Boost Your Motivation to Save with These Money Challenges
Let’s be honest for one moment. All things money are pretty much… the worst. If you are spending it frivolously it’s likely you are living paycheck to paycheck and equally likely that you won’t be meeting long-term goals. You may also be in a stressful amount of debt. So obviously happiness and peace lie in practicing restraint and forcing yourself to budget. Only everyone who’s already done so might tell you the grass isn’t much greener on the other side. It’s no fun to constantly be telling yourself “no.”
As bad as it sounds, it is still the more desirable option. Discipline means vacationing without debt, guilt-free spending during the holidays, fulfilling your responsibilities to your children, achieving milestone financial goals, and a comfy secured retirement because it’s all been budgeted and planned for. Worthwhile perks, right? They are to me and I’ve been fighting religiously for those goals for two-whole-years. I admit seeing my savings build, it is oh-so-tempting to completely give up and in a grand act of rebellion blow that chunk of change on a couple weeks of adventure anywhere in the world eating and doing whatever I want until it’s time to return to reality… penny-less. In those moments of weakness, submerged in discouragement, the only thing that keeps me on target is finding fresh motivation. Enter money challenges.
Money challenges certainly aren’t new but are rarely found in a list. I did my best to gather a well rounded interesting assortment with the goal of making saving fun. The great thing about these? Any effort constitutes a win and wins are addictive. So, let’s get to it!
1. Daily, Weekly, Monthly Saving Plan
In this challenge, you will be setting aside an amount of money every day, week, or month to achieve an end goal amount. There are so many twists on this one you can hardly go wrong. The trick is to plan the details out ahead of time and check your boxes as you go. Here are some variations:
Save Daily– On Day 1 you’d set aside $1, Day 2 $2, Day 3 $3 and so on and so forth up to Day 7
on which you will save $7. By the end of the week, you will have saved almost $30. At this point, you will reset and begin again the next week. Eventually, this becomes $126 a month and $1,500 a year! Sounds easy enough. For an added challenge, you can double the amount you are saving every day. For example, Day 1= $1, Day 2= $2, Day 3=$4, Day 4=$8, Day 5=$16, Day 6=$32, Day 7= $64. If you can swing this, you’ll have $6,800 saved by the end of the year which could be used for a year’s worth of health insurance, several vacations, a healthy emergency fund, or as a portion of a down payment on a house!
Save Weekly– This challenge is usually completed over a year (52 weeks) by assigning a set savings amount for every week. The amount can vary every week or be consistent depending on your needs and goals. For example, if you wanted to save $1,000 this year you should sock away $19 on average every seven days. This means you could save $15 one week, $25 the next week, and $20 another week and still be on track to hit your savings goal. You could also start slow by saving $1 the first week, $2 the second week, $3 the third week all the way to $52 dollars in the 52nd week or the exact opposite starting at $52 and working your way back down to $1 by the last week of the challenge, whichever sounds more manageable and motivating.
Save Monthly– Saving monthly can follow the same patterns as saving weekly, but entails a slightly larger amount. Lloyd Phillips from the Extra Income Project shares an effective example of this in his post about building an emergency fund. You’ll notice some months require less saving. It may be best to coordinate these months to your spending habits and save less the months you are spending more such as October-December and save more during months you spend less such as January-April.
These methods are worth a try because they are straightforward and realistic.
2. A Spending Fast
Also known as a “No Spend,” this challenge is seriously trending and for good reason. It’s not only productive; it also helps you realize how fulfilling, thrilling, and fun life can be without constantly burning through money. In this challenge, you will stop all spending for a set amount of time. You will still be paying bills, but will not buy anything new (or used) on a whim whether to eat, drink, or entertain yourself. Free alternatives are completely fair game so tap into your resourcefulness and creativity.
You could start with a day, stretch the challenge over the weekend, attempt it for a whole week or month, or for substantial savings an entire year… It sounds impossible, but many people out there have actually accomplished the latter and are better off for it. Here’s what you can look forward to:
3. Change Jar
I employ this method of saving continuously. What could be easier than collecting your leftover change at the end of the day? Grab a container that’s lying around, think juice or soda bottle, yogurt tub, or flower vase and start collecting. If you want to maximize your coins saved, you’ll want to head to your bank and ask for some coin sleeves/ envelopes or buy them from a dollar store and roll the money yourself. This way you can avoid the 10-15% fee that all coin exchange machines and some banks charge for their services. That’s $10-$15 you keep in your pocket.
4. Save Bills
This is another popular money challenge. Simply decide which bill you are going set aside every time it lands in your hand. You can choose to save every $1, $5, or $10 bill over a year’s time. You will be surprised how quickly it adds up and better understand how purchases of the same amount can break your budget.
