Who doesn’t want to boost their savings? Money in the bank protects us in an emergency, funds down-payments on homes and cars and gives us the peace of mind to prepare for the future.
If you’re this close to a figure that helps you breathe easy, try a savings challenge to get there.
A savings challenge lays out a goal and a set amount of time to reach it. One popular example is a no-spend month where you don’t buy any non-essentials for 30 days. But if you want to save money while still enjoying yourself today, this model can be hard to sustain. Try one of these five alternatives so you can boost your savings without feeling deprived. Any one – or all – of these challenges will produce results.
FIND FREE FUN
Having an active social life comes with plenty of expenses. Consider a 30-day social challenge where you don’t spend any money with friends. You may have to take the lead and plan some free activities for your group, but there are many options to explore, and chances are good your friends will also be glad to save. Host a movie night with homemade snacks; head out on a weekend hike instead of brunch; see which museums in your area offer free admission. You'll find some fun you didn’t previously know about, and having a friend by your side will be great motivation.
MAKE CASH KING
Tech is making it easier than ever to spend money, from one-click purchasing to contactless payment and mindless swiping. Yes, it's convenient, but it's also easy to lose track. Give your credit cards and online accounts a break and vow to use only cash instead.
You know how much you’ve budgeted for discretionary spending in a month, so withdraw only that amount in cash and leave your credit cards at home. Not only will you be forced to stay on budget, but you’ll also become more mindful of your spending and less likely to make impulse purchases — especially if it means handing over your last $20.
There’s no denying that you can save money by shopping online, but does free two-day shipping tempt you to spend unnecessarily? (Yes, we’re looking at you, Amazon.) Mobile devices give you access to your favorite brands wherever you go, but this can be a bad thing for your budget. Challenge yourself to only shop in brick-and-mortar stores for a month. While you’re at it, unsubscribe from retailers’ emails so you’re not tempted by flash-sale alerts.
While there is nothing more satisfying than ordering takeout after a long day at the office, those Seamless deliveries can add up fast. For four weeks, cook all of your meals at home. You’ll save money and discover some new favorite recipes, too.
Turn date night into a homemade pasta-making experience, or get the kids involved and make a dish the whole family will love.
CUT A WEEKLY EXPENSE
If a month-long challenge is daunting, try a series of small weekly challenges instead. First, choose four expense categories you’d like to cut back on (like entertainment, dining, etc.). Then, make an effort to spend less on one of those categories each week.
For example, during week one, you could cancel an entertainment subscription you no longer use. For week two, you may want to freeze your gym membership and start a new workout routine at home. By making one change a week, you’re giving yourself a chance to adjust to a new lifestyle, while still seeing major results by the end of the month.