The Motivated Millennial: 30-day Money Challenge Recap

July 31 - Natalie Merola

30-day Money Challenge Recap:

This month’s money challenge shared daily expenses and vacation budgeting. During summer, it can be a challenge to save when the tendency to splurge increases with more time on our hands. What we discovered throughout the different experiences were specific patterns that increased or decreased spending. It is tough to visualize how much we spend when we use cards and forget how to balance expenses. Getting into the details and behaviors are strategies for how we can improve today and achieve those future long term goals.

Our Experiences

Finances aren’t an easy or pleasant topic, but it doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. Being honest with yourself and your goals is how you set money intentions. Then the next important part is to literally see how much you’re spending. Now I know we have all seen those online webinars and cover stories about couples paying off their debt in months. It can seem unattainable because we don’t make a certain amount per year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t set small goals to take care of things today. Budgeting has that connotation for depleting the fun from life, but it can have positive mindfulness when properly implemented. This can be interpreted into many things for different people, so let’s dive into these findings from our experiences.

Behaviors to Kick to the Curb

  1. Avoidance. It isn’t going to disappear if you ignore it or refuse to own it. Instead of letting it grow uncontrollably or only throwing the minimum payment at it each month, it’s time to get serious and do the math. (Ugh, I know!) But sometimes you need to face that reality, and start living wisely, so future you is thankful later.
  2. Don’t shop just because. (Yes, I’m looking at all of us at Target. Step away from the cart slowly…) If you have a sizable chunk of debt and you want to bring it down, there are purchases better left in that cart. If it comes down to shopping between home decor and gas, you know which route to take. It may not be the cool thing to do, but it’s one strategy to help you refocus your spending habits. Is it a necessity? Can you live without it for now? Strategize before you end up cluttered with debt and a scattered living space. Retail spaces are designed to get you to shop more, so of course it is tempting. However, don’t you want to be the hero in your own story?
  3. To Latte or Not Latte? Ok, so you don’t have to give up coffee or tea. However, you can save money by making it yourself at home. It also might help your health, depending on the ingredients used at home. Purchasing a reusable cup is also a good investment that helps the environment. I’m seeing more pros than cons here. It’s a win-win in my book!
  4. Put up the blinders to the neon lights: bars, restaurants, and fast food. Our moms were right. (Shh!) Cooking at home not only helps us better plan for our week, but it also saves cash and calories. Eating food with less sugar and salt in my experience has slashed my spending and bloating down stat. You can also expect to do the dishes more, but you’ll be more thoughtful of what you’re eating and how much of your paycheck should be budgeted accordingly.

Tips to Help Keep More Cash in your Pocket and Bank Account

  1. Have a plan. Do you know your monthly income? How much of this is for your bills? How much is left over? How much can you afford to save each paycheck? These are things you should know. If this sounds like something new to you, that’s okay! It’s time to get real and have a strategy to protect your finances. We can make small or big steps, but taking no action at all is counterproductive.
  2. Set up a direct deposit for the designated savings per each paycheck. From different stages of life and making varying amounts of money compared to others, you know how much you can save per paycheck. Whether it is $10 or $500, you have to start somewhere. At your job, you can set up two direct deposits if need be. This way you can have one deposit into your regular checking to go towards necessities. The second deposit then appears to be nonexistent. Why? It is going into a savings account that you will now pretend doesn’t exist unless in case of an emergency. (Note: Buying the latest Louis Vuitton bag is not life-threatening. Today is not the day. It will be okay, I promise.) After setting this strategy for myself, I realized and could visualize savings in motion.
  3. Give yourself a budget for the fun things! Realistically, there are many things going on all of the time, and we need a break from our daily routines. Buying that cookie or dinner out every once in a while is not going to break the bank. After knowing your numbers and setting up ways to save a percentage of your income, it’s good to withdraw cash for these types of expenditures. Giving up the physical cash makes me feel hesitant to go through with purchases. You mean I have to hand it over? No, I don’t need it that bad. It changes your perspective and reminds you to face those spending patterns. If you start to notice these types of patterns increase, it’s time to have a self-auditing session.
  4. Stick to your budget. (Yes, even on vacation.) For the majority of us, our cards are not endless money pits. Keeping this in mind, decide how you’re going to pay for things on your trip. If cash isn’t the safest option, set ground rules for card usage. Plan food outings, ride shares, rental cars, and additional activities. You can still enjoy your time, but don’t forget you have to foot the bill when you get home. (And that rent or mortgage payment? Yeah, it isn’t going anywhere.) One vacation tip from our experiences is to buy your own drinks and mixers. This perfectly pairs with being a responsible adult in more ways than one!
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