Back at the start of summer, Mint challenged our readers to get serious about their summer budget, and aim to save $1,000 by Labor Day. The response was impressive, as were our readers’ money-saving motivations. Reader reasons for wanting to stash an extra grand were varied. For example, David Pinsky, a money-wise high school student responded to the challenge to get a head start on building his financial future. Angela Burkhart, a soon-to-be bride, was in the midst of planning her big day, and trying to wrangle wedding expenses.
Gaining control over your money and budget also works in tandem with changes in your family life–a fact evidenced by Minters like Jason and Becky LaRue who were saving up for the arrival of a new baby, and Carrie Nelson Redman, who planned to use her extra thousand dollars towards her desire to adopt a child from Africa. Damon Toal-Rossi was in the midst of a kitchen remodel—with almost everything but the kitchen sink when he decided to take our challenge. Though he budgeted wisely for the remodel, costs exceeded his estimates, and he found himself in need of an extra “grand” to finish the project.
Saving for a dream
Having extra cash on hand can also help make professional dreams a reality; Ashley Spencer intended to use her extra thousand dollars to record her first album. Sometimes extra money helps to relieve financial burdens you’ve amassed in getting building towards a professional career, which is what motivated Giorgio Piccoli, to take the challenge. Now employed full-time, he planned to start chipping away at student loan balances with his extra cash.
Many of Minters were also saving for a new set of wheels, like Gregg Rathbone. Though he was buying the car for his own use, he found that process of saving money is actually a group effort. At the start of our challenge, he easily identified dining out and clothes shopping as habits that were eating away at this income, but resisting the temptation to splurge socially can be harder than it sounds. “Sometimes you have to stay away from social interacting with your friends because you know you will spend money when you’re with friends at a restaurant.” (An easy way to conquer this? Get friends in on the game by setting up a savings challenge among your crew—the first to win gets a percentage of the savings)! Rathbone also found other ways to prioritize his spending. He’s been ride-sharing and taking advantage of public transportation to commute to and from work a few times a week, and has saved about $50 a week a result.
When things don’t go as planned
Nevertheless, for all their good intentions, Minters also found that despite their determination towards saving, life and financial plans are sometimes at odds.
Late in the summer, Rathbone lost his job, and is currently working on securing full-time employment. Despite the bump in the road, he continues to save for his car purchase, thanks to those money-smart habits he’s developed.
Shannon Yarbrough serendipitously planned a trip to Rio de Janeiro the very day we posed our “save $1,000” challenge—and decided that a little extra cash would enhance her journey to the so-called “Cidade Maravilhosa“ even more. She even shared her budgeting tale with the world through her blog The Green Chest.
Yarbrough’s saving journey started out with small changes—she become more conscious of unnecessary spending and switched to generic label toiletries, and less pricey spirits. She also dined out less, and became more resourceful in the kitchen, using ingredients she and her roommates already had on hand to cook at home—a simple move which she said saved nearly $50 a month. The challenge to save also revealed something a bit deeper for Yarbrough. Through blogging about her budgeting adventures and making her own gifts for events like Father’s Day, she was able to marry her new passion for budgeting with her creative bone.
But in a “sign of the times” (and further proof of why you should never put off saving), Yarbrough, like Rathbone, was laid off from her job with just a few weeks left in the challenge. Fortunately, she quickly found some freelance projects and part-time income, and recently secured a salaried position with a nonprofit called re:loom, which provides work and job training for homeless and low-income individuals through the sale of hand woven up cycled products. “The role is the perfect marriage of my love for the handmade movement and helping others gain financial freedom,” says Yarbrough. “Through blogging about this challenge, I was able to identify both of these interests!”
Her final $35 deposit into her savings account brought her to her $1,000 goal, just in time to celebrate Labor Day.
While biggest lesson learned for Yarbrough in the challenge was “covering unexpected costs and recovering after the layoff,” she also developed money-smart habits that will carry on well after the challenge, like the high costs of eating out, the enjoyment (and financial benefit) of making her own gifts, and “how important tracking and saving my money is.”
Mint.com would like to thank all the participants of the “Save $1,000 by Labor Day Challenge,” and say congrats! Whether you accomplished the goal or not—taking the challenge to understand where you hard-earned money goes, and how to keep more of it– is the first step to guiding your financial future in the direction you want.
Stephanie Taylor Christensen is a former financial services marketer based in Columbus, OH. The founder of Wellness On Less, she also writes on small business, consumer interest, wellness, career and personal finance topics.