Money-Saving Challenges That Don’t Suck

Money-Saving Challenges That Don't Suck |

As I write this, I just got my paycheck and realized that taking out all my bills and rent leaves me with….about 35 dollars. For two weeks. Yup.

I’m starting my own Spending Fast next month, with a co-worker, thankfully. Necessity is the mother of invention and I’m going to have to invent a whole lot of junk and fast. To get myself mentally prepared for my Spending Fast, I’ve unknowingly been doing a couple mini-challenges that have honestly been hella fun.

I often look back on the time I moved to Boston when I was 20, without a job, still applying to schools and sharing a bed with my best friend for three months. There was a period in the summer where I didn’t get paid by both of my jobs and when I did, it just barely covered rent. I lived off the $50 my mom sent me each week. (She had offered more, but at the time it was all I needed and it felt gross to think of asking for any more.) My groceries from Trader Joe’s and the fruit-is-almost-rotten farmers market were $35 and my subway/bus pass was $15. Thus, $50 was my survival number.

This was honestly the happiest time of my life because it was so simple and I wanted nothing, really. My friend and I shared clothes, made pasta sauce with farmers market tomatoes that were almost bad and danced around the apartment in silly outfits. I walked home along the river when my subway card expired and I was stuck across town. I went out to free swing dancing events at the college down the road.

In short, there’s a reason the cliché exists that life is so much more simple and lovely without the mental clutter of money. Yeah, I said it. Money has only cluttered my life– with things, with plans I’m not super jazzed about (but have paid for), with bills and paper and complications. I’m more than a bit excited to tap into that secret frugal, fun, industrious part of my brain again. Here are a host of things I’m doing without disposable income until my next paycheck.

Money-Saving Challenges That Don’t Suck  …


1. Wear all your clothes without repeats!

See how long you can last. I’ve grown tired of the whole “try on all your clothes to see if they still fit/work for your life” advice. If you’re anything like me, I always can find a reason to keep those stragglers in my closet. Since the start of this month, I’ve unknowingly been challenging myself to wear all of my clothes at least once without repeating.

As someone who finds that a great outfit can set the tone for the whole day, it’s been an eye-opening experience. Not only regarding how many clothes I have, but how they make me feel throughout the day. Does that skirt ride up a bit too much in the back? Does that top remind you of your ex-boyfriend? Is this the third time you’ve tried to get the coffee stain out of those pants, to no avail? You’ll gain so much clarity when you attempt to wear these things all day (rather than a few minutes going through your closet) and might even re-discover something you haven’t worn in a while.


2. Eat all your food! All of it!

Sort of in the same vein as the above tip, I’ve been doing the same with food. That can be my kryptonite because you have to eat, right? But when you’re rationalizing a trip to the grocery store as a way to get an overpriced Kombucha, it’s time to take it down a notch.

I grew up with a super-industrious (Three jobs! She’s the queen of the side-hustle) and frugal mom who has instilled in me the belief that I really don’t need much to be content. Every month we had a “clean out the fridge and freezer” dinner night. We literally had to clear out the freezer and fridge of all the random bits we let collect during the course of the month. It often became my favorite meal of the whole month and forced us to be creative with leftovers. Once the fridge and freezer are clear, it’s off to the grocery store (sans Kombucha)!


3. Some other mini-challenges / swaps that aren’t “Bring your lunch to work!” or “Put coffee in a reusable mug!”, because we all are rocking those, right?

  • I have so many coins; like, sooo many. I’m going to put them on my metro card and take myself to the beach.
  • Cross-stitching my face off! Cross stitching, swing dancing, and painting all were hobbies that formed out of this cheap era of my life. I forgot how mentally clearing they can be.
  • Reading ALL these money diaries on Refinery 29. It is so comforting and eye-opening to see how all different types of ladies put their cash for good (and sometimes crazy) uses.
  • Putting some books on PaperbackSwap. My goal is to read 100 books this year. So I’m heavily using the library and PaperbackSwap to save on this goal. I’ve been swapping on PBS for nearly a decade now and it saves my butt every time.
  • Another sneaky tip: I read the New Yorker and the New York Times a lot, and recently discontinued my subscriptions for both. If you read in Google Chrome’s “incognito mode”, you can read them both to your heart’s content without going over your monthly article limit. Win!
  • Declutter your social media, especially clothing stores and anyone who inspires a sort of envy in you. I’ve recently made the switch from following a lot of “sponsored Australian 19-year-olds who eat a lot of expensive fruit” to a lot of “chill women who hike a lot and take pictures of plants.” It’s made a world of difference in the part of my brain that compares myself to what people have.


