I was challenged by Money Advice Service to create a guide on how I survived January (was it just as crazy for you?). See my recap below.

It’s February, which means we’ve made it through the first month of the year. How did you do?

I have to say 2015 kicked off with a bang. Some new opportunities came my way, I side hustled at a dog show (a la Best in Show — very funny), and then I got really sick.

Like being sick isn’t bad enough, it was right before I was slated to travel to NYC for an event. With that, and the predicted storm, I was worried I wasn’t going to make it.

But a small miracle occurred and I did! So as you read this, I’m recovering from a whirlwind trip to NYC. My lovely friend and collaborator Tonya from MyFabFinance and I co-hosted the #SavewithSoFi happy hour and invited a ton of amazing personal finance bloggers to hang out.

SoFi, an awesome student loan refinance company, and Betterment, an automated investing tool, sponsored the happy hour. It was great to get some many amazing personal finance bloggers together!




I saw Shannon and Shannon, Erin, Stefanie (and got my signed book!), Jason, Miranda (one of my writing idols), and more. Overall, everything was great and we had a lot of fun. Expect to hear more about SoFi from me soon as I think they are a great resource for people battling high interest student loans.

Aside from the eventfulness of it all, I have to say that I was pretty proud of myself for the first few weeks of January. I started to feel a little bit spent, both physically and financially from the holidays, so I decided to have a mostly dry January (no drinking) and restrict myself to cash.

Now, I like to enjoy a beverage now and again and am a regular drinker. I like to have wine with meals and find my tastes to be rather epicurean. So, I was so impressed that I went over three weeks without a drink. I admit, I caved once I got sick and got a hot toddy for some relief. And of course, had a few drinks in NYC.

I was so thrilled with my willpower and resolve though, that I am going to be significantly cutting back on drinking alcohol, drinking coffee, and eating out this year. Those aspects have always been my weaknesses, but I think I’m finally ready and able to cut back. Before my head wasn’t there yet, but now it is. I see all my goals of travel, and debt repayment, and I’m ready to enjoy those extra things as a luxury and no longer as a lifestyle.

The cash diet was also so helpful! I can definitely say that it made me think twice about what I was spending money on and I didn’t get in the pattern of mindlessly swiping. I broke the diet on my trip to NYC to keep track of expenses, but starting fresh, I am going back to detox mode — back to cash, and very limited coffee and alcohol.

I am very happy with January because it was a breaking point for me — I made progress and was able to put a substantial amount of money to debt by saving money. I also stopped believing that I couldn’t cut back, and I started taking action and challenging my assumptions instead.

It’s easy to get into bad habits, especially financially. We grow into a lifestyle of comfort and convenience. Even for frugal people like me who hate shopping, and keep expenses low, my one area of weakness always felt like an uphill battle. But now it’s one I’m ready to fight and reclaim my strength. Like I said, I look forward to indulging myself with coffee, drinks and eating out as a luxury — but no longer a lifestyle.

On the income front, things are steady and improving. I’m starting to take charge and ask for what I want, and am getting pickier about what work I do. I’ve realized that if I want people to value my work, I have to value myself first.

So, I’m breaking down walls and plowing through to break this income barrier. I am, can, and will make more money this year than I did last year working for someone else. It’s possible and will happen. Just you wait.

It all starts by asking for what you want and being authentic. Hard work is a part of it, as well as talent. For me, it’s about writing and planning good shit that makes people feel something.

It’s about making things happen. It’s about delivering. And most of all, it’s about providing value. I’m doing the work, and making it happen — growing pains and all. Speed bumps ahead.

How was January for you? Any cool plans for February?


Melanie is a freelance writer currently living in Portland, Oregon. She is passionate about education, financial literacy, and empowering people to take control of their finances. She writes about breaking up with debt, freelancing, and side hustle adventures at DearDebt.com.

Currently she puts more than 50% of her income towards debt, while living a frugal, fun life. In addition to her love of personal finance, art and music, she is also a karaoke master. Follow the adventure @DearDebtBlog.

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28 responses to “Surviving January: Hello, February!”

  1. I feel like I need to know more about your dog show side hustle! I’m totally intrigued. Where there greyhounds ;)?

    Also, I’m with you on cutting back on wine. We started drinking only on the weekends awhile back and noticed that we just crave it less and less.

    I used to have wine every night and now, once or maybe twice a week does it for me. It’s been an interesting experiment for us and I like that it has both health and money benefits.

    I definitely still enjoy wine, but I do like how little we spend on it. (The other side effect is that I’m now seriously a lightweight…)
    Mrs. Frugalwoods recently posted…January 2015 ExpendituresMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      There was every type of dog imaginable! It was crazy. Dog show people are a different breed that is for sure, lol ๐Ÿ˜‰ I look forward to being in your position soon. Wine was becoming an every night or most nights thing too, but I want to enjoy it more, and not just do it habitually. I look forward to the health and money saving benefits too!

