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5 Money Saving Challenges to Try

by J. Money on Friday, January 10, 2014

george washington smile

[This article was written in Jan of 2014, but will be updated with awesome new challenges as I come across new ones... They never expire, so pick one out and get stated TODAY!]

Hey guys! Just participated in a cool guidebook on new year’s resolutions a friend recently launched, and thought I’d share some of my savings challenges I included in it. Mixed with some other ideas too.

You know, in case you’re still looking for some resolutions despite all 10,000 of us bloggers posting about them this week ;)

Here they are:

#1) Track Every Single Expense For the Next 30 Days

That may sound funny as you’re focusing on money going out rather than coming in, but I guarantee you after the first few days you’ll start double-thinking all those purchases you’re about to make. And by the end of the 30 days you’ll have saved a lot more than you would have without tracking! (Plus, a bonus is you’ll get a much better understanding of your money the longer you keep it up, which will help you further than most anything else you can do!)

#2) The “No Spend” Challenge

Similar to idea #1, the deal here is to consciously get you to pay attention to each and every transaction you’re making. With the “no spend” challenge, you’re only allowed to pay for things that are necessities (rent, mortgage, utilities, etc), and your goal is to stay away from anything out side of that such as eating out or shopping, or even going to the movies. Depriving yourself of these luxuries will not only give you a better appreciation for your money/life, but it’ll save you a ton in the process!

[Editor's note: This is the one that changed my financial life. I first tried it back in early 2008, and have literally saved $300+ a month since! It got me to realize how bad my shopping/mall habits were (I always went when bored), and rarely have the urge to go anymore :)]

#3) The 52 Weeks Challenge

This one is pretty popular with people because it only requires you to put some cash in a jar once a week – no other work required! All you do is put $1.00 in a jar on Monday of week #1, and then up it by another dollar each consecutive week. So, for week #1 it’s $1.00, then week #2 it’s $2.00, then week number 3 it’s $3.00 and on and on until you reach the 52nd one (which you’d have placed $52 aside). Doing this for 52 straight weeks will net you a whopping $1,378 at the end of the year! Pretty cool, right? And, super easy.

[Editor's Note: Jeff over at Good Financial Cents is currently rounding up people to participate in this. If interested, check out his post. Or, if you're having second doubts, check out this one by Carrie who says you *shouldn't* do this challenge! And what you should do instead ;)]

#4) The Spare Change/Dollars Challenge.

This one’s also a fun and easy one. All you do is throw your spare change at the end of every night into a jar and watch it pile up! Some days you’ll have a ton of it to add to the pot, while others nothing at all (especially if you’re doing challenge #2! :)). And if you don’t find that quite challenging enough, up it a level and put all *single dollar bills* into the jar instead every night. By the end of the year you will have one plump bucket!

[Editor's note: Kinda-sorta-but-not-really related, you could also try my $2.00 bill savings trick :)]

#5) Set up a new savings acct and automate a monthly transfer

This is the easiest challenge of them all as it only requires you to do a couple of steps once, and then step back and let the system work for you! Step #1 is to create a new savings account at any bank of your choice – preferably one outside of your current bank so there’s less temptation to pull from it (in fact, don’t even set up online access OR get a debit card – nix all temptation whatsoever!). Step #2 is to set up an automatic transfer to it once a month. It could be $25, $50, or even $100. Whatever you can comfortably squirrel away without worrying about anything. And it can be easily done by logging into your current bank account to set up the transfer, or by contacting your human resources at work and asking them to divert it through your paycheck.

Whichever the method, it all goes to siphoning away money without any extra thoughts on your behalf. And the longer you leave it be, the bigger your stash will get!

#6) *BONUS* The 365 “Less Things” Challenge

no clutterNot necessarily a “savings” challenge per se, but it will definitely help with your mindset if one of your goals this new year is to de-clutter and/or keep things simple. The blogger behind this one (Colleen) started an entire site around it with the goal of getting rid of unutilised items in her house to de-clutter every wardrobe, bench, shelf, under bed, pantry and garage space by giving away, throwing away or selling one item every day for twelve whole months. If you stick with it, it could do wonders :)

And if you need some help deciding *what* to give away, ask yourself this:

Would you go out right NOW and buy it all over again? If the answer’s yes, hold on to it! If it’s a no, throw it in the sell/donate pile.

