A Financial Reset After the Expensive Holiday Months: YNAB’s 30-Day More Money Challenge

Anybody else feel like their bank account needs to catch its breath after the whirlwind of spending that is the holiday season? Cause mine sure does. 

I’ve been an avid YNAB user for a few years now, but have never actually done their 30-Day More Money Challenge, despite being intrigued. I downloaded the workbook a few months ago, but never actually did anything with it (check the water ring in the header image). However, after what seemed like constant spending over the holiday months I thought that now would be the perfect time to print out the workbook and try it out. 

Basically, the More Money Challenge is a 30-day challenge to cut back your spending and put those savings towards one of your goals.

There are three simple (but challenging) rules. 

  1. Track your spending, every dollar.
  2. Only buy essentials.
  3. No dining out. 

Yesterday, we sat down and filled in the first few pages. 

The first thing we had to do was identify what we were saving for – that is, what we planned to do with the money saved during the challenge. We decided we would put the savings towards our future downpayment. For you, it might be the same target, or maybe you’ll use it to pay off debt, fund a vacation, or set up an emergency fund!

The next step was setting a target. The workbook told us that the average participant saves $1,000 over the challenge, so we decided to set our target for $1,000. This seemed like a lot, especially since I feel like I already try to keep our expenses on the lower side, but I figured why not go for the average.

Next up was to decide how we were going to track our spending. This one was easy because we already use YNAB, but they also give you a handy dandy paper sheet that you can use as well. 

The tricky part was up next. We had to list out our “no-spend rules” and list any exceptions. They give you a few examples of what rules and exceptions people have made in the past, which was a helpful starting point. 

We came up with the following “No-Spend Rules”:

  • No Amazon purchases
  • No “Stuff”: meaning stick to the essentials of groceries, gas, meds, pet food, etc. 
  • No alcohol
  • No coffee out
  • No new plants or garden stuff! – Cassie’s a sucker for the farm and garden store

And our “Exceptions” included the following:

  • We could buy the new pitchfork we’ve needed (but should try to buy one used) and could buy up to 2 bags of soil if needed for our seed starters for the spring garden.
  • We promised to take my brother and his girlfriend out to a fancy bar as part of a belated birthday gift now that they were in town, and we would still do this. 
  • We could use existing Starbucks gift cards to get a coffee out as long as the gift card would cover the full cost. 

After setting our rules and exceptions, it was time to do a little prep for the no dining out rule by taking a pantry inventory of what we already had and meal planning for the first week. They provide you with some useful sheets to help keep track of your pantry inventory for future planning.

Knowing what we had on hand made it easy to plan meals around things we already had. Turns out we had some pretty sweet stuff in the freezer that I had forgotten about – looking at you, ravioli!

The final pages of the workbook include your savings trackers. One has a line for each day of the challenge for you to document what you saved by listing what you wanted to buy but didn’t and how much it would have cost. The other tracker is a fun visual tracker that lets you color in blocks as you make progress toward your target. Since our target is $1,000, we get to color in a block every $18-ish dollars we don’t spend.

The way you determine your savings is pretty simple. If during the day you think “Oh, I should buy [insert thing here]” but then you jump in and say “No, Kaylie, I’m doing the More Money Challenge” and so instead of buying the thing you go, “oh, right, I guess I won’t buy it then.”

When you don’t buy the thing, you get to count that as a win and add how much you would have spent as savings. It should be a real thing or meal you would have actually probably bought if not doing the challenge though, and not just a passing thought.

In addition to the money you save by not spending, you can also add to your savings by earning some bonus money. You might sell things online, return something you maybe otherwise would have forgotten to, or pick up a small gig like dogsitting. 

Now that we’ve filled out the workbook and set our target, we’re all set to start our More Money Challenge tomorrow! I’ll be posting some brief weekly updates in case you’re interested in following along with our progress, and I’ll post a longer recap with final numbers at the end of the challenge. 

For now, we’re enjoying our final takeout meal.

You can download your own workbook and participate here

And you can sign up for YNAB here – even if you only sign up for the 34-day free trial it will help make your tracking process easier during the challenge! If you use this link and sign up after the free trial we’ll each get a free month! Win-win!

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