Did you read the 52-week money saving challenge last week and say “oh my gosh, I can’t do that!” and move to another post? If that seemed too intimidating, then maybe start a bit smaller with the Penny Challenge?
What is the Penny Challenge?
The Penny Challenge is a fun technique to save almost $700 per year. Start off the challenge by placing a penny in a jar. We can all find an extra penny to put in the jar, right? The next day, find two pennies to put in a jar. The day after, make it three. On the last day of the year, you will have added $3.65, making the total saved add up to $667!
All that for finding one extra penny a day!
Download the Free Penny Challenge Printable
I am a sucker for free printables. This one is one of the most used printables I have, and I use it every day to check off the boxes as I work towards filling this this year’s penny saving challenge.
Download the Free Penny Challenge Printable.
How I used the Penny Challenge
I started the penny challenge many years ago when our family’s spending was starting to creep out of control. It got to the point when adding anything to our savings account felt almost impossible. Maybe you have been there too and can commiserate?
I read up on Dave Ramsey’s methods, knocking down credit card debt with the snowball technique, and moving to a cash envelope system.
Well, all of those things helped, but saving money still felt like a chore. We finally found the penny challenge, which turned saving money into a fun game for our whole family. Even our son joined in.
The Penny Challenge allowed us to take a tiny step towards saving and we quickly realize that we could save EVEN MORE without much effort. But for now, let’s focus on the $667 of pennies.
Penny Challenge Growth Chart
Check out this chart! This doesn’t seem too difficult, right? Seriously, in the beginning, you see some immediate success. Everyone can find a few pennies for the first week. Shake out those couch cushions and look in the center console of your car. I bet you have quite a bit of change there already. Almost all of us can do that without thinking too much, right? After a few weeks, though, you will see those pennies add up and it is fun to get creative on where you can find just a few more! Scrounging for that extra penny becomes a fun challenge. But, more importantly, it becomes a habit! That’s what we are really trying to accomplish here – we want to change our behavior without a lot of sacrifice and find a way to make saving money part of our daily routing. Before you know it, you are excited to see the finish line of $667!!
Top 10 Ways to Save that Extra Penny
How would you feel if you reached December and you had an extra $600 — CASH — stashed away with very little effort? Heck yeah! Sign me up, right? Your first few weeks of this challenge will be easy. But, as you get towards the end of the year, you may need to make some lifestyle changes to save the few dollars per day. You have some time to think about what makes sense for you. Here is list of ways that we changed our daily spending to achieve that goal without much effort!
1. Prepare meals at home
Yep, this one is going to be one of the top ones because of how much it REALLY costs to eat out! I didn’t think we ate out that often, but I was embarrassed when tracked how many times in a month we were in a rush and stopped by a fast food joint to pick up a quick burger. SCARY!
Don’t try to go cold-turkey. I doubt many people can completely cut off eating out. Let’s start with just one meal per week. Yup, cut out one meal per week and it is possible to have all of your pennies saved! Do the math! $15 meal x 52 weeks = $780. So which meal do you want to cut to achieve this goal? Is that a reasonable behavior change for you? Cut out one $15 meal per week for the year and you’ve got it! We did this and it made a huge difference to our savings! How many times do you eat out per month? Be honest. Can you cut that back just a little?
2. Change banks to a free checking or savings
The national average checking account fee is $10-12/month. Move to a free checking account, and you’ll save $120 for the year. It might take a few days to move your automatic payments and deposits to the new account (and that is not a lot of fun) but it can save a nice chunk of change, which can contribute to your penny challenge jar.
We will not go into talking about the fees for overdraft spending, which I hope none of our readers incur!! That is just throwing money away!
3. Get rid of XM Radio
Sorry, XM! I think you are awesome and I love you but you are just way too expensive for music. My friends say “I can’t give up my XM!” Excuse me? Just a few years ago we didn’t even have such a thing. Yes, you can give it up if you want to save. It’s fine. Make a choice but don’t say “you can’t give it up!” The average XM radio prices for the most popular plan of 140 channels is $15.99. Give up XM at $15.99 x 12 months = $191.88/year. We did it. Jason now listens to NPR or free podcasts on his way to work instead of Jimmy Buffet radio. He doesn’t miss it at all, but we sure do like the extra money in our wallet!
