Save More And Have Fun With Money Savings Challenges

My Antarctica Fund Tracker

Saving money is hard.

Saving money is boring.

WRONG!

Saving money can be fun!

I’ve just discovered money savings challenges 😄

Disclosure: Please note that I may benefit from purchases made through my affiliate links below, at no cost to you. Additionally, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases

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No Spend Challenge

Let’s go back to the beginning …

When I first found FIRE, I really struggled with the idea of frugality.

To me, frugality was about deprivation, scarcity and restriction.

It was not very me. I was about excess, abundance and being able to spend freely on whatever I want to spend on.

I’ll give you an example.

When I walk into a chocolate store, I will walk away with nearly one of everything from the display cabinet because I want to taste everything. My friend will agonise and select maybe three to try. (No judgement here – I love my friend but I never want to be limited to 3 out of lots of delicious options)

And so one of the first challenges I did was the Frugalwoods’ Uber Frugal Month challenge.

As the name suggests, it was a month long challenge.

The key word here is challenge.

Because in the same month, I also had a short trip to Sydney planned. Plus I had scheduled my crumbling fence to be replaced and new plants were being purchased.

So I was on tenterhooks for that whole month, trying hard not to spend any more money. I was anxious and guilty as the bills for the new fence and plants rolled in. And trying to justify meals out with friends in Sydney.

The good thing about the challenge was that I discovered I could make coffee at home at a fraction of the price at a cafe. And 3 years later, I still enjoy my coffee from my stove top moka pot.

Doing the challenge opened my eyes to how I spent money. I learnt how to question what I was buying; if I needed it or if I just wanted it. I still can’t call myself frugal but I have reined in my general spending habits.

But I have never participated in another money savings challenge.

Until now.

 

Roll the Dice Challenge

At the start of November, I saw an instagram post from @gofrombroke

And something lit up within me.

At the time, I was writing about how automating my money flow takes away my lack of self control and discipline because it made saving and investing so easy and convenient.

It brought one thing to my attention. I have one sinking fund that is not automated ie I don’t have any savings automatically going into this account.

This is my Antarctica fund, as separate to my Travel fund.

I had set up the Antarctica fund at the end of 2020 as a way of making my dream of visiting Antarctica more real. It is one of my goals for this decade (2 years down, 8 to go). Plus I’d asked to tag along with Frogdancer Jones on her trip.

Visiting Antarctica is expensive! And my travel fund has to pay for other more immediate travel especially to London to visit family.

Initially, I automated savings into this account. But it conflicted with other priorities, namely home maintenance and I stopped the automation.

So the only savings going into this account now was earnings from Octopus Group surveys plus cash back from purchases using Cashrewards.

When I saw @gofrombroke’s instagram post about a Roll the Dice challenge, I decided to try it.

Every morning, I roll the dice digitally and whatever number came up, I transferred the dollar amount into my Antarctica account.

Amazingly, it was fun and I only forgot a couple of mornings. I then made it up by rolling twice the next day and transferred both amounts.

So far after 28 days, I have transferred $194!

I had a bit of cash flow problem on the second week and had to wait for my pay to hit the bank account before I could transfer that day’s savings.

But overall, I haven’t suffered or felt deprived in any way.

While $194 is not an earth shattering amount, it is much more than what I thought I’d be able to transfer monthly.

So what should I do now? Automate that amount monthly?

 

More Money Savings Challenges

Because I quite enjoyed this savings challenge, I’ve decided to do more!

I will do a savings challenge each month and all proceeds will go to the Antarctica fund.

Hopefully, this keeps the Antarctica fund front and centre in my brain and will motivate me to save more.

But I will automate the savings whenever I can.

Knowing me – if it’s not an easy system, I will get tired of it and forget to do it.

So this is what I’m going to do for the next few months.

December Savings Challenge

Traditionally December is a high spend month for me, with hosting Christmas lunch and gifts and entertaining family back from overseas. Think lots of eating out, entrance fees … a festive and social time catching up with everyone. It will be money well spent and I don’t begrudge it.

This is when I am most grateful for automation – I know my usual savings and investing goals are taken care of.

There are lots of $2 per day or save every $5 note suggestions on the internet. I hardly use cash these days so am ruling out the $5 note idea.

 

I think I can do better than $2 per day so will try a $3 per day savings challenge.

