Tips like these helped us pay off $127K in debt. You can read our story in Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.
Welcome to 31 Debt Free Missions! A new feature this year on Queen of Free, during each day in January, I will provide 31 concrete missions or challenges for you to take on to #SlayDebt and take charge of your finances this year. Each mission will take you less than an hour (some will only require 15 minutes). Whereas, 31 Days to Kick Debt in the Teeth (which I’m reworking this year and reposting in January, too) focused on some of the philosophical changes you need to make in order to be successful with money, 31 Debt Free Missions are action steps to put into place after you have your thinking straight. Even better, during the month of January, I’m revisiting each of these challenges in order to sharpen my money saving and debt slaying skills.
Are you ready? Your mission is as follows:
Day 1: Take the Restaurant Challenge
Your first challenge of the month is to set aside a block of time to abstain from restaurants this month. For those of you who know my story, my husband Brian went 2.5 YEARS without eating at a single restaurant. Not an ice cream cone, not a cup of coffee, not even a packet of sugar or glass of water. However, our family always goes without restaurants in the month of January. We do this for several reasons
To Break an Addiction
If your schedule is anything like ours in the month of December, we end up eating out way too much. It’s partially the haphazard busy lifestyle and partially the celebratory nature. We easily become addicted to going out frequently. Fasting from restaurants in January helps us snap that cycle effectively (even though the first few days are painful).
To Make Use of What We Have
I become incredibly creative in the kitchen during any restaurant free break that we take. This helps we use the staples we already have and take a better inventory of what’s in our fridge, freezer, and cabinets.
To Save Money
Of course this is the biggest compelling factor. We want to save money in the new year and tighten our belts.
So what about you? Are you up to take the challenge? Here are some ideas that have helped our family successfully go without restaurants for long periods of time.
Set Your Parameters
Look, I get that you might not be ready to go without restaurants for an entire month. But that doesn’t mean you just skip this challenge. Set the bar as low as you need to and go without restaurants for two weeks, a week, a weekend or even just a couple of days. I find that it takes 3-4 days without something entirely to really snap the desire it has on me but it might not be the same for you.
Decide What Else You Can Do
This is your challenge. It’s your prerogative to decide if a gas station counts as a restaurant or if it’s ok to grab a pre-fab salad from the grocery store deli. But think through what you will and won’t allow and most importantly what you’ll do if you’re in a pinch for time. Obviously going without restaurants will require steps like meal planning and packing lunches. It is odd, but we’ve been to restaurants and sat through meals with friends and not eaten. We’ve also brought our own brown bags to lunch meetings. Be prepared to think through opportunities and complications before they arise. What will you do instead? How can you work around it.
If You Can, Find a Friend
Brian never required all of us to be on his 2.5 year restaurant fast. We still occasionally ate out or he even brought home a pizza when he knew I was stretched thin. However, because of his example we did eat out less. Having someone else along on the journey will help encourage you when you feel weak.
Make it a Game & Plan a Victory Dance
If you embark on this mission with the preconceived notion that it will be pure drudgery, it will. If you see it more as a game, a challenge, a feat of strength, then you’ll have more success. Brian began his journey as an act of self-discipline but continued it because everyone kept telling he couldn’t do that that. He wasn’t going to let anyone tell him what he could and couldn’t do.
For his first meal out, the King of Free held a 64 restaurant bracket run off to determine where he would dine. Meeting a goal means you should go big to celebrate. Mark the calendar, decide where you’re going, look at the menu online to determine what you’ll order, and really treasure that first meal back out.
There you have it . . . challenge number 1. Not all of the missions will be this difficult but I can promise you’ll notice a significant change in your finances if you choose to play along.
My book is now available: Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After. You can also check out Inspiration to Pay Off Debt: 30 Days of Encouragement from the Queen of Free on Kindle.
This post contains an affiliate link. That means when you get a great deal or maybe even something for free, you also help our family pay off our mortgage early. And for that, we royally thank you!