-spend mini-challenge. And a Life on a Dime is here to show you how!

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links.*

WHAT A NO-SPEND MINI-CHALLENGE ISN’T

Before diving into what a no-spend mini-challenge is, let’s discuss what it isn’t. This isn’t an excuse to spend more money on the days and weeks’ outside the challenge. I believe many people try no-spend days only to “make up” for lost time every other day of the month. That is counterproductive.

If you take that approach to a no-spend challenge you might need to explore the reason behind your spending more than just how much money you’re spending. It will be much more beneficial in the long run!

WHAT A NO-SPEND MINI-CHALLENGE IS

A no-spend mini-challenge is a great opportunity to help you practice delayed gratification and intentionality. Both of these concepts are necessary for budgeting success. If you can start with small steps you will succeed in the bigger ones. This is true with anything in life.

Start with a number of no-spend days in a month. Work your way up to a number of weeks. This sort of practice will help you make better decisions over the course of the entire month. You just have to be intentional with your money on the days you are allowed regular spending.

The whole goal of a no-spend challenge isn’t just to save money; it is also to help you see what you spend your money on. If what you spend your money on isn’t in alignment with your priorities a no-spend is the perfect opportunity to realign your spending with your priorities and values.

HOW TO USE ONE TO HELP YOU CURB SPENDING AND GET CONTROL OF THE BUDGET

If you’re not up for a no-spend month or have other things already on the calendar that prohibit you from doing so just yet then a mini-challenge can help a lot. You don’t even have to pick certain days or weeks to participate; you can start small by eliminating one or more specific types of spending.

This can be a great way to save money without “feeling” it quite as much as in an all-out no-spend challenge. Maybe you visited the drive-thru a few more times than you’d like to admit. You can challenge yourself to a no-spend on eating out for the next week, month, or even longer. This one small change can save you anywhere from $5 to $20 a day depending on where you typically stop. The money saved by imposing this mini-challenge can add up quickly!

It will also give you incentive and momentum to improve other areas of your budget for longer periods of time. This can give you the willpower you need to take control of your budget and make your money work for you.

IS A NO-SPEND CHALLENGE RIGHT FOR YOU?

Is there an area of the budget that is a little out of control or could use improvement? Do you want to live life with more intention and practice delayed gratification? Do you have financial goals that need some to gain some traction before you give up?

If you answered yes to any of these questions I firmly believe a no-spend mini-challenge will benefit you. Consider it a warmup for a full no-spend month or just as a kick in the pants needed to get you budgeting again. I believe a no-spend challenge can help most people.

Follow a scaled-down version of the no-spend month guidelines and practice the same tips offered to succeed and see how much money you can save!

IF YOU’RE ALREADY PARTICIPATING IN NO-SPEND FEBRUARY…

Keep up the good work! I am here to encourage, motivate, and offer any advice I have to help you succeed! We’re already close to one full week in! Use your tracker, keep focusing on why you are participating in the first place, and keep forging ahead! Maybe once you’re done you can impose a no-spend mini-challenge on yourself and stick with one item you restricted during the monthly challenge!

One small habit of avoiding the drive-thru can have a great impact on your health and waistline just as much as it can on your wallet! Keep practicing self-discipline to achieve your goals and your finances aren’t the only thing that will improve!

As always, I am here if you have any questions. Feel free to contact me and be sure to follow a Life on a Dime on Instagram, Twitter, and the Facebook page for even more information and tips. If you’re a fellow blogger be sure to check out our Facebook Group Blogging on a Dime. It’s a small, but growing community of bloggers on a smaller budget supporting each other’s endeavors and sharing information along the way!

I’ll be back Monday with the newsletter and next Thursday with a new YouTube video! This one will highlight no-spend challenges! Until then, stay frugal my friends! And stay strong! It’s No-Spend February and you’re doing great! Keep it up and count the money you save this month as an effort well made!

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20 EASY TIPS TO SLASH YOUR GROCERY BILL

easy tips to slash your grocery bill

After housing costs, food is probably one of the higher cost budget categories. But there are lots of ways to save big on food costs and slash your grocery bill. It just takes a little planning. Here are twenty tips to help you lower your food bills each month.

You can also check out previous posts on Eating Healthy on a Budget and Tips to Save More Dough on Groceries. This post expands significantly on the original grocery savings post.

