If you’re anything like me, you’re watching the news like a hawk. And unfortunately, they don’t have much of anything nice to say.
Unemployment is skyrocketing in our country as hundreds of thousands have suddenly lost their jobs.
It’s times like this that make us really take a good hard look at ourselves and those around us.
Times like this determine character. Will we be weak and let ourselves be victimized by something out of our control? Or will we use every ounce of will and self-determination we have to control what we can and make the most out of the situation?
So, with that, I looked at myself and realized I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the last few months and years.
I’ve made choices both socially and financially that don’t benefit me at times like this.
It was after self-examination that I decided I’m going to turn this challenge into an opportunity.
NO MORE frivelous spending and NO MORE incorrectly prioritizing my loved ones.
I love travel and it brings me more peace, joy, and fulfillment than anything else I’ve ever done in my life… But I love my family more and with the current climate, there’s really no telling when we will be able to travel again.
This is very sad but it creates an excellent opportunity to save some money: For future travels, for moving, an emergency fund, etc.
So it’s with that, I sat down and made a plan.
I went through my budget with a fine tooth comb and picked apart every penny I’d spent over the last few months.
You know what I found?
A lot of bullshit!
I found hundreds of dollars spent on frivelous crap and realized if I’d been just a little bit smarter, and more disciplined, I’d be a lot richer right now.
While I can’t go back and change my mistakes, I can certainly decide to learn from them and not make them again.
So if you’re fortunate enough to still have a job and you’re in the same boat–wishing you were a little more financially prepared for a crisis like this–I implore you to join this challenge with me!
I’ll walk you through my steps and advice on how to “audit” your budget and create a saving plan that works for you.
You should pick a number that is challenging, yet realistic.
For me, $4,000 was that number. But it will require A LOT of self-discipline and it certainly will be challenging.
The plan I created breaks down what you need to save each week, as well as a running total.
I encourage you to move the numbers around for what works with your budget and pay cycle.
My blog’s goal has always been to help you avoid and learn from my travel mistakes… I make them so you don’t have to! So I hope I can do the same and inspire you to avoid my past money mistakes and take this journey with me!
Before you sit down to create your savings plan, you need to know what you’re actually spending, and what you’re bringing in.
Take a few hours to really pour through your bank statements.
Here are a few key things to look out for:
- How much & how often are you eating out? Ordering delivery?
- What subscriptions are you paying for?
- What about online shopping?
These were the biggest red flags (especially eating out for lunch at work!) when I went through my personal expenses. Yours may be different.
Starbucks and entertainment (IE: Going to the movies) are common offenders for many others.
As I mentioned in my article, How to Travel More Without Giving Up Your Job, subscriptions are very sneaky expenses. You set it and forget it and most of them are rather small amounts, but they add up over time!
Online shopping is problematic for many people, including myself. With technology like Apple Pay or Amazon’s one-click order, it’s stupid how easy it is to spend money online!
Here are the subscriptions I found when auditing my accounts:
- Blue Apron
- Daily Harvest
- Thrive Market
Of those subscriptions, I kept only 3: Hulu, Keysearch & Spotify.
Why? Because I can afford to and because they provide as much value as I pay for them.
The ones you decide to keep may be totally different!
Conversely, with grocery store supplies as unpredictable as they are right now, Blue Apron or a similar meal delivery service may be of immense value to you.
Don’t get rid of something if it’s actually providing an important service to you just to save some money. Remember, this is supposed to be realistic.
From there, move on to anything else that raises red flags.
As you can tell from my above list, dining out and delivery were big offenders to my budget. I was appalled how much I spent on food and alcohol.
In a place like DC, great food and cocktails are literally everywhere you turn, it’s incredibly easy to overspend on these experiences.
After I detailed how much I spent on eating/drinking (I’m omitting because it’s flat out embarrassing), I moved on to my online shopping…. Which was just about as embarrassing.
I popped every transaction in to a spreadsheet and totaled the sum spent online shopping…
Several hundreds of dollars and what do I have to show for it? Some cute dresses and shoes!
Yeah, that’s super helpful during a pandemic!
I was about ready to punch myself in the head by the time I got through my past few statements and listing all the money I’d spent.
