12 Money-Saving Tips to Transform Your Finances in One Year

There is no one right way to save money. What works for one person may not work for you, which is why it’s a good idea to test out different tricks, to see what sticks best for you. 

We’ve put together 12 money-saving challenges, with the idea that you could try a new one each month. By the end of one year, you’ll have learned a lot about how you prefer to save. Plus, you may find that the variety keeps things interesting.

Erika Taught Me

  • Tackling a new savings challenge each month can make it more motivating to save.
  • Start by tracking a month’s worth of spending to see where your money is going.
  • Contributing to your 401(k) is a great way to help grow your savings.

. . .

1. Track Your Spending 

While you can tackle these money challenges in any order you would like, we recommend starting by tracking your spending. 

Often, we overspend not because we don’t care about reaching our financial goals, but because we are simply unaware of how much we are spending. 

Write down every purchase you make during the month — and check in on how much you spent each week to help make future spending more mindful. 

At the end of the month, you can look back and see where you can cut back your spending in future months. 

READ MORE: How to Budget: 5 Simple Steps

2. Commit to a No-Spend Month

Could you take a break from spending altogether? Doing a no-spend month is a great way to give your savings a major boost. 

Don’t worry, you can still spend money — but only on essentials. Groceries, yes. Dining out, no. 

Before you start, look at last month’s spending (good thing you already tracked that!) for an idea of how much you typically spend on necessities, so you know what to expect. 

It can be helpful to journal throughout the month, to get a sense of when you feel tempted to spend and what you feel when you don’t spend. 

Do you find yourself wanting to spend money when you are feeling overwhelmed? Now that you aren’t spending to help distract from those feelings, journal about how that makes you feel. 

For example, if you find you feel a lot less guilt because you aren’t spending, you may realize you need a new outlet for managing stress. Take note of that shift and when you need savings inspiration in the future, you can always look back at your journal. 

READ MORE: How to Beat Lifestyle Creep and Meet Your Money Goals

3. Review and Cancel Unused Subscriptions

One easy way to save money is to stop putting spending on autopilot. As convenient as entertainment, toiletry, and meal kit subscriptions are, make sure you are getting a lot of use out of them if they are going to have a permanent spot in your monthly budget. 

Take a cold, hard look at your current subscriptions. Start by canceling any you don’t use. From there, examine the subscriptions you use and see if you can go without any. Remember, you can always resubscribe in the future if it’s a service you really miss. 

You may also find that there are some subscriptions you don’t need year-round. Entertainment subscriptions are a great example of this. Do you really need them all at once? 

If you subscribe to a streaming service because you like a handful of their shows, cancel it until all of the new episodes come out. Then, you can resubscribe when you are ready to play catch-up. 

See if you can get by with only one entertainment subscription at a time before you sign up for them all. 

4. Start a Side Hustle

Sometimes you can’t cut more expenses from your budget, but you can increase your income. This is where a side hustle can come in handy. 

You can roll up your sleeves and get to work as a dog walker, freelancer, babysitter, or delivery driver for extra cash. And the great thing about a side hustle is you don’t have to commit to it forever. 

Launching a side hustle can also be a way to further your career. For example, maybe you work full-time as a graphic designer and are looking to make some extra money. You could pick up a few hours of freelance graphic design work to do on weekends. 

You could end up accomplishing several career goals in one fell swoop:

  • Make more money
  • Strengthen your skills
  • Build a better portfolio
  • Expand your professional network
  • Work on passion projects
  • Collect professional references
  • Learn more about a new industry

READ MORE: 15 Side Hustles from Home You’ll Actually Want to Do

5. Save Your Birthday Money 

You will need to tackle this challenge in whatever month you were born. If you are lucky enough to receive money on your birthday, don’t touch it. 

Instead, set that money aside in a high-yield savings account or certificate of deposit (CD). You’ll earn interest off that cash — giving you cause for greater celebration later. 

If you receive money during holidays or at a major life milestone like getting married or graduating from college, or simply have a really nice Grandma who likes to slip you a $20 when you visit, you can also put that money straight into savings. 

READ MORE: Money Market vs. Savings: Which Account Is Best for You?

6. Do a Pantry Challenge

Grocery prices are through the roof right now. One way to save on groceries for a month is to do a major pantry assessment. 

Go through your pantry, throw out expired food, and donate any food you don’t want that is still safe to eat. Then, it’s time to get organized. 

Once you are aware of all the food you currently have, it’s a lot easier to meal plan and cut down your grocery list. 

For the next four weeks, plan your meals around the items you already have in your pantry. That way, you can ensure no food goes to waste and your grocery bill drops. This challenge might even push you to learn some fun and affordable new recipes. 

Another bonus? You will face less temptation to order pricey takeout since you already have your meals planned. 

