Learning how to save on a regular basis can be hard. But what's even harder is turning saving into a daily habit. Habits aren't formed overnight. In fact, it can take as long as two months for a behavior to become automatic.
It took years for me to adopt a regular savings routine, but once I did, breaking my savings goals into manageable, bite-sized pieces became a reality.
In the beginning, I struggled not just with saving but finding the money to save. It always felt like something came up in my life that prevented me from saving money. Let's face it, having $20 sitting in your savings account doesn't do much good. You want to be able to save enough where it can make a significant difference in your life.
Sometimes it's hard to realize the potential you have to save. It's a matter of taking what you have and challenging yourself to find ways to discover the dollars you didn't know where there.
One of the ways I make savings fun and manageable on a tight budget is by creating savings challenges every month. The challenge itself keeps me motivated, and saving regularly turns my actions into habits.
This year, I thought it would be fun to create savings challenges for every month in 2019, so I could save even more of my hard-earned dollars. Let's turn the new year into a year of saving so we can reach our savings goals!
Every dollar adds up!
After the spending frenzy from the holidays, it's time to get back on track.
I'm dedicating the month of January to bringing a packed lunch to work EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
I'm not going to lie. Running to a fast food joint is SOOO much easier, but it's costly. Packing your own lunch can save you over $100 during any given month…if you do it right.
Here are some tips to create nutritious, easy, and inexpensive homemade lunches that help you during this savings challenge.
- BUY IN BULK: If you want to save money on the ingredients, you need to think about buying in bulk. Small snacks like granola bars or cheesy crackers will always be more affordable when purchased in larger quantities. I buy a lot of my bulk items at Costco. I get things like sandwich bags, peanut butter, and trail mix.
- THINK ABOUT DRIED GOODS: The most critical component in your lunch prep and your money savings challenge will be dried goods. The primary products you'll want to stock up on in large quantities include rice, pasta, beans, and oats. Not only are these main foods affordable and filling, but you can also customize how you use them, so you don't get bored of eating the same thing every day.
- DEDICATE SOME TIME: Preparing to bring your lunch to work every day shouldn't consume your life, but you'll want to dedicate a small period each week to getting meals ready for the week ahead.
NO EATING OUT FEBRUARY
The challenge in February is to not eat out for TWENTY days out of the month. February has twenty-eight days, which means you have eight days to eat out if you wish.
I am going to challenge myself to go the whole month of February without eating out, but there are some days where eating out can be your savior. Trust me. I know all about that!
To be successful with this challenge, you need to learn how to meal plan. Meal planning allowed me to decrease my food costs by $400 every month, but it took time to learn.
$20 FRIDAYS IN MARCH
The challenge in March is to save $20 every Friday. I am an all-cash spender, and I use the cash envelope method as part of my budgeting method.
I plan to take $20 from my cash envelopes every Friday, and put the cash in a dedicated savings envelope for this challenge. Get the March savings challenge cash envelope in my Free Resource Library!
It doesn't matter what envelopes you choose to take cash from, as long as it adds up to $20. For example, maybe you have $40 left in your Fun envelope and know you won't use all of that cash by your next payday. Same with your Beauty envelope. You could take $10 from each of those envelopes to make up your $20 Friday!
If you don't use the cash envelope method, you could stop by the ATM on the way home from work to pull out your $20 savings. No matter what you decide, $20 every Friday is the challenge.
- Read: How to Start Using the Cash Envelope Method
- Read: How to Use the Cash Envelope System with a Spouse
- Read: How to Use the Cash Envelope Method Without Cash
$10 CASH ENVELOPE SAVINGS CHALLENGE IN APRIL
I am currently doing this savings challenge this month! The challenge is to save $10 of cash from each one of your cash envelopes during each pay period.
Now, as you can probably tell, the last two challenges are a lot easier to accomplish if you use the cash envelope method. If you would like to learn more about this budgeting method, and how to start, check out this article.
Let me give you an example of what the $10 Cash Envelope Savings Challenge looks like.
For me, I budget my income every time I get a paycheck. I get paid on the 5th and the 20th of every month. I currently use six cash envelopes for my variable spending – gas, food, misc, fun, pet, and beauty.
If I save $10 from each of those envelopes during my pay period for the 5th, I will save $60 ($10 from each envelope). If I do the same thing during the pay period for the 20th, that's another $60. That means I will save $120 during April just by saving $10 from each envelope.
I created a special cash envelope for this challenge as well, which is also in the Free Resource Library. Transfer all of your $10 bills to this envelope during the challenge.
FREEZER & PANTRY MAY
I completed this savings challenge in November 2018, and I was able to save over $300 in food costs.
Here's how the challenge works. Just like in February, where meal planning is the key to your success, the same is true for this challenge. The only difference is that in May, you will be creating all of your meals using food and ingredients you already have at home.
At the beginning of November 2018, I cleaned out my freezer. When I took everything out of my freezer and laid it all out on the counter, I realized that I had an abundance of food.
The point of this challenge is to reduce food waste and save money doing it. Trust me, so many people fail to realize the amount of food they already have at home. It's time to use what you have, and create weekly meal plans based on those items.
There are a couple of different resources that will make this challenge easier.
- myfridge.com is an excellent resource that lets you input the ingredients you have at home, and it will then give you recipes based on those ingredients.
- supercook.com is another excellent resource. Just type in the ingredients you have, and it will provide you with the recipes.
$2-A-DAY IN JUNE
Just like in March & April, using the cash envelope method for this savings challenge will make things a lot easier.
The goal for this challenge is to save $2 from your cash envelopes every single day. It doesn't matter what envelopes you take the cash from, but it must add up to $2 every day. For example, you could take $1 from your Food envelope and $1 from your Fun envelope.
