How to Save Money with a No Spend Challenge

no-spend-challenge-okdani-blog

On Tuesday I whined to my husband about bills, debt and spending.

Yesterday I vowed I wouldn’t do any more spending until Christmas gift shopping.

Today I bought a present for the birthday party my son was invited to this weekend. #FMeL (the e is for entire)

This is the time of year that people spend the most money. From Halloween to New Year’s day we have so many purchase-inducing holidays. Then there are the other purchases for birthdays, showers, weddings. Ugh. We can’t get around gifting. (I mean, you can if you’re a scrooge mcduck, but gifting is fun!!) We can, however, avoid spending outside of the “necessary” gifting. (and we can get creative about the gifts we give, in some cases, to avoid spending.)

I’ve decided to create a No Spend Challenge for myself and share with you in case you also enjoy not being broke. 🙂 This can be done at ANY time of the year. Not just around holiday season. (Note: it’s usually best to do it during times where you won’t be pressured to spend, but we’re going wild around here!)

With a no spend challenge, the goal is to not only curb your spending to save a bit of cash… but also to be more mindful of how you’re using your money going forward.

HOW TO CREATE A NO SPEND CHALLENGE

  1. Choose an amount of time to commit to the challenge
  2. Spend no money outside of necessities (mortgage/rent, bills, food, transportation, etc.)
  3. Make a plan for the money that you save

BonusRepeat challenge as necessary

Note: If attempting the challenge during holiday season, set a predetermined amount of money aside as a “Gift Bill” and add it to your list of necessities.

Step One: Choose your time period

Most no-spend challenges run for a month. I’m on team “know yourself and do you”… so if you know a month is too hard a challenge to start with, then try 21 days, 14 days, a week or even a day! Now, I know it can be enticing to think big…but please don’t set yourself up to fail and say you’re not going to spend a penny for the next quarter/year etc. Even if that’s your end goal, try at most a month at a time. Even one day of avoiding unecessary spending is valuable. #everypennycounts

Step Two: Spend no money

Yeah…so this is the whole “no spend” part of things. This is personal to everyone. For most challenges it means not to spend outside of necessities which means you’ll have to at least loosely deal with “the B word.” (Yes, I mean budget….but we can call it a spending plan if that makes you less grumpy.)

Write down all your monthly expenses. ALL of them. Including your daily latte, mani/pedis, and of course including the biggies like utilities, rent, child care, etc. I use a google sheet or excel sheet so I can log what it is and how much I spend on each.

Decide how “no spend” your challenge will be. This is where it gets personal. For me, hair appointments are not a necessity because I’m good at doing my own hair. But if you earn a living as an on-air newscaster and you have no idea how to style your hair…you should probably keep that on the spend list. Feel me?

So figure out exactly what you’ll spend on, and vow to leave the rest alone. You can go as strict as humanly possible, or loose like “no spend on fast food” or something similar depending on your lifestyle.


Step 3: Plan for your savings

With all the spending you’re not doing,  your bank accounts will be nice and plump. What are you going to do with the funds you saved? Before you start your challenge, make a plan for those coins! Will you pay off a looming debt? Put it to a rainy day savings account? Save for a specific goal like future travel? Make the plan, and make it compelling enough to keep you motivated to continue your no spend challenge.

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TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL NO SPEND CHALLENGE

Be Prepared

You are going to have to be creative in how you live your life when you’re not spending on the little things you normally would. Forgoing your morning Starbucks run means brewing coffee at home or drinking what’s at the office. Skipping your mani pedis or hair appointments means you’ll be adding at-home pampering time to your weekend routine. Be prepared for the life changes ahead and plan accordingly. Mentally go through your day or week and figure out what your free alternatives will be.

Read personal finance books

Stay motivated to keep up with your “fiscal fast” by reading books that teach you about managing money. If you have financial freedom and managing money top of mind, it’ll be easier to continue your challenge.

Have a buddy

With any challenge, it’s more fun to do it with someone else. Enlist a friend, sibling or your spouse to join you on this personal quest. If it turns out to be a miserable experience for you (it won’t I swear!) at least you have someone to commiserate with about the ordeal.

Create a diversion

Keep your mind off of your non-spending by figuring out some time consuming activities that don’t require you to spend one red cent.

