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!

How to automate your money flow in 5 simple steps

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I don’t know about you, but I don’t have much will power.

For example, I want to lose weight (psst … menopause and lockdown comfort eating are not a good combo). BUT I just bought baklava and a vanilla slice from a new cafe in my local shopping centre. All I did was walk past the enticing window display and I’m done for.

The same lack of will power can apply to the money flowing out of our lives.

We know we have to start investing for that looming retirement, pay off debt and save for a longed for holiday and so on and so forth.

We know what we have to do. And yet it can be mightily difficult to execute, even though we have powerful intentions.

My answer to this lack of will power in my finances is to automate my money flow.

You make a decision once and set up the automation. You no longer need to decide each week or month if you should transfer $50 or $150 into savings.

It will automatically be done already.

 

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Other benefits of automating your money flow

Not only do you solve the will power issue, it is so convenient once everything is set up.

You spend much less time remembering to pay the bills, or transfer money into retirement accounts or shunt money into the Christmas fund.

Because automating your money flow makes it all … well, automatic.

Even though it is automatic, you can still build in increments into your system. For example, increase your savings by 1% every month or couple of months.

The hard part is at the beginning – setting up your system, deciding which accounts to fund, how much to transfer etc

But before we get into the ‘how’, there are two principles that underpin how we manage our money.

Pay yourself first

Before I found the concept of FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early), my money philosophy was to pay my mortgage and bills first. And then I can spend everything that is left over and save for any upcoming holidays.

After discovering FIRE, I was introduced to the principle of paying myself first.

That is, investing and saving are the first priorities followed by expenses and everything else. I had just paid off my mortgage when I found FIRE so debt was no longer an issue. Otherwise, repaying debt would be a top priority too.

The investing is for future me while the saving is for the current or the near future me (think holidays, car purchase etc)

Spend less than you earn

The second principle is that we cannot possibly get ahead if we spend more than we earn.
 
Therefore we have to work out a budget (it’s ok, I don’t like the word either!) – I prefer to call it a spending plan. It’s just a matter of assigning jobs to your money – this much for groceries, this amount for utilities etc.
 
It is much more accurate if you can look at past credit card or bank statements and assess your expenses. It is also a good time to decide which expenses you can reduce or modify in order to find extra cash to invest and save ie to pay yourself first.
 
Now that we have these two principles in mind, we can get into the ‘how’ of automating your money flow.

Step 1 - Decide on your investing and saving priorities

There are always many competing priorities for your money.

Which should you do first – pay off the mortgage, student loans, credit card or save for the holiday? How about saving for retirement?

Using the principle of paying yourself first, decide how much you want to save towards retirement, investment and an emergency fund.

Personally I salary sacrifice a small amount towards my superannuation (retirement account) weekly from my pre tax salary. So this is automated by my employer.

Check with your HR department if they can automatically deduct a contribution from your pay and deposit it into your retirement account. And check if your empoyer has a match. If they do, make sure you’ve automated at least that percentage of your pay towards your retirement account.

Next, decide which debt you want to tackle first and how much you want to put towards various debts.

It is a juggling act at first. I like to do this on a piece of paper and adjust amounts as I factor in living expenses.

In the beginning you may not have quite enough for savings and investment but as you adjust your expenses, you will find more cash.

I encourage you to nominate a sum for savings and investment, however small to begin with; automate the transfers and then adjust later if necessary.

This is your blueprint which you’ll implement later.

Step 2 - Automate payment of recurring bills

How do you currently pay your electricity, gas, water, telephone bills?

You can arrange for bills to be automatically deducted from a credit card or directly debited from a bank account. Some suppliers even give you a discount for paying on time.

In my situation, my electricity, gas and telephone bills are automatically paid when they are due via my credit card. The water bill is directly debited from my ING everyday account. My insurances are also automatically deducted from my credit card.

Just bacause these bills are paid automatically doesn’t mean you don’t review them. I review my bills when they are emailed, just like I would if I pay them manually.

I also have recurring memberships or bills in US$ for my blog. These are debited from my ING everyday account which waives foreign exchange fees (if the eligibility criteria is met the previous month).

Therefore I make sure I leave a buffer in this account so I always have enough for all these automatic deductions.

How do you pay your credit card bill?

