UPDATE 17 March: Further benefit changes have been announced since this article...
5 MoneySavingExpert.com challenges that could change your spending habits for good
Living on a budget isn’t easy at the best of times, and sticking to a strict budget can sometimes feel like a slog.
This is something we hear from clients, which is why we offer as much motivation and support as we can along the way. But sometimes all you really need is to speak to someone in the same boat.
The MoneySavingExpert.com (MSE) forum is one of the biggest online communities of money-saving movers and shakers. As well as hundreds of forum threads discussing everything from freebies to consumer rights, there are loads of money-saving challenges to get involved in.
If there’s one thing that makes something difficult a bit more fun, it’s making a challenge of it. Some MSE challenges are year-long, others just last a month or a couple of weeks. Whether you’re looking to save up, reduce your supermarket bill, or stick to your resolution to take lunch to work, you’ll find endless support from people in the same position on the MSE forum pages.
Here’s a round-up of our favourite MSE challenges…
1. Feed a family of 4 for £20 per week
If you’re looking for ways to reduce your grocery bills but still feed your family a healthy and balanced diet, why not try the ‘feed your family for £20 a week challenge’?
The thread dates back to 2012, but it’s still got a lot of active members on it, and they’re full of ideas for cheap and filling family meals. There are fewer mentions of lentils than you might expect too.
2. Frugal living challenge 2015
The frugal living challenge has been running on MSE for a few years now. It’s a place for people to share their money goals for the year and discuss how they plan on reaching their targets.
Frugal living is more than just staying within your budget; it’s more like extreme money-maximising! Everyone on the forum has different reasons for taking part in the challenge. Some people do it to pay off debts, while others are living frugally to stay debt free, to save money or other future goals that require a bit of extra cash.
You don’t need to have a specific goal in mind. You just need to be open to sharing your situation and offer a supportive word or two to other people in the group.
3. Savings challenges
If you’ve cut back on other areas of your budget it might be worth considering putting aside whatever you’ve saved. Putting 20p in a jar whenever you find one in your purse might not sound like a big ask, but even one 20p per day comes to £73 over a year!
On the thread you can keep up to date with how everyone else is getting on, and share your total with the other savers in the group.
Alternatively you could try the weekly saving challenge. In this year-long challenge, you save £1 in the first week, £2 in the second week, £3 in the third week and so on. It gets tougher and tougher, and looks especially difficult towards the end of the year, but if you manage to stick with it you’d end up with a massive £1,378.
You don’t have to do it with £1. As long as it’s sustainable, you can start off with as little or as much as you like.
4. Take your lunch to work challenge
If you’re anything like me, taking lunch to work can be a logistical nightmare. As well as making lunch, you’ve also got to find something to transport it in. If you survive the Tupperware cupboard avalanche, you then have to find a matching lid, and who knows where that’ll be. And if you can’t find a lid, you’ve then got to prepare yourself for a cling-film battle. That’s no way to start a day.
It is, however, a great way to save money. So we persevere. If you want some cheap but cheerful ideas for your lunchbox and some motivation to keep going, the ‘take your lunch to work challenge’ is for you.
5. 1% challenge
The 1% challenge has an intriguing name, and I think the concept is pretty fab too. Whether you’re looking to save up some money or pay off a debt, this challenge works by breaking down a daunting amount into much more manageable sums.
Once you have a goal in mind, divide the amount by 100, and this amount is your 1%. For example, if your goal is £50, you would divide it by 100 and your 1% would be 50p.
You then need to come up with as many ways to make your 1% as possible, for example by selling things, walking instead of taking the bus, or doing online surveys. If you’re struggling, you can have a go at some of the tried-and-tested ideas from other people in the group, and if you find something that works then share it with the others!
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