What would you do with an extra $400 this month? Do you have debt that you’re trying to pay off or perhaps you’re saving for a car or vacation? Keep reading to see how to do this 4-week money saving challenge. There are money-saving tips to guide you through.
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Understanding “The Why” of the Money Saving Challenge
Why are we just doing this for 4 weeks and $400? Well, I want to help you with a quick win. There are longer challenges that result in more money and I think they are worth it, but let’s start small first.
There have been months when the expenses were more than the money coming in. Registration fees for daycare for 2 kids and dance costumes for the upcoming dance recital were examples of just a few of those types of months for me. We had to think outside of the box to figure out how to reduce our other expenses those months to be able to pay for them.
We used to dip into our savings, but it then got to where our savings dwindled down and then we were faced with having to build it back up. It was like a hamster on the little wheel in their cage, where we were really trying, but it just felt like we were constantly going in circles and not getting anywhere.
I worked so I didn’t have a lot of time to cut coupons and do those types of grocery trips like you saw on TV where they paid just a little money for a big amount of groceries. I’m told it took a lot of time to plan those grocery shopping trips. I needed something more practical.
I did buy quick convenience items, like already chopped onions, chicken cut up into pieces, etc., which I knew cost more to reduce the amount of time in the kitchen. There were some things that we didn’t want to give up like buying chicken cut up into pieces and that was fine. I just needed to figure something else out that worked with our household. A simple thing like bringing my lunch to work instead of eating out produced more savings than cutting up our own chicken. So that was our trade-off (because we didn’t like cutting up chicken!).
That is the beauty of saving (and budgeting) as you decide what’s important to you and your household to keep and those items that you don’t mind doing something different.
If you like playing board games and putting puzzles together, think of this 4-week challenge the same way. You win the challenge if you save $400 and anything more is a bonus! The reality is that you win if you save anything.
Are you up for a challenge?
Money-Saving Challenge Printable
Download this worksheet to keep track of your challenge. You can use it for this challenge for any amount of time or dollar amount. This will help keep track of your progress.
Understanding “The How” to do a Money Saving Challenge
Start by deciding where you will put these savings. It needs to be a place where you will not spend it. It can be something as simple as a plain envelope. If you prefer to keep it in an account at the bank that works too.
I use the envelope system for certain expenses. When I use the envelopes, I buy the cheap ones so that I can write on them and seal them up each time I add to them. For certain expenses I’m saving for, I use our savings account at the bank and keep a spreadsheet of what the bucket of money represents. If I have $1,600 in a savings account, my spreadsheet might show a $1,000 emergency fund, $300 vacation fund, $200 extra daycare for summer months, and a $100 Christmas fund.
You can also set up a separate bank account if you want too.
The important thing is to do what works for you. You want to find a safe place to keep it and not be tempted to spend it.
Keep track of everything you put in it and document what activity you did to save this money. If you saved $5 by bringing your lunch to work, just note that in the space provided on the printable. The information on what activity you did to save money will be helpful in knowing so that you can continue to do it in the future if needed.
Money-Saving Categories and Tips
While there are many ways to get to $400, these are some that have worked for me.
1. Eating Out
Eating out expenses can add up quickly, which means by reducing them, the savings can add up quickly.
Bring your lunch to work for a few days.
Cut back on the number of times you eat out.
Skip the appetizers and desserts and order water when you do eat out.
Skip the alcohol drink and order tea or a soda. Alcohol drinks quickly increase the expense of the bill.
Share a big entrée instead of each ordering your own.
Instead of eating a steak and seafood restaurant, choose a less expensive place.
Have some quick-cooking options at home available so that you’re not as tempted to eat out. Examples include having ground meat already browned and all you need to do is add spaghetti sauce with noodles or sloppy joe sauce with bread.
Skip the expensive cup of coffee. Allow this to be a treat and just go once a week instead of every day.
Instead of getting shakes at the ice cream shop, buy ice cream at the store and do it yourself at home.
Have pot luck with family and friends at someone’s house instead of eating out. Check out this article on frugal ways to spend time with family and friends for more information.
2. Change Jar
Convert your change into dollars. You can roll them yourself and bring them to the bank. There are also machines in various grocery stores that will let you pour the change in and it will do everything for you, but for a fee.