This too can be automated so you never have to pay interest charges in case you forget to pay on time.

It may be a bit tricky if you don’t have an everyday transaction account at the same bank. There may be paperwork to fill in – to arrange for direct debit from another institution.

Make sure you have the money in your nominated bank account when the bill is due. The easiest way is to set a reminder on your phone to double check the day before the scheduled transfer.

I must confess that I haven’t fully automated my credit card payment because I change credit cards every year or so. I semi automate the process instead.

When I receive the monthly statement, I immediately schedule a transfer from my nominated bank account. I like scheduling for it to occur a few days earlier than the due date. And set a reminder to double check there is sufficient funds in the account.

Another way is to schedule regular transfers of a set amount, for example, every week, directly into your credit card account.

My automated money flow (I admit it is slightly complicated but it works for me!)

Step 3 - Review and set up your bank accounts

You’ll need a primary bank account, an everyday transaction account with no fees.

Your income (salary) will be deposited into this account periodically. For me, it is every week.

And from this account, money will flow out to various other accounts such as investment, savings and any other sinking funds you’ve set up to help you save.

This part can be as simple or complicated as you like.

My setup is fairly complicated because I like my Emergency Fund to be in a different bank account (BankWest) to my everyday transaction account (ING). And preferably to be earning a higher interest rate.

I also like travelling overseas. So I have an account with another bank (HSBC) that has a debit card that can store different currencies. My travel fund is also at HSBC. it is easy for me to transfer money to the debit card account wherever I am in the world.

Decide how many accounts you need according to your lifestyle. Open new ones if needed. Nominate the purpose of each account.

A word of caution here – be aware of the hoops or rules each bank imposes in order to get a bonus interest, for example. But this is also where automation is key in helping you meet the criteria.

For example, in order for my Emergency Fund to earn bonus interest, it must grow every month without any withdrawals plus the transaction account linked to it must have $2000 deposited every month.

Therefore I schedule $500 to be deposited weekly into this account. And from this account, an amount is transferred into my Emergency Fund (even though it is fully funded). This extra amount will be transferred every 6 months to other sinking fund accounts. This means that the Emergency Fund will earn the bonus interest for 10 months of the year.

 

Step 4 - Set up the transfers

Now we set up all the transfers.

Log into your primary bank account (where your income is deposited). Set up weekly or fortnightly or monthly transfers – work with how often your income is deposited.

Use your blueprint with all the amounts you decided earlier.

I like to leave a day in between when money flows into an account and when it flows out of that account.

So in my case, my salary flows into my ING everyday account every Wednesday. This is the only day I feel ‘rich’, haha!

I schedule transfers to my other accounts on Thursday. These accounts include my Autoinvest account at Pearler (for investing in shares outside my superannuation retirement account), Invest in Myself fund (ING), Give fund (ING) and Living Expenses fund (BankWest).

On Friday, money will flow out of the Living Expenses Fund (BankWest) into the Emergency Fund (BankWest) and Travel Fund (HSBC)

Every 6 months, the excess money will flow out of the Emergency Fund (BankWest) into Future Car fund (ING) and Home Maintenance fund (ING).

Step 5 - Review and adjust as necessary

This is an important step.

Automating your money flow is not a set and forget strategy.

As your circumstances change, you will need to make some adjustments. For example, as you reduce your debt or expenses, you will have extra cash to invest or save towards your goals.

And as you achieve certain goals, you may want to redirect your money to new goals.

You can also anticipate this and schedule in increments to savings and investments. For example, set a goal of reducing your grocery spend over the next 3 months with the aim of saving say, an extra $100. Schedule the transfer including this $100 into a priority fund on a date 3 months away.

Or schedule a 1% increment every month.

At the very least, review your system once every 12 months.

Final thoughts

Automating your money flow makes it easy for you to pay yourself first and takes away the stress of remembering when to pay which bill.

Your system does not have to be as complicated as mine – my system works for me 🙂 Set up your system to suit your goals, priorities and lifestyle.

In summary, the 5 steps to automate your money flow are – decide on how much to invest, save and pay off debt; automate your recurring bill payments; review and set up additional bank accounts if needed; set up the automatic transfers; and review and adjust as necessary when your circumstances change or at least every 12 months.

Do you automate your money flow? What is your system?