Here are some other great savings ideas you could try too:

The New Year’s Resolutions Guidebook

ny resolutions guidebookIf you want some extra motivation this year, be sure to check out that New Year’s Resolutions Guidebook. Here are the chapter breakdowns in case any of them interest you (it’s totally free, btw):

  • The Hidden Costs of Making Resolutions
  • Your Life At 10,000 Feet
  • Choose Your Resolutions
  • SMART, Small, and Challenging Goals
  • Interview With Charles Duhigg (Author of The Power of Habit)
  • 4 More Things To Include In Your Plan
  • Interview With David Allen (Author of Getting Things Done)
  • Clear Your Mind
  • Cut Out Distractions
  • Get It Done <— Where I contribute
  • Go Easy On Yourself

GOOD LUCK!! A lot of different ideas here, but really the only ones that matter are the ones you *take action* on ;) So hopefully you do – whether it’s your own, or one or two from here.

I’ll be checking up on you later!

————
PS: If you like that piece of artwork up there, you should see my business card.
PPS: Yes, my desk is the color of Christmas.

[No Clutter graphic by Sean MacEntee]


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{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

1 a terrible husband... January 10, 2014 at 6:13 am

I love creative ways to save… I’ve done the first five (yes!). But selling one thing a day sounds pretty intense and awesome.

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2 moneystepper.com January 10, 2014 at 6:44 am

Yeah, selling a thing a day is a new one to me as well. May have to try that for a month or so. I’m not a big hoarder and I’m not sure I own 365 things!!

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3 theFIREstarter January 10, 2014 at 6:53 pm

I was thinking exactly that! But then if you count DVDs and books maybe I could do it. I’d rather just sell then all and be done with it though :)

I’ve always liked the penny/change jar. I mean what else are you gonna do with them? No spend challenge sounds the best though, you can’t argue that won’t save you a boat load of cash!

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4 J. Money January 10, 2014 at 9:42 pm

I lasted only like a week when I first gave it a shot, but now I’m pretty good at looking around the house and asking myself what I can get rid of/sell/donate. I think it drives my wife crazy (she doesn’t get it), but it keep me entertained :) Eventually I’ll only be left with HER stuff! Haha… well, that and the baby’s stuff… and now baby #2′s stuff, oh boy…

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5 theFIREstarter January 11, 2014 at 1:49 am

He he. My Mrs doesn’t mind fortunately but maybe it’s because we live in a relatively small place so there is junk everywhere, despite a decluttering attempt last October time, so less clutter makes things easier to tidy (not that I don’t help out with that of course! :) ). Another round of selling/donating is coming up very soon methinks!

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6 J. Money January 14, 2014 at 10:01 pm

That helps!

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7 Brian @ Debt Discipline January 10, 2014 at 6:54 am

I like #3, it’s straight forward. A good way to build a Holiday fund fr next season.

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8 Jessica January 10, 2014 at 6:56 am

We are doing the 52 week challenge right now, putting in double the weekly amounts. I would love to enter that giveaway at Jeff’s site but I don’t want another savings account floating out there. We have a nice glass jar where we drop in the cash and cross off the chart. We are even a few weeks ahead right now.

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9 J. Money January 10, 2014 at 9:44 pm

I’m with you on that one – ever since we’ve merged allllll accounts under one roof (except for mortgage) it’s been amazing. Just one main place to log in and see everything you need :) I love USAA so much.

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10 John S @ Frugal Rules January 10, 2014 at 8:59 am

Very cool J! I think we’ve done all or most of them in the past. We still do #4 and usually nets us at least several hundred dollars a year and have been doing #5 for ages. I love #6, that’s something we’d definitely benefit from in our house as it seems like with each kid, the amount of our “stuff” grows exponentially.

