When the idea of doing the 34-Day Reset first came up, my first thought was, “There’s no way I’ll get my husband on board with this.”
I’m a Senior Support Specialist here at YNAB—and as you can imagine, that means my husband hears an awful lot about budgeting—probably more than he’d like. In addition to my budgeting chit-chat, I also implement lots of changes to our budget, based on team comments and blog posts (he had quite the reaction to the Wish Farm which totally changed our budget).
So enter the 34-Day Reset: a 34-day savings challenge with three daily rules.
34-Day Reset Rules
- Track your spending (easy, since we use YNAB)
- Only buy essentials (you decide your essentials)
- No eating out (eek!)
To my great surprise, when I asked him if he’d be up for this new challenge, he actually seemed sort of interested! Granted, his interest might be related to some recent job changes, and he was already looking for ways to cut back—but I think he was more excited in the gamification of the challenge. This was a budgeting exercise at its core, but it was covered in a colorful cloak of FUN!
We did the whole challenge together, and I want to tell you about our experience along with some tips if you find yourself joining the challenge with a previously (or currently) reluctant partner.
Decide On Your Spending Rules Together
Knowing that we could come up with our own spending rules for essentials was a key point for Dave to join the challenge. For example, while dining out was excluded from the challenge, we’d agreed we could still buy a take-out meal if his brother and family came to town, as we had planned to do before the start of the challenge (and prior to the recent COVID restrictions). We talked about not spending money on coffee, but we had several unused gift cards to local coffee places and—together—we decided that didn’t count as spending and we’d make use of those on days where we just needed a treat (a decision I was forever grateful for mid-challenge). Having some flexibility to shape the challenge around our month was important!
Work Through the Frustrations Together
Yes—there were TOUGH days! My husband would often shout out certain YNAB marketing team members’ names in frustration (“Thanks a lot, Jesse!” was said quite often, which was funny, because Jesse wasn’t even doing the challenge when we ran it with our internal team). Or, I’d be tempted to order from Door Dash after a tough day, as no one else was actually tracking my spending or saving (if no one else knows, did the challenge cheat actually happen?!).
I thought the challenge may have broken my husband when he found $1 on the soccer fields while watching our daughter’s games and celebrated yelling, “It’s found money! I can get a coffee today!!” He did get coffee, for the record. It may have been the sweetest cup of coffee he’s ever tasted.
Side note: YNABers, you know the utter bliss of finding unbudgeted cash! For non-YNABers, this might seem a little odd, but just know your brain starts thinking about this cash a little differently the deeper you get into budgeting and it does indeed often function like free money.
Throughout the challenge, we persevered and working together kept us balanced and allowed us to check our reasons for wanting to spend before it happened.
Find Where You Can Cut Back or Bring in More
Our saving focused on cutting back in a few categories and budgeting less to others on payday. My husband sold a few items and willingly put those funds towards our 34-Day Reset category, whereas outside of the challenge, he would have lobbied to have that money for personal spending.
Living with those changes for the month was massively effective, and together, we realized areas we could permanently make changes in our budget. We ended up cancelling a few subscription services we no longer needed and those savings dollars were funnelled directly to our 34-Day Reset category. The growing balance in that category was a very cool way to literally see the results of our hard work and teamwork.
Support Each Other On Days You’re Not Feeling It
This challenge also helped us to see the link between our moods and our spending. On days where I felt tired and stressed, Dave jumped in and offered to run to the grocery store and put a meal together, rather than immediately suggesting we go out to dinner.
Sidenote: that leads to my favorite part of the entire month, when Dave came home from the grocery store with the weekly flyer and asked, “Did you know the grocery store has sales?!”
Another day, when he was feeling down about a work situation, we sat and chatted about it, rather than going shopping and splurging on something we didn’t need.
Celebrate Your Success
At the end of the month, we had saved $900! Most of it still sits in our budget as we feel so proud of those dollars, but there is one celebration that happened with the money.
Before I tell you how we celebrated, a little backstory: Dave and I have been married for just over 15 years. For the last 10 years or so, whenever one of us was having a really bad or sad day, Dave would joke, “$100 Target shopping spree?”—suggesting that spending $100 on random fun stuff would just make you feel better.
Now, we’ve never actually done that (hello, I’m a budgeter!), but it always made us laugh just thinking about what we’d get.
So while we are still hanging onto most of our 34-Day Reset savings, I decided to do something fun for him with some of the money from the challenge (since he was such a trooper during the challenge and surprised me by jumping in and committing fully to the process). I took him to Target and told him: “$100 Target shopping spree!” He about died of excitement…
Learn to Be a Team with Your Money Decisions
My husband often takes a backseat with the budgeting as our budget is (was?) a fairly well-oiled machine, but this challenge allowed him to feel like more of a budgeting partner—and I’m grateful for that. Sure, I’ll still do most of the legwork with the day-to-day budget management, but we can make our money decisions together. Recognizing these roles we play when budgeting has helped us be more aware during our budget conversations, and we’re now having more fun as we continue making money decisions—together.
7 Quick Tips for Doing the 34-Day Reset With a Partner
- Decide on your spending rules and boundaries for essential purchases together.
- Discuss and agree on possible exceptions to the rules.
- Create a goal that you both can get excited about for the 34-Day Reset dollars.
- If you’re using YNAB, do not pull funds from categories without discussion—decide together. The same goes for things like cancelling subscriptions or services that affect you both.
- Check in with each other regarding temptations to spend and lean on the other person when you need it.
- Gamify the challenge for even more fun! Use the tracker from the workbook, hang it somewhere visible, and cross off each day with vengeance.
- Pro-tip: If your partner was reluctant to join at the start, make sure you end the challenge with a special treat or splurge using some of your saved 34-Day Reset dollars.
For more resources on budgeting with a partner, we have a whole slew of them here.
If you haven’t joined the challenge yet, I encourage you to take the plunge. Good luck on tackling this challenge together, and don’t forget to have fun!