What I’m Doing With All My “Challenge” Savings

by J. Money - [Edit]

googly money

If you can believe it, we’re now into month #8 of our 12 month experiment already! And so far we’ve saved a sexy $3,843.70 pretty much out of thin air. Here’s a snapshot of my account:

challenge everything savings

Some of it took more work (hustling on Craigslist) while others didn’t at all (making a few phone calls), but the moral of the story is quite clear by now: making some minor tweaks  to your lifestyle can do some good damage!

This $4k came from doing the following:

  1. Shaving recurring bills and banking the difference
  2. Selling all my crap on Craigslist
  3. Banking any *extra* money that comes my way (which turns out is a lot! You don’t notice it until you actually start tracking it…)
  4. And, most importantly, putting all this $$ into ONE separate savings account. So you can see *exactly* how your efforts – quite literally – pay off, while staying heavily motivated in the process.

And let me point something out real quick: none of this has negatively affected our lifestyle. If anything, it’s improved! I have less stuff in my house taking on dust, I’ve unshackled myself to the iPhone which I was sure would accompany me to the grave, and I now look around my life challenging all sorts of things in general.

I’ve come to the epiphany that I don’t really *need* much to live a nice and satisfying life. I still *want* a lot of stuff, of course – even just dreaming of so – but my mindset has completely transformed and I’m on a mission to challenge “the norm.” Even money guys can be better with their money/lives!

The only thing that’s really been missing these past 7 months is what to do with all this banked up money.  I have a tendency to prolong this thinking process because it’s just SO DAMN FUN to think about (who doesn’t like dreaming up all the ways to use their money??), but now that the newness has worn off I’ve decided to give this “free” money a purpose. And while it’s probably not that glamorous to those non-money people out there, I’m pretty sure you fine folks reading this here will more than appreciate it :)

The place where all this $$$ is going? A maxed out Roth IRA!

Hubba hubba! Haha… As I mentioned last week, I was having trouble deciding on whether or not to even DO this in general as our cash supplies have taken a beating over the past two years, but I was quickly given the kick in the ass by a few of you which got me to actually pull the trigger on this. Sure it may not be the most conservative choice at this given moment of time (less income + wallet munching kids + wife not working yet), but how can I get let my 5+ Maxing Out streak end? I can’t give up now! That’s phony bologna! (I jest a little, but I did actually give this a ton of thought ;))

We now have $3,800 in cash just sitting there, and if I forecast this out over the remaining 5 months it looks like we’ll fall somewhere in the $6,600 with our $550 average going on.

Here’s how much we’ve banked these first 7 months:

$6,600 gives us 1 Maxed out Roth @ $5,500 + $1,100 towards the next one! Woo! And since of course I don’t want to break the streak for the 2014 tax year, I’ll be actually pulling my $$ from our other cash reserves and then replenish it with this $$ here once our experiment is over (unless life really gets tricky). This way I’ll still be able to watch this # grow and motivate me while we’re investing in the markets simultaneously. Win-Win all around.

And then of course worst-case I can cash out all my Digit savings if need be also. Or even apply it towards our next IRA maxing out too? I have yet to give that $$ a goal as well… We’ll have to see whether I renew this challenge or not next year, but the cool part is that even if I never sell another thing on Craigslist or bank any extra cash that comes my way, our $200/mo savings just from shaving those 3 initial bills last year will still produce over $2,000 for years to come. No denying that love!

Here’s where we’re at with my Digit savings btw after 3 months:

digit savings april

Anyways, it never sucks trying to figure out what to do with saved up cash, that’s for sure :) Hopefully all of you who are doing this challenge and/or using Digit along with me are having fun thinking about your goals too! I hope you share them with us if you’ve already locked them in!

Speaking of which, I’ve been helping Digit showcase some of their active members on their site (if you recall, I’m now an “advisor” to them), so if you want to get a glimpse into their goals for the money or see how much they’ve saved up too, you can check ’em out here on their blog: blog.digit.co. So far the record is $1,500 and the best profile pic includes a dolphin, haha… This is the stuff I do when I’m not blogging here ;)

Here’s how March’s Challenge Savings broke down:

challenge everything march

CELL PHONES: The switch to Republic Wireless continues to save us over $100 every month! The one tweak that started it all!