What about you?  What personal challenges have you tried to help save money?

Mackenzie is a 25-year-old Floridian living in L.A., where she finds herself living the cliché L.A. life — always on the hunt for a good, new beer, a good hike, and a good spot at the beach. She blogs about (oftentimes) bizarre world travels and stories at Whatever, Gatsby.

P.S. Want to change your mindset? Here’s a game-changer alert! CLICK HERE for the Money Magnet + Abundance Affirmations Super List ​


24 thoughts on “Money-Saving Challenges That Don’t Suck

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  1. Lisa

    I love this.
    I think back to the days when I walked everywhere with my daughter when she was in her pram. I owned very few clothes and really didn’t care.
    Food was simple, life was simple.
    Ok, so every now and then I got a little stressed about money, but to be honest- I always got by.
    Never actually really wanted for anything.

    This blog is so helpful.
    I’m on a spending fast, I started it yesterday- I want to pay off my debts and have some savings!

    Savings for the first time in my life- and the opportunity to stop worrying about what the future may or may not hold.

  2. Holly

    Ooh, excellent tip on the newspaper subscriptions.
    Not from the US, but i’m going to try the incognito tab to avoid the 20 free articles a month, see how it goes ;)


      1. Kay Dee

        Nooooooo! Please do not. Newspapers are failing because of this. Is the paper worth anything to you? If so, PAY FOR IT. How about if you worked for a living making bread, and you put free samples out and everyone decided to just take two slices worth of samples a day, every day, without paying for it? It’s just one sandwich worth, right? You wouldn’t miss it. But the customers would be full, and no longer needing to buy your bread.
        Please think about what newspaper reporters have done for our society. Without them holding institutions responsible for their actions, we would be Russia. Or China. Or worse.
        TV and radio news programs get more than half of their information from newspaper reporters, not to mention Twitter, Facebook and all the zillions of blogs.
        There are cheap subscriptions and ways to look through the library system. Or share a subscription with a few friends. If a free press is worth it to you, PAY.

  3. Frustrated

    I love this website and all the various articles in it. My issue is it’s great to hear how Anna paid off $24K in debt in 15 months. IF I had 24K to pay off my debts, I wouldn’t be in the financial pickle I am currently in. It’s kind of frustrating for me to hear about people paying thousands and thousands of dollars off. I am barely making ends meet at the moment. I have a full time job, a part time job and currently no time to spend money (thank god), but I just wonder how people who don’t have thousands of dollars a month to put on debt are making it?

    I left my husband a year ago and it’s been tough being on my own…. sometimes I seriously wonder if I should have stayed and perhaps things wouldn’t be as tight as they are for me right now. I know in my heart of hearts that leaving was the right thing for me to do and staying to avoid being in a bit of debt isn’t healthy.

    But I’m curious how other people who make a regular wage (I live in Canada and make about $49,000 at my full time job) do it.

    Thanks for listening to my rant :)

    1. Miss Mazuma

      Hey Frustrated – I understand where you are coming from. I too am divorced and (believe me) it would have been better financially had I stayed. But that isn’t what life is about. Suffering your spirit for your wallet will never make you happy…

      The first step for me was tracking my expenses. Do you do that? If so, you should be able to see where the holes in your budget are and tighten them up. Working your butt off definitely helps to keep costs down while optimizing your time, but if you don’t see any change in your financial circumstance you will soon burn yourself out…from the tone of this comment it looks like you may be close. Feel free to email me if you want to talk one on one – Im happy to help out where I can. :) There is hope – sometimes you just need a new perspective.

