Whatever the reason, and there are so many, sometimes we need to come up with some extra cash or at the very least, scale back some expenses. To this end, people embark on Fiscal or Spending Challenges. They all work in generally the same way—reduce spending in a particular fashion for a set number of days. At the end, put whatever savings you get (no matter how small) into a savings account of your choice. Here are ten different challenges you can try.
1 ) Dining Out Challenge
Sit-down meals, take-out and delivery, or fast food all take a larger toll on our funds than eating from our home. For a mild challenge, aim to eliminate one category of convenience eating for one week—for example, no fast food. If you’re looking for extreme changes, eliminate at least two, if not all three, of these categories for one month.
2 ) Clothing Ban
You know you don’t need any new clothes when you have mountains of laundry and your family is still able to easily put together complete and tasteful outfits from your closets and drawers. Put the freeze on spending—no clothes, shoes, or accessories for one month. If you want to make this challenge a bit tougher, get rid of one article of clothing for every day of the challenge. If you’re able to sell at least some of the clothes you unload, you’re really amping up your savings.
3 ) Stick to the List Challenge
If your weakness is being lured away from your shopping list, this might be the challenge for you. Write up a list before you get to the market and don’t let anything else in your basket. When you go pump gas, leave the drink in the fridge. When the mission is to find the perfect shoes for the interview, forget the cute sandals and the perfectly priced dress. For a mild challenge, aim to ban all impulse buys for just one week. If you really want a shot at curing this practice, aim for at least 30 days.
4 ) Plastic Freeze
If swiping your debit card is making your funds too easy to get to, put the booger on ice. Go cash-only for a week or even a whole month. Online purchases count as credit card swipes. Paying your bills from your account don’t.
5 ) Say No to the Store
It seems everyone I talk to has a store that is their weak spot. Something about it wreaks havoc on your mental wiring and suddenly Wants and Needs are all in the same pile. For me, it’s Target. Maybe for you, it’s Amazon, the thrift store, e-Bay, CVS, or the convenience store. Whatever your Store, skip it for a month and see just how much of a drain it is on your wallet.
6 ) Limited Spending Challenge
This is one of the more common financial challenges. It’s highly customizable and is often an eye-opening experience on just how low you can go. If you’ve been tracking your spending, figure out what your average spending on non-bills is, either weekly or monthly, and challenge yourself to reduce that by a certain percentage. Go for a quick and easy 10% or get drastic with 50%.
If you’re not tracking your spending, this just might be the reason you start as it was for me. Figure out the amount you think you spend monthly on your bills. Subtract it from the amount you think you receive a month. And then commit to living on only a percentage of what’s leftover.
(Income – Bills) / Percentage of your choice = Spending Challenge Amount
7 ) Complete Fiscal Fast
Seven Days. Zero Dollars. It is that simply difficult. You can’t stock up before you start, except gas. Take your wallet from 60 mph to 0 and keep it idling for seven days. Half Dozen Daily is getting ready to embark on one. Think you can do it?
8 ) No-Spend Days
Seven straight days is definitely challenging. For some people, it’s even impossible. For this challenge, pick a target number of no spend days for a month. Taking a cue from the Complete Fiscal Fast, seven is a good way to start. Can you take it higher?
9 ) Coupon Challenge
The only challenge that requires preparation a month ahead whether or not you’re new to couponing. For newbies, take advantage of the preceding challenge month to stock up on coupons by buying the Sunday paper every week, asking friends for their discards, printing coupons online, and collecting those little blinkies in the supermarket. Track your grocery and drugstore spending and what your average savings, if any, are without coupons. Finally, visit couponing websites to educate yourself on how couponing works.
If you use coupons now but think you can do better, save your receipts from your shopping the month leading up to the challenge. At the end, figure out what your average savings are currently and challenge yourself to increase them by a certain percentage next month. Generally, the higher you are, the harder it is to keep going so keep that in mind. It is truly a challenge to average savings above even 50% (it CAN be done).
When the month of your challenge starts, get your coupon on. Make sure, like the previous month, you’re tracking your average savings and see what the difference is at month-end.
10 ) Power Down Challenge
Can you say no to electricity for seven nights? In this challenge, your family unplugs every night, at the same time, for seven nights. Candles and battery-operated devices are acceptable but you can’t recharge until the power comes back on. This challenge has a two-fold benefit. One, it will surely help reduce your utility bill while quite possibly pointing out power leeching devices and habits in your home. Two, it’s a great way to test your family’s Disaster Readiness level. Having experienced hurricanes myself, including Category 5 Hurricane Andrew in 1992, I know how important Disaster Readiness is, and how easily it’s forgotten.
Have you embarked on a financial challenge? What was your experience?