CABLE/INTERNET/PHONE: Downgrading some stations and cleaning up our account here also pays dividends to the tune of $80’ish every month. At one point we had considered cutting out the whole thing, but it turns out we actually enjoy watching TV (*gasp*) and keeping internet only would still cost us about $70 or so anyways. We’re okay not taking frugality to the extreme :)

CAR INSURANCE: A solid $30/mo in savings just from a single phone call in the fall of last year! Even if you don’t think you can save any more, it’s always worth 15 minutes to double check – especially if it’s been a while since you last did so.

Here’s what a fellow reader shared with me recently:

“Just got off the phone with my insurance agent and knocked $30 a month off my rate thanks to this article. I had all of your notes there in front of me and we were able to cut the mileage driven, raise the deductible, and reduce the medical coverage to save some cash! Getting ready to cut the cable cord this week as well” – Barry

CHANGE FINDINGS! I know this is going to sound silly, but it totally made my day to find FIVE pennies all in one walk! It usually takes me a month to find that many in the Summer, haha… And then to come across a dime a few days later – which is like a gold mine in comparison! – made my week even sweeter. I swear it really is the little things in life :)

SOLD VINTAGE RAZORS: This was the only thing we sold last month :( But it’s totally my fault – I’ve gotten lazy searching for better stuff to hawk. I keep trying to get rid of stuff that should probably be donated or trashed just because they’re in eye sight, haha… My mission for April is to start going through more of my closets and basement containers looking for more valuable/cool stuff to get rid of. Kinda like my killer dragon from last month!

vintage gilette razors

Anyways, here’s a pic of the old school razors I sold… I picked them up a few years ago for around $1 a piece I wanna say, with the intention of selling them individually on eBay, but unfortunately I never got around to it. And considering the slew of offers I got from all around the country when I listed these bad boys up, I definitely priced them too low! (I also learned that people not only collect these, but they USE them to shave with still! Apparently they give you a much smoother cut and are incredibly cheaper than using today’s gadgets)

TAX REFUND: This was the closest to breaking even I’ve ever come before. Usually I owe thousands of dollars or *I’m* owed thousands of dollars, but it’s amazing how much better you get when you keep your accountant informed of these things ;) Surprises are hardly any fun, and especially when it involves taxes. But this $150 I’ll gladly accept any day – woot woot.

All this to say little action items add up over time. I’d literally have $3,800 less right now if I kept things status quo and didn’t get off my a$$! So I (again) strongly urge you to pay attention to everything around you and see if your money’s truly going towards what’s important in your life too. And even if it is, there’s no harm in seeing if there’s an alternative that gives you the same quality of life but saves you $$ in the process.

I’ll leave you new readers out there another message from a fellow Challenger:

“Just wanted to let you know I made $1800 this year on a snow day (I’m a teacher) by making 4 phone calls.  Cut $220 a year off my car insurance, $55/month off my cell phone bill, and $49 off my cable/internet per month.  I also “found” $320 in cash rewards by calling my credit card company and asking them to mail me the rewards check. Thanks for your motivating posts/emails-  I’m tackling clutter and Craigslist, next.”  – Nicole

You can follow along with this experiment here: Challenge Everything Series, as well as read about other rocks stars sharing their experiences too. Remember – the lower you get your expenses, the less you need to work later on! Hustle hustle, baby!

counting money gif
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PS: This Roth money, just like all other investment $$, will be going straight into my VTSAX index fund w/ Vanguard as well. Keeping things nice and simple!

[Googly money by katerha]

Jay loves talking about money, experimenting, blasting hip-hop, and hanging out with his two beautiful boys. You can check out all of his online projects at jmoney.biz. Thanks for reading the blog!

{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mrs. Frugalwoods April 15, 2015 at 7:06 am

Nicely done! I, for one, love your incredibly smart and practical decision to max out a Roth IRA. And, I think it’s awesome that you haven’t felt like your lifestyle has suffered in any way because of these cuts. That’s how I feel too! We’re saving more than ever, but I daresay our lives are actually better than they’ve ever been! It’s amazing what a difference it makes to really focus in on what matters in life and ignore the expensive distractions.

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2 Darrell April 15, 2015 at 2:57 pm

You can do a spousal contribution with the other $1,100 you have left over from the efforts, too! Consider that you have $11,000 to contribute as a family, not just $5,500. If your spouse does not work, you can contribute to a Roth on their behalf! I think you can still do that today!

