Sticking to a budget can be a struggle. A Career Builder survey found more than three-fourths of U.S. workers surveyed struggle to make ends meet. A Gallup poll found only one out of every three Americans prepares a detailed budget every month to track income and expenses.
Need a little help in getting your budget in order? Get creative with saving and kick off 2020 right.
Instead of looking for some loosely-defined resolutions to keep (there are thousands of bloggers posting about them this month); instead, try one of these challenges designed to help you cultivate the willpower you need.
The Classic “52 Week Savings” Challenge
Go to almost any personal finance site (or Pinterest), and you’ll see this is one of the more popular challenges, and easy to do. At the end of the year, you’ll amass $1,378.
To start, save a small amount for the first week—only $1. You increase your savings each week: you increase to $2 for the second week, $3 for the third, and so on.
Remember, even if you are starting off small, every dollar counts. And what looked like a pittance at the beginning can become a decent chunk of change at the end of December.
The “No-Spend” Challenge
A no-spend challenge usually involves not buying anything outside of bare essentials. No-spend challenges are usually done on a one-month basis, but people have also made it an all-year thing.
With “No Spend” you get to make your own rules—there is no set amount you can expect to save, or time limits. You benefit by pinpointing areas you’re struggling with, and it teaches being resourceful with what you have.
Besides essentials, you can also limit spending on what some consider habitual “wants” or “vices,” such as eating out, shopping, or entertainment. For instance: your bills, groceries and transportation costs are all needs, but buying cigarettes is a vice or going to see that new movie is a want.
BONUS CHALLENGE: Another option is to charge yourself for your vices—a self-imposed “sin tax.” Let’s say yours is buying a few lottery tickets every day. So when you drop into 7-Eleven, you grab some scratch-offs, as usual. At this point you immediately transfer an extra $1 to your savings account. The benefit? The extra cost for your vice is now, suddenly, a little more painful. And you’re adding money into your savings account.
The Spare Change Challenge
This challenge is so simple—you just put all your spare change into a jar at the end of the night. (Or better yet, take your change to a self-service coin counting machine at a Tower branch). Another twist is to allot all of your single dollar bills, too. Whichever way you go, you’ll be able to count up quite a bit at the end of the year.
To make it more interesting, you can use your smartphone to help you save with apps that save your virtual spare change. “Round-up” Apps like Acorns and Qoins will let you direct your spare change collection money towards investing or debt. Simply run your transactions through your Tower debit card (tracked by the app), and they’ll direct your virtual spare change around for you.
The Competitive Savings Challenge
If you thrive in the heat of competition, this one will be easy for you. Start a game with your spouse, family member or even a friend to see who can save the most within a period of time. Set goals each month, create a chart or graph where you can log your progress and share it with everyone so they can see where you stand. When you’re done, the one with the greatest savings is the winner. The more people competing, the better chances you have of staying motivated to save.
The Weather Savings Challenge
This idea came from a blogger in Arizona. It randomizes your savings rate, and can be an interesting way to save and be more frugal. The idea is to check the highest recorded temperature in your locale each week, and then deposit that dollar amount into your savings account.
Of course, those who live in a frigid time zone will find the challenge not so challenging through May. But it gets more challenging in the summer.
Resources: DoughRoller, Budgetsaresexy.com, Kivo Daily