Frugal February: how much can you save in 28 days?
February is a great place to start hitting some of those money goals you made for the new year.
Most likely you're coming off the back of a Christmas period when your hands felt perpetually shoved in your pockets, and the school holidays mixed with a heavy January social calendar have done nothing to alleviate those money woes.
A financial fast in the form of Frugal February may be just what the money doctor ordered.
At just 28 days it's only a short month but it's long enough to help you adopt some frugal swaps that you can take into the rest of 2019.
The premise is simple: cut out as much (or all) of your discretionary spending as possible during the month - and every dollar counts.
Here are our best tips on how to rack up the pennies.
Cash only, thank you
Hide away the plastic and commit to going a whole month without touching it.
The psychology behind frequenting an ATM machine for your money versus tapping on-the-go means you'll be less blase about your budget.
Commit to making life's little luxuries at home
Meals, snacks and coffees - make them all at home, and from scratch.
According to an ING report, the average cost of buying lunches is $129 a month ($1548 a year), and daily coffees and convenience snacks only swell this number. Meal-plan by buying things in bulk at the start of the month.
Delete any ride-sharing apps from your phone. Commit to walking and catching public transport.
Unsubscribe from the noise
Go through your email list one night and detox from all marketing emails. The last three pages of your inbox should see you unsubscribing from the worst offenders so that you're not tempted with seasonal sales, especially those containing charged language such as "just for you" and "one day only".
If you're on the cusp of a purchase, ask yourself: "Do I need this or want this? Is there something I already own that can fill this need? Can I find an alternative in an online marketplace for free? What would happen if I walk away?"
Borrow or re-gift instead of buying
Something borrowed is a much better option than something new, especially on your wallet. Get books and movies for free from the library; borrow tools, camping gear, picnic items and luggage from friends; and for any events you might need to attend offer a clothes swap.
For birthdays, take a look around your home to see if you can re-gift anything from Christmas that's unopened, such as unburnt candles, sealed bottles of wine or fun homewares or accessories with the tags on.
A leaky tap, dirty windows or overflowing laundry - where you might be tempted to call in the professionals, instead give it a go yourself.
Where you feel confident enough, and it's not unsafe (steer clear of electricity and plumbing), you can save up to a couple of hundred at a time. Put a pause on any convenience services, such as cleaners or car washers, for the month - you can always go back to them in March.
Look for better deals
Make a list of all of your subscription services or fixed-term plans, and spend a couple of hours ringing around to see whether you can get a better deal.
Start with "I took a good look at my last bill and I think I'm paying too much" and follow up with an open-ended question such as "What can you do for me?"
Give love, not gifts, on Valentine's Day
The fact that Frugal February falls around one of the most commercial days of the year is a bonus - it's possible to be romantic on a dime instead of a dollar. Have a "spa night" in together, pick a gourmet recipe and cook it at home, play games or go for a walk and bring along a homemade picnic to enjoy.
However you choose to do Frugal February - whether it's a category spending freeze or cutting down on expenses from every line of your budget - enjoy the supercharging of your savings efforts and getting yourself into a great financial position for the rest of the year.