When you’re not keeping careful track of your spending, it’s all too easy to let it get out of control. Consider this a reset button to jumpstart your savings and get the budget back on track.
Here are the rules: before starting this challenge, read through your bank statements to establish of all your spending (sorted into the areas below). Once you establish a baseline of your monthly spending, you can use this guide to ease yourself in to a more responsible and frugal lifestyle. Each week of the challenge, you will add an additional area of restriction to your budget.
Remember, this 30 period may feel pretty extreme, but it’s just one month. After seeing how much you saved in this time, you’ll be more motivated to move toward a more sustainable–but equally responsible–monthly budget.
Week 1: Detox for Food Spending
What this category includes: any money you spend on groceries, eating out, your morning coffee run, etc.
Weekly Budget: 60% of what you normally spend.
This first week of the 30 day challenge, let’s tackle one of the areas of spending that can quickly get out of control. After you’ve determined what you spent last month on all food and drink, multiply that number by .60. This is your new goal for this month. How are you going to meet it? Well, the easiest way is to swear off eating out altogether.
If that’s not reasonable for you, at the very least, you’ll have to cut the number of times a week you go out to 1. Also, when you do choose to dine out, consider sneaky ways to lower the cost of your bill: sticking to water and splitting a large portion with your partner or friend can make your budget go much further.
In terms of dining in, some meals you make aren’t much better cost-wise than eating out. So, say goodbye to the home-made shrimp scampi and hello to some cheaper alternatives. If you’re looking for a good place to start, I’ve found this list of cheap recipes under $10 to be helpful.
Week 2: Detox for Entertainment Spending
What this category includes: any money you spend on fun outings or equipment, such as going to a movie, bowling, concerts, etc.
Weekly Budget: $5
$5 a week may sound harsh, but entertainment doesn’t come cheap, and it’s not the only way to have a good time. So, for this 30 days, no going out for drinks, no bowling, no movie theatre, expensive outings or weekend getaways. Instead, use your Saturday nights to play a board game, rent a 1.50$ movie from Redbox, or go for a walk outdoors. On date night, light some candles and have a nice dinner in. Put yourself back in “broke college student” mindset and get creative with how to have fun on a budget.
Week 3: Detox for Clothing, Hygiene and Personal Items
WHAT THIS CATEGORY INCLUDES: clothes, hair cut/color, Getting your nails done, hair, skin, and makeup products, etc.
Weekly Budget: 5$
Although $5 a week may not be sustainable long term, I’m pretty sure you can make it work for just a few weeks. In this time, no shopping for anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. Instead of buying a new pair of shoes, getting an expensive hair product, or a new denim jacket this month, make it your mission save this money absolute essentials (like conditioner or deodorant).
The first step to spending less in this area is to admit that, no, you don’t actually need that new pair of shoes, and your hair can, in fact, go for a few more months before needing a haircut. One way to make that easier is to take a better inventory of what you have. Sometimes there are cute clothes lost in your closet, or ones you just forgot about. Clean out your closet, get on Pinterest for outfit inspiration, and think about how you can wear what you have in different ways. Take clothes you don’t need anymore to a consignment shop and see if you can get a few extra bucks in your pocket.
Week 4: Detox for Savings and Debt
At the end of this 30 days, calculate how much money you saved. If you do not have a contingency account for emergencies, create a separate savings account and put what you saved this month into it. Keep adding to it when you can, until it covers more than a few months of paychecks. Don’t touch that money unless you have to!
If you already have a healthy savings for emergencies, dedicate the money you saved to any debt you may have, be it for credit cards, student loans, or making an extra payment towards your mortgage.
And there you have it! 30 days of responsible financial spending to get you back on track. I encourage you to try it a few more months and see how much you can save. Good luck and happy budgeting!