TIP #1: SHOP YOUR PANTRY FIRST

If you haven’t done so in a while, it is important to do a complete inventory of foodstuffs in the kitchen. Go through the cabinets, fridge, freezer, and pantry writing down each and every item. Toss out expired items and place a * next to any that need to be eaten in the next week.

This will not only help you save money by eliminating duplicate purchases, but also by avoiding food waste. Once you get in the habit of utilizing tip number two below this won’t need to be done as often. A simple sniff test in the fridge and double-checking dates on boxes and cans in the pantry should suffice each week.

TIP #2: MAKE A MEAL PLAN AROUND INGREDIENTS THAT NEED TO BE EATEN

Meal planning is a great way to slash your grocery bill and avoid food waste! Make your first meal plan around the food on your inventory list. Choose meals in which you already have the majority of ingredients needed. You can also check out my recipe page for more dinner ideas.

If you want more tips on meal planning I also have a YouTube video breaking down how to get started!

TIP #3: MAKE A LIST – AND CHECK IT TWICE!

Once you have your meal plan settled on, make a list of items still needed. Be sure to include breakfast and lunch options that don’t take a lot of time to prepare so that you’re not pressed for time in the mornings and tempted to rush through the drive-thru if you didn’t prepare anything the night before.

TIP #4: DON’T GO SHOPPING HUNGRY

This one is so simple and yet so effective! It really does help eliminate impulse purchases if you’ve already eaten prior to stepping foot in the grocery store.

Otherwise, you’re apt to end up walking out with a snack, a soda, and food from the deli or convenience section for dinner that evening if you’re not careful. No judgment, it’s happened to me too! Just make sure you go shopping on a full tummy. At least have a snack at home beforehand to avoid a weak moment.

TIP #5: AVOID CONVENIENCE FOODS TO SLASH YOUR GROCERY BILL

It’s true what they say; you really do pay more for convenience! The convenience of purchasing prepared produce can easily double the cost of what should be an inexpensive food item. By taking a few minutes when you get home from the grocery store to wash and prepare any fruits and veggies you like to have chopped or sliced will save you money at the store and time when preparing meals.

I also find the sooner I slice open that cantaloupe or wash that head of lettuce the more likely we are to eat it before it goes bad. So this little step can save you time and money in more ways than one!

TIP #6: GRAB NEXT WEEK’S SALE AD ON YOUR WAY OUT THE DOOR

Admittedly, a lot of items featured in the store’s weekly flyer aren’t exactly pantry staples, but there are good deals on meat and other essential categories from time to time.

Just skip over the special buys in housewares and home organization and you’ll be fine! It amazes me how many extra categories the grocery stores have! Do that many people really buy socks at the grocery store?

TIP #7: STOCK UP ON PANTRY STAPLES SO YOU CAN COOK FROM SCRATCH

We save a lot of money on groceries by cooking more from scratch; items such as bread, tomato sauce, soups, and meatballs are so unbelievably easy to cook from scratch. They also taste yummy and can be healthier for you because they do not contain the additives and preservatives store-bought items might.

It does take more time to prepare bread, but most of that time is just spent letting the dough rise. I can get lots of other things done in the meantime if I plan my baking time out in advance.

Simply keeping flour, bread flour, active yeast, olive oil, sugar, brown sugar, seasoned bread crumbs, broth, and tomato sauce opens up a lot of possibilities with little money spent. It can be really easy to make your own broth as well. I haven’t done it myself yet; our vegetable scraps typically end up in the compost pile.

It’s also a good idea to keep a stock of uncooked pasta on hand. I like to keep egg noodles, spaghetti, and penne or rotini stocked in our kitchen for easy meals. You can choose organic, gluten-free, and even vegetable pasta, so there is typically something available to work with a particular diet.

Personally I love the idea of hiding vegetables or new grains anywhere I can, so I am always up to try a red lentil rotini or vegetable-based spaghetti pasta. Anything to make a meal healthier without being obvious to the kids is a win in my book!

TIP #8: PLAN MORE MEATLESS MEALS TO SAVE BIG

Our kids prefer cereal or bagels for breakfast. I typically have a small breakfast or just stick to coffee till lunchtime. My husband typically doesn’t eat breakfast as he is out the door before 6 AM and doesn’t always have an appetite that early.

