All year long, Clark.com’s Michael Timmermann is sharing quick and easy ways to save money as part of our Michael Saves series. Check in every Monday as he puts new and familiar savings strategies to the test. Sign up for our newsletter to have these stories delivered to your inbox!
Why does it feel like 2017 is flying by? The other day I was having this discussion with a few friends when I realized that pretty soon we’ll be talking about Thanksgiving and Christmas!
Whether this year is going by fast or slow for you, Team Clark is here to help you reach your savings goals.
Save for Christmas 2017 with this 12-week challenge
If you’re looking for some inspiration, I’ve come up with an easy 12-week challenge to get your finances in order before all of the Black Friday shopping madness.
Let’s be clear: This challenge is a little different from most others that require you to save “X” amount per week.
Instead, it’s focused on action items. I’m challenging you to do one thing each week to improve your financial situation — increasing earnings, reducing spending or both — and save $1,000 or more.
Here’s a sample 12-week challenge, followed by some of the strategies that have worked for me:
1. Save $1 and $5 bills: Do you have a piggy bank around the house? Rather than just throwing your change in there, add $1 and $5 bills. I’ve saved $180 in just three months by stashing away $5 bills.
2. Shop for auto insurance: You don’t have to wait until your policy is up for renewal to shop for a better rate! I get auto insurance quotes from a handful of companies every six months.
3. Switch cell phone provider: Do you really need unlimited data? That’s what the Big 4 wireless providers are pushing, but there are incredible deals from smaller carriers for those who use less data.
4. Create a Waste Log: In January, I shared the five lists that I use to save money. Creating a Waste Log of the food items I throw away has been really eye-opening. I now update this list using a note-taking app.
5. Lower or eliminate one bill: Every now and then, I call up my service providers and politely ask for a lower rate. This is most effective when you have an offer from a competitor to reference.
Companies to call:
- Satellite radio
- Cell phone
- Gym membership
- Security services
- Pest control
6. No eating out for 7 days: One of the easiest ways to save money is to stop going to restaurants! I’ve really cut down the number of drive-thru visits since I bought an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker.
7. Download a cash-back app: Coupon apps are a great way to save money on groceries. I’ve earned well over $1,500 since May 2014 using three of them. I particularly love Ibotta — known for its generous welcome bonus.
8. Earn a sign-up bonus: Looking for a new bank? Need a new credit card? Opening up a new checking, savings or credit card account with some banks can earn you $200 or more! Just make sure you can meet the requirements to avoid fees.
9. Choose a personal challenge: I left a space in the challenge for a personal goal. My plan is to experiment with a new DIY laundry detergent recipe since I’ve already started making my own dishwasher detergent tabs.
10. No-spend workweek: No-spend weekends can be tricky because it’s when families schedule most of their activities. Instead, try a no-spend workweek.
11. Donate or sell something: Old electronics, jewelry, clothing and furniture are only collecting dust in your attic. Take an hour to get organized and turn them into cash. Here are the best places to sell.
12. Earn an extra $50: Already trimmed your budget to the bone? Find a side hustle. If you like pets, consider signing up for Rover.com. As an occasional dog boarder, I’ve charged up to $50 a night.
Read more: 29 easy ways to make extra cash each month
Are you up for the challenge?
The great thing about this 12-week money challenge is that you can customize it to make it work for you! Click here to print out a blank 12-week challenge or click here to print out the one shown above.