If you want to get your finances in shape in 2017, a money challenge is a good place to start. Not only can tackling one serve the practical purpose of helping you save some cash, it can also teach you a thing or two about your own money habits. The idea of any financial challenge is to motivate you to take action; and once you see the progress of your actions, you’re motivated to keep going.
If you’re looking to kick off a challenge on January 1, try one of these five free ones recommended by personal finance experts.
1. THE ROCKSTAR FINANCE WEEKLY CHALLENGE
The popular personal finance site Rockstar Finance recently launched a series of weekly challenges hosted by Derek Olsen of the blog HowDoIMoney.com. Olsen lists a new challenge every Monday, inviting readers to join and share their progress via Rockstar’s online forums. The first challenge prompted readers to dig deep and come up with a meaningful financial goal, while the second one challenged them to sell something on Craigslist. Each challenge includes actionable, quantifiable steps.
2. THE CASH CONFIDENCE CHALLENGE
Stefanie O'Connell is a personal finance expert who often writes about the unique roadblocks women face when it comes to their finances—namely, the wage gap. "The crisis here isn’t competence, it’s confidence," O'Connell tells mental_floss. “Unfortunately, the result of that lower confidence isn’t making bad choices, it’s making no choices. Which, when it comes to money, career, and our respective financial futures, holds us back from affording and enjoying all the things we really want."
O'Connell cites a BlackRock Investor study, which found that 42 percent of women feel confident about their finances—compared to 71 percent of men. In response, she recently launched the Cash Confidence Challenge to empower women when it comes to personal finance. The challenge includes seven days of lessons, guidance, and worksheets. While it’s aimed at women, anyone can join.
"We start out by defining what it is we actually want—without putting personal contingencies, limitations, or judgments on those goals," O'Connell says. "We’ll then break down our respective dream lifestyles into tangible, financial metrics, identifying next steps as well as available resources to help us follow through, and [create] an action plan for managing potential obstacles and mental roadblocks.”
3. A “NO SPEND” MONTH
This challenge is a little extra challenging, but that’s what makes it interesting. The goal is to see how much you can save in a month by cutting back on any expense that isn’t an absolute necessity. Some variations of the challenge focus on cutting out a specific expense in your budget, such as restaurants, movies, or impulse spending.
Aside from the practical purpose of saving money to pay down debt or put towards your goals, a “no spend” month can help you spend more mindfully. You’re forced to think twice about your habits and decisions, which can shed some light on how those habits serve you to begin with.
For accountability purposes, you could ask friends or family members to join, too, then track and share your progress with each other throughout the month.
4. SAVE $1000 IN A WEEK
Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich, is a fan of big wins: actions that make the biggest difference to your finances. In his “Save $1000 in 1 Week” challenge, Sethi shows participants the most lucrative methods to cut back on expenses.
Participants sign up via email and are sent a new challenge every day. Challenges include saving on cable, car insurance, gym memberships, and more. Sethi gives readers the exact scripts they should use to haggle down these expenses, and the goal is to save at least $1000 in seven days.
5. THE “LIVE RICHER” CREDIT CHALLENGE
Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche launched the Live Richer Challenge a few years ago, and it’s grown into a movement that includes over 200,000 women who have saved a collective $25 million. “The previous challenges were so successful that I decided to host a new LIVE RICHER Challenge every year,” Aliche writes on her blog. “The 2017 Challenge will focus on helping you to improve your credit.”
The challenge is 22 days long and is organized into three weeks. The first week will cover credit knowledge, the second will show participants how to improve credit, and the third challenge will cover credit maintenance. When you sign up, you'll receive a starter kit via email along with weekly challenge updates.