I’ve started opting out of adding a second protein and instead of scrambling with ground meat I like to cook it over easy and eat over a slice of homemade bread or on its own. Bacon and eggs is still a nice treat when the whole family is home for breakfast/

You don’t have to go completely meatless to save money; simply controlling portions better and getting creative can help cut costs and be better for your health. If you’re working with ground beef you can reduce the amount of beef and supplement with black beans.

Something as simple as cutting the meat and mixing it in with the pasta can also help reduce the amount eaten compared to eating a whole steak, pork chop, or chicken breast with a side of pasta. Adding more vegetables in soups can help stretch your dollar further as well.

A nice salad in a jar is a tasty and visually satisfying lunch option. Throw in sunflower seeds or chickpeas for a little added crunch.

Substituting beef with ground turkey is also a very effective way to save money. We cook mostly with ground turkey and I love the fact that it takes less time to cook and typically doesn’t need to be drained. It’s also less fattening.

Fish makes a great weekly substitute for meat as well. Our family enjoys tuna casserole or salmon patties from time to time. Occasionally I will fix fried rice with shrimp instead of chicken.

TIP #9: SHOP IN-SEASON PRODUCE TO SLASH YOUR GROCERY BILL

It saves to shop in-season. And while it may seem that everything is always in season consider how far that produce had to travel to get to the grocery store you bought it from. If it is out-of-season locally you can bet that you are paying for every mile it had to travel.

Save yourself the money, make your choice a more environmentally friendly one, and only buy in-season produce. It’ll probably taste better as well! I can’t wait for the spring gardening season to be here! We have our garden plot plowed up. While there is a lot of prep work to get ready, we will save quite a bit of money this summer by eating out of our own garden.

Local produce stands and farmer’s markets are also great places to buy fresh, in-season produce. Just be mindful of the cost. Sometimes they are pricier than the grocery store, but they’re usually better quality and you get to meet the person who planted it!

TIP #10: USE CASH IF YOU TEND TO GO OVER BUDGET

If you have a tendency to walk in a grocery store with a list and the best of intentions and walk out with a receipt that totals up much more than budgeted making this a cash envelope budget category might be the ticket.

You can’t spend cash you don’t have. Leave the debit card at home and go to the grocery store with your list and your cash envelope. ONLY have the budgeted amount for groceries that week in the envelope. Holding up the line once or twice asking the cashier to remove certain items until you’re back in the budget may be just the kick you need to get it under control.

Once you have a habit of walking out with a little cash left (starting with a practical amount of course) you can try swiping the debit card again.

slash your grocery bill

TIP #11: UTILIZE GROCERY PICKUP WHERE POSSIBLE

If getting to the grocery store in the first place is a chore it may be beneficial to try grocery pickup. Most stores that offer this service do not charge. Simply sign in online or an app, add the items needed to the cart, and see a running total. This can help slash your grocery bill and keep you from having to get out of the car!

If you are headed over budget simply go back to your cart and make adjustments necessary. This can be especially handy when you have small children that make grocery shopping trips more of a… challenge.

No need to worry about little ones whining about not getting that sugary cereal or any of a number of items at the checkout; just pull into the designated parking spot at your appointed time and they’ll bring your groceries to your car!

TIP #12: ONLY BUY FOODS YOU KNOW YOU CAN/WILL PREPARE

Most of us have been there at one time or another; you go to the grocery store and buy lots of healthy items for new and exciting dishes to prepare at home. Then reality hits.

You’re tired when you get home from work and don’t want to take the time to figure out a new recipe. You need to pull out the dictionary to even understand the instructions. Takeout or pizza delivery just sounds so much easier at this point, doesn’t it?

So the week goes by and those fancy grocery items are still in your fridge. The next week goes by as well, and the next, until you guessed it – into the trash can or compost heap goes all that wasted food… and money.

Why do we do that to ourselves? I’ve found that picking tried and true recipes and only trying one or two new ones every month or so makes things so much easier. It also increases the chances my kids will eat whatever I’ve prepared for them. Lesson learned there.

TIP #13: SHOP THE PERIMETER OF THE STORE TO TRIM YOUR WAISTLINE TOO!

