Try These Money-Saving Challenges Now
Do you have a major goal to spend less or save more in 2016? I’m sure many of us do. But if you’re anything like me, you need a challenge to get the motivation going. Frank L. Smoll, Ph.D., writing in Psychology Todayexplains that effective goal-setting in sports is all about the ABCs:
A: The goal should be Achievable.
B: It should also be Believable.
C: And you’ve got to be Committed to working on it.
The same principles apply to any sort of goal you set out to reach. Looking for a place to start? Here are six money-saving challenges to get your own creative juices flowing.
1. No New Clothing
Clothing is a huge expense for a lot of us (pointing the finger at myself here). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household spends over $1,700 on apparel each year. That’s a whole lot of sweaters and slacks. Why not try giving up this line item with a No New Clothing Challenge?
Try digging in the back of your closet to assess all your options — then live with what you have. Still need to buy? You can always find steals on second-hand clothing (especially for kids!) at thrift shops or garage sales. You may also want to host a clothing swap or make a more minimalist wardrobe. (See also: 8 Essential Pieces for Your Capsule Wardrobe)
2. Buy Nothing New Challenge
Beyond your fixed bills and a few necessities, do you think you could buy nothing new for a month? Maybe longer? Assya Barrette at Alternet went on a Buy Nothing New Challenge for a whopping 200 days. (Wise Bread writer Max Wong bought nothing new for more than a year!) Outside of basic food, toiletries, and medicines, Barrette did acquire a few things borrowed or gently used.
But the lesson was about way more than saving money. Throughout the process, she discovered that a lot of our material possessions just aren’t necessary to live a full, happy life. Breaking the habit of mindless shopping is another benefit of this challenge. Start small and try this idea for a week, month, or — if you dare — even longer.
3. 52-Week Money Challenge
The concept is simple and likely familiar: You start by saving $1 in your first week, $2 in the second, and so on. By the end of the 52-Week Money Challenge, you enjoy a total savings of $1,378. Some of my friends have even done the challenge in reverse, starting with the $52 and counting down to zero.
If you’re not so disciplined with stashing savings, this challenge can be a great way to start an emergency fund or to put away cash for another purpose in your life. If structure scares you, you can also try dumping all your leftover change or dollar bills into a jar each night. At least it’s a step in the right direction!
4. Debt-Free Challenge
Don’t you get so jealous when you hear someone has paid off all of his or her debts? I know I do. Shift that energy into starting your own debt-free challenge. Many of my friends swear by Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball Plan where you focus on one debt at a time (usually with the smallest balance first) and knock them out until they’re all gone. Where exactly can you find extra cash to pay down the debt? Try selling your unused stuff on Craigslist, lowering your variable expenses and extras, and just plain saving. (See also: Pay Down Debt and Get Cash Back With These 6 Services)
On the flip side, you could also work on not creating any new debt this year. Live within your means, skip tempting store card incentives, leave the credit cards at home, or save up for what you want and enjoy delaying gratification. It’ll all be worth it when you look back at 2016 and bask in your smart spending.
5. Grocery Savings Challenge
Food is the big budget-suck in our home. Between regular grocery runs, takeout, and other edible incidentals, we spend a wad on what we eat. Check out this Pantry Challenge at The Kitchn. You’ll dig deep into the cupboards and freezer drawers to use up what’s hiding back there. Try this challenge for a week or a month, and repeat as often as you like. You can surely save hundreds this way over time and get better satisfaction that you’re not letting anything spoil.
Getting into the habit of regular meal planning helps lower your grocery bill as well. First, you’ll know exactly what to buy at the store — nothing more. Second, you’ll waste less food because everything has a plan. Start by finding some easy recipes you love, write out all the ingredients on your list (and try to get some to overlap from meal to meal), then stick to the plan. (See also: Eat Well on Just $20 a Week)
6. Create Your Own Challenge
Maybe you don’t see your own spending vice on this list. That’s okay. You can make your own challenge. Try setting and adhering to a budget if you haven’t already. Get rid of cable and challenge yourself to free entertainment this year. Stop going out to eat or quit the gym and workout at home for free. There are so many ways you can save, so take some time to brainstorm a list, make a plan, and then get going.