4. Cancel subscriptions
This will be humbling! Sit down with your bank statement and credit card statement and look over your recurring payments. What do you have on there? Netflix, Hulu, cable tv, Direct TV, hobbies – you name it. We all have them because it is so easy to sign up for the “it’s only $8.99/month!” Before you know it, you have more than a handful and maybe you don’t even use all of them anymore! Cancel one or two of them. Be honest with yourself here. Let’s say you just cancel one (I am sure you can find more than that, though). Using the low end of $8.99/month x 12 months = $107.88/year This section can increase in saving drastically depending upon how many subscriptions you are willing to cancel.
5. Eliminate Annual Credit Cards Fees
Are you paying an annual fee for them? Why? There are several available for no annual fee. Call your credit card company and negotiate for them to eliminate the fee. If they won’t, ask them to reduce your APR (that is another article altogether!). You are looking for the lowest annual percentage rate possible for your credit score. For 2018, the average APR is running about 15%. Make sure you are not paying more than that. The more money you are not paying towards interest, the more money you have in your pocket! We’ll have another article about using credit cards, but the focus of this is just to eliminate the annual fee or lower your APR.
6. Do a price comparison of your groceries
Did I just get a huge groan out of you? I know, this really stinks. I’m not going to lie and say this is fun. This is where the serious savers go to add cash to your pocket! Are you serious about saving? This is what we do! I shop 3-4 stores over the course of 2 weeks and sometimes, even more, depending on if we make it to the Oriental Market.
Every penny counts in this game, and your weekly grocery bill is a large cost. Take the time to learn what the pricing is for 15-25 items that you regularly purchase.
Our family eats a lot of boneless, skinless chicken. It is almost always cheaper at Wegmans than it is at Costco. Surprising, isn’t it? You never know, so don’t go into these stores assuming anything. Every store will have loss leaders advertised just to get us in their doors. We know that, right? Just go into with the mindset that we are going to outsmart them at their own game!
I found 30+ items where I save money at Aldi. It means another stop for groceries every other week, but I save enough there to make it worth the additional time.
7. Stay out of Target and Walmart!
If I didn’t hear a growl before about price comparisons for groceries, I know I will for this one! Sorry! We have to stop shopping as a hobby and get back to going to the stores to pick up what we NEED. I’ not going to entertain you with a meme about how funny it is that you went into the big box store for a gallon milk and ended up spending $200. Why is that even funny? You blew cash or credit on stuff you didn’t even think you needed when you went in. It has happened to me before, and I could almost get sick over it. It is best to just stay out altogether. If you have to go in, use a grocery list and be laser focused.
8. Make a list
Make a list for everything! Inventory your freezer items, pantry items, even daily meal planning. Become a list maker so you don’t waste. The list also helps you eat what is already in your pantry. We have some great lists right here on the blog to help you out for free. Print them out and start tracking! Once you start doing it, I assure you, it feels so good to not waste!!
9. Stop throwing food out
Plan out your meals. Abide by those plans. Yes, things happen but they shouldn’t be happening every week. Did you have one piece of chicken left over? Put it in a container with vegetables for a lunch the following day. When you eat it, think IT’S FREE!!! Yes, that sounds crazy, I know. But once you start doing that, you will realize how much extra money you have to add to the penny challenge! Try it, it’s fun!
10. Make your own cleaning supplies instead of buying them
This saves so much money! We all get caught up in buying highly specialized cleaners and wipes. Do you really need the antimicrobial soap that smells like lemons? Would the plain bar of soap work just as well at a fraction of the cost? Scale back on one or two. It’s hard and I realize that going cold turkey on anything can be traumatic. Maybe you can use cloth towels instead of paper towels or make a homemade cleaner instead of buying one as a starting point and move ahead after that.
There you have it, my friends! 10 Easy Ways to Win the Penny Challenge! I know you can do it and I am almost certain that if you try it with these ways to save, you will save double or triple that amount! We’ve given you 10 techniques to save a few extra pennies to put in the jar! So grab an old jar, apply the printable and let’s make this happen!
Let me know if you are working on it and how it’s going.
If by chance this is too easy for you (which I would love to hear!) then jump over and start on the Game Changing 52 Week Challenge!
Download the Free Penny Challenge Printable.