Typically you walk through a grocery store and find that the fresh items are found along the perimeter. You can get produce, dairy and meats here. This should be where you spend the majority of your time. Just avoid the corner where the convenience foods are stored! They’re sneaky.

There is an exception to this; we shop at a store that conveniently places snacks on the perimeter. Of the main aisle when you walk in. As I said, they’re sneaky, right? We’ve learned what we like to get on a regular basis and where it is. I grab what I need and keep the cart rolling through this section!

The middle aisles of the store contain boxed foods, snacks, toiletries, and paper products, as well as special buys. Just stick to the list and get out of these aisles as quickly as you can! This is sure to help slash the grocery bill when you get to the register.

TIP #14: LOOK AWAY FROM THE ITEMS BY THE REGISTER SO SLASH YOUR GROCERY BILL!

Chances are you don’t need any of the items stocked at the register! Read that again. You probably don’t need any of them. The store knows that too. They’re trying to entice you to buy more at literally the last second possible.

Who doesn’t need batteries? Hand sanitizer? A snack? Shopping made you hungry, didn’t it? Here, have some granola. A chocolate bar? Cold coffee or soda? No, no, and no! You ate before you started, remember? It is crucial to your budget that you only put items already in your cart on that conveyor belt! You’re almost done! Stay strong! Now is not the time to lose focus.

TIP #15: BRING YOUR OWN SHOPPING BAGS

This isn’t true everywhere, but some stores offer you a little cash back for each bag you bring in. It isn’t a lot, but it does add up and makes for a good incentive to remember to return the bags to your car each week.

I prefer using my own bags anyway; I’d rather reuse my own bags than have to toss or store and then drag them off to recycle every single week.

TIP #16: BATCH COOK FAVORITE MEALS BY BUYING COMMONLY USED INGREDIENTS IN BULK

This is one I need to do more often! Buying bigger containers can save you some money. I find it cheaper to buy three-pound packages of ground turkey. It also makes it convenient to prep two batches of dishes we eat often like meatloaf and toss one in the freezer. This saves me time and money.

The key to buying in bulk is to make sure you will use it. Don’t buy just anything in bulk because it is cheaper. It’s not saving any money if it goes bad before you get around to it.

It also isn’t very convenient if you buy things in bulk and then have nowhere to store them. Do you really need to buy 100 rolls of toilet paper at once? I’d rather buy a smaller package that fits under the bathroom sink every other week.

TIP #17: SAVE MONEY AND AVOID FOOD WASTE BY EATING YOUR LEFTOVERS

I build in one or two leftover nights into the weekly meal plan depending on the menu. If there’s something we love to eat I might make a little more to ensure we have it a second time later in the week.

During the winter months, soups and other hot dishes like chicken and dumplings are great to reheat the next day. Stick them in a thermos for a warming lunch at work or school. This cuts down on waste and makes a nice change from the usual packed lunch.

TIP #18: SHOP DISCOUNT GROCERS SUCH AS ALDI TO SLASH YOUR GROCERY BILL

I shop almost entirely at Aldi and it saves our family a lot of money every month. We’ve trimmed our grocery bill down at least $100 a month by changing grocery stores. Yes, you read that right. How’s that for slashing the grocery bill?

I used to spend considerably more money on groceries when we shopped at the larger supercenter. There are also so many more opportunities for impulse purchases to wind up in the cart at a supercenter.

Once a smaller neighborhood market opened in our town we started shopping there. The selection went down compared to the supercenter, but the prices went up! We decided to give Aldi another chance.

I still make one or two trips to the smaller neighborhood market a month for items we can’t or won’t buy at Aldi (phone card for hubby, bread flour, and shrimp come to mind), but the majority of our shopping is done at the discount grocery store.

TIP #19: SKIP THE ONE-TIME-USE PRODUCTS

I’ve already talked about this before, but stop buying one-time-use paper products! They seem cheap, but they’re really just a waste of money and they end up in the landfill.

Use cloth napkins or tea towels at mealtime and beeswax food wraps to cover leftovers. There are all sorts of frugal and sustainable alternatives to one-time-use products. 

