What Is The #30MoneyMoves Challenge?
The #30MoneyMoves Challenge is designed to not only help make small but impactful changes in your finances in 30 days, but to do so with the support of other people motivated to make changes as well! Each day's activity can be completed in around 30 minutes or less - some days much less. The goal is not to go from broke to Warren Buffet in a month's time, although that would be great. The goal is establishing a firm foundation so that you can START the path to becoming the next Warren Buffet with confidence. We hope that you'll participate, and also that you'll join in with others to show you're progress.
How To Join The Challenge
1. Complete the day's #30MoneyMoves Challenge
3. Bonus: For the month of September, anyone who successfully completes ONE money each week will be entered into a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card. Don't worry, we're realists. We know you may not make all 30 days, but any day you work to improve your finances is a good day, so you're entered into the drawing with just ONE day of participation each week. You can't beat that!
That's all there is to it! Now, let's get started with the challenge!
Day 1: Determine Your (Free) Incentive
I never said this would be a fun-filled 30 days, so keeping the motivation might be difficult. To help, find a free treat-or at least one you've already paid for- as a way to finish up each 30 minute daily task. Already paid for cable this month? Load up the DVR with back episodes of your favorite show to watch after you finish each day. Been waiting to dive into a new book? Bring it with you to your dedicated work space (see below) each day so you'll always have in mind there's a little treat coming after you've finished your assignment. It seems small, but by day 20 you'll thank me. Easy task today, and shouldn't take you 30 minutes, but it will get tougher!
Day 2: Set A Time Of Day To Work
I can only speak for myself, but if I don't set a dedicated time to accomplish a task, it probably will be left undone. We're taking 30 days to make 30 financial moves, and every day won't be a basket of laughs. So set a dedicated time of day you'll do your 30 minutes of work on your finances.
Day 3: Think About Your Biggest Financial Obstacles
If you live with your spouse, take this day to write down a few behaviors or circumstances that are holding you back financially. All of these things don't have to be bad habits. Some of them might be facing the fact that you need to find a second job, or one that pays more, or have a conversation about how much financial assistance you're giving family members. Whatever it is, talk it out and try to find a few things you both can agree on, as it might set the tone for steps you need to take in the future. Live by yourself? Be honest about your situation as best you can, and write down 3 or 4 things you think are keeping you from financial success.
Day 4: Create A Dedicated Space For Your Financial Documents
Have you been pushing financial papers into the back of your drawer for months, or leaving important emails in your inbox right next to shipping notifications for your Amazon purchases? Create a dedicated physical space like a filing cabinet for important documents such as insurance policies and loan agreements, as well as a digital file or email label where you can store all electronic documents related to your finances.
Day 5: Set One Short-Term, Intermediate, And Long-Term Financial Goal
One of the things people miss when budgeting is that one definition of budgeting is the allocation of money for a particular PURPOSE or goal. You won't know how much is too much or too little to spend in any area until you have an honest conversation about what your financial goals are. On this day, set a short term (5 years or less), intermediate (6-10 years) and long-term financial goal (10 years or more). Find a place to put them so they are easy to find, and as you go throughout the 30 days, try and identify behaviors that are helping you reach those goals and also those that are preventing you from your goals.
Day 6: Review A Paystub
Most jobs don't hand out physical checks anymore. Paychecks are automatically deposited, and somewhere online a copy of your paystub sits unopened. Every once in awhile it's worth taking a peak at your paystub to see the charges that are being deducted from your pay. You might be surprised to find there are charges you weren't aware of, maybe some you don't even need. With increasing frequency, companies are starting to offer "opt-out" benefits, where you're automatically signed up unless you formally opt out of participation. Parking fees, certain employee health benefits, even a higher than you'd like 401(k) contribution are among the items that might be deducted without your knowledge. You may not make any changes, but knowing what impacts your take-home pay is important.
Day 7: Print Off Bank and Credit Card Statements And Identify All Your Auto-Drafted Bills ...
Sometimes we get so caught up in the ease of online and automatic payments that we forget just what's coming out of our account in the first place. Print off a bank statement and identify all of the bills that are being auto-drafted from your account. You may stumble upon some you'd forgotten about; for example, every year I get stuck auto-renewing my Lumosity account because I forget to cancel. Or it may be that you weren't aware of the sheer number of services you'd signed up for over the years, which might make it easier to accomplish the next day's task.
