August Challenge: Find $100 in Time for Back-to-School
It’s still plenty hot outside, but summer break is nearing an end. If you’re thinking ahead, you know back-to-school expenses are heading this way. Wouldn’t it be nice to find an extra $100 so you can fill those backpacks with supplies and those closets with new clothes—without ruining your wallet?
Have we got a list for you! Here are fifteen ways you can save an extra $20 a week. Pick your fav five. Live them. By the end of the month, you’ll have $100 ready to help get your kids ready for class—or whatever else you might need an extra $100 for. (And hey—you could totally come back to this list any month for ideas on saving a quick $20!)
Let’s get started saving:
1. Make Coffee at Home
If you find yourself handing over cash for coffee every morning, because it’s easy or quick or delish, drop that habit for a week. Buy and brew your own. You might find a new taste for savings. Or you might work fancy coffees back into your budget now and then as the treat it truly is.
2. Ditch the Drive Thru
We’re all busy. And let’s face it—restaurants offer an end to the food fuss. But if you find yourself making daily trips to the drive-thru, you’re throwing money out your car window (practically literally)! You can save a whole lot of dough if you’ll make your meals at home.
3. Drive Less or Carpool
We’re so used to the convenience of our cars that we tend to over drive. We’ll make a special trip to grab batteries today and another for milk tomorrow. Work on thinking ahead when you make shopping lists so those “oh my goodness, we’re out of toilet paper—go get some right now!” moments happen less, so we drive less, so we pay less for gas. And if you’re able, carpool to work or activities to save even more!
4. Tighten Your Grocery Budget
We could sing the praises of meal planning all day long and never grow tired. Why? It’s one of the best ways ever to save money on groceries. If you’ve never tried, you should! Other ways to tighten your grocery budget include working those coupons, focusing your purchases on sale items, or buying generic. If you get intentional, and you easily trim an extra $20 off your food budget this week.
5. Just Say No to Extra Expenses
When you want to save more, you spend less. It’s simple, and we know it, but we all need reminding. Think of all those extras you can just say no to for a week—another princess costume or builder block set for the kids, a fourth swim suit when your other three still fit, and that pine-scented set of beard accessories. Skim the magazine in line at the grocery store, but don’t buy it. Say no to the soda, monogrammed mug, or overpriced tiny bag of chips by the checkout. Little things add up! Goodbye (for now), extra expenses; hello, extra savings.
6. Brown Bag Your Lunch
When you take your lunch to work, you can beat off two temptations at once: spending too much money and too many calories on your mid-day meal. You’re in charge of your food options and portions. It’s a healthy way to save!
7. Conserve Your Utilities
This one’s a bit more of a long game, but you’ll still get your $20 (or more). Be energy conscious all month. Turn off lights when you leave a room. Hang up clothes instead of fully drying them. Wear certain clothes more than once before washing. (It’s still summer, so make sure things still pass the sniff test.) Turn down the air when you leave the house, or try keeping the AC a degree or two higher than your normal preference. Shower quicker. The list goes on and on and on with ways you can cut spending in your very own home sweet home.
8. Eat In
Eating out at a restaurant is the best of all worlds. Someone else cooks. Someone else serves. Someone else cleans. Who wouldn’t want to eat out all day every day? You! Because you’re saving extra money to meet a goal this month! If you knock out one or two dining out experiences this week (depending on the priceyness of the place), you can move that money from spent over to saved.
9. Sell Some Stuff
Are your bookshelves overflowing because you sincerely cherish each of those perfect publications? Do you lovingly loan them out to others or know you’ll give them a second and third read? No? There’s a used book store down the road just waiting to pay you for those works. And don’t stop there. What else in your house can you purge for payment? Sell something! These days it’s easier than ever—you don’t even have to host a physical garage sale with online options like Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, and Poshmark. Don’t feel like you have to stop at $20 worth, though that’s the goal. A little extra effort, and you’ll be sitting pretty with more money and less clutter.
Look around your life and ask yourself, Am I paying for anything I could easily do myself this week? Take a break from cleaning or lawn services (as long as you don’t have to pay a penalty). Wash your own car. If these aren’t services you use, try making your own cleaning or bath products. You might discover you like this new crafty side as you create a new hobby and save money. Plus, you’ll be in charge of the ingredients and can steer clear of any harmful chemicals. Doing it yourself might be the best option all around.
11. Don’t Leave the Leftovers
Imagine buying four bags of groceries. Now imagine walking into your home, unloading and putting away the contents of three of those bags, and then throwing the fourth directly in the trash. Sounds crazy, right? But Americans typically waste food at that ratio—which means we waste a lot of money too. If you want to save food and funds, don’t leave your leftovers to rot. Eat them! And remember our suggestion to brown bag it at work? Leftovers happen to make an awesome lunch.
12. Shed Subscriptions (and Minimize Memberships)
You’re probably involved in several subscriptions and multiple memberships. But how many do you actually use? Get real—with yourself. If you stopped going to the gym because you realized you prefer riding bikes with the family or doing workout videos at home, it’s time to cancel that membership. If you move that magazine from the mailbox to the counter to recycling without even cracking the spine, it’s time to cancel that subscription. Of course you need to check the fine print: not everything can be cancelled as instantly as it was signed up for. That’s how they get you! But if you don’t use it, and they’ll let you refuse it—then lose it!
13. Delete Shopping Apps
Do you know how easy it is to click and click, then purchase and ship? When you’ve got multiple shopping apps on your phone—too easy. What if you deleted them for a week (or the whole month?). The temptation to shop anytime, anywhere wouldn’t be staring you in the face each time you innocently open your phone to post a photo of your pet being all kinds of adorable.
14. Create a Date Night on the Cheap
You don’t have to sacrifice time together just because you’re making important money goals happen. Try an economical date night. Instead of going out to the movies, watch one from home. Browse an antique mall. Skip the full meal and go out for just appetizers or dessert. Enjoy a homemade milkshake on the back deck listening to the crickets while the kids sleep (no babysitter required!).
15. Enjoy Family Fun on the Cheap
The end of summer often means a wild sprint to have as much family fun as possible before school starts back. But frugal can be fun too! Pop some popcorn and re-watch their favorite movie. Skip the zoo and take a hike instead. Grab a meal out on a Kids Eat Free (or at an awesomely reduced price) Night. Enjoy a homemade milkshake after chasing fireflies in the backyard. Memories don’t have to cost a lot of money.
If you want to succeed with any money goal, you need support. Make sure the entire family knows the aim and the ambition behind what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re single, get a trusted friend to check in on you each with an excited “how did you save the $20 this week?” to keep you motivated and accountable. Don’t forget to update your EveryDollar budget as you go so that money doesn’t get lost or misused. And whichever of our fifteen tips you pick, we know you’ve got this!