But this isn’t about hating on ourselves, it’s about valuing ourselves enough to invest in ourselves and grow from our experiences!
So keep that mentality as you do the difficult work of examining your finances.
Yes, it’s hard, tedious and can be downright cringey at times but remember why you’re doing it.
See this savings challenge as an investment in yourself. And honey, you’re worth every penny!
So now we know our spending. How do we change it?
Now comes the hard part.
We’ve looked at our finances and know we’ve got to make some changes.
But how exactly do we go about doing that?
I know this can seem daunting at first but like any other challenge, we start small.
Start small with cancelling subscriptions…
As I said before, go and cancel any of those unnecessary subscriptions.
For me, cancelling Blue Apron, Thrive Market and Daily Harvest are saving me $130/month!!
Yours may be less, but you’ve to start somewhere! Even if you only save $10 with this step, it’s $10 more than you had!
Now make a few more small changes…
The next thing I would always advise doing is deleting any shopping apps from your phone.
I had the following:
I also have Uber Eats and Door Dash which are heavy hitters in my budget no-no list but we’ll circle back to them…
I downloaded these shopping apps because I use the sites a lot and originally it was mostly to track orders I had already placed, but then the bad behavior creeps in…
While taking the train to work, I peruse Sephora or ASOS and somehow always managed to find something I “absolutely needed.”
These are my weak spots and you need to identify yours. Once you do, cut them out!
I deleted all of these apps and while it obviously doesn’t guarantee that I’ll stop shopping them, it does make them much less prevalent in my mind and slightly more difficult to make purchases, which gives me some time to rethink.
Now it’s about changing behavior…
So the apps have been deleted, the subscriptions cancelled, now comes the most difficult part, consciously changing poor behavior.
While I don’t have shopping apps on my phone anymore, I work at a job that requires me to be at a computer most of the day, leaving plenty of time to shop online or peruse Pinterest for the latest trends that I want to buy.
So I got myself and accountabiliBUDDY!
Someone I can call or text to either distract me or just talk me out of that purchase.
Does it always work? No.
One of my these buddies will never say no when I’m thinking about ordering tacos, But hey, she knows my deep love for tacos and that they bring me joy. (Yes, tacos bring me JOY!)
Find a method that works for you. It’s best to get temptations out of sight and mind as much as possible, but it’s difficult–nay, impossible–to maintain all the time. So you need to have a plan for when that bait is dangling.
Play “This or That” with yourself…
If your parents are anything like mine, they probably taught you something similar to this…
When you’re thinking about buying that $100 dress for example, think about how much of a plane ticket that is, and which you really want more. What about the cost of a night in a hotel? Or how many groceries you can buy with that? Whatever really puts a fire in you–something you really want or need. For me, it’s plane tickets & traveling, which is why I used that example.
Or better yet, pretend as if you HAVE lost your job. You don’t know when or where your next income will be coming from.
With that mindset, then ask yourself, should I place that Uber Eats order or do I have groceries here that I can make a meal with? Better use them before they go bad because you don’t know when you’ll be able to replenish them.
Is this thought process extreme? Yes. But we are living in extreme times right now.
And speaking of Uber Eats…
I’ve spent so much on food delivery in the last few months and weeks, when I really didn’t need to. I let laziness get the best of me more often than I’m proud to admit.
We’ve all been there, and I’m not saying to cut out delivery. Especially right now, when so many small restaurants have switched to delivery/take out only, apps like these are a great way to support your local businesses.
But, in the words of my father, “BE VERY FUCKING SMART” with every penny you spend there.
Ask yourself if you have groceries in the house to make a meal. Would you spend that money if you lost your job tomorrow? Is $20 worth the laziness?
If you think it might help, delete these apps too! While we want to do our best to save small businesses now, it’s important to understand you can’t save the world and your first and foremost responsibility is to yourself.
On to the planning!
So we’ve gone through our spending and found what’s unnecessary.
Now it’s time to break down your necessary expenses.
After going through my own, here’s what I found:
- Mattress financing
- Credit Card
- Leftover Subscriptions
Once you know these, and what they cost, you’ll then want to know their due dates/when they’ll be deducted from your account.
