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.
shanendoah@the dog ate my wallet says
Every month I participate in a no spend challenge where I set a goal for how many days I don’t want to spend money that month (usually week days- we do all of our errands on weekends). It doesn’t have to do with spending less, but more with understanding our spending patterns.
For a lot of reasons, though, January has been a crazy, out of control month. I think in February we may need to buckle down just so that I can feel like we’re in control again.
Thomas - Ways to Invest Money says
I think I saw this on another blog that referenced this one. I dont remember which site it was but I think its a great idea and a excellent way to save. Using what you have and being creative will surely help you save money. I know there are alot of thing in the pantry that go unused and we simply buy more food even when we have things to eat.
Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog says
Challenges are my favorite way to get myself in shape or on track – usually with spending X no spend days out of Y days works great for me.
John | Married (with Debt) says
The pantry challenge is a cool idea because it could be fun. Hot dogs wrapped in tortillas and cheese, anyone?
I love doing a no spend challenge every once in a while, cutting a certain expense. i find the winter is the easiest time to do it as I have the fewest reasons to splurge (summer usually means fun stuff, travel, vacation = expenses) I think I’m going to try to do limited spending in a few categories for February.
Eric J. Nisall - DollarVersity says
I don’t get involved in any of the challenges. It’s not that I’m anti-social or hate being part of something, I just don’t get all of them. I guess I just don’t understand the need to put such an importance on money that people will give up the things that give them pleasure and enjoyment in life. Sure it’s nice to save as much as you can, but if you have found a budget and plan that works for your lifestyle, then that should be good enough. After all, what good is making money if you can’t enjoy the things it can do for you (reasonably speaking) and you can’t take it with you when this life is over.
@shanendoah I agree spending challenges can teach you quite a bit about your spending patterns. I’ll take your suggestion and try to designate a few days as no spend days.
@jeff Yes, and they are great for generating extra money to go on debt.
@john By the end of the month, sometimes we end up with meals like that! 🙂
@andrea You are right, the winter is much easier to have a no spend challenge, especially when February only has 28 days!
@eric I understand what you are saying, but if you have overspent, or want to generate extra money for some purpose or just want to use up what you have before you buy more, challenges can be good.
Money Beagle says
Not doing any formal challenges but I am trying to be more regimented about getting some small cleaning chores and organization tasks done on a more regular basis.
Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter says
This past year we have been doing a grocery challenge. We have been trying to stay within a certain budget amount. All and all we are doing ok but there are still a few times we have gone over. We are going to keep working on it.
I am taking part in Carla’s february double challenge at My 1/2 dozen daily. It is a declutter + no/low spend challenge. I have been doing the no spend thing on my own for a couple of weeks now but it is good to do it together with others. I love the support and motivation. Check the challenge here: http://halfdozendaily.blog.com/2012/01/24/february-challenges/
Evan @ Smartwealth says
very cool idea, the no spend month would be a great one to try out. We have tried the no spend week, or two, but never last a month. I have gone a month without going out to eat before, felt great, but hard to continue.
yes! the pantry challenge, for sure. I’m moving this month and don’t want to move half (or less) filled jars of anything. I made it more fun this time by deciding I had to finish all the booze, too.
You know, for the sake of moving.