You’ve probably heard of fitness challenges, but did you know that there are money challenges as well? If your bank account is looking a little empty, it might be time to try a money challenge.
Because here’s the deal—money challenges are about more than numbers.
Money is a tool that can help you create a life you love.
Not only will your finances look better, but you’ll feel better too.
In fact, recent research shows that humans are less likely to adapt or become desensitized to small, infrequent purchases. In other words, it’s the seemingly small, daily financial decisions—like alcohol, food, and clothes—that that can affect your happiness the most.
If you’re ready to decrease mindless spending and increase joy, then these month-long challenges can help.
Try a “dry” month with no alcohol
Have you felt like you’re wasting all your money on booze?
Try cutting out alcohol for a month and see how much you save on bar tabs and dinner dates.
Not only will you feel better, but you’ll also stop wasting time feeling hungover.
Jennifer McDermott, a communications specialist and consumer advocate in New York City, originally stopped drinking alcohol as part of a “dry July” challenge in 2018. She attempted the challenge to improve her mental and physical health, and she ended up feeling so much better without alcohol that she hasn’t had a drink since.
“I embarked on the challenge primarily for my health, and given that I work in personal finance, I was of course also interested in the financial benefits of going booze-free. What I learned is that it doesn’t matter whether you’re a social drinker or a barfly, drinking is very expensive. I was able to track my savings using a Sobriety Savings Calculator and in the first month alone, had almost $300 surplus in my paycheck,” she explains.
McDermott’s experience highlights the connection between happiness and money. Often, the decisions that make you feel better can also help you save money.
“I’m the fittest and healthiest I’ve ever been as I’m no longer inclined to skip a workout or make bad food choices. My relationships have strengthened as my social life is no longer based on meetups involving drinking, so I’ve been able to get deeper with the people in my life. I am financially better off and have great mental clarity, which has helped me achieve some big goals I was focused on,” says McDermott.
Try it: If giving up alcohol for an entire month feels overwhelming, start small and have an alcohol-free week. Take note of how you feel and how your spending changes. You might be surprised.
Spend a month cleaning and selling
Spring is the perfect time to declutter your home, but the start of each month also offers an opportunity to start fresh and get rid of items you no longer use or enjoy.
But here’s the deal —instead of packing trash bags and dropping off your items at the closest charity store, try to sell them instead.
The best part? Every $1 you earn can go towards a personal “reward.”
When Krystel Calubayan, an event coordinator in Minneapolis, started selling her unused clothes a few years ago, she wanted to earn extra money for shopping.
“I started selling my clothes at local consignment stores because I was trying to save money and shopping was one of my spending vices. I wanted to find a way to allow myself to still shop, but in a more cost effective way. So now I only spend the money that I get from selling clothes. That’s my shopping budget, and in 2018 I earned $636.40,” explains Calubayan.
Even though selling clothes started as a financial goal, Calubayan quickly realized that it was also improving her lifestyle.
“When I started [selling clothes] in 2016, my partner and I moved into a 750 square foot apartment with a shared closet. I physically did not have the space to house all of my clothes, so I had to be very particular about the clothes that were in my closet. Since then, I’ve been able to clear my closet out and now only have clothing items that serve me.”
But she wasn’t done: “We ended up moving so I have a slightly larger closet, and thanks to selling some of my clothes, it’s gotten to the point where I can actually fit my clothes in the space.”
Try it: Calubayan advises to just try it out and start small. If there’s a consignment store in your local area, pop in and see what kind of items they are selling.
No grocery store challenge
Instead of wasting your time and money shopping at the grocery store (and still feeling you have nothing to eat), embark on the grocery store challenge.
During this challenge, you’ll only “shop” from your own cupboards.
You’ll be amazed at what you can create with what you already have. Plus, you’ll do your part to help lessen the 150,000 tons of food Americans waste every day.
When Sarah Von Bargen, the lifestyle blogger behind Yes and Yes, first experimented with the no grocery store challenge, it was out of necessity.
“My husband and I were leaving for a vacation and we had a fridge and pantry full of food. I didn’t want to go grocery shopping and I didn’t want the food we had to go bad. The food we had on hand was sort of a hodgepodge, it wasn’t necessarily purchased with a cohesive meal plan in mind. But I decided that I’d try to make it work for five days before we left for our trip and I’d document the process on my Instagram account,” Von Bargen explains.
But saving money on fewer grocery store trips is only one of the benefits of the challenge.
For many people who have embarked on the challenge, the most important benefit is a feeling of self-reliance and creativity.
“People feel so empowered by discovering their own resourcefulness in the kitchen! You feel so capable when you know you can create a meal from what’s on hand, and when you know you’re not about to spend $35 on takeout because you were too tired to go grocery shopping. It really builds your confidence to see what you’re capable of doing.”
Try it: It may seem obvious, but Von Bargen explains that a lot of people meal plan around a new recipe from Pinterest or what the kids will eat and not what is on hand. “Just taking five minutes to see what’s in the crisper and what’s in the back of the fridge can make a big difference,” she says.
Taylor Milam is a San Diego based personal finance writer and educator who recently paid off $14,000 of student loans in less than a year. She’s passionate about helping people take control of their finances and create a life they love. When she’s not researching financial terms and conditions, she can be found reading on the beach or hiking with her dog.