Day 8: Eliminate One Clearly Useless Bill
Don't worry, I'm not coming for the heavy-hitting sacrifices (for now). I'm talking about the auto-drafted bill you forgot was even coming out of your account; THAT type of bill. Have you been paying $3.99 for some credit monitoring service you never used? Did you sign up for a 30 day trial for *insert product or service here* and not realize you've been charged a fee for the last 6 months? Find that one bill and cancel it. Need an example? My wife and I have both been paying for Spotify Premium separately for months, which cost us almost $20/month. When we realized it and switched to Spotify Premium for Family, we now pay $14.99 and can add up to 4 additional users. Now, is $5/month enough to buy a new house? No, but it means that I was costing myself $60/year to listen to the same exact songs I listen to now. Everyone has that one bill. Go find yours.
Day 9: Determine Your Hourly Rate
I'm a big believer in every person determining their hourly rate, which I would define as the value of one hour of your personal AND professional time. Some industries encourage you to find the rate that your time is worth, such as consultancies or attorneys. At work, knowing your hourly rate not only lets you know how much someone should be paying you for your time, it also lets you know what tasks are NOT WORTH your time and should be delegated. For example, if you're an entrepreneur whose time is worth $100/hr and you spend a ton of time doing the administrative work of someone whose time is worth $15/hr, you'd be better off paying someone $15 and using the time you saved to find a client willing to pay you $100! Here's how that same number plays out at home. Once you know how much you value an hour of your time, break down the chores you do at home - either during time you could be enjoying your family and recharging, or time you could spend improving yourself professionally and personally. If you find that you're spending a significant amount of time at home on tasks below your hourly rate, consider hiring some helping hands. Speaking for myself, hiring a cleaning service to clean our home twice a month has saved me a tremendous amount of stress and time - time I've used to improve myself, or enjoy my family, or recharge for the next day. If you're realizing that your hourly rate is LOWER than you've been paying for some services (for example, your hourly rate is $30/hour but you've been paying someone $45 for the hour it takes them to mow your lawn), you might have stumbled upon some cost savings you can inject into your budget.
Day 10: Calculate Your Total Expenses
Now that you've cleared the junk from your budget, it's time to find out how much it actually costs to run your household. To be honest, I really don't care that you know exactly how much you spend on groceries each month. What I do care about, is do you know how much ALL of your bills total up to on any given month. We covered this in our video on how to make a budget, but every person should know with some level of certainty how much it costs to run their household on a monthly basis. Once you know how much it costs you to pay your bills in full each month, it gives you an easier way to know how much changes in pay or emergencies impact your expenses each month. For example, if you make $5,000/month after taxes and your monthly expenses are typically $4,500/month, you have a much easier way of knowing how much you need to adjust if you have a $600 emergency in one month. Knowing this number also gives you an idea of when you can afford to treat yourself a little (yay!). Do you have $4,500/month budgeted and one month your bills come in $100 less than usual? Maybe that means you can treat yourself to that massage without any guilt that you're spending money you don't have. The total expense of running your household on a monthly basis is the most important number to help determine how much you have left to attack your goals, or what expenses need to be cut before getting started.
Day 11: Determine Your Emergency Fund Balance
Once your total expenses have been calculated, you can now decide how many months' expenses you need in your emergency fund. Traditional advice says that one-income households should have 6 months' expenses saved, while two-income households should have 6 months' expenses in an emergency fund. But conventional knowledge doesn't apply to every single household. As a husband in a household with two variable incomes, 3 months' expenses would never be enough to cover months where we don't earn enough to meet our obligations. However, a one-income household in a stable industry such as medicine may not require a full 6 months' expenses to be tucked in cash. That family may be better served using their extra funds to invest. While you certainly want to make sure you don't have too little saved in case of an emergency, you also don't want too much money sitting on the sidelines rather than investing it in the hopes of earning a rate of return. Evaluate your job status, stability of income, and any medical or other challenges that impact the amount of cash you might need on hand in a hurry, and set that as your goal moving forward.
