This February on Instagram I created and completed a 28 day frugal challenge. This came about after we had a very spendy start to the year with Christmas and birthdays. So the timing was perfect to do a challenge that helped us get back to our frugal roots, and in the process find some extra cash. The challenge went really well, not only did we save some money but we also rediscovered our love of frugality and slow living. So I’m sharing the challenge via the blog today for those who may want to do a quick frugal boot camp to get themselves back on track.
Please note that this challenge can be completed at any time, and in any month (not just February).
Day 1: Set your goal for the month and use a visual tracker to track your progress.
The first day of the challenge is all about setting your intentions and goals for the month. Feel free to use my free monthly personal finance printable link here. It’s super easy to use, and I place mine on our fridge so that the whole family can work towards it.
Day 2: List at least one item you no longer use on Marketplace, Gumtree, eBay or other selling platform. Transfer any cash you make to savings.
The aim of this challenge is to kickstart your savings and get a quick win to help motivate you. Take a walk around your home and find at least one item that you can sell. I know I always seem to have a list of items I want to sell in my head, but haven’t gotten around to listing. So this day is all about listing just one of these items (if you list more then well done).
Day 3: Do a food audit and find anything close to expiry. Find a recipe to use it up and incorporate into your meal plan.
Doing a food audit every month of your pantry (or weekly for your fridge) is such a great way to reduce food waste. Once you identify the items close to spoiling pop them in a basket so you know you need to use them up (I have a basket in the fridge and in the pantry). Then it’s time to get creative and plan your meals this month around these items.
Day 4: Check that you are getting the best deal for your car insurance.
It’s important to review your car insurance regularly to ensure you are getting the best deals (you can save $$$’s). There are a few websites that can assist you in this task such as Canstar, Compare the Market, Finder and iSelect.
Day 5: Check your tyre pressure and make sure they are at the recommended pressure.
Did you know that having your tyre pressure below the recommended pressure can lead to you using an extra 5% fuel? It can also decrease your tyre tread life. If you don’t know where your tyre pressure recommendation is you will usually find it in the inside of your car door when you open it (or in your car manual). I’m not great at remembering this tip so I have a reoccurring reminder on my phone.
Day 6: Cook an extra meal to be put in the freezer for a future night off.
Prepare an extra meal in advance to put into the freezer. The idea around this is that at some point in the likely near future you will not feel like cooking, and instead of grabbing a takeaway you can reheat this extra meal instead (saving you money). It may also be worth getting in the habit of preparing double portions one night of the week and freezing the excess.
Day 7: Grab your latest energy bill and take 5 minutes to ensure that you’re getting the best deal.
For Australians this process is super simple just head on over to the government website Energy Made Easy and upload your bill. Then wait for your results and check how much you can save by switching providers. We saved over $1000 a year switching to Reamped Energy. These guys are great and if they are the best deal for you feel free to use the link to recieve $50 when you sign up (and the best thing is they do all the hard work for you in terms of breaking up with your old company).
Day 8: If you’re on a variable mortgage interest rate call your provider for a rate review.
Do you want to save over $1000 in one hour? Yes, well perhaps it’s time to give your lender a call. I request an interest rate review every 3-6 months depending on my lender’s policy on rate reviews. I do a little preparation work for it including a little research on other providers (eg. interest rate offered, new customer rates, providers name, LVR, etc). I then call my lender and once I finally get to a real person I request to speak to the rate review department. I then make my pitch remembering to be super polite and removing any emotion. I’m not always successful but over the years this has saved us thousands of dollars.
Day 9: Deep clean your washing machine and dryer filters.
Not only is this a necessary and often overlooked part of maintaining your appliances (and their lifespan), but you never know what you’ll find in there.
Day 10: Make your own multi purpose spray cleaner.
I love making my own spray cleaner for three reasons. It’s cheap to make, low tox, and I get to control the fragrance. I have a really simply recipe listed here (Make your own Multi Purpose Spray for under $1) that you are welcome to try.
Day 11: No one’s perfect. If you need a night off choose a takeaway instead of a takeaway.
We all need a night off, and even if you’ve got a pre-cooked meal in the freezer sometimes you have a craving for a takeaway. But before you reach for your phone why don’t you think about a fakeaway instead. Fakeaway is just what you think it might be. Fake takeaway that requires minimal effort and can be purchased from your supermarket, bakery, Asian grocery or specialty shop. My favorites are:
- Heat and eat curries (Aldi does a great one in the fridge section)
- Heat and eat pies/pastry’s (again I recommend Aldi)
- Home made gourmet hotdogs with your own toppings (I’m a sucker for the Aldi brioche hotdog rolls).