TIP #20: USE CASHBACK AND REBATE APPS TO SLASH YOUR GROCERY BILL

Technically you’ll spend the money and then get some back, but a little money back on planned purchases is better than nothing, right? I like to scan my receipts into Fetch Rewards and check Ibotta for deals after I’ve completed my shopping.

I do this after I go shopping so I don’t end up spending more money just to get a little cashback. That is counterproductive in the long run.

Couponing is another way to save money at the grocery store. I don’t personally do this since I don’t use a lot of name brand items. Again, it seems counterproductive to my current methods.

USE THESE TIPS THE NEXT TIME YOU GROCERY SHOP AND YOU WILL SAVE MONEY

These are pretty simple, but very effective tips when it comes to saving money on food costs. Using these in combination with the no-spend challenge will help maximize your savings and progress on your financial goals! Continuing to use them will only help increase those savings!

What are you waiting for? Take inventory, start meal planning, and start saving money on your groceries this week! If you want a free meal plan delivered to your inbox every week subscribe to the blog and I’ll send you seven dinner ideas each Meal Plan Monday. To make it even easier print out the meal plan and write your shopping list in the space provided! I’ll even provide some of the recipes!

Stay tuned for more tips to help save money and make the no-spend challenge a little easier.

 

HOW TO DO VALENTINE’S DAY ON A DIME

Valentine's Day on a dime

YOUR ULTIMATE GUIDE TO DOING VALENTINE’S DAY ON A DIME!

Just like any other holiday or special occasion Valentine’s Day can get expensive – if you let it! Luckily a Life on a Dime is here for you with the ultimate list of ways to do Valentine’s Day on a Dime!

While the jewelry store ads and florists might want you to believe it’s necessary to spend a lot of money, it is entirely possible to celebrate the spirit of the holiday and show those closest to you how much you love them without breaking the bank. Here are dozens of ideas for you to choose from! Everything from frugal gift ideas to a date night that won’t break the bank.

The best part is, most of these items are from Amazon or Target! Simply use your Prime membership (or use this free trial here) or order online and choose the pick-up or drive up option from Target and save yourself the time of aimlessly wandering through store after store looking for the perfect gift!

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links.*

GIFT & ACTIVITY IDEAS FOR THE KIDS

It doesn’t take a lot (and as a minimalist, I am not really up for a lot!) to make the kids feel special. One special treat is usually enough. My kids love activities as well, which can be a great way to prevent clutter! Here are several activities and gift ideas to choose from, some being free (if you have the supplies on hand) and all being under $15! Kids are actually pretty easy to do Valentine’s Day on a dime with.

  • Bake and decorate Valentine’s cookies together
  • Give your tween some cute items for her room such as this faux fur heart pillow or tabletop squishy lip.
  • For the toddler in your life a cute board book such as Guess How Much I Love You or Llama Llama I Love You make great choices. They’re also favorites in our house with the littles!
  • How about a craft? A kit such as this color-your-own mug or woven heart kit would also go over well.
  • Get out the construction paper, safety scissors, and pom-pons and make Valentines with the kids for school! This is a fun quality time project. Since they’re probably going to be exchanging them with the whole class why not make them unique?
  • Get your screen-tee loving boy a fun dinosaur or love sign shirt. They’re fun and can be worn year-round.
  • I know a lot of little girls who would love this bangle bracelet set.
  • If gift-giving isn’t your style (or you’re on a no-spend month with me) why not make a special breakfast with pancakes shaped like hearts or spring for a donut? The small gesture will still make the kiddos feel loved.

MAKE IT FUN!

Set up a scavenger hunt with clues around the house and make them find their own goodies. It could be something as simple as a few treats or an actual gift. The fun will be in the game!

Just keep it simple and fun. Look for ways to get the littler kids off the screen and immersed in a sensory activity. Engage with older kids and let them know you care about what they have to say. If you have a teenager a coffee date might be in order.

VALENTINE’S DAY IDEAS FOR HIM

Is it just me or do men typically seem hard to shop for? Maybe just expensive. I know my husband’s tastes and interests pretty well, I just typically can’t afford them! Here are some great ideas, all under $30 that will be sure to please that cover a variety of interests!