  2. It sounds like you had an amazing January. The trip looks like so much fun! And I’m also a huge fan of the cash-for-fun-money thing; it really lets you see that you can cut back without having zero fun. I just don’t buy a treat *every day* or whatever. ๐Ÿ™‚
    C@thesingledollar recently posted…I Get By With a Little Help: Singleness and (Financial) DependencyMy Profile

  3. I started getting into a daily buying coffee habit after I worked out in the morning just because I was craving it, and like you I’m trying to make it the exception instead of the norm. I love how empowered you sound right now and I’m so glad you are valuing yourself and trying to be more picky and choosy about jobs! Hope Feb is great (for both of us!)!
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…A Financial Utopia?My Profile

  4. Isabella says:

    It sounds like you entered 2015 with resolve! Best wishes in 2015. Cutting back on eating out, coffee, and alcohol can be a huge savings, but you can still eat well at home. (That includes good coffee and pretty good wine) We limit our eating out budget to about $25/month (usually Panera) and not because we have to. We just like eating at home, and we enjoy the variety of what we and cook. Plus we often like to plunk down in front of a good movie while eating a good meal. (Last night it was a salmon/pasta dish) I think a lot of people are shocked by their eating out numbers when they really look at them! Cooking at home saves big time.

    • Melanie says:

      My biggest issue is that I’m not a great cook — but I’m getting better! I’m realizing how good you can eat and drink at home and look forward to saving so much more money!

  5. Kara says:

    I jokingly named January, Janu-weary because it felt long and I was super busy all month (side hustling every weekend)!
    Hope you get a little rest and rejuvenation in Feb!
    Kara recently posted…January Budget: The Good, The Bad, and The Grocery BillMy Profile

  6. Kristin says:

    Oh wow, I feel like we are living a parallel life! I’m all about trying to cut back the coffee, alcohol and dining out. I’m also on the cash only spending for the above, as well as grocery shopping and fun money – it makes such a huge difference!

    Good luck, can’t wait to see how your February goes!
    Kristin recently posted…January Expenses and GoalsMy Profile

  7. Dog shows! I’ve only been to one but want to go to more! They seem so fun and all the dogs are so well behaved! But I’ve been cutting back a lot on drinking wine at nights and really sticking to one cup of coffee a day and instead making sure to get 8 hours of sleep a day.
    Amanda S @ Passionately Simple Life recently posted…Days off and Frugal Ways…My Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Dog shows aren’t really my scene, but it was nice from an anthropological perspective, lol. To see how the other half lives. Good for you for cutting back. I am definitely trying to get at least 8 hours of sleep a day.

  8. Corinna says:

    It’s great you made it to NYC! Looks like a fun happy hour. I’m only about 1.5 hours away from the city and still haven’t made it to any bridal industry events. I’m making it a goal this year to get to one even if I have to pay for a round trip train ticket. Sometimes you have to spend the money to make it! Hope you’re successful in reaching some of your goals this year too.
    Corinna recently posted…Julissa & Ayodejiโ€™s Multicultural WeddingMy Profile

  9. I am so jealous of your trip to NYC it looks like you had so much fun. I can’t wait to one day meet some of the bloggers like you I correspond with online. I gonna act like a straight up groupie. I agree with Ms. Frugalwoods, I need to know more about that dog show, it sounds so interesting.
    Petrish @ Debt Free Martini recently posted…Never Too Late To Get Your Finances In OrderMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Haha I was a total groupie when I met J Money. At Fincon, I screamed then jumped and gave him a hug. Same thing with Shannon from Financially Blonde too. The dog show was hilarious — so many dogs competing for prizes, all the while I was hawking premium dog food, lol.

  10. I’m glad that you had a safe trip to NYC! And it’s really amazing to see personal finance bloggers together!
    Kate @ Money Propeller recently posted…Friday Jet Fuel #30My Profile

  11. Becca says:

    “It all starts by asking for what you want” This! I’m starting to figure this out for myself, but I’m not totally there yet. Good for you for putting yourself out there and starting to see results. Here’s hoping February comes with all of the progress and fun of January, without the illness.
    Becca recently posted…Resolution check-in: JanuaryMy Profile

  12. Wow! What an awesomely successful month, Melanie!! Great work. ๐Ÿ™‚ Glad you are feeling better. NYC sounds like it was SO much fun!
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…Movinโ€™ OutMy Profile

  13. I was pumped because I read three books during January. Getting back to reading more is a huge goal for 2015. I’m looking at reading 26 books overall this year so I’m off to a good start.
    Brian @ Luke1428 recently posted…This Is the Best Reason Every Blogger Needs a Reader SurveyMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      That’s awesome! I hate to say that reading has taken a huge backseat for me ๐Ÿ™ I want to change that. I’m on the computer waaaaaay too much.

  14. You and Tonya planned such an awesome event in NYC and I can’t wait to see you do more of them all over the place!
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted…Music Mondays – Crash and BurnMy Profile

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