NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Do you find yourself more compelled to save money when it comes as a challenge? While many people are on the up-and-up when it comes to squirreling away money for retirement and saving for the future, there are also others who are only concerned with the here and now. Just like we sometimes have to turn eating vegetables into various games for kids (and even some adults), there’s something to making a “game” out of saving money.
It's all the more necessary, because we're not saving nearly enough money: according to data from Moody's Analytics, Millennials now have a savings rate nearing -2.8%, compared to 2009 when they stowed away 5.2% of their income. Older cohorts fare not much better: those 35 to 44 saved only 2.6% of their income, and those 44 to 54 saved 5.7%. Those 55 and older did manage to sock away 13%.
Improvement might hinge on making saving a fun undertaking. While most of the key points of “money saving challenges” are enough to hold the saver accountable—publicity, like social media posts, or maybe doing the challenge with a buddy—there is also a psychological aspect as to why "gamified" challenges work better than saving money the old-fashioned way.
“In order to save money, a person needs to feel they have money to save," said Dr. Maureen RS Creal, a psychologist based in Berkley, Mich. "It is common for people to believe they do not have 'extra' money. After all, in their mind, all of their money is needed and accounted for in their daily life. I like to tell my clients to set a small goal for 30 days. This starts the habit process. They immediately start to see progress, and, after all, who doesn’t want immediate gratification?"
When a person conditions himself not to miss the money he's saving, the process has started; the individual, then, has already begun to reorganize his day to function without the income. This goal-oriented game then becomes something the saver plays. Putting money aside is thus less burdensome and more engaging.
While these short-spurt, 30-day challenges will definitely help you save money, you will have to learn to incorporate these tactics into everyday life if you want them to continue to stick. Below are a few challenges to try out to become a better saver going forward.
1. Challenge: How to Save $1,000 in 30 Days. Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich (Workman Publishing Company, 2009), outlines this challenge on his website. Basically, Sethi lists 30 separate tips that range from reducing the heat in your residence on a regular basis to negotiating the price of your car insurance. While some tips are more within the common sense realm, like packing meals (i.e. brown-bagging your lunch for work) instead of ordering out, some are quite a bit trickier, such as teaching yourself to use only cash for at least 15 of the 30 days.
Perfect for: Those looking to pack a big punch at the end of the 30 days.
2. Challenge: Save Anything!. This challenge, courtesy of Saving Advice, uses your sense of vision to tap into your financial mindset. The point of this challenge is bare bones: you just have to save something. The rules are such that a jar or a container needs to be present in an area where you will always see it, along with a printable worksheet that contains columns with spaces for Days 1 through 30, deposit amounts, and balance amounts. The optimal savings challenge for those who really need help in this area, this tactic has is no dictation as to how much money should be saved per day. Whether you can afford to drop $1 in the jar per day or $20, make it a point to just drop some amount of money in it. By the end of the month, the goal is to have learned that saving a little bit of money per day can actually add up, and the end results can feel very rewarding.
Perfect for: Those looking to build basic money saving skills that will last after the 30-day challenge is complete, without too much pressure.
3. Challenge: Basic 30-Day Savings. Also from Saving Advice, this challenge follows the same protocol as the previous challenge, except that this one provides monetary amounts that should be saved daily. It follows the same pattern as the infamous “52-Week Money Saving Challenge,” where $1 is saved on Week 1, $2 on Week 2, and continues as such until $52 is saved on Week 52. Because this is a 30-day challenge, the dollar amounts increase by one per day. So, to spell it out, $1 is saved on Day 1, $2 on Day 2, and so on until $30 on Day 30. While this can get a bit difficult, especially as the days get higher, you will wind up with a grand total of $465 saved at the end of the month!
Perfect for: Those who can plan to save much more at the end of the month as opposed to the beginning, and budget accordingly.
4. Challenge: The “No Spend” Challenge! While the title is pretty self-explanatory, the basic idea is that for one whole month, money should only be spent necessities. Real necessities. Meaning that if you do not need it to live, you do not buy it. Acceptable things to spend money on during this month would be rent, mortgage, utilities, food and medicine, as opposed to shopping, eating out or any other social activities. This challenge is truly an eye-opener to how much money you actually spend without realizing it. It's about separating needs from wants in your budget. For those preparing for this challenge, here are a few stages that you should expect to go through during your fiscal fast.
Perfect for: Headstrong money-savers who are willing to go all out.
5. Challenge: Greatist’s 30-Day Challenge. While this challenge is specifically geared toward and written out for the month of December, mostly for all of the holiday parties and spending that that month entails, this can be easily customized to fit any month of the year. This challenge is in calendar format, and contains one new tip per day. Many of the tips are specific to the day of the week, with “take leftovers for lunch” being on a Monday and putting “make brunch plans (it’s cheaper than dinner)” on a Saturday. A top choice for the person who doesn’t like total deprivation, this list contains a ton of easy ways to save money without having to give up too much. While the challenge recommends refraining from going out and spending too much on cover fees and drinks at a bar or club, you can still invite friends over and have a good time. Enjoy your party with a $15 bottle of wine as opposed to paying $15 for one drink!
Perfect for: Casual savers who don’t want to feel like they’re closing themselves off to the world
6. Challenge: Shop Your Wardrobe! Created by Jill Chivers, successful businesswoman and creator of “My Year Without Clothes Shopping,” this challenge is directed solely at your closet. While this challenge is mostly geared towards women, there is no stopping any man from trying it out as well, with a few modifications. Guaranteed to activate change for those who can’t help but purchase new clothes on a weekly basis, if not more often, this challenge designates a new theme for each day. For example, while Day 6 gets specific by telling you to wear black with something other than white, Day 11 will leave the creativity in your hands by telling you to wear “something that scares you, just a little bit.” This 30 days will definitely be a new twist on the good old fall-back method of retail therapy.
Perfect for: People who love the thrill of a new outfit, but need to seriously limit their spending habits.
--Written by Ciara Larkin for MainStreet