Sometimes S*** doesn’t go your way. Cars break down, kids get sick and in our case, the fridge dies in the still of the night. The question is, what are you going to do about it? Times of financial stress test your grit. This is the tale of our February.
Snowmageddon and Frugal February
We suck at credit cards. The balance seems to balloon out of nowhere. This is what happened in January, leaving us with a total mess to pay for in February.
We have one rule about credit cards in our house. I call it the “NO debt rule.” We have a mutual understanding that we pay, in full, our credit card balance every month and never carry forward any credit balance.
Occasionally, we get into quite a mess that is difficult to dig out from. In January, our fridge died in the middle of the night and upon waking in the morning I found a steady stream of water dripping from the freezer. We purchased a new fridge on credit card. Problem solved. Also in January, we paid for a hotel and airfare to Boston for the 2019 Boston Marathon.
All told, at the end of January, we were sitting on several thousand dollars of credit card debt. Yikes! The refrigerator going belly up was unexpected and bordering on an emergency. My wife, naturally, suggested we pull money from our emergency fund to cover the refrigerator replacement.
The thing about borrowing from an emergency fund is, at some point, you have to fill that account back up. Whether you keep a one month, 3 months or 1-year emergency fund, when you use it, it doesn’t spontaneously refill. Certainly not at a 2% interest rate in a money market account.
For that reason, I wanted to pay our travel and refrigerator expenses out of our February income. Enter stage right, Frugal February.
Our Frugal Plan
Knowing our financial backs were up against a wall, we set a February Finacial goal of no Amazon shopping. Additionally, we are going to pay for all February expenses from cash flow(income). No purchases on a credit card in February.
No Amazon Shopping- Amazon intentionally makes shopping as frictionless as possible. It is almost too easy.
See something, like it, buy it. A few days later you do battle with porch pirates.
The Amazon ease of shopping has really put a strain on our credit card balances. $40 here and $65 there, adds up over the course of a month.
Have you ever looked at your credit card statement and think, there was no way I spent that much. On the statement, there were no purchases over $100 and yet those 30 or so transactions add up to $3,000. Small frequent purchases on Amazon were burying us. For February we said NO to any Amazon purchases.
We plan to add friction back in. If we need something bad enough. We get in our car and drive to the store.
No credit card purchases- I mentioned already, we suck at credit cards. We tend to build up large balances and then struggle to pay them in full. Credit card float is our boogeyman. It is a vicious cycle of kicking the can down the road.
Credit cards skillfully separate the pleasure of your purchase from the pain of paying.
An intervention was needed and sometimes the best method is to go cold-turkey. By paying down all of our credit card balances to zero, we will get the hard reset we need.
Snowmageddon comes to the Pacific Northwest
After one of the warmest January’s on record, Western Washington was slammed with a potent snowstorm this week. Unlike most rational adults, I loved every minute of this wintery mess.
In the maritime Northwest, we have a big giant heater (the Pacific Ocean) that keeps the weather mild and wet much of the year. Old man winter’s attempts to throw some snow our way often results in a slushy mess and a poor excuse for a winter wonderland. In fact, I can’t remember the last time it snowed over a few inches in our neck of the woods.
For much of the country, our snow event would be a nonstory. But in the Pacific Northwest, you would think a Cat 5 hurricane was on the way. The news stations whipped everyone into a frenzy, even giving it a cool name, “Snowmageddon.” With the warning heeded, people stocked up in a big way.
A day before “the big snow storm” we headed to our local grocery store to find bare shelves looking like we were in the midst of Armageddon. There was no milk, no bananas, no meat, and no bread.
The upside to the snowy first week of February is the smooth transition into frugal February. Something that was desperately needed to get our finances back in order.
7 days ago the snow started to fly and something strange has happened. We are not spending money. We have been spending time outside playing in the snow with occasional warm-up periods in front of the fireplace.
In lieu of driving to the store, we are digging into the deep recesses of the pantry and making dinners from food on hand. We did walk to the store in the snow and found many of the shelves remained unstocked.
February is the shortest month of the year and in 2019 I’m using it for a financial reset.
Using Snowmageddon as a natural reason to hunker down has helped us:
- eat at home
- reduce trips to the grocery store
- brew our own coffee
- meal-plan from our pantry
- play outside with our children in the snow
- forget we cut our cable and watch Netflix
- drive less-save on fuel (the roads were treacherous)
I also used the snowy weather as an excuse to work on my Plank Challenge. This February marks the one year anniversary of the February Plank Challenge that I held last year. You can read about it here.
While I won’t be writing any blog posts about this year’s challenge, you can follow my 28 days of planking on my Instagram account.
Are you using February as a reset month? How do you handle credit card float? Leave me a comment and let me know.
Thank You for Reading.