Photo: M. Gordon/Business Insider
One of our favourite frugalistas, Malaika Gordon, wrote in recently with a major money dilemma: With nearly $6,000 in credit debt and a new engagement ring on her finger, she realised it was time to clean her financial house–in a big way.
“It made no sense that I was buying $30 lipstick but I owed six grand,” she said. So, together, she and her fiance came up with a plan.
Starting in February, they vowed to leave their wallets at home for the next six weeks. They wouldn’t be allowed to spend a single dime during the work week (save for bills). Saturday and Sunday were their only days off.
First, she organised a budget on Mint.com. It included necessary expenses (rent, cell, cable/internet, electricity); flexible expenses (groceries, personal care, household purchases, etc.); and luxury expenses (gym, weight watchers, restaurants, fun money, etc.).
She pledged to add about $60 per week to her savings and pay at least $200 per week on her credit card.
“I thought I was preparing for a famine of epic proportions”
Since eating at restaurants was definitely out of the question, Gordon started to worry they wouldn’t have enough food at home to survive the month. So she headed to Costco and blew $150 in one afternoon.
“Our refrigerator and cupboards were bursting at the seams,” she said. “But I foolishly made that purchase on my high interest credit card and was slapped with a $60 purchase fee. I felt like a total idiot amateur.”
It was a low point, but she dug her heels in and refused to shop again until “there was absolutely nothing left to make a real meal with.”
The lovers’ loophole
Photo: M. Gordon/Business Insider
February’s main attraction–Valentine’s Day–was going to be tricky with all the usual staples in gift giving off the table. But Gordon found a small loophole that still allowed them to celebrate in their own way.”I pre-ordered and paid for a heart-shaped pizza from Papa Johns on Sunday night (their free night) and had it delivered on Tuesday,” she said. And they made homemade cards.
“Honestly, I could not imagine doing this if I was single or if Kassan and I were more social in general,” she admitted. “It’s very boring not spending money.”
Finding extra income
Gordon knew her paycheck wouldn’t cut down her debt alone. So she took on freelance work one weekend and earned an extra $1,000. It went directly to her credit card.
She also netted a pretty healthy tax refund check from Uncle Sam. If that doesn’t convince you to file your taxes earlier rather than later, then we don’t know what will.
The $500 vacation
Gordon scored a great deal on airfare to visit her parents in sunny California in the first week of March. But she watched every penny of spending along the way, “from the journey to [the airport], right down to the peanuts I bought on the flight back,” she said.
Total price $493.78
Crossing the finish line
Six weeks and many homemade meals later, Gordon is officially credit debt free:
“I paid off my high interest credit card completely last Monday and I’ve already set up three scheduled automatic payments that will clear out my 0% interest credit card by next Tuesday,” she said.
“Obviously, I didn’t come up with $5,600 in six weeks by just hiding my debit card and cash during the weekdays,” she said. “I got lucky with the tax refund and extra work. But I think the laser focus I had on my budgets and spending habits, in general, helped me to cut back.”