I will automate these amounts to be deposited weekly on Sundays.

January Savings Challenge

January is usually our hottest month in Melbourne, with highs in the 40s (Celsius).

So … my money savings challenge is tied to the highest temperature!

A popular challenge on the internet is to save the dollar amount of the highest temperature on Wednesdays. Others suggest averaging the week’s highest temperatures and saving the average. Do I look at actual temperatures or the forecasted highs?

Sigh, already overthinking!

So I’ll keep it simple and just check the highest forecast for Wednesdays and transfer that amount. I won’t be able to automate this.

February Savings Challenge

February is the shortest month so I’ll do the Save the Day challenge. But in reverse.

The usual way is to save $1 on day 1, $2 on day 2 and so on.

But I think it’ll be easier to start on the bigger number first and then it gets progressively easier.

The first week will be tough – $28 + $27 + $26 + $25 + $24 + $23 + $22 = $175 !!

But the final week will be easy peasy 🙂

March Onwards

I may change this when March rolls around. We’ll see.
 
Because this is when I think my patience may run out!
 
So I will just do a year’s challenge starting in March.
 
Just like the Save the Day challenge in February, I’ll do Save the Week in reverse once again.
 
Week 1 – save $52
 
Week 2 – save $51 and so on
 
I will save $1378 (!) at the end of 52 weeks.

Final Thoughts

Saving money doesn’t have to be hard or boring.

Add a little bit of fun by doing some money savings challenges.

You’d be surprised as to how much more you can save!

There are no spend challenges – I like them for challenging your spending habits. You quickly work out what you spend your money on. Self awareness is the first step in reining in a spending habit.

Or you can sign up to round up purchases – there are phone apps or your bank may offer this service – save the round up bits to another account. For example, coffee costs $3.60 – save 40 cents (rounded up to $4) I don’t like these as much because it depends on me spending and I’m trying not to spend!

I’ve chosen my money savings challenges based on them saving real dollars into my account.

And automating them as much as possible will take away my lack of self control and discipline – who knows how I’ll feel in February but if I’ve locked in the automations, it will just happen automatically.

I’m off now to lie on the couch and set up these automations. And set up reminders for the 4 Wednesdays in January to check the forecast high that day.

I’m feeling chuffed that my Antarctica fund is getting some TLC, making the possibility of visiting a lot more possible ❄️🐧 

What money savings challenges have you tried? Please share them below and inspire me to try them too!

My Bare Bones Budget

Bare bones budget
What do I really need?

I hate budgeting. In fact, I don’t budget.

So what is a bare bones budget and why do I want one?

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When I finished tallying up my 2020 expenses, I was ecstatic. It was the lowest amount spent since I started tracking expenses in 2018. It shouldn’t be a surprise as I didn’t travel overseas at all.

I’ve always been concerned about having too much work in my full time job and being burned out again. Until 2020, that is – when the possibility of being out of work suddenly seemed more real.

I do have an emergency fund with six months of expenses, based on 2018/19 expenses which include travel and holidays.

What I want to know is – how much further can I stretch this emergency fund, if I only spend on the essentials and nothing else?

And that is a bare bones budget – a budget where only the essentials are considered ie only your needs, not wants or desires or nice-to-haves, no discretionary spending at all.

Having a bare bones budget should help me sleep better at night – this is the figure that will enable me to survive in a worst case scenario.

So I deep dived into my 2020 expenses, critically looking at each expense with this question – do I need this or do I want it? The exercise is harder than I thought it would be!

 

Housing - my biggest expense

Housing which includes utilities is my biggest category – and 2020 was no exception. It accounts for 35% of my total expenses.

So what is essential and what is not?

The essentials are:

Local council rates $1733

Home and Contents insurance $989.81 (with $500 excess)

Water $953

Gas $1081.16

Electricity $195.05

Home phone & internet $900

Home maintenance $1396 (front door lock & 2 insurance claims)

Garden $303 (potting mix, manure etc, vegetable seedlings)

Total = $7551.02

Note to self – must look at internet provider and see if I can switch to a cheaper provider

My non essentials included a cleaner and gardener and buying 3 wicking garden beds. I used to have a cleaner for 2 hours once a fortnight but that ceased in early March last year. I will not engage another one. My Roomba is doing quite well with keeping my floor clean.

