We’ve completed the first 4 weeks of our Crash Cash Diet, and in that month, we’ve observed a lot of interesting things. Here are 10 of the most noteworthy.
1. We spend less time doing groceries, and time is money.
Because I’ve already checked out the flyers to see what’s on sale where, done my meal planning for the week, printed my coupons and made my shopping list, I spend much less time wandering the aisles at the grocery stores because we know exactly what we want. And because we have a limited amount of funds to spend, I no longer check out “what’s good” and overspend. Apparently, this is what my husband likes most about our Crash Cash Diet.
2. We waste less food, which wastes less money.
It used to be that even after a week, we’d have a ton of food left in our fridge, some of which would have to be thrown out. Now that I’m consciously meal planning and buying for specific meals, at the end of the week, the fridge is nearly empty. There’s a lot less food wastage, which is not only better for our wallets, it’s better for our environment.
3. We waste less money on junk food.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve got a serious weakness for food. This often translated into innumerable impulse buys – candy, chocolates, chips, popcorn… whatever I was craving for. Since there’s hardly ever any room leftover in the budget for such frivolous junk, it’s been cut out entirely. Not only are we saving lots of money we’d otherwise spend on junk food, we’re eating a lot healthier too. We’re also making a lot fewer stops at fast food restaurants to get a quick bite. That $20 of personal spending money won’t go far if you keep buying Big Mac meals.
4. We’re a lot more conscious of what we’re buying.
Check out the labels? Ain’t no one got time for that! … until now. I now know that the Costco mixed greens salad box is 16 oz for $3.79 and the one at my local grocery store is only 11 oz for $3.99 (unless it goes on sale for $2.77). I also know that the Costco greens stay fresh a lot longer (i.e. they’re still good by the end of the week) while the ones at my local grocery store often go limp near the end of the week.
5. We’ve realized how valuable coupons are.
We’ve probably all heard of extreme couponers who buy entire carts of food, throw down hundreds of coupons and walk away paying absolutely nothing. That doesn’t seem to work very well in Canada, since most coupons can’t be stacked or combined, but when I’ve only got a $10 bill left and I need $11 worth of food, that $1 coupon is literally a lifesaver. This happened today at Food Basics, where I had picked up $11.35 worth of food that we absolutely needed for the week. I only had a $10 bill and 75 cents in coins, so I froze when the cashier said, “Your total is $11.38.” I didn’t know what to do! Do I put back something that we needed? Do I put it on my debit card (not credit card) and maybe take out less money next week? Thankfully, after a split second of internal panicking, I realized I was still holding my $1 coupon. My panic dissipated immediately.
6. We’ve realized the value of money.
It’s so easy to forget the value of a dollar when all you’re doing is swiping a card and somewhere, somehow, some magic in the universe allows you to take home your purchase without actually giving them anything. But when you’re holding a limited amount of cold, hard cash, suddenly you realize the actual value of a dollar. On a $60 weekly grocery budget, that means you can get 60 $1 items. Or 30 $2 items. If smoked salmon is on sale for $10, that means you might have to give up a $2 tub of yogurt, $2 of cucumbers, $3 of mushrooms, $2 of eggs and $1 of bananas. And if something is on sale for $2 cheaper at another grocery store, yes, it might be worth the extra trip. After all, that $2 price difference might be the difference between having it and not having it this week.
7. We’ve started to feel “my money, your money”…
… and that’s not a good thing. With only a $20 personal spending budget per week, it’s so easy to become calculative and start thinking in “my money, your money” terms, which we have never felt before. We started joining our accounts very early on in our relationship (we did buy our house after 10 months!) so it’s been years of “our money”. Even when I hadn’t worked for 1.5 years when I went back to school full time, it was still “our money”, even though my husband was the only one bringing it in. But now, over $40 a week, we’ve started to feel more “my money”, which I don’t like! I don’t like that if we decide we want to spend some of our personal spending money on some candy that the next question is, “Who’s paying? Are we splitting this?”
However, on the flip side, having our own personal spending money reintroduced a foreign aspect of gift-giving back into our relationship. We’ve always done gifts (or mutually agreed to no gifts but a fancy dinner instead) but it’s always just come out of our accounts, which just meant less money going into savings after paying our bills. But this year, when my husband pulled out a $4 Valentine’s trinket (with candy and chocolates of course) they were selling at work, it meant even more than the gold-post pearl earrings he bought another Valentine’s Day. Yes, I love my pearl earrings and wear them every day, but I know he only had about $4 left that week, yet he spent it all on me. That meant he had no money leftover for the rest of the week and that he had to sacrifice something else to be able to buy it for me (that’s 2 value menu burgers from McDonald’s!) It puts a whole new spin on, “Honey, look at the chocolate I just got you!”
8. We snack less.
My husband is one of those people (or maybe the only person) that snacks on non-snack food whenever he feels like it. It drives me nuts watching him go to the pantry and pop a handful of croutons or dried cranberries (for salads) into his mouth. But now, that’s come to a stop because if he eats all our croutons (my blood pressure just spiked a bit thinking about it) we won’t have anything left for our salads. And that’s not cool!
9. We’ve changed how we eat.
Rice has not been on sale since we started our Crash Cash Diet. Meat is expensive. So no longer are we taking leftovers to work for lunch. Instead, we’re packing awesome salads. Not only are they much cheaper, they’re super healthy and they help ensure we’re getting the necessary servings of fruits and veg. Otherwise, sometimes if we’re too lazy/tired to cook both a meat dish and veg dish, we skip out on the vegetables. (Bad, I know).
10. We realized how much we were spending on absolutely nothing.
I almost didn’t post this because this is the first time I’ve actually put the numbers together and they were absolutely terrifying. In 2014, we spent an average of $5,736.30 per month on our Visa. In 2015, we spent an average of $3,404.41. That means we spent $68,835.64 and $40,852.92, respectively. These don’t even include the debit/cash purchases (although they couldn’t have really accounted for much – we had put everything on our credit card.)
However, before you get all, “No wonder they’re in debt!!!!” on me, in 2014, we got married (but we got a lot of cash back in gifts), moved into a new condo (i.e. we needed furniture, window coverings, etc.), bought a new car, brought our puppy home, and went on the honeymoon of our lives (Tahiti!) In 2015, my brother got married, I was bridesmaid in 3 weddings (1 out of town), and we went to Asia for a month. So some of the spending is, in my mind, justified.
Of course, a lot of it isn’t. I don’t have any of the amounts spent for the year yet, but I’ve estimated that we’ll still have about $650/month on our credit card from prepaid bills, plus $140 cash per week for groceries, household expenses and our personal spending money. That should amount to about $1,210 per month, for a grand total of only $14,520 for the whole year. That’s 35% of what we spent in 2015, and only 21% of what we spent in 2014. (Of course, this doesn’t account for any extra expenses we may encounter, but hopefully we’ll be able to start accumulating money from our household expenses that we can use as a little “emergency fund”.)