While part of the allure of this challenge is that it appears easy, taking the time to do some basic preparations can go a long way to increasing the chance of the challenge succeeding. What I’ve decided to do is to put in place 10 different things that I plan to do each week throughout the year that will help toward the challenge. This will give me a base that helps ensure that some money is going to be saved each week, even if I don’t come up with any new ways to save money.
Another positive thing about making a list of weekly things to do is that when combined together, they can add up to some of the larger weekly amounts for the challenge. For example, if I do ten different things, and each of them ends up saving me $5 during the week, I’ve saved $50. This means that I don’t need to necessarily find big savings to reach the higher amounts. I can instead save small amounts in a lot of different ways to reach those goal numbers. Below are some of the things that I plan to do.
Start a Money Jar
I still use cash quite a bit so I’m constantly coming back home with change. I will place any change that I have at the end of the day into a jar that will go toward this savings challenge. While I will start with just coins, I hope that at some point I can increase it so that I save any $1 bills I get as well, but I’ll leave that decision to a later date. I’ll start off with the smaller step of just placing coins into the jar at the end of the day.
Use Coupons and Sales
When I go shopping, I will use coupons (but only for things that I would already normally buy) and look for sales (again, only for items that I would normally buy) and put any savings toward the challenge. For example, if I use $2 worth of coupons one week, then I will place $2 towards the challenge. I’ll do the same things with sale items. If it’s something that I need and I would regularly buy, I will take the difference between what I would usually pay and the sale price and place that amount towards the challenge.
One of the things I can do, in a lot of different way, is to try to reduce the cost of my utilities. This is one of those areas where it’s usually difficult to know how much has been saved with the different efforts. For example, how much am I really saving when I make the effort to turn off the lights in rooms that I’m not using? To calculate this, I will look at what I paid for the utilities for the same month last year, and compare that to what I end up paying this year. Any reduction in the cost of the utilities I will assume is from my cost cutting efforts, and I’ll put the difference towards the challenge.
Buy Second-Hand Gift Cards
I will buy gift cards at a discount to the places where I normally and consistently spend money. For example, I do most of my shopping at a local Safeway grocery store. If I can buy a $100 gift card to that store for $95 on eBay, I will purchase it and place the $5 I saved towards the challenge savings. I will try to do this at all the places where I regularly spend my money.
Pay to Use My Car
This is a system that I used when I was first out of college and needed to save money for purchases. It’s an effective way for me to save money, and it can be used in a wide variety of ways. My car just went over 100,000 miles so I know that it will probably start costing a bit more as parts wear out. What I will do is pay $1 toward the challenge every time I use the car this year. From past experience, doing this will save me a lot more than the dollar. When I have to pay to use my car, I tend to walk or ride my bike a lot more often for shorter trips. When I do use the car, I get organized before I go out so that I can do all my errands in a single trip rather than in multiple trips. It’s a method that has always been effective for me and fits well with this challenge.
I tend to find quite a bit of money each year. I actually enjoy keeping my eyes open for dropped coins and bills when I walk. Any money that I happen to find, I’ll put towards the challenge.
Stick to My List
When I do go shopping for something, I will stick to a list that I write down before going. If I see something that I think I need which isn’t on the list, I will not buy it. Instead, I’ll note the price and give it a few days to determine if it’s something I really need to purchase. If so, I’ll go and buy it with no harm done. If not, I know that I prevented myself from making an impulse purchase, and I’ll put the money that I saved towards the challenge.
Get for Free
Before I purchase something, I will see if there is an opportunity to get the product or service for free. If there is, I will take the difference in what I would have had to pay for it and place that money towards the savings challenge.
If I need to make a purchase that I can’t get for free, I will always see if I can buy whatever I need used, rather than new. If it’s possible, I will take any savings I get from buying used and put that towards the challenge.
Ask for a Discount
When I am going to make a purchase, I will ask for a discount at every opportunity I have. It costs nothing to ask and if they say “no,” I don’t lose anything. If, on the other hand, they say “yes” and give me a discount, I can put that savings toward the challenge.
Automate Your Savings
There are a couple of good apps available these days which make saving super easy. These are acorns.com and digit.co. Between these two, digit.co is the better option. Digit is a great online tool for people who want to take a passive approach towards their savings. Pretty much how digit.co works is you sign up and let the software read your bank account traffic. Then it automatically deducts a small amount from your balance, not enough to impact your ability to pay your bills, and sweeps that amount to an account you control. Its perfect because its totally passive, you don’t have to do anything – you just let the savings accumulate. Digit.co can be found here.
These are just some ideas that I’ve come up with that I plan to do on an ongoing basis throughout the year. If you’re planning to do the challenge as well, you should probably put together a list of 5+ of these ideas that you plan to work on, week in and week out. You can use any of the ones I will be using or create your own that fit with your personality. If you create your own, please share them in the comments so that others have even more examples and inspiration on little, ongoing steps they can take to save money.