  • Protect the investment of his beloved air pods in this personalized vegan leather case with protective cover.
  • Why not give him a place to park his keys, wallet, and change when he walks in the door? This leather valet tray can be very helpful if your man is always looking for his keys on the way out the door.
  • For a more light-hearted approach, try these novelty pizza socks.
  • Give him the gift that keeps on giving with a starter kit from Harry’s. I got my husband a kit for Christmas and am considering switching over myself. The prices and quality are that good.
  • A comfy pair of memory foam house slippers with a hard sole make a great, practical gift as well.
  • Claim your territory with a novelty tee that says he already has an awesome girlfriend or even that this beard is taken. There are lots of fun shirts available for $20 or less.

IDEAS FOR HER

It’s not that hard to find great gifts to do Valentine’s Day on a dime for the ladies either! Here are several suggestions ranging from sweets to handmade jewelry. And they’re all under $30!

  • If you want to get sweets for your sweet and chocolates are a favorite, these Ghiradelli strawberry bark squares with layered milk and white chocolate should be a hit!
  • These vegan bath bombs would make a great treat to leave her feeling pampered.
  • If you have the time and a few pretty glass jars or canisters you can make a spa kit for your Galentine or teen in your life. All it takes to make a luxurious bath salt is some all-natural Epsom salt and a few drops of lavender essential oil. A sugar scrub can be made with just sugar, peppermint essential oil, and for bonus points a little green food coloring to set it off.
  • A personalized set of stacking rings would make a great impression! Have them engraved with your anniversary, the kids’ names… There are lots of possibilities here.
  • A unique, handmade pair of earrings such as these burnt copper hearts or these genuine leather leaf earrings would be very thoughtful.
  • This jade roller set. Jade is great for reducing puffiness and dark spots without chemicals! It’s also very popular in skincare right now. If your lady loves an all-natural approach to beauty this is a great gift.
  • I’m going to mention a great pair of house slippers for the ladies as well. This is one of those items that is worth the investment, but we’re rarely willing to make it for ourselves. I am guilty of buying a cheap two-pack of slippers and then lamenting when they fall apart too soon only to buy another cheap two-pack. No more!
Valentine's Day on a dime

DATE NIGHT IDEAS FOR A VALENTINE’S DAY ON A DIME

My husband and I have a pretty simple Valentine’s Day tradition. It works well for us as Valentine’s weekend is always a busy one and we are on a smaller budget. We have a long-standing tradition of eating pizza and sharing a bottle of wine at home. It just so happens that this year Valentine’s Day is on a Friday, which is typically pizza night at our house!

We may switch our tradition to Saturday if we are able to get a sitter. Romantic meals at home are a little bit more romantic when the kids aren’t there!

You can find ways to go out for Valentine’s Day without breaking the bank or waiting in a long line for a table. You just have to be more creative. In the past, we have gone out to eat on a different night. You get in faster and prices aren’t inflated for a special menu.

SOME FRUGAL BUT STILL ROMANTIC DATE NIGHT SUGGESTIONS

  • Pick up a meal at your favorite street vendor and take it to a local hangout for a drink. Locally we have a cider house that does not serve food but allows you to bring your own in. Occasionally they even have a food truck on the premises. We have loved going there on date nights in the past. They even have games to play at the tables and now host a comedy night.
  • Plan a romantic lunch date, maybe even surprise your honey by showing up at their office to take them out to one of your favorite spots. Day dates can be romantic too!
  • Treat them to breakfast in bed! This may be easier to do on the weekend, but the effort is sure to be appreciated!
  • Prepare a special meal together. Working in the kitchen together can also be a good way to catch up and reconnect. Set a fun, romantic atmosphere with the music and get cooking!
  • Find a deal on a half-price gift card site for one of your favorite places to eat.
  • Make a photo book of memories together and look at it over a quiet dinner at home.
  • Weather permitting have a picnic at the park (or on the living room floor).
  • Even playing a game such as Let’s Chat or The Ultimate Game for Couples can be a fun way to reconnect. There is even this Date Night Box Set with three games.

IN THE END, IT’S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY SPENT BUT THE MEMORIES MADE

Get creative and think outside the box! Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to consist of a dozen overpriced roses and an expensive dinner date. Put more thought and effort into it and the amount of money spent isn’t as big of a consideration.

Do you have any Valentine’s Day traditions of your own? How do you try to keep it in budget? Let me know if you try any of my ideas! I’d love to hear how it turns out! A Life on a Dime wishes every one of you a terrific and frugal Valentine’s Day!

