Thursday, March 15, 2012

$25 Challenge - Cutting Back on Groceries to Compensate for Unexpected Expenses

I have been thinking about doing a $25 challenge for a few days. I did it a couple of years ago and succeeded and wanted to try it again. Yesterday one of my friends asked what I accomplish by doing challenges like that. I guess the greatest benefit is to know that I can succeed in doing it if I ever had to do it. Then I decided to postpone the idea until last night when another friend said that one of their family members was going to spend only $25 a week for the next two weeks as a challenge as well as to compensate for an unplanned expense.

We can all relate to unplanned expenses. Sometimes it is a doctor bill and sometimes it is a car repair. Maybe the utilities are higher than expected. The tighter your budget, the more you feel it when it happens. After you make it through a challenge, I would definitely think of squirreling away some money in case you need it in the future because things always seem to come up and it is easier to make it through if you have a reserve. Saving 5 or 10 dollars a week in a secret place in the house can come in handy at times like these. But, that is the subject of another future post.

One of the most important things in succeeding in a challenge like this is to be committed. If it were me, I would take out $50 cash for the two weeks and hide the checkbook and credit cards in case I was tempted to spend more. Another thing that is helpful, is to have support. For that reason, I AM GOING TO JOIN HER in the same challenge and share ideas throughout the next two weeks that will help to succeed in this kind of challenge.

There are three different levels of living on $25 per week:

1. Easiest: Just spend $25 and eat what you have already in the house.

2. Challenge: Just spend $25 total, by figuring out how much everything costs, etc. and staying in the $25 dollars.

For example:

Oatmeal @ 15 cents a day for 7 days = $1.05
Carrots @ 35 cents a day for 7 days = $2.45
4 loaves of bread @ 18 cents per loaf = 72 cents for the week

This is a little more difficult, but can be done. It just takes more time to figure out how much salt, sugar, flour, etc. costs for each recipe. You also have to figure out how much each ingredient like meat, potatoes, rice, an apple, etc. costs for each recipe or meal, etc. This is mostly what I did the first time I did a $25 challenge.

3. Difficult: Only spend $25 for the week and you can't use anything you already have in the house. This also can be done, but you will need to buy only what you need in the bulk food section at times and there won't be as much variety.

There are a lot of things you can do to succeed in this challenge, some of which I will try to cover in the next two weeks: use less expensive ingredients (like spaghetti instead of lasagna or shortbread instead of chocolate chip cookies), make things like crackers, tortillas, bread from scratch, focus on lost leaders, use less (like half as much shampoo, dish soap, wash soap) etc.

To start with, look through your cupboards, freezer and fridge and try to come up with a menu using as much of the ingredients that you already have. You want to save your money for the most important things: formula and/or diapers if you have a baby, eggs, milk and fresh produce. If you do have kids in diapers, try to stretch out the time between changes as much as you can, without any harm to your baby. Maybe change them 3-4 times a day instead of 7-8. As long as you change the dirtiest diapers for sure, and the wet ones less often as long as they don't show any signs of a rash, you could get away with this for the next two weeks.

We are doing the first type of $25 per week challenge, spending $25 per week plus whatever you have in the house, for the next two weeks. If any of you want to join and share your experiences and wisdom, please do!

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