  4. Andrea Manz

    I love how practical these tips are, and more unique than others I’ve heard for sure :) so thanks!

    However, I read this this morning and kept thinking about what you said about reading articles in the incognito tab. That’s great for saving money, but it’s not so great for supporting the journalists who work hard to research and write those articles, which is in turn not so great for ensuring the continuation of well-researched, well-written, quality journalism. Just my thoughts.

    1. Mackenzie

      that is a really excellent point! i used it mostly for work (who would not pay for my own subscription , grumble grumble), so really used it as a as-needed basis and not all the time for perusing. i always try to donate when i can to these publications too :)

  5. Miss Mazuma

    Seriously never thought of the incognito tab!! Super tip.

    This month I am in a similar circumstance with my paycheck and will do exactly the things listed , particularly a freezer feast! When my pay is plump I like to buy extra groceries, cook, and freeze meals. This way I always have something in these low times. :) I’m a little more on the lazy side with wardrobe. I have taken to only wearing black skinny jeans and an array of tops. When my normal rotation falls flat I go on to the next group of shirts. Eventually these will all wear out but until then there will be no shopping!! :)

    1. Mackenzie

      what an awesome idea! i definitely need to work out a capsule wardrobe….still have a taste for outfits that aren’t super basic, but it would make my life a whole lot easier for sure. :)

  6. Laira

    I’ve recently done a lot of these things unknowingly. Here’s another one for you. Make a (reasonable) list of daily habits you want to accomplish. These should be good habits that you should do everyday, but maybe miss occasionally (e.g. taking your makeup off before bed/washing your face, tidying the house, a quick at-home exercise routine, taking a vitamin, checking finances in Personal Capital etc. ). I use the app Wunderlist to track these habits every day. If I complete all habits 7 days in a row, I make a $5 student loan payment towards my highest-interest loan! It’s super motivating and doubly rewarding.

  7. Jennifer

    In 1980, I was a twenty-five-year-old Floridian living in Los Angeles trying to make ends meet on a very posh but low paying job. After a small car accident which I still feel was my fault, the other guys insurance company gave me $1,200. With $200 I purchased a beat up 1966 VW capsule window ragtop van. I wish I could tell my 1980 young person that the van I had so much fun riding around in and feeling like a beach boy dudette would now be worth six figures! At that time, I had to drive in some of the best neighborhoods so if I went to Bel Air I would park several blocks away from the place I needed to visit and walk up the long driveway to my appointments. Never once did anyone ask me where my car was! I did sell it for a tidy little profit, but if I ever win the lottery I will search that lovely vehicle and keep it for the rest of my life. I learned a lot of important lessons about frugality and non-judgemental thinking from that period of my life. It has served me well.

  8. ChooseBetterLife

    These ideas are so fun! I need to take up dancing again- it’s great exercise and always makes me smile to be surrounded by friendly people.
    Thanks also for the NYT incognito tip- it’s genius!

  9. Amanda

    Great article Mackenzie!! Your perspective on money is so refreshing saying money has only cluttered your life. I think this has so much truth in it, as we do become part of such a consumerist society, that we forget all these things are only contributing to our desires to want more in our lives!
    My biggest spend each week would definitely be on my grocery shop. I try every week to decrease it, and have managed to save $20-$30 now on my weekly shop! I think planning meals and buying vegetables (and not wasting them) from the fruit and veg market is so much cheaper (I don’t know what it’s like in L.A but in Australia, the supermarket can be a lot more expensive), as well as cutting out a lot of junk food that tends to increase spending.

  10. omia

    My biggest spend each week would definitely be on my grocery shop. I try every week to decrease it, and have managed to save $20-$30 now on my weekly shop! I think planning meals and buying vegetables (and not wasting them) from the fruit and veg market is so much cheaper (I don’t know what it’s like in L.A but in Australia, the supermarket can be a lot more expensive), as well as cutting out a lot of junk food that tends to increase spending.


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