The gardener is another issue – I used to classify the expense as essential when I worked all hours in the day. But now that I’m working less hours and learning how to grow vegetables, I will reduce the frequency and take on more tasks in the garden.

 

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Food, glorious food (& groceries)

Part of my 2020 food & grocery expenses included buying for my parents during the second hard lockdown but I was shocked that my 2020 food category was $2000 more than in 2019!

This doesn’t include eating out and entertaining at home, which I hardly did in 2020.

Surely, I didn’t buy that much chocolate, chips and ice cream! I know I indulged in comfort eating last year … but holy smokes!

Fresh food has increased in price plus I shopped at local vegetable and fruit shops instead of the more economical markets a bit further from home. I already don’t buy much processed food or convenience style foods eg ready made sauces – I make a lot of my meals from scratch.

So, let’s watch this space in 2021. Fingers crossed, with my ramped up efforts for vegetable gardening, I can reduce some of this expense this year.

What was essential? I’d say $3500 would be reasonable.

 

Health

I didn’t visit a GP at all in 2020 but visited the osteopath more than usual. Had a couple of falls and needed extra work.

Osteopath $450 – but is it essential? Debatable as I would put up with the pain and take pain medications? I would probably reduce the frequency or limit it to treatment rather than tune ups.

I visited the dentist twice in 2020 for routine check ups at out of pocket cost of $177.40 (the balance covered by my health insurance). This is on the low side for me – nothing major needed fixing last year.

I pay my health insurance annually – $1621.72 – if I were stretched financially, I would pay monthly but it is an essential expense for me.

I do take a few supplements but are they really essential? Guess not. I also take over the counter medicines for my hayfever … are they essential? Perhaps.

And my personal trainer? Nope

So, my essential spending for health related expenses would be $2300, with a small buffer for GP visits or prescription medicines.

Professional registration and indemnity insurance

I would still need to be registered by my professional body and have adequate indemnity insurance if I were unemployed and looking for work in the same industry. Plus I am a member in the professional association.

I pay these costs annually. Even though they are tax deductible, I will still need to pay the fees up front then claim back on my tax return.

Total = $1417

 

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Clothing

I spent a whopping $13 on socks in 2020. I didn’t buy any other piece of clothing or shoes. I basically lived in my pajamas and work uniform, such was life in 2020.

It’s probably unrealistic to assign zero dollars to this category – so let’s assign $200 as essential.

Personal hygiene & grooming

I’m fairly low maintenance but do suffer from eczema so I use body wash from the pharmacy instead of soap. I’m allergic to most make up so don’t use make up at all.

I was getting my hair cut at a home salon ($15) but since the Coronavirus outbreak, my hairdresser has ceased operations. Having my hair cut in a cheap, no frills, no appointments necessary hairdresser in a shopping centre mall cost $35 to $45. So I’ve been trimming the fringe myself and letting the rest grow longer.

My essential spending here is $350

What is missing?

Currently, my work provides me with a car and mobile phone so I have no expenses here.

Therefore if I lose my job, these privileges would be lost too.

I am assuming that my job loss is temporary – I will get by with public transport, Uber and perhaps borrowing my parents’ car. I can walk to my local shopping centre to buy food and groceries. But I will need to travel to job interviews.

So I’ll assign $1000 here.

I have old mobile phones that I can just insert a pre paid SIM card so maybe $600 here is adequate.

Total

To summarise:

Housing $7551

Food & groceries $3500

Health $2300

Professional fees $1417

Clothing $200

Personal hygiene & grooming $350

Transport $1000

Mobile phone $600

Grand total = $16918

This means that my current emergency fund can last for more than 12 months, based on my bare bones budget. What a relief!

Final Thoughts

Having a bare bones budget is highly reassuring.

I now know the minimum I need to survive for a year, if I were to lose my job.This minimum amount is based on real figures (except for the transport and mobile phone parts which are estimates) so I can be confident it can be done.

Going through my expenses and asking if I needed or wanted it is eye opening. I do ask myself this as I am spending but perhaps I’m not so honest in the heat of the moment 🙂

I am very glad I did the exercise as I have identified further areas that I can work on in 2021. It is comforting to know there are areas I can improve upon and thus achieve extra savings.

 

Have you ever done a bare bones budget?