Day 12: Request Information On Your Workplace Benefits
I know your eyes glazed over when your HR rep brought you into the conference room for a presentation on employee benefits, but they actually are pretty important. Take the time tonight to read through your employee benefits packet or online portal to see what type of insurance and investment options are available through your company. We often meet with people who love working at their job and didn't realize their company had an employee stock ownership plan which would allow them to buy ownership in their company! On the negative end, some high income-earners find that their benefits don't cover their full income in the event of a disability, or they don't have quite as robust a 401(k) match as they thought. Either way, being informed as to what your company offers could impact the financial products and services you need OUTSIDE work.
Day 13: Review Old Insurance Policies ...
There are a number of reasons to dust off your old insurance policies: 1.) You might find out that the coverage you purchased has expired. 2.) Reviewing the beneficiaries for your coverage every so often is vital. We regularly see couples on their second marriage who still have their ex-spouses listed as beneficiaries, or young families who haven't updated their coverage to reflect the fact that they've had children. 3.) Some insurances, such as life and disability, are based on not just your age and health, but also the average medical and mortality risks for the average person of your age and health. Because we are living longer and longer, these risks have actually lessened over time, which has led to DECREASING costs for certain insurances. So even if you have an adequate amount of coverage, you might save money by reapplying. 4.) Our financial needs can change greatly over time. If you got a policy ten years ago, that's ten years of promotions, kids leaving the house (hopefully), preparing for retirement that will have an impact on not only how much coverage you have, but also how that coverage is structured. 5.) Thoroughly reading what your policies cover can reveal that you don't quite have what you thought you had. For example, not understanding the difference between an accidental death and dismemberment policy and a life insurance policy could have tremendous implications to your household in the event of a death.
Day 14: Insure The Insurables
We've probably all heard the saying 'it takes money to make money'. I think it's worth amending that statement so it reads, 'sometimes it costs money to make sure you'll always be able to make money'. I know the temptation is to jump into investments and business dealings when you're starting your quest for your or your family's wealth, but the fact of the matter is the whole plan only works if you're healthy enough to work, or you've left enough money behind for your loved ones to survive. So now that you've reviewed your workplace coverage and your old policies to see what you have and don't have, it's time to cover any shortfalls with personal coverage. No one likes paying money for things like health insurance, life insurance in case you die and disability insurance in case you're disabled, but the fact is you have to have these things in place to have a stable foundation to your plan. If you either don't have coverage or have found gaps in what you do have, contact an insurance advisor to help sort through options that can fit your needs.
Day 15: Set An Appointment To Create A Will
You don't want a probate court judge giving this look when it's time to settle your affairs. Even though it may seem like you don't have much to split between your heirs, or you may not care who gets what, dying intestate (without a will) can truly make your death a burden to your loved ones. Dying WITH a will can help keep your loved ones from paying costly fees to go through the probate process, where courts settle the distribution of any assets (or debts) that either are not covered by a will or do not have direct beneficiaries. Oftentimes these fees are based off of a percentage of your estate, which can dwindle an inheritance quickly. But a will for when you die isn't the end of it; you also need a LIVING will, which can cover things like who has your medical and financial power of attorney in the even you're incapacitated. Check out some local attorneys, or even online options such as LegalZoom and RocketLawyer, and set an appointment to work through the process of establishing your estate plan.
Day 16: Find One At-Home Behavior That Increases Your Bills
This is a more minor task than determining the things that are holding you back financially. Today is literally about finding one quirk in your behavior that you know adds money to your expenses each month. I can tell you, my wife has a habit of letting food ruin because she leaves it out overnight, while I am just as likely to end up with three of the same jar of peanut butter because I never check the fridge or pantry to see what's there before I go grocery shopping. These are the types of minor behaviors I'm talking about finding today. Find one thing, and also find a way to work towards a change in their behavior. For example, my change might need to be forcing myself to never go to the grocery store on the way home from work. Even that small change might give me the hint to double-check to see if there's a few more spoonfuls of Jif Creamy Peanut Butter in the jar.
Day 17: Set Up A Savings Auto-draft
We're big believers in the positive and negative role that automation can play in your finances. Running your whole financial life on automated payments can lead to a number of your expenses becoming out of sight out of mind, but you can use that same power when it comes to automated savings. Pick a small amount you'd like to start saving each week, say the cost of your typical lunch, and set up an automatic weekly transfer from your checking account to your savings account. Even if the amount is $10, that's $520/year that may become so routine that you don't even notice it! Small steps can lead to big results.