Some ideas: 

  • learn to cook a new meal
  • start a workout habit (use what you have, or use your bodyweight)
  • return to an old hobby (that you already have the tools/equipment for)
  • visit the library and read some great books
  • bingewatch Prison Break? (or something better)
  • declutter your home room by room (bonus if you can sell some of what you want to get rid of)
  • volunteer somewhere locally
  • have a walking ‘date’ with a friend
  • Do that ‘someday’ project: Like organizing your photos
  • Write the next great American novel

Have fun with it

Are you a competitive person? Challenge your partner to see who can save more money over the time period. Find unique ways to trim from your budget. Or create a game for yourself with mini challenges on how you’ll save each day. You can also make a game of finding ways to EARN money during your no spend challenge. (Like selling some of your clutter on Ebay.com)

Notice your Mindset & Money shifts

You may realize you enjoy doing your nails at home on thursday nights while watching #TGIT and decide to keep it up after the challenge. (why I keep going to this mani pedi example is beyond me.) Maybe you will lose some weight packing your lunches from home instead of eating out for breakfast and lunch at work and want to keep the progress going. Notice the ways your views of money is changing during the challenge. (THIS is a great book to read on your relationship to money.)

Avoid Triggers

If you’re on a diet you’re not going to hang out in the food court, amirite? It’ll just trigger you to eat. So with your no spend challenge you’ll have to avoid the places that trigger you to spend. Block Amazon.com on your browser. Drive a different route home if you’re used to popping into target on the way home. etc.

What to do when the Challenge is over

  1. Put your saved funds to your predesignated place
  2. Reassess what you’ll return to spending on and what you’ll cut out of your life forever
  3. Feel super proud of yourself
  4. Plan for your next challenge

But, what if I fail?

First off… what is failing? Not completing the challenge isn’t a failure. Even if you avoid your unnecessary spending for just one single day, that’s a win! It’s impossible to fail.

No Spend Challenges are a great way to save a bit of cash for specific needs, or a general savings goal. They are also excellent as a way to jumpstart a new less spendy lifestyle. You can learn a lot about your spending habits and the way you want to use your money through these challenges. There’s no right or wrong. It’s just personal financial choices.

For my challenge, I am vowing to spend no money for the month of November outside of bills and necessary items (like that gift I mentioned earlier). I know I can do it!

And so can you!!

You have all you need to create your own no spend challenge. So go forth and save!!

Good luck!!

(Let me know how long you last!!!)

Have you tried a No Spend Challenge??

Financial Resolutions for Reaching Travel Goals in 2016

Financial Resolutions 2016

It’s that time of year when people start doing all their planning for the new year. Goals and resolutions abound. It seems like everyone has some type of financial goal, health goal and fun goals like travel on their lists. I know I have all of the above. We can’t get away as much as we’d like, but travel is always a big part of our yearly planning since it requires so much preparation.

In 2016 I hope to do a bit of traveling. Nothing crazy, just a few trips: 

  • January – Vegas for CES, Type A and Affiliate Summit
  • June – DC for Blogging Conference
  • Summer – Family Cruise
  • Fall – Couples Trip and NYC

On our family calendar we also have some dates held for tentative travel depending on whether I’ll be speaking/sponsored. We decided that since 2015 was a transitional year with the new home purchase, and the change in income (for now :)) that we’d keep 2016 the least ‘spendy’ we could…without sacrificing too much.

dani and john at ship

So many people put off traveling due to financial reasons. I rather not put my travel on cards that I can’t immediately pay off, so we save up for it. In order to make travel happen, we’ve created some financial resolutions (goals and to-dos really) to ensure we get there:

Fully monetize all areas of my business

This is a common sense one, and one that’s long overdue. Now that I’m home and able to do a bit more, monetizing my business in a more intentional way is going to be key to making travel goals happen. This year I made more than last year, but not as much as I planned to. Better monetization of my biz means more income coming our way. More income means more money to save for travel (and other expenses.)