5. Assign a Monthly Savings Theme
This one will certainly never get boring. You’ll start by planning out the coming 6-12 months, assigning to each a different expense to reduce. For example, you could choose to cut spending on dining out in January, entertainment in February, recreation in March, clothes shopping in April, home décor in May, hobbies in June, subscriptions in July, and groceries in August, etc. You will have saved some money by the end of each month and not have to give up any one thing for more than 30 days. Totally doable! Just be careful not to overbuy to make up for time lost once your ban on spending is lifted.
6. Minimize Expenses
How low can you go? This challenge would come with the commitment to spend a whole month working to reduce your expenses. I can’t imagine doing all that research and making all those calls in a shorter amount of time than that. Get started by tackling 1-2 expenses a week. Have you noticed cable is only good for a channel or two? Consider switching to streamed TV. Do you qualify for low-income electricity or city service plans? Check the requirements. Is there a more fitting less expensive cell phone deal out there? Can you cut your spending on groceries? Spend this challenge finding out and you could be saving over $1,000 a year. Even $100 is quite a bit of breathing room in a monthly budget.
I’m sure you’re asking what this has to do with saving money, but minimizing the number of possessions you have can help you in several ways.
First, it gives you the opportunity to discover things you no longer need and could sell. Why just let it sit there when you could use that money to invest and grow it into a substantial amount some day or simply apply it to something else you would utilize more every day. For example, I recently committed to holding a garage sale so I scoured the house for everything I could offer. I found far too many old kids clothes that had piled up. I sold those and turned right around with the profit and purchased some much-needed winter clothes. I traded something I wasn’t using for something I could. No new money spent.
Decluttering also helps you take inventory of what you have. This way you can better plan what you may need or not need. No redundant tools, utensils, décor, craft supplies, etc.
A clever and helpful twist on this challenge as suggested by Mackenzie Filson from And Then We Saved was to also declutter social media and I might add your email. These influences often sway our purchasing and create temptations at every turn. Mute the Joneses and the Sales Ads.
8. Beat Your Price
This one takes pure dedication and is an ongoing process. You will need to pull out your latest grocery receipt or save it the next time you make a trip to the store. Using this information, create a list of what you typically buy and what you pay for each. From this point on, you will bring this list with you every time you shop. Your mission is to find a price on that grocery that will beat your previous one. You may find you can trim the cost by using coupons, shopping sales, swapping brands, or switching where you shop. After you’ve put this challenge into practice for a few months, you will know at what price it is most worth buying the items on your grocery list. Anytime you find a great deal, don’t be afraid to stock up a bit as it will save you in the long run.
9. Dream and Create Savings Accounts
If you are looking to make some progress in your finances, but aren’t sure where to start, this challenge is for you. What do you want most? Do you want to be free of debt? Do you want to buy a home soon? Are you in need of a vacation? Have you been wanting a new car, power tool, vinyl cutter, sewing machine, or composter? Whatever it is, you can have it. You just need to save.
Your job in this challenge is to create a list or vision board of the things you are dreaming of, research their cost, and set a savings goal. Then, hop online and set up a free, high-yielding, short-term savings account for each item. Be sure and name each account after the item you are saving for. At this point, it would be wise to automate some payments to these accounts or you may be tempted to just let them sit there. Once you’ve reached your goal, cash out and enjoy!
10. Round Up
There are several variations of this challenge. You can decide how stringent you will be. Attempting level one would mean that you reference your receipt after a purchase, round up to a whole number and put aside the difference for savings. If the idea of doing this manually turns you off of trying, then look into an automatic savings app. Saving money couldn’t be easier. If you are ready for level two, you will start rounding every purchase up whether cash or card, whether grabbing coffee or dining at a restaurant or going to the movies. All that spare change, in fact, goes somewhere. You might as well be funneling into a savings with purpose.
11. Play Survivor
No, you don’t need to give up your home to live in a stick shelter, eating whatever you scavenge. However, in this challenge, you will do your best to whittle down your stockpile, pantry, fridge, freezer, and cupboards for as long as you think you can. Get creative as you work to create meals with what you already have. I’m not suggesting you eat meat, grains, legumes, and canned goods solely. Refresh your produce as necessary. Just be sure to scrutinize every purchase. What can you live without? I often buy things out of habit or to be honest with myself- gluttony (I’m looking at you, box of brownie mix). For this month-long challenge, cut those extras out and purposefully save the money instead.
Obviously, these suggestions take some effort. They are challenges- the kind that challenge you and take you outside of your comfort zone. You’ll find the frustrating truth is that only when we consistently change our spending habits will we start to see progress. Remember that definition of insanity floating around? If you want a different life, act differently. It can all start with saving.
Staff Writer at Debt Reduction Services
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