Day 1: Write it down!

Time: 5-20 minutes

Put aside: $55

Total: $55

Let’s get the worst done first, shall we? Writing down all your monthly money-eaters and putting aside that $55 are the most painful parts of this 30-day challenge, but they’re also the most important.

Emergency, fund, savings, debt, retirement
Money One FCU

Once I took a few minutes to re-list all my monthly bills, subscriptions, and payments on one page, I instantly felt better. Now that I knew where so much of my money went every month, I could budget the rest to get myself back to financial perfection (and maybe even save up for a new tattoo!).

Day 2: Track your spending

Time: 20-60 minutes

Put aside: $55

Total: $110

Personally, I love Mint.com, but there are plenty of other money tracking apps in the world that work just as well! Take a few minutes to sign up and categorize the last week or two of your spending habits to get an idea of where you should cut back (I was spending over $75 on coffee every week. YIKES).

coffee, addiction, caffeine, expensive, espresso, budget
Unsplash/Nathan Dumlao

By tracking my spending, I finally saw how those “treat yo self” purchases added up to a scary amount. I mean, really, who would’ve thought my coffee addiction would cost me almost $4,000 a year?

Day 3: #goals = #success

Time: 10-30 minutes

Put aside: $20

Total: $130

A close friend of mine was involved in a terrible car accident recently due to a drunk driver. His car was totaled, his insurance only covered half of his medical bills, and his job only gave him one week of paid leave. Sounds like your worst nightmare, right?

Financial planning and allocating
WTCFCU

Well, it wasn’t for him. He had been setting aside 10% of his paycheck every month in an emergency fund, and 15% to his savings plan. The combination of both allowed him to buy a new car and pay for his family to survive on 3 months of unpaid leave.

His story was a large contributor to my financial reality check, which is why I sat down to write down goals for my savings, emergency funds, retirement, and debt payoffs (and you should, too!)

Day 4: Yoga time!

Time: 30-60 minutes

Put aside: $20

Total: $150

Let’s be honest, here. Everyone wants to be a yogi, but no one wants to pay the ridiculous costs for yoga sessions. You would never guess how much money skipping the yoga studio and taking an at-home approach can save you.

Yoga, Yogi, Healthy, lifestyle
Fit Yourself Club

First of all, taking the class at home increased my work productivity by at least 30% because I felt so much better after my morning yoga. More work done = more money in the bank! Second, at-home yoga can be much more relaxing (and obviously cheaper) than any other yoga class, and bringing friends over makes it 100x better! Third, being proactive about my health and living an active lifestyle prevents so many health issues down the road.

So, what are you waiting for? Get on my favorite yoga YouTube channel with me and see how much better you feel by day 25’s fun activities!

Day 5: Finagle your way out of being bamboozled

Time: 10-? minutes

Put aside: $20

Total: $170

When my mom told me I could haggle a lower price on my phone, cable, internet, and utility bills, I was mind blown — but also doubtful. But when I called all of them and actually lowered almost all my bills, I cried (shout out to Tom from SDGE for dealing with my ugly crying noises).

Piggy bank, emergency, fund,
Strategic Coin

Even if they may not be able to discount your bill, they can give you great tips and hacks to lower the monthly payment, especially if you have financial difficulties. I found out I was paying for unlimited data when I only used 3 gigs/month, and I realized I was leaving so many things plugged into my wall outlets that it was costing me an extra $50/month for electricity (yikes, right?).

Day 6: Movies and snacks and friends, oh my!

Time: ???

Put aside: $20

Total: $190

What’s better than a movie night in with your besties? Well, ok, so maybe there’s some cooler stuff further down this list, but after finishing this first week of heavy financial responsibilities, I needed a cheap night of terrible jokes, a sing-a-long Disney movie, and way too many snacks.

Utilities, bills, GE, Honeywell
Squarespace

After our movie night, I realized financial responsibility doesn’t have to mean foregoing my social life — it just means I have to work smarter, not harder, with my money. Hopefully, this realization comes to you as you go through each day and realize it gets so easy that you don’t want this challenge to end.

Day 7: Catch up!

Time: 30-120 minutes

Put aside: $20

Total: $210

I have a busy life, you have a busy life — sometimes we have way too many things going on in life to focus on seemingly non-urgent things like being financially stable. On day 7, I realized I was actually on day 6. One of the tasks had completely slipped my mind, and by the time I had noticed, I was too dead to put in that extra 30 minutes.

meal prep, cook, save, frugal
My Food Story

Take a catch-up day. Do your best to catch up on any of your missed activities and try to meal prep for the week. I challenged myself to not buy any food for week 2 (we’ll switch it up a bit for week 3, wait and see!).