All surplus money to travel savings account

I’m a saver by nature. I told you before I have miser in my blood. But we don’t just have one savings account. We have our personal savings, the house/joint savings, and specific buckets like our travel savings account. We allocate a certain percent of the monthly savings to travel normally. This year for the first time, we’re putting all unexpected income and unplanned cash flow to the travel savings account to help pad it up for our getaways. If you don’t have a separate savings account check out the 360 Savings accounts from Capital One. No fees, no minimums and you get interest.

money jar

Use our rewards cards as much as possible

Cards like the Capital One Venture Card, other miles cards, gas cards, cash back cards, points…. I’m obsessed. We…ok, I… strategize on what card we use at which retailers to ensure we’re getting the most bang for our buck. Luckily, John plays along with me when he sees the benefits of my card games. With a little pre-planning you can really make out like a bandit with avoiding fees, and earning money toward travel, gas and other purchases you’d normally come out of pocket for anyway.

Conversations before big buys

John and I really have to act as a team now more than ever. With the house and all the new monthly bills that come with it, and using his income to fund it, we have to talk about all big purchases together. I know this is a common practice among other couples, but we rarely did this before. We’d just shop and come home like “look what I got!” and ooh and ahh over it together. Not anymore. We talk about the big ticket items we need, and we both hunt around to find the best deal on it before buying.




Use all the apps, and rebate tools for regular purchases

I told you (HERE) about how to save money online purchasing just about anything. I’m really big into all the cash back apps there are out there now. You can buy your normal items, and scan receipts when you get home to earn money, and get rebates or gift cards. I’m such a junkie for these apps that as soon as I load up the trunk I sit in the car and scan my receipts immediately so I don’t forget to collect my moolah. More cash back = more money to put into that travel savings account!

It’s my hope that I’m able to do more travel than what’s listed at the top of this post. I’d love for John and I to head to Vegas in the fall/winter, and I’d like to do lots of weekend trips around Florida as well, both as a couple and as a family. Financial planning is really the key to ensuring we get to live the kickass life we envision.

What are your Financial Resolutions for 2016?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Money Lessons Learned #Nablopomo

money lessons learned

I was talking to John the other day, after writing this post about my first world problem as a kid. I always get choked up when I talk about how far my family has come in such a short time. My mom’s toilet in Jamaica was outside the damn house. My dad’s floor on the farm down south was like made of dirt. My childhood issue was lack of cable. If that’s not a come up, I don’t know what is.

moving on up

Cable was a completely un necessary expense. It was early 90s so it wasn’t like it came with the internet and phone bundle like it did today, so my parents said F it. We didn’t need it. I learned a lot about living within my means, and below my means from my parents.

Today’s prompt for #Nablopomo is:

What is the most important lesson you learned as a child, and who taught it to you?

When I read it, immediately thought, money honey! I have learned so many amazing life lessons along this 34 year old journey I’ve been on, but the money lessons pop into my mind first. They make an appearance in every day life.

Live below your means –

Learned this from my parents and actually from all of my maternal family members. I actually enjoy budgeting (you can judge me if ya wanna!) and ensure there’s a padding between what we bring in and what has to go out.

Pay yourself first –

My mom drilled this into me. So I treat my savings as my most important bill. It gets paid out on the first just like the mortgage. (And biweekly on pay dayswhen I was working 9-5) ALWAYS save a portion of your income to an account you do. no. touch.

Never get a raise –

This advice was from my mom and I used it for a very long time. She said, whenever you get a raise, or a new, higher paying job…pretend you didn’t. So, if your paycheck was 2000 at your old job, and is now 2500, immediately have that 500 go direct deposit to a savings account so you never see it, and you continue living life at that 2000 level, while your money silently stacks up on the side.

Think beyond the money –

I never followed this advice, but now that I have children I see the value in it. When taking a new job, don’t just focus on the salary. Take into account the benefits and distance and ease, and responsibility, etc.  My thinking when I entered the work world was, OK well I’m just gunna find something with the salary I want AND the benefits/distance/ease/responsibility/perks that I want LOL (and I usually did!)

The Jones’ are broke –

We all hear the advice to not keep up with the Jones’ (I really wanna type Joneses hehe). This basically means stay in your lane and live your life within your means, but my dad wouldn’t tell me not to keep up with the Jones’. He told me they were broke. The Jones’ put their fancy new stuff on their credit card and they’re broke AF in debt up to their eyes.  LMAO  (The lesson stuck, tho!)

