We did it!! 12 straight months of challenging our bills and stuff, and here we are now with a nice pile of change :) And $5,484.07 at that! Only $15.93 short of maxing out our Roth IRA – woo!
Here’s one last shot of our USAA account for proof:
What a ride it’s been too… From battling with cable companies, prying ourselves from our (once) beloved iPhones, hawking stuff on Craigslist every week, scooping up free change thrown on the ground by dummies, stashing away birthday money, slashing insurance rates and more.
And to think it all came out of one simple line of text from Mr. Money Mustache:
“Every permanent drop in your spending has a double effect: it increases the amount of money you have left over to save each month, and it permanently decreases the amount you’ll need every month for the rest of your life.”
I had been on the Earn-Earn-EARN! train for so long that I stopped paying attention to my monthly expenses and needed a kick to get back on track again. Thus, Challenge Everything was born and I started going over all major bills we had on rotation to try and get them lower, while still maintaining our same quality of life. And for three of them we won!
(Unfortunately I kinda stopped there as I got caught up with selling everything in our house and finding other ways to stash away money, but still – we got the main areas out side of healthcare done! (And don’t even ask about healthcare, ugh…)
Total banked by paying attention to just these 3 bills brought in $2,503.73 in 12 months. And two of them just required a single phone call to slash! (Verizon – when we moved our phones over to Republic Wireless saving $100+/mo, and USAA car insurance when we cut back on stuff we didn’t use. In fact, that call literally took us less than 15 minutes!)
But of course we didn’t stop there :) Once I got into the habit of re-thinking how we spend money, I started challenging all our “stuff” in the house too. Half of which just took up space and I didn’t care for, but another half I normally would have kept because I *do* actually like, but came to realize I much prefer the cash instead (and space freed up by de-cluttering too).
So every week I did my best to list one item for sale on Craigslist and other places around town, which brought home another $1,027.67 on top. Then I started coming across other random money that would hit us throughout the months (found change, birthday money, refunds, etc) which brought us another $1,952.67 in realized savings. All totaling a whopping $5,484.07!
And since I separated out all this money into its own private account, I knew exactly what I was coming into each month which only motivated me to continue going further. I honestly can’t say enough about how instrumental that was. When you have an account that ONLY GOES UP every month because you’re only adding to it and NOT touching it, it because one of your favorite things to look at :) The only other thing I can compare it to is your 401(k) or IRA account that keeps building up over time since you’d never pull from it or you get penalized up the ass (built-in motivation right there! Haha…).
That’s really all I did! It was all rather simple:
- Cut bills, funnel the difference over
- Sell stuff online, funnel the profit over
- Don’t spend any “extra” money you come into, funnel it all over!
Here’s how it all broke down – for you visual nerds ;)
You’ll see my special column there for all the coins I found on the ground, haha… AND $20.00 bill last month too – that was quite the surprise!
In fact, look at that column for “Random money” – almost $2,000 that went through our hands totally unexpected. That was one of the biggest surprises of the whole challenge. I knew we got extra money here and there, but $2 G’s? Imagine where it would have gone had we not been dutifully setting it aside? Makes you wonder about your own $$ too, right? :)
Lots of interesting tidbits learned actually, but before we get to that, here’s the final breakdown of our last month worth of challenging stuff – August:
Of note are the 5 things sold online which felt great (I was in a drought earlier in the Summer), and two of which came from that OfferUp app. In fact, one of the items actually BROKE in my pocket as I was carrying it over to meet w/ the buyer – hah! I was so embarrassed and apologized profusely, and the guy actually STILL offered to pay me full price for it! I was like – “Noooo way man, I screwed this one up – why don’t you just take it for free?” But he wouldn’t have that either, saying he could glue parts of it back together (!!) so we settled on $10 instead of $15 and both came away happy. Though I was still pretty embarrassed and shocked at the same time :)
The other biggie ($180) came from Ebates with my wife apparently shopping through there more and probably recruiting some of her friends too, haha… or maybe from me linking it here too? (They pay $10/referral I believe) In either case, it was unexpected $$ and thus banked into the ol’ pot here. My wife, and others around town, do swear by them though – check it out ;)
Other interesting nuggets from the year:
- Our savings account accrued a whopping $1.73 all year
- I forget what it’s like to own an iPhone!