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3 J. Money April 16, 2015 at 1:28 pm

Good call!!

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4 Jon @ Money Smart Guides April 15, 2015 at 7:16 am

Nice work! I keep my side hustle money separate as well and then “cash it in” at the end of the year. I am using some of my money for a new camera and the rest will get invested in the market. It really is amazing how it all adds up!

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5 J. Money April 15, 2015 at 11:48 am

Brilliant! I freakin’ love that strategy.

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6 Free Money Minute April 15, 2015 at 7:32 am

I am so glad to see you taking a look at your cell phone and cable/internet bill. It is crazy to think people have $200-400 tied up in these bills each month. That translates into tens of thousands of dollars in retirement. There is no reason you cannot get these bills under $150 at least. Looks like you found another $150 plus just in this category, EVERY MONTH! Run the out over 20 years at an 8% return.

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7 J. Money April 15, 2015 at 11:49 am

I’ll be running those numbers while on the beach early retired ;)

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8 Emma | Money Can Buy Me Happiness April 15, 2015 at 7:38 am

Nice work J.
You’ve saved loads in bills during this challenge, smart work. I am terrified of phone contracts so I still have a dumb phone and just go prepaid. 5 euros per month here in Spain is enough to make all the calls I need.
You’ve definitely inspired me to ‘challenge everything’ for our upcoming move back to New Zealand. We’re going to try to live without cable, considering we haven’t actually watched TV in the past 6 months I’m hoping it’s not too much of a stretch. And at $120 per month that’s a big saving.

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9 J. Money April 15, 2015 at 11:50 am

Ooooh moving is the *perfect* time for fresh changes! Especially as you have to physically pick up all your stuff and can ask yourself what’s needed or not anymore (or what you prefer to have cash for instead!). You’re rockin’ it on those 5 Euros per month too – I’m impressed!

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10 Nicola April 15, 2015 at 7:59 am

Nicely done! And a very sensible choice too :) we’re in the process of challenging all bills so looking forward to seeing how much we can cut down by :)

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11 Elise @ Simply Scaled Down April 15, 2015 at 8:00 am

I love this challenge. After first reading your post about it we really looked into where we can save money (without sacrificing too much…a girl’s gotta text!). And so far we have shaved $140/month just by switching cell phone carriers and car insurance companies! I am still looking into what it will take to lower some of our other bills, but that’s an excellent start! Thanks for the motivation!

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12 J. Money April 15, 2015 at 11:52 am

YES!!! Incredible start!

Now the real question is *what* you’re going to do with all those savings so it doesn’t accidentally fly back out the door :)

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13 Elise @ Simply Scaled Down April 15, 2015 at 3:59 pm

Yes! Exactly! Right now it is just getting thrown into my motif account (thanks for the tip about that one!). I’m thinking it should actually go towards a family vacation next year. I think its important to travel with kids and right now big trips aren’t in the budget. So maybe this ‘found’ money can help jump start that!

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14 J. Money April 16, 2015 at 1:30 pm

I love it :) I want my kids to see the world too – so much out there and we need perspective!

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15 Hannah April 15, 2015 at 8:26 am

Maxed out Roth for the win!
We had a few recent wins with our own challenge everything account:

Health insurance is cheaper when my husband gets it through school (Savings $72/mo)
Disability insurance is cheaper and better through my workplace than a third party vendor (Savings $29/mo)

I also started cutting my hair, my son’s hair and my husband’s hair, but that’s because we only ever seem to want hair cuts at times when it is more convenient to cut it at home than to find an open salon or barber shop. So our savings there doesn’t totally count.

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16 J. Money April 15, 2015 at 11:54 am

Haha love it… I haven’t paid for a hair cut in 10+ years myself, but only because it only requires 30 seconds with a shaver :) In fact, my wife just trimmed my mohawk last night! Feeling so nice and so clean clean.

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17 [email protected] April 15, 2015 at 8:43 am

Great job on your “extra” savings. And I had no idea that people bought or sold vintage razors. Hope you got a bunch of $ for them!

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18 [email protected] April 15, 2015 at 8:49 am

I started keeping a list of all my found extra money and it’s crazy how fast it all adds up. With very little effort and not selling anything, I’m already over $500 for the year and that’s without tax refunds!

