When I was parking my car last week, I noticed a coin and a penny on the floor near some teenagers. I asked the kids if they had dropped it and a girl climbing into the car explained that the change wasn’t for her.
“Don’t you want it?”
“No, it’s only 11 cents,” she said cheerfully.
They’re gone before you hear me say big money is a tall order.
If a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, the journey to $1,000 or even a lifetime fortune begins with a penny or $1.
I’ve been complaining that kids don’t know the value of money these days, but the truth is we’re all a little confused about the value of a dollar right now. Inflation hitting a 40-year high and changing prices dramatically at the pump and in the supermarket will do just that.
Complaining about increased costs does not help; Make our savings and spending go further.
Last week, I detailed five of my favorite savings and spending challenges to make basic financial tasks more fun, more like a game. This week, I’m offering five more options.
Each of these efforts can help restore balance, order, and a sense of progress in your financial life. Personalize these challenges, make them your own, turn them into a game, engage family members, and track them down as best you can, but know that there is no downside to failing at them because the more you know about your financial habits and feelings, the better off you will be.
Step up savings challenge: There are many ways to do this, but I prefer variations that don’t feel like a burden and that raise a little cash quickly, whether to create an emergency fund, as an alternative to a vacation spending account or bring in the cash needed to pay for a splurge.
For the short and quick version, set aside $1 per date per month. You can save a bundle on the 1st of the month, $2 on the second, and $15 on the 15thy and so on.
If you succeed, you’ll end the month with $465 in savings, even though you don’t set aside more than $30 at one time.
This exercise helps with budgeting, because it’s easy to save the first five days of the month – when the allotment is only $15 – but the struggle can be real when the numbers get bigger and you have to make $140 over the past five days.
The longer version of this challenge takes a year, starts with $1 per week, and adds a profit each week. You’ll save only $10 for the first 4 weeks, but you’ll save more than $200 in the last 4 weeks and your balance for a full year will be about $1,375.
Free fun challenge: Spending on entertainment is a guilty pleasure and indulgence for so many people that it is clearly on the “want” side of the ledger, even though it is often treated as a “need.” It’s also where a lot of people brag.
This is not a specialized “no-spend” challenge. This begins with the answer “What can I do for free for me?”
This doesn’t just mean going to the public library, it means seeing if the library has free passes to get you to the zoo, regional aquarium, historic site, or museum. It doesn’t just take a walk or a bike ride: spend a game night, have friends over for brunch or host a lucky dinner.
Use gift cards, pay cash in loyalty / reward points and get big savings with coupon deals. These things have real value, but Americans have billions of dollars worth of gift certificates and rewards they haven’t gotten back. You can make the most of these credits by cashing them in; Consider it “free entertainment” for the purposes of this challenge.
A free/low-cost biweekly entertainment weekend can help you splurge on the things you want most for the rest of the time.
The $5 Bill Challenge: There are many variations on this, but it boils down to saving every $5 bill you get. I’ve done this since 2020 and have saved nearly $1,325 since then.
Whether it’s “fun money” or the start of some savings goal, this adds up reasonably quickly, especially if you force yourself to pay cash on small dollar transactions.
Personally, I save everything for under $10, so I put aside fives, bachelors, and coins; The smaller money has reached another $1,075 since the start of 2020.
Spring cleaning challenge: There are many ways to do this, but my favorite is to go through your house and come up with one item each day for a month that you no longer want or need that you can try to sell. If you find a lot of extra items along the way — and if you get rid of things that don’t have any resale value — that’s all fine, but the idea is to keep things simple and manageable.
Surveys have shown that the average homeowner has somewhere north of $3,000 worth of items he doesn’t use but can easily sell. For those wondering if juice is worth the squeeze, here’s the challenge to discover.
Value through the pound challenge: This is a twist on spring cleaning, but great for organizing your home for the long haul.
One day, if you leave your current home and take your belongings to your next place, a cost-volume moving company will help you make the move. Once they get to the big, tricky items – moving a piano or a big sofa – they will eventually cost you the pound.
In this challenge, look at the things in your life – even the most organized people have a mess – and think about whether you would pay to move them; If his transfer wasn’t worth 50 cents on the dollar per pound, he could probably go now.
If there is value in selling those things now, do so. If the value comes from simply getting rid of the clutter, that’s a win too.