Day 18: Turn OFF Your Sales Alerts
I might make some enemies with this one. Set a timer for 20 minutes today and unsubscribe from as many promotional emails as you can. Sure you can keep the discount emails for things you need, such as groceries or diapers for your newborn. But that email letting you know that Nordstrom is having a 20% off email? Gotta go. There's a reason that so many companies send out constant emails informing you of discounts .. they work. But today we don't let them win; as many unsubscribes as you can accomplish within 20 minutes. GO!
Day 19: Turn ON Your Budget Alerts
Whether it's Mint, You Need A Budget, PocketGuard or Wally, there are countless apps and websites out there that help make budgeting easier. One great feature of these tools, and the part you're going to set up today, is the ability to set notifications for when you overspend in certain areas. For example, if you set a budget alert to make sure you don't spend more than $150 eating out this month, you'll be notified the second you spend more than your allotted amount. It's a great way to make sure the month doesn't get away from you budget-wise, as it provides a subtle reminder of the commitment you made to yourself. Today, set up a budget on one of these platforms and turn on the alerts for TWO problem areas in your spending. If restaurants and shopping are your two problem areas, those are your two notifications. Use all the tools you have at your disposal to improve your financial behaviors!
Day 20: Determine What Can Be Switched To Generic (Or Lower-Priced) Brands
Mr. or Ms. Moneybags, believe it or not some of your favorite name-brands also make the exact same item and sell it to grocery stores that repackage them under their own label (you didn't really think Trader Joes made ALL those products themselves did you?). And even though you may not see a commercial for that generic brand paper towel, it probably wipes away your ... juice spills ... well enough that you don't have to pay for the name brand. Today, find one name-brand item you purchase consistently and resolve to TRY the generic at least once. You may go right back to your favorite, or you may find that the difference is negligible ... but the cost is not.
Day 21: Review Your Annual Credit Report
No matter what you see online, you do not have to pay to access your annual credit report. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com and print review your full report. If you see any errors that you'd like to contest, check out our video on how to dispute a transaction that you feel is inaccurately listed.
Day 22: Check All Three Of Your Credit Scores
Yes, find ALL THREE of your credit scores. While there are actually many different credit bureaus, the three most widely-recognized are TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. The businesses where you spend money are required to send information on your activity to all three bureaus, and some may report to only two of the three. For this reason, it's highly likely that you have a different score with each bureau; they're operating off different information. By knowing all three, you can make sure there's not something harming your score with one bureau that you weren't aware of because it's not reflected on your other two scores.
Day 23: Sign Up For A FREE Credit Monitoring Service
I'm also a big fan of credit monitoring services like Credit Karma that tell you your scores and also recommendations for improvement. Credit card companies, property and casualty companies and more offer free credit monitoring to their members, so whatever route you choose shouldn't cost money. In the age of huge data hacks, security could also be a concern. Take today to find a platform that makes you comfortable, and set alerts for changes in your score and the opening of any new accounts that is reported to the bureaus.
Day 24: Make A Plan Of Action For Your Credit Cards ...
Before we even start, understand that I do not believe in paying a single penny of interest in credit card debt. If you don't have any debt, the goal is to keep it that way. If you have a ton of debt, the goal is to find a way to eliminate that debt as responsibly as possible. That being said, learning how to use a credit card responsibly can provide a number of benefits to your credit and finances in general. Take today and look at not only how much debt you have, but the interest rates on your cards and whether or not the rewards actually fit your lifestyle. If you never travel anywhere but all you get on your card are free hotel points, it might be worth looking into a card that provides rewards for activities you do on a daily basis, such as grocery shopping or buying gas. Ready to aggressively pay down debt? Maybe a personal loan or a little credit card surfing can put you in a better position long-term. Whatever your plan of action, today is the day to talk it through, write it down, and get moving.
Day 25: Read Up On Your Student Loans
It's not just you; people around the country are seeing their finances torn apart by student loans. Today we fight the powers that be. I'll toot my own horn a bit here, as I think we've put together a pretty good playlist of information to help you understand both federal and private student loans. For federal loans, the most comprehensive collection of information can be found on the Federal Student Aid website. For those with federal loans, take today to determine your loan type(s), the repayment plan you're currently using, and importantly, your eligibility for any forgiveness programs offered by the Department of Education. If your research shows that the federal options aren't a fit for your situation, research the pros and cons of refinancing with a private lender such as SoFi or Laurel Road, who use background information and a soft pull of your credit to determine the interest rate you might be offered to refinance your loans.