Save for it / Avoid debt –

That leads to the lesson of saving up for everything you really want, and avoid debt as much as you can. I worked to put myself through college (and halfway thru grad school) to avoid Sallie Mae’s greedy ass. I save up usually for what I want because I’m terrified of debt. I don’t like owing people. This is the first time in my life that I actually have debts. (Now mind you, I don’t pay cash, I just make sure I have the cash on hand to pay off immediately, I use credit to keep my credit score great, and get points points points!!!)

Always have your own money –

My gram, from when I was very little, and boys still had cooties, always told me: “make sure you always have your own money, separate bank account, never rely on a man!” and it stuck. I have my separate account(s) and have 2 separate accounts for the kids as well.

I’m grateful my family wanted me to learn from their mistakes.


I recognize now that the money lessons I learned as a kid were all about keeping me “safe” financially.  Nothing was told to me as a kid to help me learn how to build wealth, create generational wealth, invest in something larger than myself. (Except for buying a house. All of my relatives owned and drilled that into my head “own property, own land”)

I learned later on my own through reading personal development books and talking to some of my former bosses (White male CFOs and CEOs who led lovely charmed, struggle-free American Jewish or Anglo lives and had the opportunity to offer a different viewpoint) about how to have my money make me money. About how a little risk is something a great thing for a large reward. It was truly eye opening.

Nowadays my dad is up with his coffee and in front of his computer for the morning bell with his stocks, daytrading and letting his money make him money (despite that lovely dt pension he’s got ::side eye:: I see you, pops.) My mom invests as well  now.

My plan for the children is to teach them early on all the money lessons I learned that kept me “safe” financially, as well as the lessons I learned later in life that will help them grow and thrive financially. I’ll also teach them more intricate lessons I learned later in life about tax “trickery” and using credit cards slyly to earn money. John and I are on plan to build wealth that will last past Ro and Kai’s kids, and create mindsets in those two lil monsters blessings that get them on plan to do the same for their kids, grands, great grands etc…

make it rain

I also intend to keep them in an abundant mindset so they won’t have money issues to overcome. I never say “we can’t afford it” or “money doesn’t grow on trees” or say anything that equates to wealthy people being “bad” people.  I personally had to (and still have to, it’s cyclic) overcome money issues with regard to those types of sayings. (Something that really helped me was this book rite chea) And I don’t want my kids to have a slow financial start due to that kind of negative programming.

When Ro asks for yet another bloody toy when we’re out shopping, I tell him “we’re using our money a different way today” and that’s that.

I’m grateful for the money lessons I learned when I was younger. It kept me out of debt and gave me a more independent viewpoint and less of a “follow fashion” mentality.

What money lessons did you learn as a kid? 

What other lessons did you learn as a kid that shaped you?

 

Saving for College on 529 Day!

Huge thanks to the Florida Prepaid College Board and Bloggin’ Mamas for including me in this sponsored post series!

Kaya, Is your college education going to cost mommy a billion dollars??

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You know… I struggle with imposter syndrome a bit. I am very interested in personal finance (saving, budgeting, side hustling, investing)  but only post a little bit about it here because I’m not a “pro.” I was actually a bit nervous about how my tips for househunting would be received. So I’m glad to get the positive feedback from you guys. Thanks!!

So, when I purchased my home I started 529s for Kaya and Rohan. I figured, I’m doing a whole mess of financial stuff right now, might as well knock this one off the to do list at the same time.

I am (almost) prouder of their education accounts than I am of the house.

With the amount I’m putting aside each month, I’ll have a nice little chunk for them in 18 years. Now, since they’re both getting full rides to Harvard, I’ll still be able to use it on their books, and graduate education at Princeton. 😉 Hopefully there will be some left for Kaya’s PhD and Rohan’s MD education.

So I say all that to say…..Today’s National 529 Day! Florida Prepaid College Board wants you to start saving for you children’s education, whether you’re a Florida resident or not. (You don’t have to be to participate in Florida’s 529 program.)  

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Sidebar: I urge you to be sure you’re contributing to your retirement account first #Imjustsaying.  I worked to put myself through college, your kids can do the same, push come to shove. Give em the gift of not having to take care of you later…. BUT…. give them the gift of a fully or partially funded education as well!!

I’m really excited to spring the 529 on Rohan and Kaya after they’ve been accepted to college. I am going to keep up the ruse of “I worked to put myself through college and so will you” both as a scare tactic for them to get great grades throughout high school in hopes of a scholarship, and also to get them in the working (for themselves or others) mindset. Then SURPRIIIISE!!! You’re all taken care of. You’re welcome!