Stay tuned for more no-spend February tips and tricks coming your way! If you’d like to join the challenge be sure to hit the subscribe button so you don’t miss out on the additional information as well as the weekly newsletter and meal plan! Until next time my frugal friends!

NO-SPEND FEBRUARY CHALLENGE GUIDELINES

no-spend February challenge

TAKE BACK CONTROL OF YOUR FINANCES IN THE NO-SPEND FEBRUARY CHALLENGE WITH A LIFE ON A DIME!

You may have seen #NoSpendNovember or #NoSpendJanuary challenges floating around on social media. Maybe you opted out because you were overwhelmed with the thought of a no-spend just before the holidays. Or you may have felt too defeated after the holidays. Great news! January is almost over. You’ve had a breather from holiday expenses; now is the time to take back control of your finances! Do that with a Life on a Dime’s No-Spend February Challenge!

Whether Christmas got out of control or you need to build up emergency or sinking funds, this is a great opportunity! It can also be an eye-opener when it comes to your spending habits. You won’t only see how much you CAN save in a month; you’ll also see how much money you spend on impulse or unnecessary purchases. Not only that, but it also gives you a chance to change your spending habits for the better!

HOW TO PARTICIPATE IN THE NO-SPEND CHALLENGE

First, let’s define a no-spend challenge; it is simply a set amount of time in which you eliminate certain spending. We still have to pay the mortgage or rent and feed the kids, but there are more spending categories you can do without or put a lower cap on than you might realize.

I outlined a few tips for success in 3 Tips to Survive and Succeed in a No-Spend Challenge. It would come in very handy in February! It lays out the basic idea of a no-spend challenge and how to make it work. For this challenge, I’ll be participating with you and sharing my progress, tips, and advice on the blog. I will also be sharing on social media under #NoSpendFebruary, and via the email list. If you’re not subscribed to the blog now is a great time to sign up. You’ll get your free weekly meal plan!

Speaking of social media, are you following a Life on a Dime on Instagram, Twitter, and the Facebook page? You’ll definitely want to during this challenge! It’ll offer motivation, encouragement, and accountability! If you’d be interested in a YouTube video on no-spend let me know.

GUIDELINES TO THE NO-SPEND FEBRUARY CHALLENGE

Before starting a no-spend challenge it is important to lay out the guidelines. Sit down with your budget and determine what spending is allowed. Examples of required spending include mortgage/rent, utilities, insurance, groceries, and fuel.

After determining which expenses are allowed start determining which aren’t and if there are any one-time exceptions. For example, if you plan to cut dining out for the no-spend challenge but want to keep your annual Valentine’s date with your honey you can. Just include that PRIOR to the challenge.

Look at the calendar this week in order to ensure greater success next month. If you forget something and allow it you’re more likely to allow other expenses that pop up. Plan ahead and avoid that!

I’m going to make this easier by including my household’s approved spending and what we’re cutting out for no-spend February. This will give you a better idea of how this works and to help you frame your guidelines.

ALLOWED SPENDING IN A LIFE ON A DIME’S HOUSEHOLD DURING THE CHALLENGE

  • Mortgage – Because we have to have a place to live obviously.
  • Utilities – Might as well keep the lights on and the place warm.
  • Insurance – We have cancer, life, and auto insurance. Our health insurance is deducted from hubby’s pay.
  • Groceries – This category will be restricted. See the details in the restricted items section.
  • Toiletries – Shampoo, conditioner, deodorant… Things you need so other people can stand to be around you.
  • Prescriptions and necessary OTC items – I like to use natural wellness options. You can see what we stock our medicine cabinet with here). This includes my monthly wellness box from Young Living. We get some of our supplements and toiletries through them.
  • Kid supplies – Such as pull-ups and wipes since someone is resisting potty training.
  • Mama’s Friend Date – A friend and I made the commitment to get together more often. We had a very rare lunch date (SANS KIDS!!!) in December. When we parted ways we set a goal to get together in February. This is an expense I’m deeming allowed and necessary for my sanity! Social circles close a bit when you are a stay-at-home parent if you let them. Don’t shut yourself off! You don’t have to spend a lot of money; just make the effort to prioritize time with your friends.
  • Gym Membership – I have the $10 Planet Fitness membership. It doesn’t break the bank and I now fund it with my side hustles. Typically. I just need to go more often.