Day 26: Start Or Increase Your Retirement Contributions
There are many reasons that investing early can benefit you, the power of compound interest being chief among them. Retirement accounts are also tax-deferred, meaning that taxes on the growth of your investments through things like interest, dividends and capital gains may not be due in the year they are received. If you work for a large company and haven't started participating in your plan, email your HR representative today to ask them how to sign up. Entrepreneurs or employees whose companies don't offer a plan can look into opening an IRA, Roth IRA or other retirement plans available to business owners. For those of you who are already contributing, today you are going to increase your retirement contribution; I won't tell you how much to increase it by, but by now some of our previous exercises (eliminating a useless bill, finding your total expenses) have hopefully freed up some room in your budget. Challenge yourself to save jusssstttt a little bit more, starting today!
Day 27: Open A Nonqualified Brokerage Account
I've written pretty extensively on the need to diversify outside of your 401(k). While traditional retirement accounts are great tools, they come with limitations that can be addressed with other forms of investment accounts. A nonqualified (i.e. nonretirement) brokerage account is a taxable account that allows you to deposit cash and invest in different stocks, bonds, mutual funds and more, all under one umbrella. Having nonqualified investments that allow you to access them before traditional retirement age gives you increased liquidity, and another layer of investments in between your savings and your 401(k). Consider opening a brokerage account and investing in a low-cost, no-load mutual fund or exchange-traded fund to get started. You can even play around with a little stock investing within this account down the line, but let's dip our toe in the water for now and just look into opening the account.
Day 28: Find One Way To Increase Your Human Capital
My good friend Courtney of The Knowledge Bank is maniacal about the idea of constantly improving one's human capital, which is essentially a valuation of how your level of skills and knowledge impacts your earning potential. It's not always about saving money; sometimes it's about putting yourself in a position to MAKE money. Whether it's increasing your knowledge and earning potential in your current profession or researching a side hustle you've been considering, find one way to increase your human capital today. Want to put yourself in a position to be promoted to manager of your department? Maybe you volunteer yourself to help with a project that will give you more experience for your resume. Interested in becoming a real estate mogul? Ask a successful investor you know to grab lunch and ask them how they got started. With services like YouTube, online webinars through services such as Udemy and MasterClass, even free classes at places like churches and community centers, not having access to the knowledge needed to improve yourself isn't a valid excuse.Those who never stop acquiring RELEVANT knowledge will always be in a position to earn more money, and that can at times be the quickest fix to what ails you financially.
Day 29: Subscribe To One Financial Blog, Podcast, Or YouTube Channel You Like
It's a lot easier to improve financially when you're continually increasing your knowledge base. You can't listen to every podcast, read every blog, or watch every video today, but use your work time to check the summaries of a few outlets you think you'd like and subscribe to them for a little while. In the days and weeks to come, check out their new episodes to see if any of them catch your attention, and unsubscribe from the ones you don't enjoy. Even if you end up keeping just one, that's still a little more financial knowledge being piped into your brain each month, which is a good thing.
Day 30: Seek Professional Advice
I'm a financial advisor. I help people manage their finances through insurance and investment planning. Let's say that I have a clogged pipe in my bathroom at home and instead of hiring a plumber, I choose to do it myself. How well do you think I'd do? Probably about as well as someone who spends the majority of their day doing financial planning instead of plumbing! Go back to what we said about hourly rates, and add in the fact that the hourly rate you set is based off of how you value your time in your career field of choice. Even though you can do something you're not trained to do by yourself, there can be a great benefit in paying someone who already knows how to do it and is licensed and insured. As an advisor I unfortunately come across situations where someone who chose to handle their finances themselves during their spare time finds out too late that a crucial part of their planning wasn't in place when it was needed. The same holds true for many areas of your life, be it legal, taxes, and more. Spend your time getting great at what you do every day, and seek professional advice for the things you don't. Simple as it gets!
That's 30 Money Moves in 30 Days! If you stuck with us, you've completed steps to help trim your expenses, change your spending habits, increase savings and tackle your debt. Hopefully you've gotten some value out of this short journey, and you're better prepared for the steps ahead. Here's to your future wealth!