No matter how good you think you are with money, everyone’s finances can use an occasional tune-up. So, we’ve designed a 30-day money challenge to help you cut your expenses, pay down debt and save for your future. Every day you’ll be asked to complete one small financial task, most of which can be done in under 15 minutes. Let’s get started!
Day 1 – Set a few financial goals
Whether you want to pad your savings or pay off debt, we recommend setting S.M.A.R.T. goals to help you stay motivated. This means your goals must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based. For example, rather than saying you want to save more money, aim to save $200 by the end of the month.
Day 2 – Request your credit report
Every 12 months, you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Take advantage of the offer by downloading yours from annualcreditreport.com. Keep an eye out for inaccuracies as they can hurt your credit score.
Day 3 – Calculate your monthly income and expenses
How much money are you taking in versus spending each month? Dedicate today to calculating your income and expenses. Gather your bills, receipts and pay stubs for the last month and organize them into two piles. One for your income, the other for your expenses. You’ll need this information for Day 4.
Day 4 – Create a budget
Everyone needs a budget. Grab your financial records and create yours using a budgeting app like Wally or good old-fashioned pen and paper. If you prefer the latter, check out our “Simple steps for creating the perfect budget”.
Day 5 – Give up your credit card
Go to the bank and withdraw enough cash to last until the next time you get paid. By relying solely on cash, you’re less likely to spend money on things you don’t need. Be sure to use an ATM within your bank’s network to avoid unnecessary bank fees.
Day 6 – Devise a plan to pay off your debt
There are two popular strategies for paying off debt – the snowball method and the avalanche method. For those motivated by results, we recommend using the snowball method. With this approach, you’ll pay off your debt from the smallest to highest balances. If you’re main priority is getting out of debt as cheaply as possible, go with the avalanche method. You’ll save money by paying off the balances with the highest interest rates first.
Day 7 – Ask for a lower interest rate
It’s not uncommon for people to carry a credit card balance from month to month. If you have a healthy credit score, ask your issuer to lower your interest rate or transfer the balance to a card with a 0% introductory rate. The difference can be hundreds of dollars in savings.
Day 8 – Auto-pay your bills
Missing payment deadlines can result in expensive late fees. Setup auto-bill pay so you never miss another due date again. Just be sure to keep enough money in your checking account to cover the expenses.
Day 9 – Put your savings on auto-pilot
Bankrate reports that only 41% of Americans have enough money saved to cover an emergency. You can effortlessly build your savings by setting up automatic transfers between your checking and savings accounts. Simply set the transfer amount along with the frequency and you’ll be on your way. Ultimately, you want to have at least six months’ worth of living expenses in your rainy day fund.
Day 10 – Review your tax withholding
Owed the IRS this year? Use a tax withholding calculator to avoid repeating the same mistake twice. Based on the information from your most recent pay stub and tax return, this tool will determine the best way to complete a new Form W-4 so the appropriate amount of taxes are withheld from your pay. From there, you’ll just need to submit the paperwork to your employer.
Day 11 – Ramp up your retirement savings
According to Financial Engines, one in four workers don’t save enough to receive their employer’s full 401(k) match. Each of those employees are leaving about $1,336 on the table per year. If your employer offers a retirement plan, find out what it takes to receive the full match and aim to contribute at least that amount. Remember, every dollar you contribute reduces your taxable income so you can snag a bigger refund at tax time.
Day 12 – Contribute to an IRA
There’s no such thing as saving too much for retirement. Open an IRA (if you don’t already have one) and start socking away your extra cash. For 2018, the contribution limit is $5,500 ($6,500 if you’re 50 and older). Your contributions may help you qualify for a special money-saving credit at tax time.
Day 13 – Hold on to your fives
Start saving your five dollar bills whenever you get change back from a cash purchase. It’s a small amount so you won’t really miss it but the savings will add up quickly. Store the money in a jar and deposit it into your savings account at the end of the month.
Day 14 – Find a new way to get around
If you’re always relying on Uber or Lyft to get around town, give the app a break and take public transportation at least 2 days a week. Alternatively, you can hop on a bike and burn some calories on the way to your destination if it’s not too far. Just be sure to check the weather and wear your helmet.
Day 15 – No spending day
Between buying a cup of coffee or eating out for lunch, daily expenses can really add up. Save money by committing to a “no spending day” once a week.
Day 16 – Have some fun
Being on a money diet doesn’t mean you can’t go out and have some fun. Scour the internet or your local newspaper for free things to do in your area. Then, invite a few friends to tag along.
Day 17 – No eating out for a week
Cut your food expenses by committing to a week of no eating out. You don’t even need to go to the supermarket. Sites like MyFridgeFood can help you create tasty meals using the ingredients you already have on hand. Pre-pack your meals and bring them to work with you.
Day 18 – Download a grocery savings app
Get paid to grocery shop with cashback apps like Checkout 51. Every Thursday they upload new offers which you can browse and buy from any store. When you’re done, upload your receipt and they’ll credit your account. Once your balance hits $20, you can request your earnings.
Day 19 – Lower your cell phone bill
Analyze your monthly talk and data usage to see if there’s a more affordable plan that fits your needs. While you’re at it, go through your bill and get rid of any additional features you don’t use. For instance, enhanced voicemail and 411 are two add-ons you can live without.
Day 20 – Conserve energy
Turn off light switches and unplug electronics when they’re not being used. Video game consoles, computers and stereos are known for burning energy even when they’re turned off. You can also save up to $150 a year by using a programmable thermostat to control the temperature when you’re not home.
Day 21 – Cancel subscriptions you don’t use
Chances are you have a gym membership or some other monthly subscription service that isn’t being used. Contact the company and cancel your subscription.
Day 22 – Make it less tempting to shop online
It’s hard to focus on saving money when you’re constantly receiving emails about ongoing sales. Reduce temptation by cleaning out your inbox and unsubscribing from every list. While you’re at it, delete your saved credit card information from their site so it’s not as easy to shop online.
Day 23 – Clean out your closet
No matter how much clothes we buy, many of us just stick to wearing the same few pieces. Go through your closet and get rid of anything you’re not going to wear. If it still has a tag on it, return the unworn items to the store and get your money back.
Day 24 – Sell what you can’t return
For unwanted items that you can’t return to the store, sell them to your local thrift shop. Alternatively, you can snap a picture and list the goods on a resale site like Poshmark.
Day 25 – Shop around for insurance
Many experts recommend shopping around for insurance at least once a year to get the best rates. Ask for quotes from 3 or 4 providers and consider bundling your policies to save more money.
Day 26 – Purchase a reusable water bottle
Even if you only spend $1 a day on bottled water, that’s $365 by the end of the year. Save some green by purchasing a reusable water bottle and refilling it throughout the day.
Day 27 – Organize your financial records
Holding on to the right receipts during the year can save you time and money when you do your taxes. Find out what the IRS considers deductible expenses and store those receipts in an expanding file. Organize your records weekly so nothing gets misplaced.
Day 28 – DIY cleaning supplies
Freshen up your home for less by making your own cleaning supplies. Most cleaning recipes contain items you probably already have on hand such as baking soda, vinegar, rubbing alcohol and lemons. Plus, they only take a couple minutes to make.
Day 29 – Turn your hobby into an extra paycheck
Hobbies are a great way to have fun in your downtime but they can also be a source of extra income. If there’s something you’re really good at, look for ways to turn your favorite past-time into a paycheck. You can referee for a recreation league, teach an instrument, start a blog or whatever else floats your boat.
Day 30 – Redeem your reward points
Earn reward points from your banking or credit card accounts? Find out how many points you have and treat yourself to something nice.