It is a little weird though that I get more excited about the 3 pennies I found in the parking lot, than the $6 I found.

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19 J. Money April 15, 2015 at 11:58 am

HAH! You should have seen me when I found those 5 shiny pennies within 15 feet of each other… I felt like I had won the lottery! :)

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20 Chris @ Flipping A Dollar April 15, 2015 at 8:57 am

I wish we didn’t get a refund like we did. 3k! Such a pain, but our income keeps changing and we’re moving and there’s all this other stuff. hopefully this year will be a little smoother and I can adjust our withholding to be correct!

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21 J. Money April 15, 2015 at 11:59 am

Hey, always better to be surprised positively than negatively! I don’t see the harm in getting tons of $$ back at all – even if you helped earn the gov’t $5 bucks in interest – they need it! ;)

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22 Even Steven April 15, 2015 at 9:08 am

I would say you sir are killing it, congrats. Also I’m asking my dad to bring his old school razors when he comes and visits, thanks.

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23 J. Money April 15, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Oooh do it!

First try them out, and then see if you can hawk them on eBay. If you have the time and patience you can make a TON more than like how I did on CL. Some of those guys go for $100+… I don’t know which ones, but let’s assume your dad has them just for fun :)

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24 Fervent Finance April 15, 2015 at 9:31 am

“Shaving recurring bills and banking the difference” – I see what you did there :)

Congrats so far on the savings! I’ve been doing something similar where I take whatever is leftover at the end of the month after all bills are paid and transferring it to my Roth IRA or brokerage account. Once it goes in there, there is no spending of it!

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25 J. Money April 15, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Perfect :)

This is much better than throwing it into savings if you don’t trust yourself to leave it alone. And fortunately retirement/brokerage accounts penalize/tax you to dip back in so it’s the perfect barrier!

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26 Shannon @ Financially Blonde April 15, 2015 at 9:56 am

I have been on this savings challenge with you and you have definitely been the better participant. Our account is around $2,400 now but the lesson learned is that it’s from not doing much of anything. I just auto drafted our monthly savings between cable and insurance and moved it to our savings account. It’s not as large as your account, but it’s nothing to sneeze at as well and it just goes back to the point of banking the savings you are working toward rather than spending the savings.

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27 J. Money April 15, 2015 at 12:03 pm

you know, that’s actually a MUCH better way to do it with the automatic xfers like that… I still manually do them, but I guess I have to anyways since the rest of the $$ going into this account are one-offs, hmm…

On a more serious note, is it safe to say you owe me 1 more beer? :)

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28 Mark Zoril April 15, 2015 at 10:15 am

Thanks for the update. In the last month, we have changed our cell phone provider, gotten rid of our cable and land line at home, and also will be changing our insurances. I just calculated the annual savings and it works out to be around $5,000 a year. It is very gratifying – particularly since we don’t feel like we are giving up anything at all!

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29 J. Money April 15, 2015 at 12:04 pm

Holy crap!

Yes, that is perfect! You can almost max out an IRA on that alone, congrats!

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30 Mark Zoril April 15, 2015 at 5:10 pm

What is disappoint about it was that put off doing it for so long! It was my responsibility and I kept on putting it off and finding other things to do. One of the problems is when you do all the research there are so many options, for example, for phone systems and insurance carriers that it is easier to not do it. But once you get it done, you just move on with your life with your new changes and deal with it.

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31 John @ Frugal Rules April 15, 2015 at 10:16 am

Nice work J – especially with having it go to work for you in the Roth! We’re saving more and living on less than we ever have before and you’re right – it really doesn’t impact your lifestyle. Of course, there are always going to be things you want but by living this way you get to see quickly where to prioritize things. I’m still envious of your savings on the cell phone, but we finally get to leave Verizon in 3 weeks. I’m looking forward to thinking over what to do with that extra $100+ per month!

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32 J. Money April 15, 2015 at 12:07 pm

You can start by giving me some of it :)

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33 Noonan April 15, 2015 at 10:42 am

Thanks for the wonderful photo of the vintage razors (and i think it was a very sharp idea to convert them into cashola).

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34 J. Money April 15, 2015 at 12:07 pm

“sharp” idea, zing!

