Time to kick off our “Focused in '20” year-long program with Focus on Finance Month! Follow along with our weekly challenges to whip your wallet into shape in no time.
Happy New Year Freebs! Who else is excited to rock these Focused in '20 monthly challenges?? We firmly believe that 2020 will be the best year ever!! After the holidays and all the unexpected costs that December brought, we're totally ready to refocus on finances this month! We've really learned that the frugal mindset and being financially prepared helps us to not only decrease stress in our lives and accomplish more on a daily basis, but it also allows us to be able to do so much more for others!
Let's get this party started! All month long we will follow a calendar of weekly challenges that will help us reset our budget, save money, spend less, and ultimately recover from the holidays.
FOCUS ON FINANCE MONTH
Step 1. Print the Focus on Finance Month calendar – if you're not already on the mailing list, SIGN UP HERE to get the January calendar emailed to you. The easiest way to stay updated to do is to get on the email list and follow along on the blog, YouTube, and social media. I'll post lots of helpful tips and how-to's there!
Step 2. Follow along! Each week there is a theme to help you focus on others. Then of course, we always suggest wrapping up the week with a simple date or family night to help keep you focused on the people that matter most.
Step 3. As always, adapt the calendar to work for your needs and help you get the most out of the monthly challenge.
My goal is to keep the excitement and momentum going for this all year long, and not have it fizzle off like resolutions tend to. My best advice to you to do the same, is do this with a buddy!
Whether it's your husband, best friend, sisters, girlfriends, whatever! The buddy system works. You can work on challenges together, talk about how it's going, encourage each other, and let's be honest, it's just more fun with friends!
JANUARY CALENDAR & CHALLENGES
Let's get to the important details! In order to start the year off on the right foot, we're going to set out ourselves up for success with some good financial habits! Money is one of our biggest stressors in life, so if we can decrease the stress here, that frees us up to focus on other important goals!
CASH ONLY MONTH
For the next month, commit to using CASH ONLY. It helps you be more mindful about what you're spending, decreases impulse-buys, and trains your brain that you only have a certain amount to spend each week, and choices need to be made to keep from running out of cash too quickly!
HOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITH A CASH ONLY CHALLENGE
First off, decide your budget! Not sure how!?
- Make it tight, make it a challenge! Take what you spend in a month, cut it down by at least 30%, then break it down by week. The goal is to have your BEST YEAR, so it's time to push yourself a bit!
- Decide what your spending budget is for the month, then break it down per WEEK. That's right, per WEEK. Every Monday, run to the ATM or bank and get out your cash for the week. If you try to budget for an entire month you're most likely going to lose track and run out of steam. 7 days? Piece of cake!
- Grab your 2020 budgeting envelopes and get ready to save some money this month!! If the “cash only” thing is holding you up, you can still use my Envelope Budget System. It's super simple; it single handedly got us out of our tough financial crisis.
- Divide up financial responsibilities. Once you have the list of things YOU are in charge of, you can make sure you stay on track.
START JANUARY OFF RIGHT
First up – we have a little mini challenge for you. In addition to finances, get ahead by planning your whole year in advance. Sounds complicated, but we promise it's not! This will set you up for success in every area of your life and will get you on the same page as your significant other!
End the first week of the new year with a money date and set some financial goals for the new year. We talk all about how to hold a money date here and we've got tons of tips for setting financial goals that will help you accomplish whatever you put your mind to this year! Just grab a pen, your partner, your favorite notebook, and get planning!
As you have your weekly check-in with your spouse or challenge partner, remember, life is all about choices — sometimes giving up the little things is what allows you to achieve great things! Some of these challenges might stretch you, and that's okay! That's when the biggest growth occurs.
NO EATING OUT WEEK
This week we are saying NO to eating out…of any kind. Coffee, drive-thrus, gas station drinks, lunch money for your kids, ordering a pizza, even bottled water…you name it. Basically anything you consume this week needs to come from your own house, or not at all! GULP! If you do need coffee or a treat, make it! This banana bread always hits the spot when you're wanting something sweet!
For so many of us, cooking can be hard. Trust me, I know. I’m at the point in my life where cooking is just one more job; one more annoying task at the end of an exhausting day that only leads to lots of “I don’t like this” comments from the kids, and lots of dishes and mess (I am the world’s messiest cook. Like, ever.). But I also know that when Bubba and I had over $10K on just one credit card, had $0 in savings, and weren’t making enough money to pay the bills some months, the simple act of focusing on our FOOD is one of the largest factors that pulled us out of the hole we were digging and started letting us get ahead in life (more about our story HERE).
This week we are going to say NO to buying any food, other than groceries! Buy groceries, as usual, sticking within your weekly budget. And remember, only go grocery shopping ONE TIME, no matter what! Use Walmart Grocery Pickup to help stay in budget! If you need a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread, make it yourself or try to substitute, or if you must, send your spouse or a friend (someone who will come home with just the one item and nothing extra).
FIND 5 THINGS TO SELL
For the mini challenge this week, take a look around your house and see what you have that you are no longer using and sell it! This reduces clutter around your home and also makes you a few extra bucks that can go towards your financial goals this month #WinWin
FREE DATE NIGHT ON THE TOWN
For date night this week, get creative! You don’t have to go out to eat to have fun! Pack a picnic at home and hit the town for a fun activity. A few of our favorite ideas (click here for even MORE FREE date ideas) include hitting up the local library or browsing a bookstore, checking out free community events, test driving your dream car, window shopping at the mall, or eating samples at Costco — but only if you have enough self-control to not buy anything!
