This was originally published on Monday,January 26, 2015, in the Pacific Daily News. Click here to subscribe to the PDN.
When people think of savings, budgets or debt, they automatically get a heavy feeling of despair. They start thinking of drastic ways their everyday life is going to change. Yes, making changes of any kind takes some effort. Change is always uncomfortable but it does not have to be. I have gone online and found a few New Year’s challenges that you can try.
• 52-week challenge. This is probably one of the most popular and easiest challenges. There are 52 weeks in a year. At the beginning of each week, deposit the number of dollars that corresponds to that week. For week one, deposit $1; for week two, deposit $2; and so on. By week 52, you would save $1,378! You can deposit the money into a jar or savings account. If you deposit it into a savings account you will earn interest.
I have also read that you can start backwards by depositing $52 the first week and $1 the last week. This is beneficial since most of us need that extra money for the holidays. The hardest part is not spending it.
• Track your expenses. For 30 days, track every expense you make, even that $5 purchase for gum and a bottle of water. By week two, you will get a better understanding of your spending habits. Because you can literally see where your money is going, you may start to change before the 30 days are over.
• Cash Only. This is another 30-day challenge. For 30 days, leave your credit/debit cards at home and only use cash. Having your cards on you makes it easy to stray off your budget and to lose track of how much you spend. By having a limited amount of money, you will make wiser spending choices. After a while, you will get tired of having to run to the bank to make withdrawals.
• The morning minute. Take a minute or two before you get started in the morning to view your accounts. Knowing what your balance is at the beginning of the day gives you an idea of how well you are sticking to your budget. Review your spending habits from the past day. Watching your balance get smaller is never fun, but you will think twice before making unnecessary purchases.
• Necessity challenge. For a month, pay only for your necessities (food, rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance, etc.). Do not make any other purchases. Do not eat out, buy clothes or go to a movie. This is difficult, but not having these luxury purchases will give you an appreciation for your hard-earned money.
• Spare change challenge. At the end of the day, throw your spare change into a jar and watch it grow. At the end of the year, take your spare change to the bank. You will be surprised just how much you saved. If you really want a challenge, add all your spare $1 bills in as well. Try not to dip into the jar.
• The de-clutter challenge. Every month, go through your clothes, your children’s clothing and toys, and other parts of the household that you can rid of clutter. Once you have enough items, have a yard sale or go to the flea market. You will not get what you paid for them, but you will earn a little extra cash. Or you can donate them to a thrift store. Ask the thrift store for a tax deductible slip that you can use toward your income taxes in April.
There are many more challenges out there. Get creative and find other ways to save. If you really want to add some fun, get your family, co-workers and even neighbors involved. Create an office pool of who can save the most or have a neighborhood yard sale. Challenges are always much more fun when done with others.
Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at email@example.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.