I have created a cash envelope for this challenge as well, and you can find it in the Free Resource Library. Every day, transfer the $2 that you saved to the savings envelope and watch your dollar bills add up.
During my savings journey, I learned how to save money by skipping the name brands and buying generic.
Now, you might be thinking that such a minor switch wouldn't save a lot. Surprisingly, it has a significant impact on your grocery bill.
The goal of this savings challenge is to buy generic or store brands when you go grocery shopping. It's all about discovering affordable alternatives to the products you love.
The same product, but in the Walmart store brand (Great Value) is only $1.98!
For the same quantity, and for the same product, you can save $1.48! That's just on one product! Can you imagine if you did this for your entire shopping list?
The challenge is to step outside of your norm and try new things. Who knows, you might find that you like the generic brand better!
SELL TWO ITEMS IN AUGUST
The goal of this challenge is to find two items you are no longer using in your home and sell them to make some extra cash.
I usually discover at least one item every week in my home that I'm not using. If I have used it, I only used it once, and now it's collecting dust.
It doesn't matter if you sell your items during a garage sale, on Craigslist, on eBay, or Facebook Marketplace. The goal is to get rid of two things that are taking up space in your home and turn them into cash.
To get started, search the item online to get a good idea of how much it's worth. Then choose the platform that you want to sell it on.
DECREASE YOUR BILLS SEPTEMBER
At the beginning of my financial journey, I was working on a very tight budget. I was in a motorcycle accident that left me with a shattered wrist, bruised pelvic bone, and two black eyes. The bad news, I didn't have medical insurance at the time of my accident.
When the medical bills started pouring in, I had to make room in my budget for medical payments.
One of the ways that I saved the most money is by going through every expense that I had, and I either decreased my costs, or I cut out costs altogether. I made a phone call to each of my lenders, and I asked, “How can I lower my bill?”
It's incredible the things we budget and pay for, but don't need.
The savings challenge for September is to go through EVERY expense in your budget and decrease or eliminate what you can. Here are the costs to start with that can make the most difference for this challenge:
- Car Insurance: There are things that you can do to lower your car insurance. Increase your deductible, check for low-mileage discounts, or check into bundling your policies.
- Phone Bill: It is possible to negotiate a lower cell phone bill, but sometimes it's not easy. Know what you are paying for by studying your latest bill, cut out features you aren't utilizing fully, and look into family plans.
- Subscriptions: Get rid of subscriptions you don't use or need. I ended up cutting out four subscriptions when I first lowered my regular bills. If you don't absolutely love it, get rid of it.
- Cable: Ditch cable and look for alternatives like Hulu or Netflix. I use Netflix, and I have Amazon Prime, which added together, still aren't as high as having regular cable through my local cable company. Look into your entertainment bills, and ask yourself, “Do I need this, and is it worth the money?”
Use a bill negotiation service like BillShark to help you lower your bills.
MAKE YOUR OWN COFFEE OCTOBER
This savings challenge is pretty self-explanatory, but it's time to ditch Starbucks in October in an attempt to save money.
After I started tracking my spending back in 2012, I was appalled at the amount of money I was spending on coffee every month – over $100!!
After opening my eyes to how much I was wasting on something that I could make for myself, I set out on a mission to start making my coffee at home.
It's hard to see how much we spend on purchases like this because you are only paying $3-$5 every time. You don't see the big picture or the overall financial costs of these small purchases unless you look at them as a whole.
For October, the challenge is to cut out your morning coffee from Starbucks or your favorite coffee stand and make it at home.
The savings challenge for November is to complete no-spend days every Monday and Wednesday.
The question then becomes – what do you consider a no-spend day?
A no-spend day is where you completely cut out all spending for the entire day. Now, I know things come up. Maybe you get low on gas during a no-spend day, it's okay to fill up your tank. But all other unnecessary spending needs to be frozen for the entire day.
For me, I am going to try and make Mondays and Wednesdays in November true no-spend days, which means I won't spend a penny.
That means being prepared is essential. I need to make sure I have enough gas, meals planned, and activities planned out ahead of time.
If you can complete this challenge, you will have completed eight no-spend days in November.
The challenge for December is all about prioritizing.
This December, I completed my first all-cash Christmas. Yes! Not a cent went on credit cards.
My cash budget was $500, which was a lot less then what I spent in the past. Learning to prioritize my spending during the biggest shopping month of the year helped tremendously.
The challenge for December is to sit down and prioritize your spending. Not just gift spending. You need to think about ALL spending over the holidays – food, gas, decorations, wrapping supplies, Christmas cards, gifts, holiday parties, and get-togethers.
Make a list of the things that you would like to spend money on during the holiday season, and then prioritize that list so it fits within a realistic budget that you can afford.
Hopefully, you will have a Christmas budget determined well before December, and now it's time to save money by prioritizing where you want your money to go and to cut out things that aren't important.
12 MONTHS = 12 SAVINGS CHALLENGES
You might be asking what to do with all of the money that you saved. Determining your goals is crucial to your financial plan. Maybe you want to pay off debt, increase your emergency savings account, or save for a trip. That's where you are going to use all of the money you save in the new year.
For example, in June you saved $2 every day by taking $2 from your budgeted cash envelopes and moved that cash to the envelope created for the challenge. At the end of the month, bring your challenge envelope down to the bank and deposit it into your savings account or make an extra debt payment.
The whole point of the 12 Months = 12 Savings Challenges is for you to discover dollars that you didn't know you had, so you can save for the things that are important to you. So use your savings for your priorities and goals!