Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dollar Diet Wrap-Up

As promised, now that we're practically through May (wait, how did that happen?) it seems only fitting to do a short wrap-up post about our experiences with the Dollar Diet.

So, how did we do? Well, if this were school and I had to assign ourselves a grade, I would probably give us a solid B. We tried really hard to not break the rules, we mostly stayed on task and in general- we put forth a good effort. But sometimes... trying just isn't enough.

  • Savings: Probably the biggest highlight in my opinion! After looking through our total expenses for the month and comparing them to a "typical" month's expenses, we estimated that we saved somewhere around $1,000 to $1,500. Yea, that's a lot of money.  Like nearly a house payment, a lot of money. 
  • Learning Impulse Control: This was really hard for me. I'm an "instant gratification" kind of girl, and when Mama wants a Latte, Mama wants it right now. But during the entire month of April, I held back and didn't once cheat. It wasn't easy, especially when my playgroup took a trip to a favorite restaurant for lunch one day, but we did it! I tried to remember the fact that we were saving money, and that really- I didn't need to have a latte. Regardless of what my brain was buzzing around about. 
  • Finding new ways to treat ourselves:  This kind of goes along with the Impulse Control but deserves it's own bullet. It's really easy to say that we, as Moms, "deserve" a latte or a new shirt or even a mani-pedi (which we do, but still) but because we didn't spend any money for a month- I had to find a new way to treat myself. Instead, I discovered how to get "me" time for free! Whether it was a walk outside alone, or a bubble bath or even just thirty minutes of baby-free quiet... finding the time to just be Ashley was nice.
  • Using up our stock-pile: We finally now have room to actually store food in our freezer. Part of this is due to the fact that Beatrice Kate used up our entire freezer supply of breastmilk; but also it's because we actually ate what we had on hand. And you know what- it was good. We even used things from our gift stock piles for friends' birthdays and special events. And no, I didn't regift something from Nana to do it.
  • We got creative with meals: I think it happens to every family. After weeks and weeks of meal planning, you start to fall back on family favorites. This is easily remedied when one of those favorites is no longer stocked in your pantry. As a result, we tried and some-what learned to like new things. Now, I'm not going to admit to liking Kale Chips because the people who fooled me into thinking they were going to be like potato chips are liars. But, for the most part, it was a lot of fun. Sort of like being on Iron Chef. Only with organic vegetables from our CSA Share. 
  • Increase of family time: I wrote about this when we first started the Dollar Diet and it held true. Not spending money was liberating. Because we weren't spending time in stores, buying crap that we probably didn't need- we spent more time together, as a family. We discovered new, free things to do. Like the Science Museum and the Art Museum Park. Casey and I even started a new "Date Night" tradition of making our own pizza and watching a Netflix-streaming movie on the couch each Friday. *Cue sighs and "Ahhh"s.*
As warm and fuzzy as all the highlights make the Dollar Diet sound, there were some lowlights as well...
  • Unexpected expenses: If ever there were a month to save $1000, April sure worked out to be it. Within a matter of two weeks, we had to 1) buy a new car 2)make an ER visit and 3)fix our air conditioner. All three were major expenses but all three had to be done. 
  • Sickness brings out a whole new side of will-power weakness: In the same week that Casey had to visit the ER, Beatrice Kate and I both came down with a nasty little cold/sinus infection. After being up all night with Casey, and then having to mange the baby situation alone (whilst being sick, too)... I simply didn't feel like cooking dinner for anyone. So, we cheated on the Dollar Diet and I broke down and bought Chick-fil-A for dinner that night. I confess and it makes me feel a little better.
  • Learning impulse control is not fun: At the same time though- I didn't spend money on anything else unnecessary the entire month. That's pretty darn good but it wasn't fun. I really, really wanted to join the other moms after Stroller Strides in a Starbucks treat or go out to lunch with our friends. And sometimes, it's just easier to take a stroll through Target, where we usually would buy things we didn't need, than sit at home with a cranky baby. I really wanted to join my Mom's group out for karaoke and manicures, but I resisted and wasn't happy about it.
  • It's really hard to eat healthy on just $10 a week: I won't lie, I really thought $10 would be plenty to cook meals for just Casey and I. We get a weekly Co-Op share so I thought it should be a no-brainer to plan meals around that. Boy, was I wrong. Not once did I manage to stay within $10. I was inevitably over by at least $2-5 each week. Special things like oranges or red bell peppers were SO expensive. Things like yogurt or low-fat cheese were often off limits because of the price. Combining coupons and sales, it was things like pre-packaged cookies and cakes that were really cheap. I was sad to find this out.
I was even more sad to know that for some people, the Dollar Diet lasts a lot longer than thirty days. I'm thankful for what we have (more so after the month of April) and all in all- this experiment taught us that if push came to shove, we could do it. But it wouldn't be easy and it certainly wouldn't be fun.

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