Knowing when you have to pay these expenses will play an important part in your savings plan. You don’t want to make a plan where your biggest saving amounts are “due” the same day your largest expenses are.
That’s a great way to defeat yourself right out of the gate.
The graphic you’ll see below is planned out according with my own expense timings. Feel free to move yours around to weeks that better correlate with your own!
Think about when you get paid and when bills are due. The weeks when my largest expenses are due (IE; rent, utilities, etc) are reflected in the lower amounts that are going towards the savings.
If you get paid biweekly and you think it might be easier to just pull 2 weeks’ totals at once, try that as well!
How to stay motivated
Times like this can make it especially difficult to stay motivated every day.
Many of us feel beat down, exhausted, scared and angry. Emotions like this can make it so we don’t think clearly and can make it difficult to keep your eyes on the prize.
If you’re an “essential” worker, like myself, you may come home every night dead tired and the allure of just ordering dinner sounds so good.
Or you could be in self-isolation. If that’s the case, many people are reporting that they feel symptoms of depression and anxiety creeping in. It’s hard to keep track of the days or stay on a normal schedule.
To soothe these feelings, we may try to get in some retail therapy or just order pizza.
But at the end of the day, those are just band-aids for deep mental health issues.
I won’t list all the ways to keep your mental health in check during this time because there are so many amazing resources out there, but I can help you stay motivated as you combat your mental stress.
A condensed timeline helps you see results faster…
This graphic shows a running total each week of where your savings account will be if you follow this challenge with me.
One of the main reasons I chose a 6 month or 26 week money challenge was because a year felt daunting. Furthermore, this pandemic has put a fire in my belly and I want results NOW!
The weekly goals I’ve provided are great because you’ll constantly see your savings account growing and that is such a great feeling–and a great way to keep your morale high!
If you start this challenge today, you’ll have over $500 in savings in just a month!
Wouldn’t that feel great; To see a few hundred dollars more in your bank account?
Consider this a “financial boot camp”…
Just like a fitness boot camp, it’s not really an all-the-time kind of thing. Just a bout of intense training.
I love a 6 month savings plan because it helps us kick our bad spending habits and get “clean” quickly.
I’m sure many people are much more responsible than I and have much more will-power but I have a really hard time saying no to certain expenses, an addiction, if you will.
If you have a drug addiction, the thought of being clean a year from now might be very overwhelming.
What advice do we give addicts? Take it 1 day at a time.
This is just the money version of that.
With a 52 week savings plan, people like me can get carried away and lose sight of our goals a little more easily.
It’s also more difficult to maintain a rigorous lifestyle change for that long.
Do I think I can save $4,000 in 26 weeks? Yes! Do I think I could save $8,000 in a year? That I’m less sure of that. Planning out a year from now, especially during these times, is much more difficult.
A 6 month savings challenge is just that: A challenge. And if you’re new to budgeting, it’s a great place to start! Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Be very mindful of the world’s economy…
This is the epitome of a BUMMER right now. All the world’s economies are crashing as countries and societies scramble to combat COVID-19 and save as many human lives–while flattening the curve–as possible
I know this isn’t all pep and sunshine but this is a very real reality that we all need to be hyper-aware of right now.
NO jobs are secure right now. With hundreds of thousands unemployed in the US (and growing every day), there is now a line of people willing to do your job, and work harder for less, probably.
Keep that in mind every single time you swipe your card or click “place order.”
Remember my point and ask yourself, “Would I spend this money if I lost my job tomorrow?” Because, unfortunately, that may be a reality rather than a nightmare.
Join the challenge!
If you’re wanting to join this challenge with me, you don’t have to pick $4,000 if it’s not financially viable for you.
Depending on your take home pay and necessary expenses, perhaps $1,000 is more doable. Or maybe you make more and you want to save $5,000!
Either way, be completely honest with yourself and set a challenging yet attainable goal for this challenge.
If you want to join this challenge, post a comment below and follow my journey on Instagram.
I’ll be posting updates every week to Instagram and posting updates on the blog breaking down (with brutal honesty) what I spent and what I saved every two weeks!
Even if you feel this challenge may not be reasonable for you right now due to your current job situation, don’t forget to pin & save for later!