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11 Rebecca @ Stapler Confessions January 10, 2014 at 9:13 am

I tried a “no spend” challenge for this month, but then I went to Target last night because they’re having their semi-annual toy clearance. Thankfully, I didn’t stray into the home section, or else things would have been worse!

But I fared better at the grocery store this month — I’ve only spent $50, and because I used coupons and the sales, I saved $48 — a 48% savings rate! (that’s *my* kind of savings rate, obviously other PF bloggers have a different idea of savings rates!)

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12 J. Money January 10, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Well, you can sleep peacefully tonight knowing *I’m* impressed with you at least :)

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13 simon January 10, 2014 at 9:57 am

I love the 52 weeks challenge! It’s a good way for both saving money and challenging ourselves. Good article!

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14 Kathy January 10, 2014 at 10:00 am

I’ve done #4 for a long time now. It adds up to 3-4 hundred a year that goes into the savings account.

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15 Slackerjo January 10, 2014 at 10:29 am

Imagine how much freakin’ change you would have if the US government would just take $1 bills out of circulation and make (oh the tyranny!) people use the zillion (this figure may be slightly elevated for Dramatic Effect) $1 coins all minted and ready to go.

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16 Jacquie January 10, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Yup, being Canadian all my toonies and loonies go into the change bin!!

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17 J. Money January 10, 2014 at 9:49 pm

True, but poor ol’ George Washington would be lost! And we can’t have that, now can we? *Tear*

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18 Becky @ RunFunDone January 10, 2014 at 11:01 am

I’m doing a money challenge each month this year. (I have 6 months planned out, and have to come up with ideas for the other 6 months). One of the months I plan to work on de-cluttering. We have a few things that we’ve planned to sell, but actually putting the effort into selling is too much, so we haven’t gotten around to it yet. I can’t imagine trying to sell something each and every day! Exhausting!

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19 J. Money January 10, 2014 at 9:50 pm
20 Shannon @ Financially Blonde January 10, 2014 at 11:33 am

I love the “no spend” challenge and currently have a number of clients living it because of debt they racked up over the holidays. It is much easier to stay in and not spend when it’s cold outside. :-)

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21 J. Money January 10, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Agreed! But watch out for Amazon!!!! (Always the one who tempts you in the end, haha…)

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22 Heather January 10, 2014 at 10:17 pm

So true!! I avoid Amazon temptation by using the Wish List to apply my 30-day rule. If there is something I want I put it on the wish list for 30 days and then reassess.

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23 J. Money January 10, 2014 at 10:22 pm

Good one! I have a rule like that for tattoos :) If I still want it in two years I’m allowed to get it! Haha… though now I’m just bad at following through so I don’t have any others outside the first I got… I’ve been wanting these sparrow birds going on 10 years!!

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24 Heather January 10, 2014 at 10:27 pm

Ohhh I’m an enabler when it comes to tattoos. I have 7 and cut myself off only because I’m running out of places to strategically hide them! I work in HR! Haha

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25 J. Money January 10, 2014 at 10:39 pm

Haha…. love it.

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26 Kevin Vesga January 10, 2014 at 11:49 am

I actually do not like suggestion #4 simply because having to exchange coins into money can be a hassle. CoinStar machines have a hefty fee unless you exchange for a gift card and my credit union does not accept rolled coins. They do have a CoinStar machine, but I once had them refuse to reimburse the fee for using it so I’m wary of having that happen again. Instead I try spending my change and just saving more dollar bills instead.

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27 Kathy January 10, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Kevin,
My bank has a coin counter so I just take my bag or jar of coins and they count it and I deposit it into my savings acct. Since I have an account there, they do not charge me a fee for this service. No reason to use Coinstar, which I’ve never done before.

