Budget Hack: Using Short-Term Challenges To Cut Your Spending

Written By Mary Beth Eastman
Last updated August 13, 2018

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Money Saving Tips
August 13, 2018

Simple. Thrifty. Living.

Cutting your spending is a great way to accumulate savings and learn to use your money more wisely. A lot of people, however, feel anxious about the idea of making significant changes to their spending habits.

You can avoid anxious feelings by setting short-term challenges to cut your spending.

Get started by trying some of the following challenges. They don’t take very long, but they can help you stay within your budget.

For each month, choose one weekend when you will not spend any money. Weekends can be expensive, so during this challenge, you won’t eat at restaurants, go to the movies, or enjoy other leisure activities that cost money.

A no-spend weekend doesn’t have to bore you to death. You just have to replace costly activities with free activities. You might want to try:

  • Having friends over for a homemade dinner.
  • Playing board games.
  • Finishing a home improvement project.
  • Watching television instead of going to the theater.

On average, each American throws away about one pound of food per day. That behavior is bad for your wallet and the environment.

You can make reduce your households food waste by completing the Pantry Challenge. Instead of going to the grocery this week, only use food items that you already have at home.

Depending on how much food you have in your pantry and refrigerator, this challenge could take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. Either way, you’ll probably avoid a trip to the grocery store, which means you’ll save some money.

Your community probably has free activities that you rarely take advantage of. Museums and zoos often have free days for members of the community. You may also find that you can enjoy live music, community theater productions, and other activities without spending a dime. Sometimes even your credit card will offer free perks and bonuses, if you just know where to look.

You’ll get the most out of this challenge by selecting a certain amount of time to follow it. You can start with a weekend. Then, you can progress to a week. Eventually, you can challenge yourself to a month of nothing but free events.

No one expects you to commute 10 miles to work on a bicycle. That’s a bit too extreme for most people. You can, however, commit yourself to using a bike to reach all destinations within 3 miles of your home.

You’ll use considerably less gas when you ride your bike to the grocery store, friends’ houses, parks, and other destinations in your neighborhood. Plus, you’ll make your community healthier by adding less exhaust to the air.

Short-term challenges can help you stay within your budget. Eventually, though, you may want to make some of these challenges lifelong habits. For now, just focus on reaching your short-term goal.

About the Author

Mary Beth Eastman

Mary Beth Eastman serves as the content manager for Simple. Thrifty. Living, where she is dedicated to helping readers use money and credit wisely. Mary Beth believes that access to the right financial information paired with a growth mindset are essential tools for getting out of debt and building wealth. Mary Beth has a degree in Journalism from Bowling Green State University and has focused her 20-year journalism career on putting readers front and center, carefully considering their concerns and presenting information that will help them in their everyday lives. She has won numerous statewide journalism awards. Her writing on personal finance as been featured on numerous websites in addition to Simple. Thrifty. Living, including Huffington Post and Lexington Law blog. Mary Beth resides in Pittsburgh, Pa., with her family and two rescue dogs.

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