A New Year, A New Challenge

A new year has begun, and I’m in the mood for something fresh! I’m no stranger to personal challenges (you might remember the 52-Week Money-Saving Challenge and the $5 Savings Challenge from years past). I love to set new goals for myself, because they often lead to new, better spending habits. One of my ultimate goals for this year is to save more money by reducing excessive (and unnecessary) spending. Our main culprit? Dining out. I mean who DOESN’T prefer someone else doing the cooking and then cleaning up afterwards? We’ve had a rather difficult pregnancy, symptom-wise, so eating at home has been a real struggle over the past few months as we tried to manage food and smell aversions. Over the holiday break, my hubby and I resolved to change this! Going out to eat isn’t just taking a toll on our wallets, but our waistlines, too (well, my belly is expanding for more obvious reasons), and we both want to be as healthy as we can be for when baby arrives in just a few short months.

To start out slowly, we’ve initiated a simple, short, one-month-long challenge to refrain from dining out, or at least cut back as much as we can. We budget about $400-500 per month for meals away from home, and any small part of that we can keep is better than nothing! Realistically, I don’t expect to completely eliminate restaurant dining altogether, mostly because we’re both constantly on the move, and sometimes it’s just more convenient to eat out when we’re nowhere near home. At the end of the month, we’ll evaluate how well we did, and decide where we should go from there!

We’ll be following just these two basic rules:

1. Spend less. This one is pretty self-explanatory. To be clear, we’ll be including sit-down restaurants, fast food chains, coffee shops, and a few more trivial places (i.e. gas station snacks or Auntie Anne’s Pretzels at the mall, my guiltiest of pleasures) on the list of “no-go’s”.

2. Spend smart. As I mentioned above, I don’t foresee us making a clean break right from the beginning. Our main goal is to just spend less than we have been, and the closer we can get to zero, the better! This will be about smarter, less frequent spending. If I’m out running errands all day, I’ll pack some snacks and opt for a small salad somewhere quick if I need to instead of getting a combo meal at a fast food place. Instead of sitting down for a $60 meal, we might opt for a less expensive restaurant for a weekend treat, and that might also include cutting out extras like cocktails and dessert.

If all goes well, this might be a challenge that we carry through the rest of the year, or at least be something that we’re more conscious of. Be sure to check back in with us in February to see how much we saved! How are you challenging yourself to save more or spend less this year?