I’m a frequent Amazon shopper. No joke, the Amazon Prime driver actually waved to me while driving down our street the other day (and we weren’t even getting a delivery!). While I don’t spend a ton of money on discretionary purchases, I’m definitely an impulsive shopper and the Internet makes it way too easy. It’s amazing how I can want something one day, and have it at my doorstep within 24-48 hours.
The month before I did the 34-Day Reset, I paid off my last credit card (yahoo!). Since I now had a bit of extra money in my budget, I spent a lot of time thinking about where those dollars should go. I was feeling very motivated to throw as much money as I could at my next debt—my seemingly insurmountable student loans (cue dramatic music).
When the 34-Day Reset came along, I saw it as an opportunity to see just how much I could milk my budget, and find out how much wiggle room I really had. The challenge had three simple rules to do each day for 34 days:
- Track your spending, every penny.
- Only buy essentials (you decide what your essentials are).
- No eating out (go ahead, wince).
By the end of the challenge, we would be lean, intentional, mindful of our money, and with roughly $1,000 extra dollars in our pockets. I was a little nervous to begin.
We Ordered One Last Pizza Before the Challenge Began
Before the challenge started, we ordered one last pizza and I hoped for the best. I was tempted to go on a spending spree before starting, but I didn’t do that, which felt like a win.
There were several other team members doing the challenge and I found that very motivating. Knowing that I was not alone made the challenge much easier to do, and it was helpful to have others to commiserate (and celebrate!) with.
We Set Our List of Essentials
While “No Eating Out” is rule #3 of the challenge, you do get to decide what counts as essential and what counts as groceries. I swapped our delivery pizza nights for frozen pizza—which, surprisingly, turned out to be just as satisfying. Turns out it’s less about the pizza and more about not cooking! I tried to whittle back on otherwise indulgent grocery purchases, but this wasn’t a diet—I still bought cookies and a few bars of chocolate.
Now that I think about it, I’d say that the grocery aspect was the most difficult for me. I spend a ton of money buying groceries that are convenient but definitely not necessary (think frozen waffles, pancake mix, etc). I also love sweets (hence the chocolate and cookies). While I didn’t cut back entirely on these purchases, I definitely felt more aware of them during the challenge.
See some tips for how to spend less, shop less, and have more fun in the kitchen!
I Saw the Challenge as a Temporary Sprint
Strangely enough, I didn’t miss online shopping as much as I anticipated. I think the fact that the challenge was finite really helped. I wasn’t changing my habits forever, just for 34 days. Hey, I could do that! I found that it helped to keep a list of items that I wanted to buy. Adding them to my online cart felt just as satisfying, and allowed me to “shop” without breaking any rules.
After the first two weeks or so, this quickly felt like my new normal.
I Was Motivated to Look for Ways to Bring in More Cash
The challenge turned out to be a motivating spark to look hard at ways I could bring in extra money. Here’s what I did:
- I had purchased a membership to our children’s museum a few months before COVID hit. They were closed for several months, and although they are now open with restrictions, I don’t feel comfortable going there right now. I contacted them and was able to receive a refund of 50% of my membership fee.
- I had a subscription that I paid for but never used (buyer’s remorse!). Again, with just a quick e-mail, I was able to get my money back—close to $100.
- I downgraded my American Express card to avoid the $95 membership fee that was about to hit my account.
- I sold things that had been sitting in my closet for months.
Our kids are small (3 and 16 months), so we hadn’t been going out much to begin with with COVID restrictions in place, but we had cut way back on unnecessary outings and our social lives had dwindled considerably. In the end, if you save $1,000, it doesn’t matter if COVID restrictions made it easier or harder—you still have $1,000.
I put all “found” money right into the category I had created. It was an easy way to build it up! Around the 30-day mark, things started to feel pretty tight. Having already whittled down my discretionary categories, it became harder and harder to bring in extra money. I stuck with the spending aspect of the challenge and ended up with just over $900 saved!
5 Tips to Make This Challenge Work for You
- Think of something you want to use the money for. Something you’re excited about. Make it motivating.
- If shopping is your weakness, remove external triggers. Delete apps. Unsubscribe from e-mails. Immediately recycle catalogs, circulars, etc.
- Look hard at your expenses. Ask yourself, “How can I reduce this expense?” Then ask yourself again. And again.
- If you slip up, don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, consider what you can do to prevent the slip for the rest of the challenge. Ask yourself what you were trying to do when you “broke the rules”. Were you bored? Hungry? Upset? Make a plan to better address these feelings next time.
- Lean on the YNAB community for support. You’ve got this!
Do something radical. 34-Day Reset is a money challenge designed to help you save more, spend less, and line up your money with what matters most. Ready to begin?