- Our cable bill went from $170.77 to $131.45 then to $91.02 , $122.63 and eventually back up to $145.97! (Most recent bill we just got hit with)
- SO WE CUT CABLE ONCE AND FOR ALL!!! (More here for those who missed it)
- We won two lottery tickets (gifts) in the process worth $4.00
- We randomly received a Toyota lawsuit check of $29.23 (hah)
- And a total of $530 worth of gift money (birthdays, Christmas, other)
- As well as $725.95 in refunds/re-imbursements
- $237.23 in credit card rewards (we put everything we can on them, and then pay bills off in full)
- The most I made selling something was $225 (for guitar + amp + accessories)
- The least I made selling something was $5.00 (used dart board I had picked up at a yard sale)
- The average I made per item was $33.15
- The total # of items I ended up selling was 31
- Which meant I was only successful 60% of the weeks I listed something (31 weeks out of 52)
- The only month I didn’t sell anything was April
- 3 of the things I sold were weapons: sword, knife, darts!
- There’s only one thing I miss (but wouldn’t undo): my wooden dragon
- And the only months I didn’t find any change on the ground were November, December, and January
And boy did I learn a lot in the process too.
Outside of the shock of how much *extra* money we come across in our lives, as well as how instrumental setting up that separate savings account was, I also learned the following:
I realized just how EASY it is to cut back when you stop and pay attention! And also that most of us still have plenty of fat we could cut from our spending if we really wanted to.
I also learned that I adapt pretty easily to changes as much as I’m sometimes afraid of doing so (like dropping our iPhone for $100+ savings every month, or cutting back cable which I still don’t miss yet after now being 2+ weeks without!). Or for that matter, no longer owning any of those 31 items above. As well as the boxes I’ve since donated and got a tax refund on too (ooooh I should have added that rough # to the savings! oh well…)
It’s also opened up my eyes on how much MORE I still have to go in cutting back and spending less too. While I did do good on those 3 major bills up there, I kinda slacked off from there and didn’t touch other bills I knew would be harder to deal with and more annoying. I also still have a house FULL of stuff I can most likely do without, and I haven’t even touched some boxes in the basement that would have been prime for the picking off/selling on CL!
I also came to the conclusion that some stuff just takes way longer to earn income from than others. For example, anything less than $10-$15 worth on Craigslist probably isn’t worth the time, whereas cutting back just 1 bill 1 time pays dividends every month going forward. Which means I should have paid much more attention to my bills than all that selling I got obsessed with! :)
This $5,484.07 also feels like FREE money!! I had to work for it of course and offload some stuff, but really if everything was status quo the entire year I would have had $5,500 less in my accounts and not even really known. Even if we ended up only at $1,000 by the end it would have been worth the effort!
And lastly, I learned I need to make it “a thing” in order to hold myself accountable :) Without blogging about it to y’all and telling my friends, there would have been an easier chance for me to give up and fade it into the background. Similar to the other habits and experiments I’ve worked on (and succeeded with) over the years. We suck at staying motivated sometimes when we don’t tell people! And y’all just kept egging me on over the months which helped even more – so thank you :)
What does the future hold?
Well, I’m not sure I’ll be tracking and blogging about it so diligently every month, but you can bet your sweet cakes the challenge will most def. push on! How could I pass up so much extra money flying around like that? I’ve only gotten started! :)
And while it may look like I spent a lot of time accumulating this $5,500, I honestly didn’t notice it much outside of dealing with the dreaded cable company on and off… In fact, it probably took me more time to type out all 12 of these recaps than it did to earn the money! Hah!
So a mission well worth the effort indeed… And now I get the pleasure of dumping out all that cash sitting there and starting over – woo! If I hadn’t already maxed out my Roth IRA in anticipation of this beautiful day I’d be headed over to Vanguard, but filling back up my Emergency Fund will feel just as good too I’m sure…
I hope you’ll continue slashing and saving along with me! Do let me know how it’s going for those of you following along as well. Some of the emails you’ve sent over were downright inspiring, and I want others to be able to see how easy (and fun!) this stuff can be!
Let’s celebrate together!
Thanks for following the series!!
Jay loves talking about money, collecting coins, blasting hip-hop, and hanging out with his three beautiful boys. You can check out all of his online projects at jmoney.biz. Thanks for reading the blog!