Getting the most out of spending challenges

Spending challenges are a big deal in the personal finance world. There are all types of challenges one can take on help tighten the purse strings and keep the money  where you really want it. Not everyone has the restraint to keep to a budget even if it’s to meet a goal. That’s what makes spending challenges so enticing– they have a foreseeable ending and because they’re not too long-lasting, they are endurable.

Remember last week I mentioned Sharon had two fiscal problems that resonated with me? I tackled my idea for gifts but there was one more– SUMMER.

Yes the lazy days of summer seem to translate into general relaxation– including the wallet. That doesn’t mean the money gets a rest, it just means I seem to take a rest monitoring it and keeping it check.

Funny thing, Sharon and I love the occasional spending challenge and other fiscal related challenge. So my thinking is to NOT do spending challenges until we need them most. For us, it’s the summer. Maybe for you, it’s the winter. We all seem to go through a season of letting our guard down more often with our spending. Maybe some of us have an emotional trigger to a time of year. Whatever it is, we all seem to have (at least) one weak time of year. And that is the perfect time to put the spending challenges into play.

The problem is, if you’ve been doing them all year, you’re going to be burnt out on them already and when you’re in the rut already, another spending challenge is going to do nothing for you. So save those challenges for when you really don’t have the strength to keep the usual vigilance.

The other problem is, we tend to resort to spending challenges AFTER we screwed up. That’s where a little self-examination comes into play. Like I said before, it’s ok to admit we all have vulnerable moments. The good news is they tend to get pretty predictable. So take a look. If you blog, this is even easier– just start searching through your blog and see if you notice a pattern that is tied up with your money mistakes. Same thing if you use those paper things (journals). If you know it’s coming, make sure you schedule a challenge for that time.

Of course, get ready to ditch the excuses. Oh that time of year is when ALL of the birthdays happen? Ok, well start shopping and budgeting from now! That’s the time of year you like to go out and do things together as a family? Open up a Family Fun container and drop a few bucks here and there. If you know it’s coming, the best thing you can do is prepare yourself for it– not steel yourself for the ugly aftermath. That’s just going to guarantee failure.

What about you? Seasonal spending affect you at all? Do you just deal with the aftermath or do you try and head it off?


7 thoughts on “Getting the most out of spending challenges

  1. Teachers in Miami Dade work 37 weeks and get paid for 40 weeks. That’s 12 weeks no pay in the summers. Summer school jobs were scarce 25 applicants for each position. If you got no job you world borrow money for the summer to be paid back in increments the next year. Kinda like farmers do to start a crop until harvest. Sometimes I found work as a laborer in construction. The smartest thing I ever did was go On 12 month pay instead of 10 month as is normal. Took home a little less but never worked a summer for last 25 years.

  2. Wow, I believe you read my mind! :)! I hope to do two fiscal fasts this summer to keep my spending in check. It’s hard to do a month long *no spend*, but weekly fiscal fasts are helpful. I’m doing so well on my EF I really don’t want to blow it because I became lazy over the summer.

    What are your plans?

    • I’m kind of forced into a corner because the child support is unreliable currently. I don’t have a choice but to spend as little as possible. The only way I could get lazy is if I were to go into debt. Since I don’t keep my credit cards handy, that’s impossible.

  3. I’m the kind of person who would do an all nighter two nights before the paper was due instead of the night before. So… spending tends to get a bit tight in August rather than September (we get paid again in October), and then we end up with a little surplus in October because of that, barring emergencies.

    We’ll be talking a bit about being paid 9 months out of the year on our Friday mortgage update. 🙂 I actually kind of prefer it to getting the 12 month amortization, and not just because I get to keep the negligible interest. I like the way it forces discipline and makes there be certain times of the year when I have to take stock our our complete financial picture rather than being able to put that off another month forever.

    In general, I kind of like fasting (like, not eating out, eating from the pantry etc.) after an unexpected negative external shock… it’s easier to replenish the emergency fund and to have a specific goal target in mind– we need X amount in the emergency fund and there’s only Y. I don’t really mind that some of these big expenses aren’t actually emergencies but me just forgetting that an annual bill was due… though as the years go by I’m starting to remember them a bit better.

      • No, long-term it sucks. I think I mentioned how my first year of graduate school we cut it so close to the bone (to pay off DH’s high interest student loan debt) that I lost my ability to eat red meat. That was not pleasant. And definitely not the kind of thing a person can do with kids.

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