Day 8: Let’s get crafty

Time: 10-40 minutes

Put aside: $20

Total: $230

Mondays are #theworst. So, instead of starting with a task, I figured I could start with a promise to save money if a birthday or gift-giving occasion comes up. Since I usually spend about $50-$150 on birthday gifts every month, I figured I could take a few extra moments and make something for those I care about. And you know what? It was killer.

crafts, sewing, painting, photos, pinterest, tumblr
Unsplash/Brooke Lark

My personal favorites (AKA cheap and fun!) are paintings of my loved ones from my perspective, deconstructed crafts for them to do on their own or with their kids, a homemade pillow, or baked goods with a fun home-made recipe book!

Repeat after me: For the next month, I solemnly swear to make gifts and cards instead of buying them for friends and family.

Day 9: Did you forget to cancel that one subscription? I know I did

Time: 10-20 minutes

Put aside: $20

Total: $250

Hi, I’m Lauren and I am addicted to signing up for 7-day free trials, forgetting I have to cancel them, and then getting stuck paying $45 a month for a service I only needed for 2 hours one day.

subscriptions, waste, money, tricked
Elegant Themes

After going through my Mint.com account, I realized I was spending over $129/month on those subscriptions I forgot to cancel (hello, wakeup call). Don’t be like me. Cancel your unnecessary subscriptions before it’s too late.

Day 10: Check yo credit before you wreck it.

Time: 5-10 minutes

Put aside: $20

Total: $270

When I turned 16, my mom made me get a credit card that I could use for gas and emergencies, only. While I thought this was a way for my parents to maliciously track my spending, I was actually building a perfect credit score. A few years later I applied for my first apartment and was accepted immediately.

credit, check, score, good, bad, perfect, money, savings
Flickr

My friends, however, were denied because all they had ever used were debit cards and cash. Make sure you check your credit score a few times a year, otherwise you may end up in a situation where you need a good one, and you don’t have it.

Day 11: City freebies!

Time: 1-3 hours

Put aside: $15

Total: $285

This one is my personal favorite, and if I’m being honest, I do it more like once a week than once a month. In the summer, almost every major park in your city has weekly concerts/movies in the park. Bring a family member (or a few) for some fun summer bonding!

Regionale2016

You’d be surprised how much movie theaters, amusement parks, concerts, and music festivals can add up to after a while (spoiler alert: it’s around $2,500/year). My mantra is to save up for the big things and save on the little things. Keep reading to find out how to save for those big things!

Day 12: Lists, galore!

Time: 10-30 minutes

Put aside: $15

Total: $300

Lists are my favorite things ever, so if you’re anything like me, this task will be easy breezy (and, lucky for you, the rest of them just get easier!).

finance, lists, fun, purchases
RawPixel

I sat down and listed all the big expenses I would have in the next few months — that music festival I’ve been dying to go to, finally replacing my well-loved couch, and buying a new pair of work pants that don’t make me feel like a stuffed sausage.

I then set the purchases for these items for specific months to remind myself to save money, and to save my sanity.

Day 13: Catch up day!

Time: 3-15 minutes

Put aside: $15

Total: $315

Now that you’ve done a week of meal prepping (and saved over $300 in 3 weeks!), let’s try making a list before you go grocery shopping, and taking a minute to catch up on any of the tasks you missed (I missed 2 this week, thanks a lot, adulthood).

Grocery, shop, list, save, binge
Unsplash/Frankie Cordoba

I did a little experiment a while ago and found that with a grocery list, I spent 50% less and wasted 30% less food than when I didn’t make a list. The best part is, it only takes about 5 minutes, so all your excuses are invalid. #sorrynotsorry

Day 14: Donation time!

Time: 20-80 minutes

Put aside: $15

Total: $330

I love thrifting, but sometimes buying clothes that cheap can take a weird turn — like a closet-that-belongs-on-Hoarders kind of turn. Every so often, I’ll go through everything and put aside what I won’t/don’t wear, and I’ll give my house a little walk-through to see if anything is outdated or needs replacing.

thrift, donate, sale, fun, resell
Unsplash/Chrissie Kremer

I’ll take my (sometimes shameful) purchases to the nearest consignment store to see if they would buy anything, and then make my way to the donation center for the rest. Bonus: if you get a receipt, you can write it off on your taxes!

Day 15: Shower power

Time: 5-10 minutes

Put aside: $15

Total: $345

My guilty pleasure?

Long, boiling-hot showers.

The consequences?

Ridiculously high water and electricity bills.

The fix?

water, low-flow, shower, finance, save, money
Steadfast Security

Low-flow shower head!