I “shaved” a lot by selling those guys ;)

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35 Kim @ Money Under the Cushions April 15, 2015 at 11:30 am

Always the inspiration. It’s spring cleaning time here and we have pledged to sell our stuff!

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36 Christine @ The Pursuit of Green April 15, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Very nice! Haha I love that you include found coins! It is always the best feeling when you find one. My husband doesn’t understand it but I stop to pick up a coin when I see it anyway! Haha one time he literally kicked a dime and that’s how we found it!

Cashback rewards should definitely count too! Working those credit cards to get max rewards is a skill.

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37 J. Money April 15, 2015 at 12:10 pm

I remember once picking up a penny and these neighborhood bullies thought it would be funny to throw a fistful of coins my way just to laugh and point while I picked them up…

But I was laughing and smiling right there with them – all free $$$ for me! :)

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38 Adam @ AdamChudy.com April 15, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Nice. Those little wins are turning in to big money!

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39 Amy @ DebtGal April 15, 2015 at 12:39 pm

I love the found pennies – every cent counts! :)

Great plan re: the Roth IRA. Maybe not super sexy in the traditional sense, but a really great plan nonetheless.

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40 J. Money April 15, 2015 at 12:57 pm

Plus I’m so boring these days I don’t know what I’d even spend it on anyways if I was forced to? Old coins? Haha…

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41 Maureen @ A Debt Free Stress Free Life April 15, 2015 at 12:54 pm

When you track you can clearly see where you have the extra money to pull out and put into a savings account. I love how you saved by tweaking current services. I make a habit of evaluating my services quarterly so I know I”m getting the best deal out there. Great plan!

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42 Mom @ Three is Plenty April 15, 2015 at 1:00 pm

My husband *loves* to shave with a classic double-edged razor (the kind in the pictures). Super sensitive skin, and he didn’t like shaving until he started using these – even used an old straight razor for a while – until he sliced most of a finger off cleaning it… They do give a very nice shave in my opinion!
Congrats on maxing out the Roth – nice time to do it while you’re in the lower income range with Mrs J$ not working!

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43 J. Money April 16, 2015 at 1:32 pm

Look at that!! Your husband is a stud! :)

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44 Mr Zombie April 15, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Awesome work mate! It’s amazing how the little bits add up. Like you said in the article it’s all about changing our habits. It’s weird how when you spend less you actually feel richer.

I found an old vintage beard kit while cleaning out Mrs Z’s Nan’s attic (not a euphemism!). It’s pretty gangster, there’s a comb, a pair of scissors and a brush (with the bristles made of badger fur I think) all in a little case. I’ve kept it for my beard…perhaps I should sell it haha!

Mr Z

BTW – I think most readers will find what you did with the savings pretty sexy!

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45 J. Money April 16, 2015 at 1:33 pm

I WANT TO SEE THAT KIT!!!!

It makes me want to grow my beard back just so I could use it – hah!

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46 Mr Zombie April 16, 2015 at 2:47 pm

Haha, will tweet a photo

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47 Mr. Enchumbao April 15, 2015 at 1:27 pm

Great investing choice. I went throught this “challenge everything” moment about 4 years ago and it’s liberating. I did cut the satellite TV and switched to Netflix only. You cut here and there and before you know it, there’s a couple of thousand dollars sitting in the bank account. Keep it up!

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48 Pengepugeren April 15, 2015 at 4:57 pm

I love how the screenshot of your account says: Challenge Everything Savings (I want to) :D

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49 J. Money April 16, 2015 at 1:36 pm

Haha yeah… :)

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50 Kayla @ Hello Pre Nurse April 15, 2015 at 8:47 pm

Congrats! That’s a lot of money and it sounds like you are putting it to good use. It wouldn’t do any good if you took those “savings” and spent them on more useless stuff, haha.

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51 Heather April 15, 2015 at 9:44 pm

Well done! That’s quite the savings! I don’t think it should be “once and done” though…I call my providers once every year or so to see if I can get any discounts. My situation in life may change and their services may change, so it’s good to check in every now and then. And awesome way to fund that Roth!!

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52 Kim April 15, 2015 at 11:19 pm

We just used our found savings to pay for our spring break trip. We even came home with money left, which will go toward the next trip. I also made $100 this week from selling two beds a tenant left behind. Not sure why people leave perfectly good stuff, but I’ll take it any day!

