I recently set the goal of saving 58% of my paycheck for the month February, and I was able to accomplish that! In fact, 60% of my paycheck stayed after the month ended. It was a pretty great feeling to be able save that much money. I had to change many aspects of my life to accomplish this, but it was not impossible.
Diet: Perhaps what affected me the most was the change to my diet. Obviously I would not be able to eat out during this time at all. Also, processed foods / meat can be very pricey so I had to limit those.
The first thing I did is buy a huge bucket of whey protein powder for $25 at a local discount grocery store. This powder has 81 servings in it (.31 cents a serving) meaning I could essentially have 3 scoops a day, ensuring I could still build muscle. Additionally I purchased a giant container of oatmeal for $2.45 or roughly 8 cents a serving. Although it got boring after a while, I was able to eat four of my six meals a day for about a dollar a day. Other meals were very heavy on rice, beans, carrots, potatoes, eggs, and hot sauce.
Alcohol: I drank zero alcohol for the entire month. I’m not one to drink alcohol during the week anyway as it effects my work and gym schedule in a negative way. Knowing this, it was really just ensuring no alcohol was consumed for four weekends. Even buying a six pack can get pricey, and when you are low on money there are other priorities.
Lowering costs: Some bills are variable, and although you can try to predict what they will be you will not entirely know until they come. These include: gas, electricity, water, etc. Everywhere I drove to had a purpose, and I tried to eliminating every mile. I also only washed clothes on cold, and very very rarely used the heater. Both of these helped reduce my bills for the month, and left me with a little extra cash.
Take advantage of your surroundings: I learned to take advantage of my surroundings at work. For example, we have free coffee/tea for employees. I never went out to buy a drink. In addition, we get free fruit every Tuesday delivered in crates. Usually I’ll take a few pieces that day, but there is always some the remains the rest of the week. Knowing this, On Wednesday, I scooped up a lot more fruit (after everyone had a chance to get some) and used it as my fruit intake.
My girlfriend also has a few gift cards to restaurants we were able to use during this time. Additionally, I had a gift card to the movies saved from Christmas that we used.
Activities: I had to change my activities for the month to reach my goal. One way I found to keep busy was that I signed up for a free class on learning to code in python. It’s run by a professor at the University of Michigan, and with how much computers effect our lives daily, I figured it would be beneficial to learn some basic coding skills. For additional examples, here is a great article.
In addition, I spent lots of time at the local library, and took small road trips to the beach. I realized I had never had a picnic on the beach before so I tried that (instead of eating a restaurant). It’s a lot of fun.
Stress: I pulled out $100 in cash for the experiment. There was definitely a lot of stress when I knew I had to make it last for an entire month. Every time I opened my wallet pressure was felt. Only being a few years removed from college, so it’s pretty fresh to live without much. I did put off an oil change on my car knowing I wouldn’t be able to pay for it.
Mid-way through the month I received a promotion at work (yay), but I didn’t calculate the new salary into the experiment. I would recommend others to try this experiment (it’s only 30 days) and you could learn tons of ways to save money yourself.
With the money I saved, I now have the funds to go on a vacation to Costa Rica in the spring. Additionally, I was able to make another substantial payment on my student loan debt. This will save me hundreds of dollars in interest by the time I have fully paid of the loan.