BANNED SPENDING IN OUR HOUSEHOLD DURING THE CHALLENGE

  • Clothing – with the exception of socks and underwear – I plan to restock at the rate of one or two pairs of socks a month. I had not purchased basic socks in almost 10 years prior to this winter so I’m okay buying a new pair or two.
  • Makeup and Jewelry – I don’t buy these often, but I am including them as I’ve had my eye on a good lipgloss for a while.
  • Dining Out – We typically eat pizza at home for Valentine’s day and I think we’ll continue this tradition.
  • Alcohol – I am allowing an exception for Valentine’s day as it is part of our pizza tradition. This works well with my goal to drink more water and watch my weight anyway.
  • Entertainment – We don’t typically spend money in this category on a monthly basis since only rely on our Prime membership, but I’m going to add it in. This may be one of your big expenses.
  • Toys and Games– This one isn’t usually something we spend a lot of money on, but I’m including it just in case.

RESTRICTED SPENDING IN OUR HOUSEHOLD DURING THE NO-SPEND FEBRUARY CHALLENGE

In addition to not spending money on these categories, I also plan to reduce other areas of our budget to maximize our savings potential.

  • Preprepared Meals and Snacks – This is a big one in our house lately. I buy frozen chicken nuggets on an almost weekly basis for the kids and we buy a lot of snacks. We buy snacks at the grocery store and the hubby buys snacks in addition to his packed lunch on an increasing basis. We’re nipping this in the bud in February! If we want more than the food typically packed for hubby’s lunches and kids’ one snack a day we’ll have to make something! By we, I mean me, so this will definitely be a challenge.
  • Household Items – This is a category I’ve already cut back on making my own cleaning products, etc. See the DIYs category if you’re interested in doing that yourself. I will make an effort to be even more mindful. I will purchase items only when I need them rather than making “just in case” purchases.
  • In-between Grocery Day Purchases – You know what I’m talking about; those “must-have” items that didn’t make the weekly shopping list you’re tempted to just “pop in” and pick up from time to time. Are they really necessary? Usually, they’re not. I’ve found Google to be immensely useful when I realize I’m missing a “key” ingredient in a recipe. We really can make it three days on two rolls of toilet paper. That unplanned trip usually results in more than just the one or two “must-have” items you went in for in the first place. I have a habit of popping into the store near my gym for one or two things when I’m out. I come out with more than just the planned one or two items at least 50% of the time. Not this month!

I’M ASSIGNING NO-SPEND HOMEWORK TO BE COMPLETED BEFORE FEBRUARY 1:

Sit down with your monthly budget (you have one, right?) and determine what will be allowed, banned, and restricted spending in February. For bonus points, take it a step further and post it on social media with the #NoSpendFebruary so I see it. Give yourself the added layer of accountability of your friends seeing it too.

After you determine that set your savings goal. Your goal may be to pay down debt, increase savings, or take a trip this summer. Then reaffirm your “why.” You need it in order to stay motivated. You can take a look at my “why” here.

If you have a savings goal, your “why” might be that you want to be sure you can provide for your family in the event of illness or job loss. You need the security of having a fully-funded emergency fund. Reminding yourself why you need it helps keep you motivated to reach that goal.

If you want to go on vacation your “why” might be that your kids have never experienced the seashore and you want them to feel the sand between their toes and smell the ocean air like you did growing up on summer vacations. Focus on your “why” and it will help you when you’re tempted to hit the drive-thru after a long day or make that impulse purchase.

After that be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the tips, advice, and updates for the February no-spend challenge as they come on the blog and the email list! I’ll also post under the hashtag on my social media accounts regularly.

YOU HAVE YOUR ASSIGNMENT

You have your assignment, so get to work! If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me. I can be reached through the blog or on social media. Be on the lookout for more savings and no-spend related articles on the blog! I’ve also planned a minimalism series on the YouTube channel! Just an FYI. I have lots of great video ideas for you. That’s it for now folks. You have homework – get to it! I’ll be back Monday with the weekly newsletter and meal plan.

This post was proofread by Grammarly.