How Did Frugal February Go?

Elise, how did your seventh year of doing Frugal February go?

Feb. 27, Feb. 28, and—exhale. Thus ends Frugal February 2013. Will it go down as the scrimpiest, most self-denying Frugal February ever? Not by a long shot—especially toward the end. But I did manage to entertain myself and a few other people, while coming in under my spending goal (if not exactly blowing it away). Here’s how it all broke down:

The basics: $1,050. My share of the joint account I share with my husband, which covers groceries, rent and utilities.

The semi-basics: $110. Automatic charges that I could theoretically do without for a month, but not without disrupting my life: Netflix, cell phone, monthly charitable donations.

The indulgences: ~$235. I must confess, this number is inexact because I paid for a lot of this stuff in cash (so I could avoid exactly this calculation—which I have had to revise upward at least three times during the writing of this recap). I definitely would not have predicted that I’d be spending this much on fun during Frugal February. Hazily, I’d break it down this way:

  • ~$93: Eating in restaurants. Oops. I just … really wanted to. However, this accounts for four separate meals, plus a smoothie, (sometimes I treated, sometimes my companions treated, sometimes we all went Dutch), so it’s not as extravagant as it might sound.

  • ~$50: Snacks at Trader Joe’s. I pack a lunch, so I need an excuse to leave my desk during the day and stretch my legs. This excuse often takes the form of winter citrus, but if you’ve ever been inside a Trader Joe’s, you know how difficult, and often downright impossible, it is to make it out without a weird store-brand snack or two (or three) under your arm.

  • $30: Tickets to the Vegetarian Food Festival on March 3. I got a half-off deal, so I couldn’t resist buying two. If nothing else, I’m sure we’ll nosh enough on samples to negate the need for lunch. (But as it’s in March, that won’t really matter.)

  • ~$20: Robin Eggs. The best candy ever, and it’s only available right before Easter. I tend to go a little overboard when they first hit the stores, which is usually a little later in the year than Frugal February. It’s a compulsion I’m okay with, because it has an unambiguous end point. (Let’s not discuss the time I got a year’s supply for my birthday.)

  • ~$14: Wine for dinner guests. I consider this to be a fiscally responsible purchase, as I had people over instead of going out to eat.

  • $10: Drink for a friend. I may be a Frugal February fan, but if I pass up the chance to buy my best bud Bo a beer at her bar-based birthday bash, how can I ever cite alliteration as a motivation again?

  • $10: Donation, entry to the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space.

  • $4.50 – Gourmet coffee beans for my husband. He loves coffee, and I found myself in a gourmet coffee shop. I couldn’t resist.

  • $3.50: Buying books at the local church book sale: Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell), Sag Harbor (Colson Whitehead), Drop City (T.C. Boyle), The King Must Die (Mary Renault) and The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys, as a present for my nephew.

Total for the month: $1,395. Despite my moments of weakness—which didn’t seem quite so numerous as I was giving in to them one and occasionally two or three at a time—I still made Frugal February well under budget. As per tradition, I’ve postponed several spendy ventures that I should really take care of (conditioner, driving lessons, picture frames, dry cleaning), but that’s March’s problem.


Elise Nussbaum lives in Jersey City with a husband and a cat.



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