The end of 2016 is rapidly approaching and honestly....thank goodness. A lot has happened this year, both good and bad, and I'm ready for a completely new start! Along with pretty much the rest of the planet, I've been making some resolutions for 2017 when the good folks over at Earnest, the loan refinancing company, suggested taking on their money saving challenge for the new year! As a college freshman, I've never had more financial responsibility than I do right now. As such, I need to start stepping up and not splurging all my money on, say, that online flash sale or the milkshake machine at Wawa. So without further ado, this is the Money Saving Challenge 2017! Are you willing to undertake the challenge?
Earnest split 2017 into quarters and has set financial goals for each month. (All the goals are broken down in the graphics from Earnest for quick reminders!) For January, they suggest splitting a possible holiday bonus into thirds, which is a great challenge! Now, if you're like me and don't have a bonus coming, here's an alternative challenge: try cutting out one service you don't really use or one that isn't a necessity. This means Netflix or cable, Pandora radio, food delivery instead of grocery shopping etc. This might be difficult at first, but your bank account will thank you!
In February, Earnest suggests taking a 30 day break from your favorite coffee shop and brew at home. This is the perfect opportunity to kick that caffeine-infused Starbucks habit that you swear you don't have. And we're not suggesting going without, just try breaking out your neglected Keurig and get sipping!
The tip for the month of March is actually one of my personal financial resolutions for the year: stop online shopping (for at least one month)! Nothing gets me going like seeing the words FLASH SALE pop up in my inbox and nothing de-stresses me more than clicking the ORDER button so it's pretty safe to say I'm an online shopping addict. I really need to start curbing this habit--if only for that extra Wawa money!
In April, Earnest suggests splitting your tax return into thirds (much like your holiday bonus). If you're like me and have never had a tax return or aren't expecting a big one, here's an alternative challenge: create (and contribute to!) an emergency fund for yourself. Now, an emergency fund and a savings account are often seen as the same thing but I suggest splitting them because, if you're like me, you sometimes dip into your savings to tide you over until the end of the month. By creating an untouchable, strictly-emergencies-only fund you will always have money for the unpredictable moments in life.
In May, Earnest suggests bringing a bagged lunch to the office for 30 days. I brought my lunch to school everyday throughout high school--always leftovers from last nights dinner. (Leftovers are always better anyway) Brownbag it for a month and see how much those daily visits to the taco truck are taking a toll on your bank account (not to mention your waistline)! If you're in college, like me, I suggest an amended version of this challenge: stop late night deli or snack bar runs and instead stock up on (healthier?) definitely cheaper alternatives during a weekly or biweekly grocery store run.
June is again one of my own financial resolutions: cut eating-out expenses back to a maximum of one per week! Yes, I have a meal plan that is more than enough to get me through week to week but dining hall food is notoriously repetitive and sometimes I tire of the same options. This is why Panera Bread delivery has been both a blessing and a curse. By limiting myself to only ordering in once a week, at a maximum, I'm forcing myself to really reconsider my food priorities and stand back in line for the salad bar.
For the month of July, Earnest suggests evaluating your debt and considering refinancing any loans you may have--perhaps with Earnest! Perfect for refinancing your student or personal loans, Earnest offers dedicated service that cuts out the middle man--Earnest is with you until your loan is fully repaid! With Earnest, if you lose your job, you can have your payments postponed for a total of 12 months. Earnest looks at more than just your credit score and debt level, taking into account your education and employment histories among other information. Check out this article comparing Earnest to other student loan refinancers, and check out Earnest at Earnest.com for all your refinancing needs! (All this information I researched and found on my own from a 3rd party site and was not given to me by representatives of Earnest.com)
For the month of August, try taking a 30 day break from your favorite happy hour spot! This could be the perfect opportunity to brush up on your bartending skills! As someone under 21, I can't actually enjoy happy hour for a few more years so I can amend this challenge into: take a break from your favorite lunch/takeout spot! Go cold turkey for a full 30 days, sticking solely to your meal plan or your grocery store buys. Make yourself a weekly meal plan, buy a lunchbox, and get ready to restore your bank account! If you follow my June challenge, that will surely prepare you for August.
My challenge for the month of September is to dedicate increasing amounts of money to your savings account (or emergency fund!). Start with something simple like 1 dollar the first week, amp it up to 5 the next week, 10 the next etc. Challenge yourself to transfer as much money as possible into your savings--and then don't touch it! This might mean one less Grande Frappuccino or a few fewer trips to 7/11 (or, in my case, Wawa).
In October, try creating a holiday budget that includes everything from travel to food and gifts! Your annual Halloween raging bash? Budget it in before the holiday shows up so there are no surprises in your account and you can focus on the quality instead of the quantity. If you budget out holiday gifts you can make sure to get something for everyone on your list without feeling overwhelmed by your credit card statements. (Pssst, if you need help understanding credit cards and finance in general check out my post here, and if you need help budgeting I've got the post for you right here)
For November, challenge yourself to take the month off and stop shopping for yourself! Of course, continue to buy yourself groceries, toilet paper, shampoo--things we all can't (and shouldn't) live without. But as the holidays approach and you're undoubtedly spending a significant portion of your paycheck on gifts for others, save the boots that you absolutely-cannot-live-without for next month. Better yet--put them on your holiday wish list and maybe Santa will surprise you!
Finally, in December, my fourth and final personal financial resolution for 2017: set a maximum amount on all of your spending by maintaining a minimum balance in your checking account. Force yourself to stay above a certain line--for me, setting my minimum balance at $50 for the month would be a good challenge. A great way to check your 'accidental' spending, forcing yourself to stay above a certain number forces you to pay attention to what you're spending your money on and reprioritize.
There you have it! Inspired by Earnest.com, here is the Money Saving Challenge 2017! Will you be undertaking the challenge? Let's chat about it in the comments or on any of my Social pages!
I did not receive any compensation for this post from Earnest.com or their affiliates and all opinions stated within this post are, as always, my own.