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Charley takes the Skint Dad penny challenge!
Here at MoneyAware, we want everyone to talk about debt and money without fear of judgment.
So in the name of being open, I’ve decided to write about how I used Skint Dad’s penny-saving challenge to pay £700 off my credit card and bring forward my debt-free date by 6 months.
If you’ve looked at challenges such as this and thought, “nah, I can’t do that”, I’m here to tell you to have more faith in yourself. Yes, it’ll be tough at times, but the literal pay-off will be so worth it.
Let’s start from the beginning…
Fresh out of university ten years ago, I headed straight into an internship that paid me £50 a week. This just about covered my travel costs, so I struggled with cash for a little bit.
I was lucky enough to have parents who lent me money to pay for essentials while I built up a bit of experience. Eventually, I got a full-time job with a proper salary and everything! However, I’d also built up a hefty overdraft balance over time.
I got used to living in my overdraft. In truth, I’d given up on ever really getting out of it, especially as I wasn’t earning enough to start paying it off significantly. I eventually got a credit card to buy things that I wanted.
Turns out, I’m not great at keeping track of my spending and eventually I ended up with almost £5,000 in credit card debt across two cards.
Enough is enough!
It was going to take me almost five years to pay off every single penny of my debt. I was slowly chipping away at the balance, but it was frustrating at times. Until this debt was paid off, I felt like my past struggles were still holding me back, to an extent.
It was in 2017 that I realised there was a way to get this debt paid off quicker than I planned. In fact, it was because of this very blog that I discovered Skint Dad’s penny-saving challenge.
How does Skint Dad’s penny saving challenge work?
The idea is to save money for a whole year, but here’s the twist; the amount of pennies you put away each day will gradually increase.
So, for day 1 you’d save 1p. Then on day 2 you’d save 2p, day 3 saving 3p – and so on. By the end of the year you’d save almost £700.
Most people doing the challenge use physical pennies so they can see their savings. Many swear by keeping their shiny pennies in jam jars. I knew this approach wouldn’t work for me, however. I don’t carry a lot of cash and I knew I’d forget after a few days and get out of whack with it quite quickly.
Instead, I used Skint Dad’s handy spreadsheet and calculated how much I’d need to move into my savings account every month. As soon as I got paid, I moved the cash over and watched my savings build up. It was a great feeling!
Fortunately I didn’t need to dip into the savings while I was giving the challenge a go. But Skint Dad says himself that if you have an emergency and need to use your savings, don’t worry and certainly don’t beat yourself up. You can always go back and start again.
What I’d do differently…
If you follow the challenge to the letter, you’ll notice that towards the end of the year you’re obviously putting larger chunks of money away. This might be a struggle when you start to factor in costs such as Christmas.
If I were to do the challenge again – which I definitely will – I’d swap a few of the months around and save some of the larger amounts in the middle of the year. It makes those seasonal expenses much easier to cover.
The challenge lets you see saving in a ‘little and often’ way, rather than struggling with putting away, say £100, every month. While the savings in the later months are bigger, you’re well into the process by then and can make adjustments in the earlier months if you think it’s going to be a struggle later.
The moment of truth
Towards the end of the year I dared a peek at my credit card balance.
I worked out that I might be able to pay off my debt by May 2019 if I paid my penny-saving money towards my credit card balance. That would take 6 months off my ‘time in debt’, which was brilliant!
It felt really good to finish the challenge once I got paid in December, and on the 1st January I cleared £700 off my credit card. I’ll still need to make regular payments to close the balance by May – but I’m really looking forward to the day I can say I’m debt-free.
Looking at that £0 balance in my saving account didn’t feel good though, so this year I’m going big and doing Skint Dad’s 52-week challenge, saving up £1,200 for a nice holiday.
Wish me luck!
Do you have any easy saving tips to share? Are you saving towards something right now? Has it been easier or more difficult than expected? Tell us all about it in the comments!