Home > Personal Finance > How Our Holiday #SpendingFreeze Is Going: Week 1

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Inspired by this article, several Credit.com staffers are tracking their own personal spending freeze on social media. You can follow their progress as they stop spending and start preparing for the holidays using the hashtag #spendingfreeze on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll also be updating our readers weekly with our insights and struggles on the blog — this is our first update.

Gerri Detweiler, Director of Consumer Education

Overall I was able to stick with the first week of the spending freeze fairly easily, but with a few hiccups.

My niece called me asking me to buy a magazine for her school fundraiser. As a rule, I don’t like to participate in those programs, as I don’t need more junk, and I’d rather give money directly to the school. But it just so happened that I had been thinking about how I wanted a subscription to National Geographic after reading it at my doctor’s office. It’s educational. And shouldn’t we help girls to develop sales skills? All the justifications raced through my head in a moment’s notice, and I agreed to buy a subscription. That was $40.

A business trip this past week was also an opportunity to practice my efforts to rein in impulse spending. I usually treat myself to Starbucks on these trips, but on my way out I resisted. (I also packed myself a lunch then forgot it, so that was a fail!) However, on the way home I arrived at the airport almost at midnight, with an hour drive ahead of me. I was exhausted, so I splurged on a tall coffee to keep me awake. Another $3.

My biggest challenge during this freeze is to cut back on my grocery spending, which is really too high for someone who basically cooks for two (my hubby isn’t terribly fond of my cooking) and who has a freezer full of pastured meat from a local farmer she needs to cook. Taking advice from the article I wrote about how to cook gluten-free on a budget, I really worked hard to try to make dishes based on what I have, and for the most part succeeded.

Knowing I will be held accountable really does help me think twice about making purchases.

Bev O’Shea, Editor

Week one went fairly well. I got my car’s emission inspection done in time to avoid a late fee when I paid for a license plate renewal, and I was more conscious of spending in general.

I paid attention to the numbers when I charged press-on lenses (a trial, and not covered by insurance, but if they work, my glasses will be). I found a restaurant recipe online for U.S. Senate Navy Bean Soup and tried it. It was as good as theirs and had the added advantage of being cheap. Actually looked forward to leftovers.

I think I should unsubscribe from all retailer lists. While there is this FOMO (fear of missing out), Black Friday will likely ensure I won’t miss out. And I will have money if I STEP AWAY from the emails. Food has been the big focus this week. I’m eating at home and not hating it. Oh, and I’ve been doing a bit of online shopping, since I’m trying to decide about a December vacation, but nothing has been purchased.

I also remembered to renew some library books (6 books at 25 cents a day adds up). Also, my spouse saw me doing it and renewed his (an even bigger savings).

Things I consciously paid for:

  • An oil change for car. (Could I do this myself? Theoretically, yes.)
  • A medical test I was told insurance “might” pay for but might not (but will in January).
  • A flu shot (less than $5 with insurance).

Kali Geldis, Editorial Director

Since an out-and-out spending freeze would be a little bit hard for me (I’m currently planning my wedding in April and have to make some payments and deposits that were previously scheduled), I’m instead doing a modified version that I think still lives up to the spirit of the challenge — putting money away for the holiday binge.

The Costs I Cut

  • My Starbucks habit. I didn’t eliminate it entirely, but I limited myself to two trips a week and I’m only allowed to get a coffee — no pumpkin loaf or classic coffee cake for this girl. That cuts my costs from roughly $35/week to $10. If I can keep it up, that’s $75 over the next three weeks (which I’ll use to buy a concert ticket for my fiance and I, maybe).
  • In-app purchases. I don’t buy a lot of these, but every so often I throw caution to the wind and splurge on some 99-cent boosts in iPhone games. Those are no more, and I’m saving maybe $3 a week — not a fortune, but nothing to smirk at either.
  • Ordering in for dinner. I did a better job planning ahead for my dinners this week when I did my weekly grocery run. I found some recipes online that help me cook meals for four so my fiance and I can use leftovers on busy nights when we’re both exhausted and want a quick and easy meal.

My Splurges

  • Running shoes. I’ve been in need of some new ones, and went to a store nearby that does a running analysis and puts you in shoes that will fit your gait. The sneakers were pricey (a little more than $100), but a necessity as my old ones were wearing through.
  • Wedding hair/makeup trial. It might seem a bit weird that I’m getting my hair and makeup done during a spending freeze, but I’m making an exception here since this is a one-off expense that I had pre-planned and saved for via my wedding fund. It was a fun expense, but it really does put into perspective how much I’d have to give up to pay for this splurge. My total Starbucks savings ($75) over three weeks would only cover the hair.

Kim Como, Manager of Media Partnerships

Don’t judge, but as a mom of two young boys (ages 4 & 5), bribery is a staple in my parenting arsenal. However, in signing on for the #spendingfreeze challenge, I had to think outside of the box a bit, substituting tangible items for more personal ones. So instead of buying something for my boys, I promised an extra book for good behavior or an extra 1/2 hour of iPad time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve broken the freeze once, (OK, maybe more than once) because as great as books or iPad time may seem, when soccer pictures take longer than expected and practically blur into bedtime, milkshakes from Sonic are truly the only way to keep the peace and ward off any tears in my house!

Then there’s school obligations. As a new kindergarten parent, do I really want my son to be the only one in his class to not get an “ices treat” because his mom is on a spending freeze? Sorry, no can do!

BUT I’m not giving up yet…there are still another few weeks to go, so I’m adding an extra notch in the belt and pulling tighter til the end of the month…wish me luck!

Christine DiGangi, Reporter & Editor

This spending freeze is a much-needed challenge for our household budget, but necessity hasn’t made it any easier to cut back. As far as flexible spending goes, shopping and food costs tend to send us over the edge each month, so that’s what my husband and I tried to focus on during this challenge.

Instead of totally cutting spending, we seriously prioritized reducing our expenses and planned more than we have in the past. Our strategy: Delete the dozens of deal emails we get daily, no matter how good the sale is.

Plan all our meals and stick to a $15-a-day food allotment, including groceries (money unspent rolls over to the next day). We stuck to the shopping part (even though I was at a huge cycling event with insane discounts, and the only way I made it through without spending was by not bringing money into the vendor tent), but the food budget continues to be a struggle.

Successes

  • We completely cut out shopping, with the exception of one pre-planned expense: Our dog, um, thought my husband’s jacket sleeve was the perfect tug-of-war toy, and a hole-ridden jacket doesn’t really cut it in Chicago fall weather. We planned on replacing it before the freeze, and the one we bought was 60% off.
  • I deleted about 100 deal emails without hesitation. (OK, I opened a Groupon email marketing half-price yoga and longingly read the offer before deleting it and moving on.)
  • We honored the $15-a-day food budget … until Thursday.

Struggles

  • Thursday Night Football resulted in a bar trip that exceeded our food allotment.
  • I went out of town Friday through Sunday, and even though I packed some food, I still ate three meals out.
  • Sunday brought more football and more temptations to go out — we gave in and overspent.

We still cut back a ton, but the end-of-week downfall reminded me of the importance of planning ahead. Our goal is to buy only the groceries we need for a week of at-home meals (using the $15-a-day strategy), with the exception of our anniversary dinner. Even that would be a significant improvement on Week One and our usual dining habits.

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