@erikakullberg Simple changes to invest more #publicpartner #investing #lawyer ♬ original sound – Money Lawyer Erika

7. Stop Eating Out 

Similar to your no-spend month, this month you are going to keep saying no — just to eating out. 

While dining at restaurants is fun, it’s also very expensive these days. Especially if you like to go all out and add appetizers, cocktails, and dessert to your bill. 

From a quick coffee shop run to fine dining, skip it all for a month and see how much money you can save. 

If you eat out as a form of entertainment or to meet up with friends, make sure you put some fun, free events on your calendar. An at-home movie night, an afternoon hike, a day at the beach, or volunteering can all be great ways to spend time with friends without spending money.

8. Kick a Bad Habit to the Curb

Do you have a bad habit that’s also costing you big time? Maybe you set some resolutions for this year that could also be cost-saving, but need a check in on your progress.

For instance, if you set a goal of being more sustainable, then you should refrain from shopping with fast fashion websites for a month. Unsubscribe from the email lists of the brands you find most tempting and avoid social media influencers who encourage you to shop.

Or maybe you wanted to cut back on drinking or smoking. If you need a little more motivation to scale back, look at how much you’ve already spent on alcohol or cigarettes for the year. A little sticker shock might be just the kick in the pants you need to send your bad habit packing. 

@erikakullberg I stopped buying these #lawyer #money #savingmoney ♬ original sound – Money Lawyer Erika

9. Buy Generic Brands Only

There are a lot of reasons you might turn to brand-name products instead of shopping generic. 

Maybe you grew up using a certain brand and are loyal to it all these years later. Perhaps a fun commercial caught your eye. Even packaging can sway us. We get it. 

The thing is, generic brands are usually cheaper than their name-brand counterparts — and often use the same ingredients and deliver identical results. 

This month, whenever you are shopping for groceries, toiletries, over-the-counter medicine, or household goods, go generic. 

The exception to this rule is if you have a coupon for a certain brand or their products are on sale. At the end of the day, the lowest price wins. 

10. Customize a 401(k) Challenge

We love this money challenge because it is customizable. 

If you have access to a 401(k) through your work, you are going to challenge yourself to make the most of it. What that looks like for you will depend entirely on your current retirement savings efforts, but can include:

  • Enrolling in your company’s 401(k)
  • Increasing your contributions
  • Maxing out your contributions
  • Reviewing and potentially editing your investment choices

At a very minimum, the goal you should be working towards is meeting the maximum amount of contributions that your company will match. If you don’t, you are leaving free money on the table and are effectively lowering your compensation package. 

You work hard for your money — so go get it. 

If you don’t have access to an employer-sponsored 401(k), you can adapt this challenge to apply to opening or enhancing your contributions to an IRA

11. Cash-Only Spending

Sometimes when we spend using a debit or credit card, the reality of how much money we spend doesn’t fully sink in. 

At the beginning of the month, decide what your spending budget is and go to the bank to withdraw the amount of cash you need. Only make purchases using that cash for the month (aside from bills that you pay electronically). 

Alongside embracing mindfulness, this challenge will help limit your spending and will force you to actually go to a store if you want to spend money. 

Avoiding the many spending temptations you will find online can be a quick and easy way to save more money. 

12. Challenge a Friend to Save

Sometimes, you need a little accountability to reach your savings goals. Find a money-minded friend who also wants to save more money and draft up a friendly challenge between the two of you (or however many friends want to join in the fun). 

See who can save the most money by the end of the month. The winner has to do the other person a favor, like pet sitting or helping them move. 

Make a plan for checking in with each other throughout the month with words of encouragement. There is no need to get too competitive here — it’s a major win when you both manage to save money.

TL;DR

You don’t have to overhaul your spending habits to save money. Sometimes, just making one change can make a big difference in your bank account. By testing out different savings tactics, you may find that one resonates the most for you, while others just frustrate you.

The best way to save money is the way that works best for you. 

For more ideas on how you can save money, check out these episodes of the Erika Taught Me podcast:

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I'm an award-winning lawyer and personal finance expert featured in Inc. Magazine, CNBC, the Today Show, Business Insider and more. My mission is to make personal finance accessible for everyone. As the largest financial influencer in the world, I'm connected to a community of over 20 million followers across TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. I'm also the host of the podcast Erika Taught Me. You might recognize me from my viral tagline, "I read the fine print so you don't have to!"

I'm a graduate of Georgetown Law, where I founded the Georgetown Law Entrepreneurship Club, and the University of Notre Dame. I discovered my passion for personal finance after realizing I was drowning in over $200,000 of student debt and needed to take action-ultimately paying off my student loans in under 2 years. I then spent years as a corporate lawyer representing Fortune 500 companies, but I quit because I realized I wanted to have an impact; I wanted to help real people and teach them that you can create a financial future for yourself.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.