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28 Angella January 10, 2014 at 11:49 am

I’m doing the 52 week challenge now, except backwards. $52, $51, etc. It’s easier for me to put in more towards the beginning of the year than near the end with all the holidays. We still do our regular 10-15% per paycheck, but this is a nice ‘extra fund’. The spare change belongs to my 3 year old now, who has racked up about $300 in a year! We also have “no spend weekends” every other weekend, but plan to do it more often. Great ideas all around!

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29 Slackerjo January 10, 2014 at 12:21 pm

I think doing the challenge backwards is excellent. Every week is less painful. Good for you!

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30 J. Money January 10, 2014 at 9:53 pm

Agreed! Especially for those who have a better chance of giving up (not you, of course ;)). If you only last a few weeks you’ve already saved a nice chunk!

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31 Done by Forty January 10, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Number six is definitely my favorite, as it also generates income! Plus, just having fewer possessions is totally its own reward. I’m behind this month, but luckily still have 20 days to procrastinate. :)

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32 Mel @ brokeGIRLrich January 10, 2014 at 1:58 pm

I love my change jar! I’m so glad my dad instilled that in me really young (along with taking recycled cans to the scrap metal guy). I usually wind up with like $50 twice a year and it’s like magic money.

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33 J. Money January 10, 2014 at 9:56 pm

It always makes me wonder if the recyclables we put out on the sidewalk for the city to take each week do the same thing? Dump it all somewhere and get the revenue? They must, right? Would prob help pay for the pickups/etc…

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34 Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life January 10, 2014 at 3:17 pm

The change jar is the best! One thing I loved doing as a kid is when it got super full, rolling all the change and depositing it into my bank account. Seeing an empty cup made me want to collect more coins as quickly as possible.

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35 Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen January 10, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Already do #1 actually. Really helps pinpoint where all my money is going. Does this count or do I have to start a new one? Haha.

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36 J. Money January 10, 2014 at 9:56 pm

New one! :)

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37 Micro January 10, 2014 at 5:50 pm

I think the spare change challenge would be a lot harder to work with in our current climate. Most transactions take place with plastic so you aren’t left with coins to throw in a jar at the end of the day. I do like the idea of tracking all your expenses though. I do so on Mint and it was really eye opening to go back each month and see where money was bleeding out.

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38 Heather January 10, 2014 at 9:29 pm

Love the list! I realized I already do the spare change and automated transfer one! I like the 52 weeks challenge but I modify it: I print the chart and don’t do it in order. I do whichever one I can at the time (basically whatever cash I have since I rarely have cash) and cross out that week. It’s less tight at the end that one and you still end up with the same total.

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39 J. Money January 10, 2014 at 9:58 pm

That works!! And I REALLY like the idea of printing out the chart too – there’s something about crossing stuff off that makes you feel SOOOO good. I’m about to cross off “respond to comments” on my to-do list for today and I can’t wait!!!

(Man we’re nerds…)

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40 Heather January 10, 2014 at 10:19 pm

Haha I agree..there is such a nice satisfaction in crossing things off!!

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41 Tushar @ Everything Finance January 10, 2014 at 10:18 pm

I have done all of these things except for the 52 weeks challenge. The easiest is by far the change jar. I do this on an ongoing basis and I love seeing how much I have after a few months.

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42 Stephanie January 10, 2014 at 11:42 pm

Did the 52 weeks last year and it was great fun! I just got home; I had decided yesterday it’s time to get back with writing it all down. Scary, but I bought myself a journal so I can track it all faithfully. And I think I’ll couple that with a no spend month to jump start it. Funny like so many others I LOVE my change jar. And I recycle my aluminum and plastics. The difference this year? I’ll be able to show it as a line item under income! Small as it may be it’s better than an ugly zero.
Welcome 2014

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43 J. Money January 13, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Any income stream is better than NO income stream! Rock it, girl.

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44 jane savers @ solving the money puzzle January 11, 2014 at 6:55 am

I am in the midst of a 3 month no spend challenge. Eat what I’ve got and spend almost nothing except for gas. I have $70 in grocery store gift cards, I have run out of cash but I just got $75 cash back from Visa that I can use to put gas in my car and I am expecting the Costco AMEX bonus cheque later this month.