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53 J. Money April 16, 2015 at 1:35 pm

‘Cuz they hate money! :)

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54 The Money Spot April 16, 2015 at 10:22 am

I love that you continue to do challenges like these! And, I need to get a Digit account :)

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55 Sara April 16, 2015 at 10:57 am

You inspired me to make some calls this past weekend and I saved:

$10 a month on cell phones
$150 a year on car and renter’s insurance
$20 a month on internet

I also signed up for direct deposit at the bank that has my car loan, shaving .25% of the APR. And refinanced my student loans, going from 6.55% interest to 4.8!

And the savings are also going straight to my IRA. Thank you!

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56 J. Money April 16, 2015 at 1:37 pm

Well look at you, hustler!!! That’s some mad savings! :)

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57 Broke Millennial April 16, 2015 at 11:59 am

I need to get on this Craigslist selling train, but frankly I get too nervous about inviting a strange person into my home to view an item. How do you get the goods to your buyers?

I’ve been cashing out my Digit savings once a month into my actual savings account so the money can earn a little interest. It’s a great resource though and I’m glad you brought it to my attention!

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58 J. Money April 16, 2015 at 1:40 pm

Oh, you just meet people places and do the exchange :)

Starbucks, grocery store parking lots, etc. Wherever there’s lots of light and people around :) Though it’s not so easy if you’re trying to offload a coach, hah.

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59 EL April 16, 2015 at 2:28 pm

I have a few items I need to off load, and will probably do it as well on craigslist. IT looks like you went the boring but rich man route with the money. ITs cool keeping things simple, but I would diversify into another fund if it were me. (Just because I don’t like too much money in 1 fund) I’m sure you can find a good international or bond index fund with vanguard.

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60 J. Money April 17, 2015 at 12:15 pm

Yup, for sure – they got all kinds of other funds/options at Vanguard. I might do that down the road, but right now pretty happy.

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61 Derek @ Tools 4 Retirement April 16, 2015 at 4:27 pm

Thanks J. You’ve got me looking for things to sell. We love to sell stuff on Craiglist! We’ve even got our 8 year old daughter into it. She can make some extra cash by selling her old toys that she’s grown out of. It’s been a great way to teach her about the value of things, sales, and “less is more”!

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62 J. Money April 17, 2015 at 12:16 pm

Love that!!!

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63 Professor April 16, 2015 at 5:23 pm

Congrats! $3,800 is awesome. I think I may try out the Craig’s list idea. I have lots of clothes I never wear, though–based on my fashion sense–I doubt people will pay me much for it :).

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64 J. Money April 17, 2015 at 12:16 pm

You can always try selling first, and then if no luck donating and getting a tax write off :)

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65 TexasAce April 16, 2015 at 7:46 pm

Smart Move to Republic Wireless!
I’ve been with them since beta, and even though it was not quite perfect then – it’s great now. If you are around WiFi a lot, and Sprint has decent coverage where you are – people should definitely check it out!

Enjoying the info

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66 J. Money April 17, 2015 at 12:18 pm

look at you, early adopter! :)

glad you’re enjoying the site – thx for sharing, my friend.

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67 Mike Collins April 17, 2015 at 1:00 pm

I love these updates. It’s great seeing your balance grow month after month.

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68 Kimberly May 11, 2015 at 11:29 pm

I found out the other day that my boyfriend spends $180 on cable each month. ONE HUNDREND AND EIGHTY DOLLARS!!

I told him about your challenge, had him call in and he reduced his bill down to $60 a month. That’s $1,440 a year! Thanks for the inspiration, J$!

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69 J. Money May 12, 2015 at 10:19 am

Holy $hit!

Best girlfriend ever! :)

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70 Debbi June 16, 2015 at 3:58 am

We did a few garage sales & Craigslist to help finance 3 bathroom remodels & installing hardwood floors in our home (we both have allergies so carpet had to go). The sales added up fast & we were able to pay cash for all the renovations (did almost all the work ourselves). 10% off Lowe’s coupons we bought online really helped too with buying supplies. Also did “18 months no interest financing” for custom plantation shutters at Lowe’s. Love Craigslist, hated the “no shows” (people coming to buy that never showed up), lol

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71 J. Money June 16, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Work it girl! That is hustling at its best! :)

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