The $20 Challenge

The $20 Challenge

A couple weeks ago, my healer said the following words to me, which have not left my head since: “Different action produces new results.” It sounds so simple, but I’m finding it profound, and I’ve been watching myself act in different ways, marveling at the results.

It’s a tricky relationship I have with change — I try to accept things (and myself) just as they are, but at the same time I know they can’t stay the same. I often think of Gretchen Rubin’s “Accept yourself, and expect more from yourself.” I get stuck in my head, and I’m all — “But everything happens for a reason!” It’s enough to make a girl go cuckoo.

When it comes to money, however, I’ve long known I’ve needed to evolve and grow. I read all the books; I signed up for workshops; I even hosted a book club. Yet it still felt like money was a “tool” I wasn’t using correctly — almost like a substance that was being abused. My spending hasn’t felt aligned with my values.

Enter The $20 Challenge.

Something has come up that could potentially affect my income levels within the next 6 to 12 months. In the past this would normally stress me out beyond belief, but this time I calmly sat down and worked with the numbers. I got hung up here and there — am I spinning my wheels? am I underestimating? what if this, what if that? — but something told me to push through. Instead of making it all about worry worry worry, anxiety anxiety anxiety, I came up with a plan — a FUN plan; a challenge of sorts; something that feeds into all of my interests — and I acted on it immediately.

What is The $20 Challenge? Without any deadlines or end dates, I am challenging myself — and my two kids along with me — to spend only $20 a day. Now, to some that may seem super low; to others that might be normal and easy. I know this much: It is extraordinarily different compared to how I have been spending unconsciously over the past three years. It never felt like enough — the demands and the stakes so high — and yet I look around and feel as though I have nothing to show for it. I don’t drive a fancy car; I don’t take expensive vacations; I’m not cooking filet mignon for dinner. Sometimes it just feels like it’s gone before I’ve even earned it.

I’m changing that story today.

In fact, I’ve already started, and I can’t wait to begin this journey as a blogger because even after just three days, I already have so much to share.

So let’s get down to it. If you want to know exactly how I plan to be successful, here is how it works.

There are some basic rules, of course. For example, the $20 rule does not include fixed expenses. For me, that means after:

  • Mortgage payment
  • Life insurance
  • Paying down credit card bills (I usually pay the same amounts each month)
  • Electric bill
  • Water bill
  • Sewer bill
  • Cell phone
  • Internet (we don’t have a home phone or cable TV)
  • Car insurance
  • Trash collection
  • Gas bill
  • Preschool tuition (starting in September)
  • Gas for my car
  • Childcare costs

I will still be looking for ways to save on these items too, but in the meantime I have all of the numbers and estimates written down in a notebook and I will plug them into Mint each month, adjusting if there are any changes.

This means everything else is up for grabs when it comes to The $20 Challenge. Including:

  • Food (eating in more often than out, or this will never work)
  • Kids — activities, toys and “baby” supplies like wipes
  • “Shopping” — clothes, cosmetics, books and any other treats, which I’m sure will be minimal
  • Health-related expenses — chiropractor; vitamins; my thyroid medication; my son’s inhaler
  • Personal care items — toothpaste, soap, hair cuts, etc

IF you are still breathing after reading that first bullet — FOOD — thank you for staying with me! This will undoubtedly be the trickiest part. I have a number of food allergies and intolerances, which make shopping for the family as a whole a bit difficult. But even just in the past three days, I’ve made some changes to how my kids eat that are much more aligned with my values (you can read more about that in a future post).

One of the more helpful caveats is that my mom treats us to dinner usually three times each week. Sundays I always contribute something, but still — it’s a HUGE help and may be one of the more tangible reasons why this is even potentially feasible for me.

A couple other things to note:

  • I will be posting here every day if I have something to share — successes, failures, tips and tricks. I’m nervous, but I’m also excited to see the savings start accumulating.
  • I know there will be days we do NOT spend any money (school starting soon will help!), which is great. That will roll over to the next day.
  • I’m aware that I have not “budgeted” for unexpected costs, such as home or auto repairs, etc. I will admit, I’ve been REALLY lucky with this kind of stuff in the past, but in a sense this is partially why I’m doing this now: If my income does take a dive within the next year, I will hopefully have socked away more of a cushion than I have now.

There’s so much more I could say, but it will be best said as it’s happening and as I’m faced with each decision. A lot more goes into this than just numbers and budgets…healing comes in all shapes and sizes, and I already see signs of it happening here.

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