SPENDING FREEZE WEEK
Don't panic!! A spending freeze might seem a little scary at first, but once you embrace the challenge, they become exciting (almost addicting, even) as you start getting creative and see how many ways you can avoid spending money! Regardless of whether you are a spending freeze pro or a newbie, starting TODAY we will spend ZERO DOLLARS for 7 whole days. That’s right Freebs! ZERO DOLLARS!
Emergencies and bills that can't wait are the only exceptions. And no, “emergency” doesn't mean “oh I forgot to buy a baby shower present” or “shoot, my son forgot his school lunch” or “case lot sales are only this week”. I mean actual emergencies!
IF you absolutely cannot start today, then go to the store and pick up just a FEW things you might need to tide you over, then start tomorrow. It's only 7 days, it's not like a zombie apocalypse or something! Maybe milk, or a loaf of bread if you are out. I purposefully didn't want you to have more notice so you wouldn't go crazy at the store buying a whole bunch of stuff beforehand.
In a pinch, do what I try to do and live off of what you have! Make your own bread, I even have a recipe for the easiest bread you’ll ever make! Drink water and skip cereal!
The purpose of a spending freeze is to open our eyes to how many times we spend money on little things we don't need, show us that we can go without AND of course, help us save a BIG chunk of change in a short amount of time. I will save $350 (my grocery budget + other budget + date night money) in these 7 short days!
When the spending freeze is over take that money and put it into savings or against debt. If that money isn't being put to good use, your week of no spending is only half useful.
INVENTORY YOUR PANTRY AND FREEZER
One of the hardest things about a spending freeze is making sure you and your family get fed! Take an inventory of what you have on hand. Dig deep in your pantry and freezer to see what you can scrounge up for meals this week. You probably have more to work with than you might think.
FREE DATE NIGHT AT HOME
As you continue with the spending freeze theme this week, come up with a crazy fun at home date night idea that is completely free! Make a treat and play some games or do a puzzle together. Have an outdoor picnic and go stargazing in the backyard (if you're in a Winter Wonderland like we are, bundle up and have a hot cocoa date). Grab your kid's nerf guns and have a nerf war! The ideas are endless, this post has a TON more!!
SAY NO TO 3 WEEK
You just finished a week-long spending freeze! Way to go, rockstar!! This week I wanted to give us all a challenge that would piggy-back the last one. To help us avoid the “Wheew! The spending freeze is over, now I can go SHOPPING, baby!”, make-up-for-lost-time, Supermarket Sweep race-to-the-finish shopping spree (remember that show??). Because that kiiiiinda defeats the point of the spending freeze.
So lets keep working on building our frugal muscles and simply say no to 3 things that you want to buy, or normally spend money on! Skip, pass, say no, back away slowly. However you do it, just say no 3 times! You got this!
It could be as simple as putting back an item at the register at the grocery store, making your favorite beverage at home (thank goodness for awesome copycat recipes), saying no to the cute household items that you want but don’t need — I’m looking at YOU Target Dollar Spot, or finding an ingredient substitute for a recipe that you have at home rather than running to the store for the ingredient you’re missing. Hello Shelf Cooking!
BRAINSTORM WAYS TO MAKE MONEY
Sit down with your kids and come up with a few ways that they can make money! This post has 10 AWESOME ideas for you to share with them!
Take the chance to talk to them about the importance of saving money and working towards their own financial goals. Hopefully they've learned a bit by watching you this month, now it's time to get them involved.
NO WASTING FOOD WEEK
WOW!! It's been a crazy awesome month! To help us go out with a bang, I wanted to end the month with a challenge that is near and dear to my OCD little heart. The goal for this week is simple. Don't waste any food! Take note of what you have in your fridge and cupboards that may be on it's way out and make sure you eat it! Save leftovers and repurpose them the next day!
As my husband could boldly attest, I am absolutely ridiculous about not throwing anything away…especially food! Being wasteful makes me sick to my stomach, literally, I hate it so much.
Thus, over the years I’ve learned to freeze everything and get pretty creative when it comes to finding ways to use and reuse food (cough, cough — have you seen my new site ShelfCooking.com? It's full of tips and tricks on making your food go the extra mile!) Trying to use up all your food rather than tossing it, will save you THOUSANDS on your grocery bill.
This mini challenge is exactly what it sounds like! Pull all the leftovers out of the fridge and serve them up for dinner. If you don't have enough leftovers to fill everyone's tummies, get creative and add something to them to make 'em stretch!
CELEBRATE FINANCE MONTH!!
WE DID IT!!! It's the end of the month! Take note of how much you saved this month and give yourself a big pat on the back! Celebrate with your spouse for date night and discuss how you can implement some of these habits going forward! Or even better, talk about what you might put all that money towards. Making plans for the future can be huge motivation!
Don't forget, it’s the slow and steady, simple conscious decisions — not accidental or impulsive ones — that lead us to incredible lives; being able to do more, have more, and live more than you ever thought possible (regardless of how much money you make).
We want to see how you're doing! Post your progress on Instagram and/or Facebook this week using hashtags #FCFSpendingFreeze #Focusedin20 and #FocusOnFinanceMonth.
Can't wait to see how this month goes for you. Cheers to 2020!