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I recently challenged myself to complete a 30-day money makeover that involved saving money (and making extra money) in creative ways. In fact, I almost felt as though I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. However, I was able to save a total of $749 by the end of the month!
The following tips are the exact ones I followed to save money and make some extra money to tuck away in savings. I’m now challenging you to do the same for the next 30 days.
1. Buy Generic Stuff
I’ll admit that there are some foods and clothing that I prefer to buy name brand. Peanut butter, for example, is something that I usually stick to my favorite brand name when I buy it. I’m also not a fan of off-brand jeans. But, for this challenge, I swore I’d stick with only generic brand items – if they were, in fact, cheaper than brand names.
The tricky part is that sometimes they aren’t cheaper. Look at the package size, not just the price, when you shop, just to be sure. Also, if something isn’t available in an off-brand, then your only choice is to purchase a name brand.
When you make this switch, you might notice that a lot of the generic brand stuff works or tastes just as good as the name brand stuff. This could be a habit that sticks with you for a long time!
Total savings: About $50. I’m a generic brand shopper most of the time, but I was diligent about buying off-brand everything, no matter what it was. I estimated to save about $50 on all my shopping trips during my challenge month, based on notes I’d take while shopping of price differences.
2. Turn Down the Heat
For the past couple of years, I’ve really focused on saving money on my gas and electric bills throughout the warm and cold seasons. I added insulation strips around my doors and drafty windows.
I’ll open my oven after I’m done cooking to use its internal heat to heat up the downstairs as it cools down. And, I bundle up with some extra layers or blankets instead of cranking the heat.
For the challenge month, which was during the dead of winter, I challenged myself to turn down my heat by 3 degrees. I normally keep it on 68, which is cooler than I used to set it at 70. For the whole month, I didn’t turn it above 65.
Space heaters can work wonders for you if you want to go this route. I have a small portable heater that I keep on my desk during the day to give me some extra heat when I’m cold and they use barely any electricity.
Total savings: About $10. My normal gas bill for heat is about $100, but it was $90 after my challenge month. I expect that doing similar tweaks for the A/C during summer months will have about the same effect on my electric bill.
3. Watch Your Water Usage
Just like you can save on your energy costs, you can also save on your water bill. One of the best ways to do that is to commit to taking shorter showers (I know, it’s not easy).
According to The Christian Science Monitor, you can save up to $100 per year by cutting your showers down to about four minutes. That equals about $8 per month!
You can also install water-saving faucets and showerheads in your home. They constrict the flow of water to have it flow at a slower pace. A water-saving toilet is also an option, but not very practical for a 30-day challenge.
During this month, I timed myself and my kids for four-minute showers. I also used minimal water when washing dishes and turned off faucets while brushing teeth and washing hands – habits that I will definitely be continuing going forward.
Total savings: I estimate about $10 per month. My quarterly bill hasn’t shown up yet, but I kept track of how much water I used this month and compared it to previous bills. I get billed about $12 for every 1,000 gallons for water and sewer usage, and my meter read about 900 gallons less than usual.
4. Go TV-Free
You might notice that, once you ditch your expensive TV services, you realize that you didn’t really need them in the first place. Over two years ago, I said “goodbye” to my cable company for good.
I made the switch to on-demand services, like Netflix, Hulu, and Sling TV. I have three subscription services, but I’m still paying about $50 less than I did when I had cable and so many channels I never used.
For this month, I said “goodbye” to those too. I thought it would be harder than it was, especially for my kids. What I realized, instead, was that no one really cared. We have plenty of movies to watch between all of our physical DVDs and Blu-Rays and digital movies.
I won’t be ditching TV forever, but I like to know that we can. If there ever comes a time that I really need that extra money, I’m confident that TV can be one of the first things to go.
Total savings: $50. Between my three subscription services, that’s what I pay on average.
There are some months that I add on some more to my TV costs, like on-demand movie rentals or an extra Sling TV add-on if there’s a something I want to watch on a channel I don’t have. It’s kind of crazy how much money I save just by eliminating television.
5. Plan Your Meals
I can’t stress enough the importance of planning meals to save on food costs. This is a habit I adopted over a year ago and haven’t looked back since. While this wasn’t something new for me in this challenge, I felt like it was a tip I had to add.
Therefore, I made sure to track every penny of my food costs this month to compare how meal planning has saved me money every month over the average food bills I’d have in the past.
First, let’s look at a few of the cost-saving benefits of meal planning:
- You’re less likely to eat out because you’ll already have a plan for the week.
- You go into the grocery store with a plan, so you’re less likely to buy things on impulse.
- Meal planning can help you avoid food waste.
- BONUS: You’ll save so much time preparing and planning meals when you stick to your plan!
I plan my meals two weeks ahead and buy all the groceries I need for those two weeks. Some people do it one week at a time. Either way, the benefits are still the same. List all ingredients you need for your meals and commit to only buying what’s on your list!
Don’t forget about saving money while you shop too. I use Ibotta rebates whenever I grocery shop. The app lets you redeem rebates for food and household items so that you can get cash back after you scan your receipt.
Total savings: $100. When I switched from planless to meal planning queen, I instantly saw a huge drop in my monthly grocery bill. According to my calculations for this month and comparing them to my old grocery bills, I save just about $100 a month on food alone.
6. Make Purchases with Your Debit Card Only
You may not notice the savings from this tip immediately or even after the month is over. But, you will notice it when your credit card isn’t charging you ridiculous interest rates on that purchase.
Suppose you charged $250 on your credit card this month. If your annual interest rate is 18.50% and you pay only the minimum payment of $15 each month, you’ll end up paying over $41 in interest and it will take you 20 months to pay it off! That’s assuming you don’t charge anything else on that card during that time.