- Dumplings, Bao Buns, or really any frozen item from your local Asian grocery.
- Heat and eat pastas like lasagna.
- Pre-made pizzas.
- Air fryer fish and chips
Day 12: Pull out all your clothes and go through each of them. Rediscover some oldies you forgot and donate/sell anything you no longer wear.
Try on your clothes, and get rid of anything that no longer fits/ is broken or just doesn’t bring you joy wearing. Don’t forget to take any unwanted items that are not donation quality to H&M where you will receive a 15% off voucher.
Day 13: Hand make a card for someone special using things around the house.
Cards can be expensive especially when you leave it to the last minute. So this challenge is all about being creative using what you have around the house to make a card. I keep mine pretty generic so I can use them for an unexpected goodbye, thank you or birthday. If you need some inspiration then follow my lead and go to Pinterest for some ideas.
Day 14: Schedule a zero or low cost money date (for singles or couples).
Every month we schedule a money date, and more often than not these dates are quite cheap. Eg a nice walk to our favorite local waterfall, a mini picnic or just a drink at our local pub during happy hour. During our money date we reflect on our money and life wins/losses since our last date, and get back in sync. For those who aren’t coupled up do something for you: reset yourself, reflect on your wins and celebrate you.
Day 15: Check that your Home Insurance is still meeting your needs and you’re still getting the best deal.
A lot changes every year including the cost of rebuilding your house as well as insurance legislation. So it’s important to at least once a year make sure that you’ve still got the best insurance for your situation. For most of us our house is our biggest asset so it’s important that it’s insured appropriately. It’s also important to ensure you’re getting the best deal. Some great places to start are Canstar, Choice, Compare the Market, Finder and iSelect.
Day 16: Check out your local library or library app like Libby/Borrowbox.
I love my library and I challenge you to go and see what services your library provides. Often libraries provide more than just books. Our library provides free coding classes for our son, genealogy, workshops, classes, cheap room hire, and access to a 3D printer. If you’re not close to your local library then check out library apps like Libby and Borrowbox. If your library has a newsletter then I recommend subscribing to keep up to date with new services.
Day 17: Check out your local vocational training providers / or TAFE providers to see what student provided services are available to the public.
I previously worked at a TAFE provider and whilst there I discovered so many great goods and services available to the public at lower prices than usual. These goods and services included:
- Hair and Beauty
- Food (Bread, Patisserie, Butcher, etc)
- Wine and Beer
- Tech Bar
- Vet Services
- and many others.
If you would like to read up on these services more check out this article Where to find TAFE related services that will save you money.
Day 18: Bring the cinema to your home for a low cost night in.
This challenge is all about finding activities that fill your need for fun without breaking the bank. One of our favourite activities is to stay home and watch a great classic movie as a family. We make it extra special by going to Aldi, grabbing some popcorn, lollies, and fancy icecream for under $10.
Day 19: Try swapping your regular meal delivery services like Hellofresh with a free or low cost meal planning app like mealime or paprika.
We all have to eat, but how you plan and decide what goes on the table can save you a tonne of money. Recently we had gotten a little too reliant on HelloFresh, but we ditched it for the app Mealime, and after a month of using it we love it!!!
The Mealime app has a free version and a paid version ($2.99 a month). You simply download the app to your phone, select your recipes, it then generates your shopping list, and you then cook the meals. You can even upload your own recipes.
I’ve also been told that Paprika Recipe Manager is also great. This is a paid app (once off cost $7.99). I haven’t tried this one myself, but I like that this app allows you to plan your meals weekly, fortnightly or monthly. It also had additional functions such as being able to keep a pantry list in addition to generating a grocery list.
Day 20: Look into bulk buying items that you use frequently.
Bulk buying your groceries can save you a tonne of money, and I do this for several high use items in our house (eg. Flour, Eggs, Rice, Herbs, Toilet Paper etc). When I bulk buy I have a few rules I follow:
- Know your unit pricing. Bigger sometimes isn’t cheaper.
- Only buy what you would use in a year or alternatively whatever the used by date on it.
- If bulk buying meat use a scale to divide up and bag your meat.
