Frugal in February

28 days lighter

February is a great time to try a fast or an audacious goal, like “save an extra $10 this month.” Sure, some people give up something they enjoy (fish, beer, Netflix, etc.) for the 40 days of Lent, while others give up eating while the sun is shining during the 30 days of Ramadan, but for my money, February is the perfect time to try something new and/or fail miserably at it. If you’ve already dropped your New Year’s Resolution, you’ll feel shame for the whole year—but with February, the pain will be over before you even notice it. (As you’ll be reading this after February has begun, the experiment should be even easier to complete/attempt.)

As a loyal reader, you’ve certainly established a budget and are tracking your spending, so you probably know your pain points—the things you hesitate to give up; the wants that feel like needs. You probably have a few, so pick one—the others will help you survive the month. It might be your ritual Dutch/bucks coffee every Saturday, or your weekly/monthly night out at one of Chico’s wonderful and varied dining and drinking establishments. Perhaps you’re an app-addict, or spend a few bucks downloading today’s greatest song or show. You might try going vegetarian for the month, or just cutting out the ever expensive red meat.

You might try your audacious goal in the reverse—instead of fasting from something, you might try something financially neutral or even finance positive; your goal might be “earn an extra $10 bucks this month.” Maybe offer to tutor a classmate who is struggling—you can charge basically nothing (as it’ll help your studying as well) and could make a new friend. Or try selling something on Craig’s bay—it’s super easy. I put up a bunch of things one day, and for the next month, I’d occasionally get an email asking to buy one of them. It was nice to earn a few extra bucks, and I didn’t have to think about the ad beyond the first day I posted it. If your neighbors throw their usual party, you could collect their recycling and return them—bare minimum, stale beer smells won’t waft into your yard.

Here’s another idea: try donating blood—you won’t get paid in money, but you’ll score some free snacks, and can earn a t-shirt, free movie ticket, or other cool stuff via “points” for repeated donations. Volunteering in other ways might serve your purposes too—you could gain a free meal, access to a concert or play, new skills, better health, or new friends.

Of course, setting a goal like saving/earning a few bucks in February is intended as a small step. It’s essentially a means to fool yourself into trying just a little bit harder in some area, with the ultimate realization that you’re capable of significantly more than what you’re currently doing. Setting the bar low makes it easy to succeed (unless you’re in a limbo contest.)