The best part?

Even better water pressure, fun flow options (like the Waterpik Torrent 9-Spray showerhead, my personal favorite), and cheaper bills.

This task is truly an investment in both your bank account and your shower experience, but wait until you see how you can use it towards the end of this challenge. 😉

Day 16: Field trip, anyone?

Time: 10-30 minutes

Put aside: $15

Total: $360

So, technically speaking, this is an errand. But errands are no fun, and field trips are fun, so thus, the Dollar Tree field trip was born. I learned this trick in college when Target trips were considered a luxury, and I consistently had less than $20 in my bank account at all times.

savings, coupon, dollar, only, household, cleaning
99c Only Store

The Dollar Tree has literally almost everything you need. I prefer to buy my household cleaning items and other small things (like the items from this list) there, and then my more specific, branded items from Target or various drug stores.

Day 17: Uno? Garbage? Ratskattle? Speed? Solitaire?

Time: ???

Put aside: $10

Total: $370

My favorite date night is a night in with some cheap wine, a few decks of cards, and a big bowl of popcorn. Why? Because it costs nothing, it sparks your competitive side, and popcorn throwing is almost always inevitable.

Cards, games, date, save, frugal
Poker Odyssey

I listed a few of my favorite card games, but a quick google search will give you way more than you could ever fill your brain with. Who knows, this might just turn into regular your Wednesday date night (it did for us)!

Day 18: Library cards: Your new best friend.

Time: 5-15 minutes

Put aside: $10

Total: $380

How much money do you spend on books? Audiobooks? Kindle books? Movies? Probably a lot, especially with monthly subscriptions (I spend about $40/month which is roughly $500/year).

library, books, audio, movies, netflix, free, city
Unsplash/Akexandra Kirr

Did you know you can get hundreds or thousands of books, movies, audiobooks, and eBooks with a library card? For free? Many libraries let you sign up online, but it’s never a bad idea to go in person to see what other free resources they offer. Who knows, you might just rekindle your love for physical books (like I did), or you could rekindle your irrational hate for books altogether (like my boyfriend did). Choose your own adventure!

Day 19: Riddle me this: It’s a recipe for something you don’t want to eat. What is it?

Time: 5-15 minutes

Put aside: $10

Total: $390

After finding out how many chemicals were in my basic household cleaners, I opted to purchase all-natural cleaning products. The problem, however, remained — there were still way too many chemicals for me to feel comfortable eating anywhere near where I cleaned.

clean, supplies, cleaner, bathroom, kitchen
Unsplash/Daiga Ellaby

Making your own household cleaning supplies has long been advised to save tons of money. Why? Because the price difference is just that extreme. My favorite recipes for cleaners are in this list, so get mixing!

Day 20: Plan for some nostalgia

Time: 30 minutes-??

Put aside: $10

Total: $400

Remember when you were young, carefree, and invincible? Remember when you’d stay up late, sneak out of the house, drive too fast on dark empty roads, and do things that honestly probably should have killed you?

stars, gazing, escape, adventure, nostalgia, night
Unsplash/Mahkeo

Those were the good ol’ days, so let’s bring one back, shall we? I live in a big city, so seeing the stars is always rare for me, but every so often I enjoy driving up the mountain or an hour east on the highway to find those big, beautiful galaxies. Best part? You guessed it, stargazing is 100% free.

Day 21: Catch up!

Time: ???

Put aside: $10

Total: $410

Let’s take a minute to assess the last 3 weeks. First, I’ve saved over $400. Second, I have not only gotten my finances almost all the way figured out (I saved the last task for, well, the last day!), but I’ve also managed to add learning opportunities, social plans, self-care routines, date nights, and creative outlets to my life. Third, I still have 8 days of the best plans ever to continue my saving-streak!

Unsplash/Soroush Karimi

Take today to catch up on any missed activities, and either meal prep or plan your week of meals!

Day 22: The wonderful world wide web

Time: 20 minutes- ???

Put aside: $10

Total: $420

The best thing I’ve ever done for my career was creating an online portfolio of all my writing and professional experiences, and the best thing I’ve ever done for my mental health was creating a blog to post all of my personal writing, journals, art, and projects.

blog, personal, journal, portfolio, diy
Unsplash/Domenico Loia

WordPress, Wix, and BlogSpot all have amazingly free options for you to create your online journal or resume, so take advantage of it! It could be a fantastic way to showcase your talents, or to put your deepest thoughts in a safe, secure place.

Day 23: Window shopping!

Time: 30-120 minutes

Put aside: $10

Total: $430

Notice I said window shopping. Keyword: window.