- Know how long something can be frozen. Whilst a whole chicken can be kept in the freezer for a year, a cut up chicken can only be frozen for 9 months.
- Label your frozen goods well. Otherwise you might get a surprise after defrosting it (hands up if you’ve done this before).
Day 21: Download a petrol app and get the best price in your area.
Petrol apps have been around for a few years. They can save you quite a bit of money depending on the petrol price fluctuations in your area. There are quite a few Australian fuel apps including Fuel Map, Petrol Spy, Fuel Lock 7/11, RACQ Fuel, Gas Buddy, RAA Petrol App, and Motormouth.
Day 22: If you love high end clothing then consider joining a buy, sell, swap group or trying a pre-loved designer store.
I’m not a big fashion shopper, but I do love a few brands that are quite $$$. Instead of buying new I have joined a few buy, sell, swap groups on Facebook in order to save myself money. I’ve also had a bit of luck at a local pre-loved designer store (the ones that rent a rack to people to sell their items).
Day 23: Use cashback sites/apps like Shopback, Cash Rewards and Honey.
If you need to buy something online then cashback sites/apps can be a great way to make a little money. We use our cashback dollars at the end of the year to help with Christmas expenses. To use cashback sites/apps simply sign up to the cashback site, shop through their online platform/or use their brower extension, and then get a % of your online purchase amount paid into your cashback account. Feel free to use my affiliate links here to get an additional bonus for signing up.
Day 24: Swap to generic supermarket brands.
We are big fans of buying generic supermarket brands and almost exclusively shop at Aldi. Often we find that even when branded items are on half price sale at the major supermarkets that the generic brand is often cheaper. In recent years the taste and quality of generic brands has improved significantly, and we often prefer the aldi brands over the branded version.
Day 25: Change your mortgage payments to fortnightly or weekly to pay down your mortgage faster.
If you’re not already paying your mortgage weekly or fortnightly I challenge you to try switching your payment schedule. It’s such a simple way to pay your mortgage off quicker as you end up paying additional payments without realising it over the year.
Day 26: Grow your own herbs from store bought cuttings.
I’ve got a huge green thumb, but it wasn’t always like this. It’s taken years of learning and a tonne of trial and error (and dead plants). An easy first step to improving your green thumb without significant outlay is to propagate from herbs you’re already buying from the supermarket. It may come as a surprise to you but you can grow the following herbs from cuttings:
You simply select the green stem, and to take a cutting you:
- Snip just below the leaf node (where the leaves come out of the stem). This should be about 10cm.
- Then remove the bottom leaves.
- Pop the cutting in a glass of water.
- Then place the cutting on a sunny windowsill.
- Then change the water at least weekly (every couple of days is best)
- In a few weeks you will start to see roots grow and you can plant your cutting into a small pot.
Day 27: Adopt a more frugal beauty regime.
Beauty budgets are extremely personal and individual, but I do think there are a lot of easy ways to shave money off your budget without compromising too much. So this challenge is all about making a small change to your beauty regime to save yourself money.
I’m not going to tell you to stop Botox, Laser, etc…. but maybe there is somewhere in your beauty budget that could benefit from a review. Here are a few ideas:
- Make the most of working from home and give your face a couple of days off each week without make up.
- Try extending the time between salon visits.
- Embrace a more budget friendly hair colour/style.
- Buy laser hair removal when they have deals.
- Shop around for Botox or other treatments. There can be a significant price difference between practitioners.
- Use TAFE or beauty school services.
- Invest in a DIY manicure/pedicure set up at home.
- If you’ve got a partner consider doing a short WEA course on couple massage.
- Use sunscreen everyday.
- Drink tonnes of water and feed your skin from the inside.
- Use up your old products before buying new.
- Learn to love your greys.
- Do your own hair colour.
- Learn to cut your partners/kids hair.
- Know your skin type: Summer, Autumn, Winter or Spring so you never end up with colours you don’t use.
- Try the odd drug store brand. I’m a huge fan of Aldi’s range but I also mix it up with my favourite Mecca brands.
- Join loyalty programs and use birthday vouchers.
- Ask for free samples when you visit department stores (my mum taught me this one).
Day 28: Add up your savings, side hustles and other wins from completing the challenge and celebrate with your favourite low cost or free activity.
Well done for getting to the end!!!!! If you completed the challenge I would love to hear how it went so please let me know in the comments or tag me via instagram.
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Great list of bite-size things to do to improve your finances in the longer term