Rohan, are you surprised?!

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That will be a really satisfying moment.

The money you invest in the 529 can go toward tuition of course, but also to books, room & board, and grad school. If your child gets a free ride, you can switch that money over to another family member, or get your money returned to you!

You can even have family members or friends contribute to the account in lieu of giving cash as gifts to your kids.

THIS LINK has tons of info and FAQs about the program.

I URGE you to begin contributing today. Don’t feel overwhelmed or like you need a whole gang of money to begin this investment. With the Florida Prepaid College Board’s 529 program, you can start with $25 a month. (Now, I KNOW you can swing that!)

Do you have college savings in place for your kids?

This post was sponsored by Florida Prepaid College Board and facilitated by Bloggin Mamas. You already know everything you just read is real talk, straight from Dani. 

4 Apps That Save You Money

4 apps that save you money

 

Giiiirls listen. These apps are great, my cousin got me hooked! The apps below either save you money, give you rebates/cash back, or give you gift cards for your normal purchases.

Here’s how my phone is making me money this year:

ibotta

Ibotta!

You MUST go sign up for Ibotta (Use my link please?! HERE!)

So, you shop as you normally do, and the things you buy that are on their app you get cash back for. Easy.

But wait… there’s more! You scan your receipts and get more cash. And your friends that are on Ibotta are your teammates and with their shopping combined with your own, you all earn cash bonuses without having to actually do anything.

receipthog

 ReceiptHog!

This app is awesome. You just scan your receipts after purchase and you earn points that turn into cash or gift cards. Easy! When you scan food receipts you earn more, but when you scan store receipts like macys or whoever, you get spins on a wheel that earns you more points. I love this app because I can scan my online purchases too since I do mostly online shopping. This one is just easy, no extra stuff, just scan your receipt and let your coins add up. It translates to $$$ back in your pocket later.

shopkick-1

 Shopkick!

This one is cool and the points lead to gift cards or products. The points add up quickly too. You get points for shopping and scanning your receipts, you get rebates and cash back for certain items, and you get points (called KICKS) for even just entering the store…even if you purchase nothing.  (my cousin and I may or may not have driven to best buy’s parking lot just for our kicks….*avoids eye contact*) When in store, if you’re so inclined, you can scan certain items for more points (Kicks)

Now, I’m lazy… I don’t think I’ll be going to go to stores just for kicks…(see what I did there?) …but when I do go to stores, I’ll be Kickin!

cartwheel app

Target’s Cartwheel!

First of all, if you don’t have a target card, go get one. You get 5% off every purchase and if you buy online you get free shipping with no minimum purchase required. OK, that said, when you download the cartwheel app you will receive additional savings. TONS of products are on additional sale on top of your 5% off with card, and on top of any coupons/deals/rebates.

WARNING:

Please don’t buy stuff just to get points! If you don’t normally buy something, don’t go stocking up just because you can get a coupon and then points, and then kicks, etc. etc. “Something you don’t need at 25% off, is a 75% waste of money.” <— I forget where I heard that, but it sticks with me whenever I’m oohing and aahing over something I don’t need on the clearance rack.

TIPS:

You can double (or triple, or quadruple) dip!! So, you make a purchase and can scan your receipts for all three apps to get the goodies all over. This makes some items free, or close to free if you stack em with paper or online coupons too.

And DON’T FORGET the websites I told you about before:

You get rebates from 1% to 20% off of your online purchases if you click through their website:

Mr. Rebates – You can get a check each month!

Ebates – popular one, you get a check each quarter, they also give double rebates sometimes.

Extrabux – I like this one as well, and it’s good because you can go back and get your rebate if you forget 🙂

Be sure to check all 3 sites for how much of a rebate they give for whatever store you’re shopping at. Sometimes one is offering a higher rebate amount.

For rebates on groceries try: Checkout 51 and Jingit – I don’t like them as much as the ones above, but I still use them because even though they’re limited, i’m ALWAYS going to buy groceries so it’ll end up adding up to some good cash back.

OK so there you have it. 4 Apps… and a few sites and bonus apps that can really put some money back in your pocket when you’re shopping.

What money saving apps do you use?