One Month $1 Grocery Challenge

After having someone post a link to one of my posts on Frugal Village, I browsed the forums there. I noticed they had a grocery challenge which had a similar concept to the food budget portion of my one month challenge. Since I’ve once again started eating too much and spending too much on food since the challenge ended I’ve decided to start a new one month challenge for May. My one month challenge for May will be to have my total food expenditures total less than $1.

Groceries have been accumulating in my pantry the last couple of months so this will be a good way to use them up. I also have two mystery shops in May that will give me a total of $10 in free groceries that will allow me to supplement my pantry and provide some fresh items.

You might be wondering how I plan on meeting this challenge when I couldn’t meet the $30 goal of the previous challenge. There are several factors that will be working in my favor this time. The biggest is that I know work in a pizza restaurant and will be able to get free food when working there. Also I am getting my wisdom teeth pulled out in May and will probably not feel like eating much for a few days. I may have an opportunity to do some restaraunt mystery shops as well. My plan is to have a weekly posting detailing my results for each week. Check in on Friday for my first report.

Simple Living and Frugality

Although they are not the same thing there are large areas of overlap between them. I’ll assume you already know what frugality is. Simple living or voluntary simplicity as it is also called has many different definitions. To me it means using a minimum of products and services. Others have a different idea of what simple living means. If you visit you can read how others define it and find hundreds of resources on simple living.

If you are living simply you are most likely living frugally. By minimizing the products and service you consume you are spending less money. The savings are ongoing because having fewer things means fewer maintenance costs. On the flip side if you are living frugally there is a good chance you are living simply. Many frugal people are probably practicing voluntary simplicity without realizing it.

I want to emphasize that simple living is not the same as living like a monk. (Although that is a valid form of simple living if it is your preference.) Although I live simply I do spend money on more than just the basic necessities. I will spend my money to see a movie, travel, or on other things that aren’t necessary. It is just that when I do so I make a conscious decision that the money spent on the activity is worth the money being spent. Also I do these activities rarely enough that when I do do them they are a special treat. I could do better and am trying to do so but I think that I am mostly living in accordance with my values.

Simple living doesn’t mean a reduction in quality of life. I think it leads to a better quality of life. Having fewer things means fewer things to worry about. That peace of mind is worth a lot to me. Everyone is free to live their own lifestyle but I think that if more people would choose to live simply it would raise everyone’s quality of life.

What To Do With My Money?

Now that I finally have a little income I need to figure out what to do with it. There are several things I would like to do with my money but I can’t do them all at once. The things I would like to do are:

  • pay off my credit card (approx. $1600 balance)
  • establish $1000 emergency fund
  • open a Roth IRA
  • get health insurance

Getting health insurance should probably be my first priority, after that it is less clear. My credit card is at 0% interest but that will end in August. The interest rate will then be 11.74%. I know it would be smarter financially to pay off the card then keep $1000 in a savings account earning 5% but I like the idea of having a little cushion in the bank. I’ve already delayed opening a Roth IRA for too long. I am almost 40 and have no retirement savings. That is why I want to get the IRA started soon. So far I haven’t done anything because I can’t make up my mind. Do you have any suggestions?

Alternative Income: Be A Guinea Pig

This method of alternative income isn’t for everyone but I have made thousands of dollars from it. Pharmaceutical companies conduct clinical trials to determine the efficacy and safety of new medicines. The studies are generally federally regulated and follow a strict safety protocol. The companies will compensate you for participating in the clinical trial. How much you are compensated depends on a number of factors including the medicine being tested,whether the study is an inpatient or outpatient study, how complicated the study procedured is, and more.

I have made up to $11,000 in a year by doing clinical studies but that was about all I did that year. I’m currently participating in an outpatient study for a flu vaccine. I get paid $100 a visit which lasts about an 1 1/2 to 2 hours and there is a total of seven visits. Since this is an outpatient study it doesn’t interfere with my work schedule. As an added bonus I’m vaccinated against the flu and receive a thorough medical screening.

Many people have reservations about doing these but they are much safer than most people think. I’ve never experienced any adverse effects from doing a study. The main drawback is that there are sometimes a lot of blood draws. If you’re squeamish of needles than this is not for you.

If you would like to participate in a medical study check your local paper. Where I currently live there are frequently advertisements for medical studies in the paper. A couple of good sites for more information about medical studies are and

Do You Get What You Pay For?

The phrase “You get what you pay for” is often used to justify paying a higher price for an item. The higher price is equated with higher quality. As a general rule of thumb it is true that a higher price is often an indicator of higher quality but there are so many exceptions that price shouldn’t be relied on as a sole indicator of quality.

The recalls of pet food and peanut butter showed that the same manufacturers were making both the store brands and the higher-priced brands. Often the only difference between a store brand and a name brand is the label. In that case when you buy the name brand you are paying for advertising and packaging, not for higher quality. There are plenty of other situations where the higher priced item is not higher quality than the cheaper item or at least not of sufficiently better quality to make it a better value. “You get what you pay for” is often used to rationalize an expensive purchase. Instead of making a purchase based on perceived value it should be made on actual value.

Sometimes even though the higher priced item might be of higher quality it still isn’t the best choice. An example would be cell phones. A new phone that takes pictures, plays MP3’s, and has tons of other features would be considered higher quality than my bottom-of-the-line 2002 cell phone that does little more than make and receive phone calls. However, since I only use my phone to make and receive phone calls and would be unlikely to use the extra features on a new phone the extra features would have little value for me.

I’m not saying that you should always buy the cheapest item. Many times the better quality and durability of a more expensive item justifies its higher price. My point is that you shouldn’t just assume that the higher priced item is a better choice. Your decision should be based on which product provides you the most value for your money.