Unbeknownst to me, I had restricted myself from enjoying any form of shopping, so by this time, I felt like I was going to crack and binge at the mall. So, instead of punishing myself, I figured I would leave my credit card, debit card, and cash at home, stick $5 in my purse, and head downtown.

window, shopping, save, money, frugal, 5 dollars
Unsplash/Anna Utichkina

I knew if I went to a mall, I’d end up falling in love with something and I’d get mad at myself for not being able to buy it. Instead, I went to a place I knew had more mom & pop shops and stores that sell random trinkets.

Shopping craving = Satisfied.

Day 24: Green thumb?

Time: 10 minutes

Put aside: $10

Total: $440

I go through my spices like nobody’s business, so I found a few little pots to grow my own and discovered something wonderful. Turns out, fresh spices make your food taste so much better than dried spices and growing your own is way cheaper than buying individual fresh spices from the market.

garden, herb, plant, save, frugal
Unsplash/regehause

And what’s even better than extra tasty food? Keeping something alive in your kitchen! Previously, I managed to murder every plant I tried to grow (yes, even the cacti), but after practicing with my thyme, rosemary, and basil, I feel like Mother Nature herself. Hello, confidence boost!

Day 25: Spa day? Count me in!

Time:

Put aside: $10

Total: $450

Remember that low-flow showerhead you installed? Use it to take a long, relaxing shower! Make your own body scrub, face masks, and bubble bath from ingredients in your kitchen, or use the products you already own!

Popsugar

Taking at least 20 minutes a day to relax, meditate, and focus your mind is considered proactive and preventive healthcare. Not only will it help your day-to-day concentration, but it lowers your cortisone levels, helps you sleep better, and it saves you from future health issues (and bills!).

Day 26: If time=money, then how valuable is it to spend time outside?

Time: 30-120 minutes

Put aside: $10

Total: $460

I spend all day in an office, so when I get a chance to go outside and soak in the sun, I literally feel like a renewed and refreshed human being. Spending time outside, whether in the sun or the shade, benefits your skin, eyes, energy levels, and mental health.

walk, outside, sun, vitamin D
Unsplash/Patrick Hendry

The coolest part is I truly feel healthier after being outside, especially if it’s bringing a book to the beach, listening to a podcast on a walk around the neighborhood, or taking a soccer ball to the park with some friends.

Healthy body + healthy habits = happy person + happy bank account.

Day 27: Did someone say free concert tickets?

Time: 5-10 minutes

Put aside: $10

Total: $470

One of my (not-so-secret) secret freebies is getting concert tickets to see local bands. Most bars and nightlife venues have stages for local bands to showcase their music and create a name for themselves. They usually have calendars online showing you who is playing, and when.

concert, family, night out, nightlife, free, tickets
Unsplash/Alexander Popov

If you find some bands that you think you want to see, shoot them a message on Facebook and see if you can score some free tix for being a loyal fan. Most of the time, they’ll put your name on the list to avoid the cover charge, and, if you’re lucky, they may even give you some free band swag, too!

Day 28: Shopping? Like, actual shopping?

Time: 30-120 minutes

Put aside: $10

Total: $480

There’s no “window” in this shopping experience! This was the activity that I was most excited for because I am definitely the kind of person to hoard my gift cards until I end up losing them. But, guess what? It’s free money! Go use it!

shop, gift card, online, splurge
Unsplash/Cam Morin

One lesson I learned in my financial journey was that hoarding my money is only ever a good idea when it’s for an emergency fund. After shopping for a bit, take a minute to catch up on any of your missed tasks!

Day 29: Reality check time!

Time: 10-60 minutes

Put aside: $10

Total: $490

If you looked in my bookmarks, you’d find a folder titled, “Don’t do it.” Inside that folder are 22 of my favorite online shopping websites with shopping carts worth thousands of dollars, full of my dream wardrobe, furniture, kitchen appliances, and socks.

online, shop, expensive, savings
Unsplash/Thomas William

So, time for the reality check. Go to your favorite websites and add all your desired items. Add up the total in your carts, divide it by two, and put that number into your savings. Yes, half of it. For me, it was around $980 (ouch, I know). But trust me, you’ll thank yourself next time you’re tempted to shop online.

Day 30: Time to automate

Time: 1-5 minutes

Put aside: $10

Total: $500

Welcome to the last day of your financial challenge! As of today, we have saved roughly $500 and have developed good financial practices, adopted healthy self-care habits, and acquired wonderful social experiences.

done, challenge, congratulations, save, money, savings,
Unsplash/Ian Stauffer

Now, for the last financially responsible task. I calculated 10% of my monthly paycheck and automated that monthly transfer for the day after payday to go directly into my savings account.