February Project: Fiscally Fit February

I like projects. I used to call them experiments. And then dares. This year they feel more like projects. Whatever. I like trying new things or having some challenge I'm focusing on.

I've got two lined up this month, Fiscally Fit February and Focus on Food. (Loving the alliteration?)

Today I thought I would share what I'm up to with Fiscally Fit February. (Tomorrow I'll share about the food project.)

Fiscally Fit February

There is something about the February timeframe that makes me want to focus on our money. The bills from the holidays have come in, and between the consumption-exhaustion of all that buying in December and the sticker shock of the bills that result from it, I'm ready for a spending hiatus by February.

I've you've been following me for a while, you may recall that two years ago I tried going cash-only for the month of February. (Read about it here.) I am not interested in repeating that experiment, but there were several things I really liked about that project that I want to incorporate into my new and improved project for this February.

...I liked that using cash made me more mindful of my spending (it feels so much more real!)

...I liked focusing on delayed gratification. It's good for us, and good modeling for our kids.

...I liked taking a step back and really thinking about our money, and setting some goals with regard to our finances.

...I liked having a greater sense of purpose and deliberateness when spending money.

So, this February, I'm thinking about money again, but with some new twists.

Here are the main tenets of this year's project:

1) Get Inspired
I read Dave Ramesy's book Total Money Makeover which got me all fired up about budgets and saving.

2) Get a handle on current expenses
I recorded every transaction from January in a spreadsheet and organized it by category to see where the money went. (Ugh, that was no fun!)

3) Take a look at the bigger picture
I used Mint to get a quick look at our entire financial picture and used that view to set some goals.

4) Delay Gratification
I am resisting the urge to click "buy now" the instant I need something, and am instead making a list of those things which I am posting on a wall in our kitchen. It will be interesting to see how many of these things I still want at the end of the month.

5) Use more debit, less credit
I resolved to use my debit card more than the credit card. While in one sense there is no difference if you can pay off the bill at the end of the month, I found that the delay of the credit card bill confuses my budgeting a bit, so I'm going to switch to debit which is more immediate. I like having that clearer connection between when I buy something and when the money leaves my bank account.

6) Make a budget that includes the new goals
I made a goal budget which includes setting aside money for the bigger picture goals I set back in step 3. I am hopeful that for a few months post-February I can keep up the tracking, so we can continue to glean new insights and make some progress toward our goals.

There you have it, my game plan for Fiscally Fit February.

February really is the perfect month to go lean and make sure your finances are properly set up to support your goals in both the short and longer term. Give it a try!

Stay tuned tomorrow for part two of this post where I share what I've got going with my project "Focus on Food."

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