It is easy to not pay anything for entertainment or clothes for 3 months but the cold weather is costing me double in gas for my car. I will have much more cash to put on my HELOC with every pay cheque from January, February and March.

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45 J. Money January 13, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Love it! Hopefully once your 3 months is over you’ll still be in the right mindset carrying forward too. That was a fantastic side effect for me when it happened, and now 6 years later it’s still paying dividends :)

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46 Justin @ Decisive Dollar January 11, 2014 at 3:41 pm

I really like that you included The “No Spend” Challenge! It’s a big challenge, no doubt, but an awfully rewarding one. I try to stay as close to the “no spend” mark as I can but I’m not sure I’ve ever gone one month. Adding to the goals list!

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47 Karen at Money Saving Enthusiast January 11, 2014 at 9:10 pm

I can’t wait to take a look at that book. I want to stay on track. Nice desk too. I had a feeling you might be related to Santa Claus. : )

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48 Tara @ Streets Ahead Living January 12, 2014 at 1:09 pm

#5 I’ve been doing for a while and I love it. I actually have three savings account transfers for different goals but by being out of my checking, it really adds up.

#6 I should really try. I am far from living a minimalist lifestyle and the clutter in my relatively small apartment does give me some stress. I like this idea a lot!

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49 J. Money January 13, 2014 at 1:05 pm

The nice thing about #6 (or, really any of them) is that even if you give up or stop short, you’ve still done a lot of good damage :) So I say at least give it a shot and see how long you can go!

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50 Dollar Flipper January 12, 2014 at 2:37 pm

These are great!

My wife and I use YNAB and love it to death. It’s really helped us ratchet down the spending to save up for a house down payment.

Getting rid of 365 things.. I’d also love to do this! Not sure if my wife would like me starting to throw out some of her things though.. She’d probably just try to get me to throw out my eBay stuff! I have to keep reminding her of all the $$ I’m making though!

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51 J. Money January 13, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Yeah – tell her that once you’re done maxing out your Roth for the year, hers is next so she better not give you too much of a hard time! :)

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52 Richard @ Frugality Magazine January 12, 2014 at 2:38 pm

I think challenge #1 is essential for anyone serious about budgeting.

When I first got serious about getting my finances under control and paying off debt I spent several months carefully recording and analyzing my spending using a handy iPhone app.

The results were very revealing and – as you suggest – helped me not only gain a a better handle on my finances but also significantly reduce my monthly spending.

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53 Ryan @ Impersonal Finance January 13, 2014 at 10:06 pm

Setting up an automated transfer was seriously the best thing I could have done for my family’s finances. I heard everybody harping on it, but it wasn’t until I did it that it clicked- I don’t miss spending anything, because I much prefer watching it grow. It also means less money you have to track, too. I think I’m actually going to try the 365 “Less Things” challenge, but might have to scale it down to 52 things once a week. I don’t have too many items. Thanks for sharing, I hadn’t heard of that one yet!

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54 J. Money January 14, 2014 at 10:02 pm

Cool – let me know how it goes!

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55 Skint in the City January 14, 2014 at 6:20 am

I’d be keen to try all of these, except number 1, which would send me to sleep! I have some inbuilt resistance to tracking things so minutely – my problem, not the system’s! It was the same when the Little Skints were babies – those babycare manuals used to advise keeping close track of daily schedules to iron out sleep problems etc – the very thought of filling in the schedules made ME want to go for a nap. Will happily try the other tips though!

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56 J. Money January 14, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Haha… at least you know yourself well ;)

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57 Moses January 15, 2014 at 10:44 am

I love all of these, and have tried most of them (selling 365 things from a bachelor pad would leave me itemless!). My best way is just figuring out an amount to live on, and direct depositing the remainder into savings. Raises, bonuses, and other windfalls just pile up in there!

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58 J. Money January 15, 2014 at 6:21 pm

YES! PERFECT PLAN. You’ll be wealthy in no time doing that!

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