It’s amazing how quickly the change adds up.
This works great in my family because my husband does not like to carry change. If he uses a dollar and gets 75 cents back, the 75 cents go in the change jar. On the other hand, I carry change in my purse so that I don’t have to break a dollar. Warning – this will embarrass your kids when you start pulling out the change! Both of my kids are now adults and I would love to see if they take after me or their dad when it comes to change now.
This category generally has room for adjustments here and there to save some money.
Limit individual size snacks. It is usually cheaper to buy a full-size bag of chips or goldfish and divide them into snack-size containers.
Limit convenience items. Some grocery items like chicken, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, apples, pineapples, etc. are available as ready to use. The work of peeling and chopping is already done. This is a time-saver, but it cost more money.
Cut back on buying sodas and drink more water.
Cook meals that are inexpensive that your family likes. Examples could be red beans and rice or meals that the meat can be stretched. Most of the time, meat is the most expensive part of the meal. Check out this article on ways to save money with ground meat for more ideas.
Meal planning can help reduce expenses in this category. Meal planning alone can save money as you don’t have to keep going to the store, which many times means picking up additional items that you don’t need. If you go deeper into meal planning, there is more money that can be saved by planning meals around what you have already and what is on sale. This does take some time at first but gets easier and quicker the more you do it.
4. Use What You Have
Use items that you already have on hand in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. Plan your meals around what you have and that will be less than you must buy at the store.
You can search for what to cook with certain items to see what you can make.
By using what you have, this will also prevent the thing from expiring. I’ve wasted so much money by having to throw out expired things. My pantry got too full and I couldn’t see what was there and then ultimately forgot about it. Or I was not sure if I had something at home, so I kept buying it multiple times. This happened to pancake syrup at my house.
Need a dessert for an event? By making brownies, I’ve saved so much money than buying a cake at the grocery store and people talk about how much they like them, so it’s a win!
The disposable aluminum pans at Sam’s is so much cheaper per pan than buying them individually at the grocery store. You can buy the lids too for them, but I use these sparingly because you can also just use the disposable pans with foil.
Instead of buying a new outfit to wear, look for ways to use what you have in your closet. By putting different accessories with it, the outfit will have a different look.
Use the calendar or planner you bought for the year instead of buying additional ones for the same year. Try out the new ones when the next year comes around. I must confess, this one is written for me because I’m always looking for that perfect planner to stay organized. There are so many to choose from and each has its own unique features. The one I have now, is one that I love, because of the thick pages. I have the disc planner one, but this planner is the same brand that I have.
5. Entertainment and Shopping
Skip the manicure and pedicure at the nail salon. Do it yourself at home.
Skip the movie theater and watch something at home or get a Redbox movie. Pop some popcorn and get a few boxes of the theater size candy at the dollar stores.
Skip bowling this weekend and have a family game night at home.
Shop at Goodwill instead of the mall.
Go to the park to let the kids play instead of going to the indoor fun activities places that cost money.
Check out books at the library instead of buying them.
Go tent camping instead of staying at a hotel.
Watch for sales if you need to make a purchase.
Not all of these will work for you and your household. Pick the ones you want to try.
Know what you’re going to save the $400 (or other $ amount) for from this money-saving challenge. Remembering your why is important to reflect on when you get tired of looking for ways to spend money or stay within your budget.
Celebrate your wins! You won’t see the same amount of savings each day, but it all adds up, even the small change.
Here are some quotes that I love to keep me motivated.
“Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.” – Benjamin Franklin
“Don’t think of saving money as a punishment. Think of saving money as a lifestyle change and a means to freedom.” – Emily G. Stroud
“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” -Lao Tzu
“A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” – Dave Ramsey
“I think anything is possible if you have the mindset and the will and desire to do it and put the time in.” – Roger Clemens
“It’s not your salary that makes you rich, it’s your spending habits.” – Charles Jaffe
Find an extra $400 this month to use for paying debt or saving for vacation by doing this 4-week money saving challenge. Plan your meals at home to be able to bring lunch to work and not eat out. Roll the loose change you have and convert to actual dollars. Make a few changes in what you buy at the grocery store and use what you already have at home to reduce expenses.
I know you can do this! Are you ready to get started? Here is the money-saving challenge printable to track your progress.