7 Smart Money Challenges You Can Totally Do

Are you up for a money challenge? How about several?

Make no mistake, some of the savings challenges below are tough. Some may even drive you a little bonkers. But they are all achievable if you put your mind to it, and can leave you with more money for your financial goals — in some cases, considerably more. They may even leave you healthier and happier.

So, if you think you have what it takes, here are seven money challenges. Which ones will you take on?

1. Use thrift stores whenever possible

Of course, there are necessities you can't get at a thrift store, like groceries. But for clothing, household items, electronics, and a whole host of other products, thrift stores are a gold mine.

Thrift store clothing is usually in excellent condition, and sold for a fraction of the price you'd pay at a retail store. Simply pop the garment in the wash when you get home, or get it dry cleaned, and you're good to go. Thrift stores also have special offer days — Goodwill runs 99-cent tag days every week. You can actually pick up a winter coat, a great watch, or a coffee maker for less than a buck. Do this challenge for one year, and see how much you save.

2. Do the 52-week savings plan

Often known as the "52-week money challenge" or "a dollar extra every week," the plan eases you into saving a substantial sum of money over the course of one year. It's simple enough, and very easy to stick to, at least at first.

In January, at the end of week one, you'll put $1 into your savings account (or jar). At the end of week two, you pop in $2. Week three, $3. And so on for the whole year. By the time you reach the end of December, you'll have saved almost $1,400.

The only drawback to this plan is that the amounts get larger and larger as the year goes on, and they're the most expensive during the December holidays. But stick with it, and you'll have a nice chunk of money to celebrate with. Even if you bail at the end of November, you'll have collected over $1,100. That could pay for a lot of those gifts and special events.

3. Cancel Amazon Prime

Look, we all know how good Amazon Prime is: free two-day shipping, a massive library of free movies and TV shows, and some great prices on thousands of items. But, and this is a big but, for some people it can become addictive. Having instant (or almost instant) gratification is incredibly satisfying. Admit it, how many times have you casually hit the "Buy now with 1-Click" button when you saw something you liked?

The website and app are designed to make impulse buying easier. One woman recently documented how she spent over $41,000 on Amazon Prime from 2008 to 2016. In 2015, she bought 427 items — more than there are days in a year. And not only did she find it very easy to do, she was at a loss as to what most of these items were.

So if you feel like you are too often tempted by Amazon Prime, then try giving it a miss for a while. See how much you save. You may find it is a temptation that sucks money away from you.

4. Stop eating out, and no more fast food

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, the average American family spent over $3,000 on takeout and dining out. That's $250 every month!

That same year, the average family spent just $4,015 on groceries. And the gap between those figures continues to narrow. As a nation, we're addicted to quick and easy meals and it's really hurting our wallets.

So, make a pledge right now to give it up for a month or two. No more restaurants. No more quick stops at the drive-thru. For at least two months, give up the notion of getting food from anywhere but your own home. Bring lunches to work. Pack lunches for the kids. Plan meals for every night of the week, and get creative with leftovers. You will miss the quick fix and the ease of eating out, but you will save hundreds of dollars. Furthermore, you will not be eating all those preservatives, fats, and chemicals that come with fast food. You'll be healthier and richer.

5. Do your shopping on just one day of the week

When I was growing up, Friday was grocery shopping day. My parents would take us all to the local supermarket with a list of things to buy, and that's what we bought. That would have to last us for the week, and there were no exceptions. If we ran out of fruit or cereal, we'd find substitutions. If we wanted candy or soda, and we ate what we had by Tuesday, then we had to wait to get more.

This taught my sister and I that we had to ration what we had, and that we could not simply rely on an endless supply of whatever we wanted. Plus, every time you pop into a grocery store, even if it's just for bread or milk, you inevitably get caught up in special offers and eye-catching deals, and come back with more than you need. So, set a day of the week to shop, even if it's done via a home delivery service, and stick with it. What's more, this challenge makes it much easier to budget for the month.

6. Spend one month haggling over as much as you can

This one is tough for people who don't like confrontations or talking to customer service. However, if you persevere, you will come out of it saving a whole lot of money.

Spend the first week haggling with every service provider you have. Your cable, internet, and phone providers have something called a customer retention department. Their role is simply to keep you as a customer, and they have some significant discounts to offer just to keep you on board. All you have to do is call and say you want to cancel, and you will be offered rebates and lower rates almost immediately.

Next, hit up your credit card and banking providers. Can they lower your interest rates?

After that, start haggling in stores. If you go grocery shopping in the evening, you will be able to make the manager some offers on food that is about to expire. Sometimes, perfectly good food destined for the garbage can be acquired for pennies on the dollar.

Be brave. Aim high, and if you get nothing, guess what? You've lost nothing. But chances are, you'll come out on top most of the time.

7. Clear out the pantry and fridge once a month

Take a look in your fridge, freezer, and pantry when you finish reading this article. You will probably be amazed at what you find in there. For a start, many of the items at the back of the pantry and fridge will be expired. That is cash in the trash. You will also find things you completely forgot you bought, and perhaps a few items that should never have been in there in the first place.

Sort through everything and then stick to using up everything in the pantry and fridge for one week. Don't go to the store. Don't eat out. Get creative! You will come up with all sorts of weird food concoctions, but that's half the fun. You can also search recipe sites, input what ingredients you have available, and receive recipe suggestions that use those ingredients. Some people do this religiously, and it leaves them with a well-organized kitchen and very little food waste each month.

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7 Smart Money Challenges You Can Totally Do

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