If you would like to start 2012 on the right financial footing and want to do something that is attainable, consider taking a challenge. Two of my favorite challenges are spending challenges and pantry challenges. Take either or both of these challenges, and you will find extra money to do with what you please—to save for a new vehicle or home, to bulk up your emergency fund or to snowflake on your debt to get it paid off faster.
I have already spoken about the spending challenge, otherwise referred to as the No Spend Month as an excellent way to raise money for Christmas gifts, but it is also good to
do another time of the year. Choose one month when you limit your spending for disposable items such as groceries, entertainment and gas by as much as 50% of what you typically spend. You will find yourself being mindful of what you spend money on because there is very little money to spend. If you normally spend $800 a month on groceries, entertainment and gas and you vow to slash that amount by half for one month, you now have an extra $400 available to meet your financial goals. (I often have a no spend month in February. The psychological boost of knowing it is the shortest month of the year makes it easier to stay the course.)
Another challenge I try to take at least one month a year, but ideally two months a year, is a pantry challenge. All of us have some extra items lurking in the cabinet. I often buy ingredients for a certain recipe, but then if I don’t get a chance to make that recipe, I often still have the non-perishable items on the shelf a few months later. With a pantry challenge, you try to use up what you have. A common misconception is that you are not allowed to grocery shop at all. That is not true. Just like a spending challenge, you set a designated amount you want to spend. Say you spend $600 a month to feed your family of five. During a pantry challenge, you decide you will only spend $200 for the month. That means you must try to make meals from ingredients you already have on hand. This is a great way to not only save money but also to use up food that may be nearing its expiration date so it doesn’t go to waste.
If you would like a little extra money for your financial goals this year but you don’t have the time or inclination to work more hours, having a spending or pantry challenge may be the perfect solution to generating more money in a limited time frame.
Have you taken part in a challenge before? Were you successful?
Melissa is a writer and virtual assistant. She earned her Master’s from Southern Illinois University, and her Bachelor’s in English from the University of Michigan. When she’s not working, you can find her homeschooling her kids, reading a good book, or cooking. She resides in New York, where she loves the natural beauty of the area.