Even if you did pay off your balance the next month, you’ll still end up paying $3 or $4 in interest.
Stick to your debit card for purchases. It will help you see how much you’re spending and may even help you think twice about buying something you don’t need.
Total savings: $10. This is a rough calculation based on how much I spent this month and figuring out how much I would have paid in interest if I used my credit card with the help of this calculator. The savings here can be virtually endless, depending on how often you use your credit cards.
7. Walk More
Save some gas, leave the car behind, and walk more!
I know not everyone lives in an area that’s close to everything. I’m fortunate that I can get to convenience stores, the library, restaurants, and some stores within walking distance.
If you don’t live in an area like that, then just focus on substituting walks where you can. Maybe you can walk the kids to the bus stop instead of driving them? Skipping the car warm up every morning can be a huge gas saver alone!
Total savings: $25. I don’t drive around too much since I work from home, but I still saved myself one less tank of gas than I normally would buy a month by walking to the convenience store instead of driving across town to the grocery store for small, quick purchases. I also walked my son to school three out of five days each week instead of driving him. Bonus: Extra exercise squeezed into my busy days!
8. Shop Online
I rarely shop in-store for anything other than groceries and personal care items. I purchase clothing, shoes, household appliances and decorations, gifts, and just about everything else online.
For your challenge month, I’m going to challenge you to do the same if you don’t already. Why? Because shopping online can save you a lot of money in rebates, discounts, and deals. Plus, you get the added benefit of being able to check out reviews before you buy.
First, there’s cash back shopping. These sites and apps give you rebates for shopping at online retailers. There are also money-saving browser extensions that alert you when a retailer you visit has a promo code that can save you money.
Total savings: $50. During the challenge month, I totaled my rebates and discounts from shopping online. I do need to wait a few weeks to see my rebates, but $50 is $50, regardless of when it comes.
9. Save an Extra $1 Every Day
This challenge is one that I’ve read about people doing to save money quickly without having to stick it all into savings at one time, which can be tough for the average person.
For this savings plan, you’ll start with $1 on the first day. Every day throughout the month, you’ll add another $1, increasing your savings daily. Day 2 will be $2, day 3 is $3, and you keep increasing that amount until you end up saving $30 on the 30th day.
By the end of the month, you’ll have $465 saved!
The only problem is that the last two weeks can be tough because you’ll save the biggest chunk during them. If you don’t have a lot to spare each month, you might want to split this one into two 2-week challenges instead.
By the end of the 14-day savings period, you’ll have $105. Then, start over and do it again, for a total savings of $210 for the month. Still not a bad chunk of money to save for one month and it could feel much more doable.
Total savings: $210. I’ll be honest: I went the 2-week route with this one. As awesome as it sounded to have almost $500 tucked away from this method alone, it wasn’t quite feasible for me. Still, $210 is better than nothing!
10. Track Every Penny
This tip won’t necessarily save you money directly, but it can make you more aware of your expenses. In turn, you might be more hesitant to spend money when you see what you’re spending it on.
Keep a pen and paper handy wherever you go or use a note on your smartphone. Track every single penny you spend, no matter how insignificant. Include your bills too. At the end of the month, you can separate your expenses into categories to see where most of your money is going.
When I did this during the challenge month, I stopped myself from ordering lunch out twice. It’s so easy to stop somewhere for a quick lunch after running errands. But, when I had to hold myself accountable for the money I’d spend, I found myself not wanting to do it.
I also refrained from purchasing a new coffee pot. My current one needs an upgrade, but I stayed focused on saving instead of spending and skipped the $60 cost.
Total savings: $70 for passing up the coffee pot and two lunches. See how quickly your savings can add up just by simply keeping track of everything you spend and almost spent?
11. Sell One Unneeded Item a Day
I usually gather up some things to sell sporadically through the year whenever I feel like giving my basement a good cleanout. This month, I wanted to see how much I could earn by committing to selling at least one thing every day.
It’s kind of amazing how much you realize you have (and don’t need) when you want to make some money. I gathered up boxes of books, clothing, movies, games, toys, and some furniture pieces that have been sitting in storage for years.
Then, up they went to my local buying and selling Facebook groups. These sites work the best for me because they’re very active and people usually respond quickly. However, you can do whatever you think will work best for you, including calling friends or putting ads on Craigslist.
Total earnings: $110. I got a little behind on my daily selling here, but I’d make up for it on the weekends. I sold mostly my kids’ old clothes and toys to come up with the total for the month, which isn’t bad for a few hours of my time. Straight to savings is where this cash went!
12. Take a Survey a Day
Taking surveys online is one of my favorite ways to pull in a little extra cash. I usually take a few on the weekends when I’m not working. In other words, I’m relaxed about my survey-taking and just use it to earn money in my spare time.
This month, though, I made myself take at least one survey every day. I was curious to see how much more I’d make by making this commitment.
To my surprise, I found that I kind of enjoyed spending about 15 minutes a day on them instead of about two hours on the weekends. And, I made more money because I just about doubled my number of surveys I usually take.
Not sure which survey sites to participate in? Here are a couple of my favorites:
Total earnings: $54 for about 8 hours total during the month. I think that taking surveys this way helped me maximize my earnings. I got to respond to survey invites I got that day instead of waiting for the weekend to see what’s available after all the others already got filled. Therefore, I was more likely to qualify and get through a survey quickly.
Hopefully, these challenges help you save some cash and earn more to put into savings. I saved up $749 for the month, but there’s potential to save even more with these one-month challenges.
What challenges can you see yourself doing? Are you going to commit to all of them during an upcoming month? What else do you do to save? Leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts!