I was going to come out with a long album review project I’ve been working on this week, but it turns out I have way too much to say about it so that’s not going to happen right now. I still wanted to put out something this week, so I started thinking about simple topics I can write about.
I’ve been thinking about money a lot lately and figured it was time to do something that I haven’t done in a long time.
Make a public challenge and stick to it.
What’s the point?
Having a set of rules, specific guidelines, and accountability can make any goal a little easier (and more fun). I’m sure you’ve heard of SMART goals before, but honestly I’m not the biggest fan of those.
I prefer something a little more lenient and exciting. And while there’s value in specific goals, I think that having a more broad goal with specific ways to reach that goal can be less stressful (and more fun).
If something is less stressful and more fun I am more likely to continue doing that thing. What is the broad goal?
The goal here is to save more money by spending less.
Vague, because it doesn’t say how much I’m trying to save, but still not fun. The fun part is making a set of rules around the spending and finding ways to make those rules fun.
Before I get into the rules, I want to talk about the timeline. That is the part of SMART goals that I can get behind. If I know how long this is going to take it makes it feel less scary to start. This challenge is going to be a little extreme, but I’m hoping to learn some less extreme lessons from it. Since it’s a little extreme, I won’t be doing it long.
This will only be a month of practicing these stricter rules. (With the stipulation that if A. If I break a rule I have to do another month and B. If my financial situation isn’t where I want it to be I have to do another month.)
Where do I want it to be?
I want my credit card at 0 and my savings account to have regular deposits made to it.
This is what I consider the “sub goal”. It’s my more tangible goal, but it’s not the only reason I’m doing this. It’s a good identifier that I’ve reached my target.
The goal here is to save more money by spending less.
Now onto the fun part.
Making this public is fun. A. Because it gives me a sense of accountability and B. it gives people the option to join along if they’re also working toward the same goals.
If you choose to take part in this, comment below and let me know! Also feel free to adjust the rules based on your life.
This month’s rule list.
- Sit down and write out all of your must haves.
Not spending any money would be nice, but we all have bills to pay and food to put on our plates. The first thing I’ll be doing is sitting down with my fiancé and considering all of the “must-haves” that we’ll include in the next month.
Will we allow alcohol? What can we consider an exception? Is there anything we can cut back on this month that we normally wouldn’t?
Luckily for us I already have a spreadsheet full of bills and stuff, but this conversation will help us consider what things we can do to save money now (and in the future when the challenge ends).
I also have a post in my drafts about how to track your finances using the same method I do, so stay tuned for that.
- Determine what free activities/ meals you can do/ have that are still enjoyable.
This is going to be fun.
I don’t want to eat only ramen (even though we love ramen), feel bored because we aren’t shopping, or going to the movies, etc., I still want to be able to enjoy myself.
To get around feeling bored and restricted we can plan crafts from things we already own, play games, watch movies we’ve been avoiding, take our dog to a park, go skateboarding, etc. Making a list of these activities will help us push through the boring days when we’re tempted to go online shopping together and spend money on stuff we probably won’t use.
As for eating we can go to the grocery store and make sure that we have fun stuff to make on our days off together. It’ll be a fun activity, likely a healthier meal, and we won’t be wasting money on delivery/ takeout prices.
- Plan ahead.
Eating out is tempting if you have nothing good at home so make sure you plan ahead when getting groceries. Basically, instead of just saying the stuff you’ll do and then not being prepared to do those things when the time comes, sit down and prepare yourself to actually do those things.
What about birthdays? What if there’s a big one in the month? That’s up to you. I like to get small thoughtful gifts if I’m in a bad place financially, but it all depends on the person and situation. I sometimes don’t give gifts because life is expensive and I think we can all understand that. April will be my birthday month and all I want for my birthday is to feel good financially so I’m going to tell my fiancé I don’t want anything besides a nice handmade card.
Be realistic about activities. If you have a lot of work this week don’t plan to hike on your only day off if you know you’ll be tired that day. Planning realistically will help you avoid that frustrated “screw it, I’ll just get takeout because I’m too tired for this.” feeling.
- Tell any relevant friends or family involved.
The last time I did something like this I didn’t tell anyone and it made it super hard because friends would ask me to eat out and I’d feel bad saying no so I’d either eat something super cheap and tiny or sit there awkwardly at the table, not eating, and not explain why. You could just decline the offer, if you have more backbone than college age me, or you could share your goal with the people who might impact it.
You don’t have to give a lot of detail either. A simple “I’m trying to save a little money so can we go to the park instead?” works just fine.
As for family, it’s important to share this with family or a spouse that you live with. Especially if you usually split finances. I’m going to share with my fiancé (who I asked if she were willing to participate before making this) and work with her on reasonable goals, specifics, etc., Don’t just sign your partner up to not spend money if they aren’t cool with it. Seems like something that will cause future issues for you.
- Have a reason for doing this.
The best way to stick to something is to have a why behind it. Why am I doing this?
Let’s set the scene. It’s Sunday, you’re hungry, and a new sweater you’ve been wanting is on sale. You think about how stupid this challenge is and how nice it would be to get your favorite take-out and buy that sweater. IT MIGHT NOT GO ON SALE AGAIN! Then you have this tiny voice in your ear whispering “Why are we doing this, fam?” You calm down and whisper back “I’ve been spending too much money lately. I don’t want to get into permanent debt so I need to fix this now while I’m still able to.”
You go make a cup of ramen noodles and read a book. The sweater will probably go on sale again, and by then you won’t even want it.
That might not be how it plays out but I could see it happening to myself. I know that on my one day a week off work I have a very “screw it” mentality. Then I spend 6 days at work wondering why I spend that money.
That short term happiness from eating my favorite meal or buying those avocado swim trunks (which are admittedly awesome) also had the adverse effect of long term credit card debt.
I’ve had a nasty habit of spending money I don’t have. This is a habit we all adopt at some point in our adult lives, when we’re just barely paying for our needs and we try to satisfy some of our wants (to compensate for the pains of working more than we want). That doesn’t make it a good idea.
I get tired of work so I overcompensate by getting myself as much dopamine after work as possible. That’s fair but, the thing is, I could do this without spending money.
I could read a book, watch a movie, eat a cup of ramen, drink some tea, play a video game, etc., I just need to stop making excuses for my behavior and remind myself why I want to start spending smarter.
If I save money now, get my credit card to 0, and keep up health finances then…
I can afford to get married to my fiancé.
We can buy a house together someday.
We can think about having kids.
We can start our own small business.
The possibilities are right in front of our eyes and one day we might be able to reach them. It’s just about setting a small goal, working at it for a month, and building long term habits from it.
Are you going to join?
I’ll update again at the end of April/ early May and let you all know how this went.
Until next time,