Take The Money Diaries Savings Challenge & Save More Than $600

Managing your finances can be a pretty personal project, but when I was writing Refinery29 Money Diaries, I was really inspired by the idea of women connecting online and IRL to cheer each other on as we all try to achieve the same goal: getting more comfortable with managing our money.
With that in mind, I've developed this savings challenge that you can follow along with here, in the book, and in our Facebook group. The challenges shared in this story aren't always exactly same as the ones featured in the book, but having a copy will make this project a richer experience. (Don't have a copy yet? You can pick one up here! Don't want to buy the book — grab a copy from your local library!)
A few quick notes on this money saving challenge:
How it works: I've broken the challenge into six weeks. Each day I challenge you to cross one financial task off your list and save a corresponding dollar amount. We start on Day 1 with writing down your financial info and saving $1. Once a week there will be a "Bonus Challenge," where you'll save even more money. You'll also get rest days where you don't have to save any money and can use that time to relax or get caught up on past challenges. At no point in the challenge will you need to save more than $32 in a single day. In the end, you can save as much as $603 if you do every single challenge.
Let's get started, shall we?
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect total that you can save if you complete all the tasks. We apologize for the error.
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Week 1: Getting Started

Today is the first day of the rest of your financial life!

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Day 1: Write down your financial info

Before you can even get started, you need to know where you stand. Take time today to write down all your financial information in one place. That includes your checking and savings account balance, your 401(k) balance, and any outstanding debt. To get the full list of what you should include see page 12-13 in the book. Save $1
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Day 2: Do one annoying financial task

It wasn't until I started writing this book that I finally took care of some pretty annoying financial tasks — like rolling over a really old 401(k). (Hello, productive procrastinating!) Today, tackle one of the outstanding financial tasks on your to-do list. File an FSA claim. Ask the bank to refund any fees. Need some more suggestions? Check out page 32-33 in the book (and find out why you might want to take a whole money mental health day!). Save $2
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Day 3: Check your credit score

Checking your credit score used to be an involved process, but it doesn't take much to track it down these days. You can sometimes find it on your credit card statement, or you can use an app like Turbo. These apps will also let you know if your score goes up or down, which can be helpful if you're about to get a mortgage, refinance your loans, or rent an apartment. For more about how your credit score works (and an easy way to bump it up), check out pages 28-29 in the book. Save $3
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Day 4: Take the highlighter test

This might be my number-one favorite piece of advice in the book. Developed by the financial advisor Manisha Thakor, it's step one in a three-part challenge to help curb unnecessary spending (you can read about steps 2 and 3 on pages 22-24 in the book). The idea is that you go through your spending for a month (including everything from your rent to your cable bill) and highlight anything that doesn't bring you joy. Check back on Thursday when we'll be sharing the highlighter test from a reader. Save $4
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Day 5: Use your credit card points

I've never been strategic about using my credit card points and maybe the best and worst thing that's ever happened to me is the new Amazon feature that lets me pay with my Amex points. Today, take some time to figure out how many credit card points you have and make a point to use them if they are going to expire soon. Don't have a credit card? Check out page 30-31 of the book to see why you should consider getting one. Save $5
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Day 6: BONUS CHALLENGE: Write a Money Mantra

Financial advisor and founder of Stash Wealth Priya Malani first shared the idea of money mantras with me way back in 2015. I was initially a little skeptical — it sounded a bit too New Age-y for me. But I learned that it can be really helpful to have a mission statement when it comes to your money — a sentence or so that grounds your goals. I share a little more about my personal mantra in the book (see pages 15-16), and we've talked about them in the Facebook group before. (Plus, there was a whole room at 29Rooms dedicated to them!) Today, write down your own. Then save an extra $5 because this is a bonus challenge!
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Day 7: Rest Day

You killed it tackling six money challenges! You've also saved $20. It's a good start! Enjoy a day off and get ready for Week 2!
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Week 2: Raise Week

This week we’re going to focus on getting you paid.
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Day 8: Calculate your compensation package

You know your base salary or hourly wage. But when was the last time you considered how much your other job benefits are worth? Today, take some time to calculate your whole compensation package, from your 401(k) match to the number of vacation days you have to any annual or semi-annual bonuses you might receive. You might even want to include all the money you’re saving on snacks if you work for one of those awesome companies that keep fully-stocked kitchens and serve gourmet (or even half-way decent) coffee. To get the full list of what you should include when adding up your compensation package, see page 100-101 in the book. Save $6
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Day 9: Make a plan to ask for a raise

We’re coming up on the end of the year, so it’s definitely not too early to start talking to your boss about their plans and your goals for 2019 and beyond. Need more help asking for a raise? Check out pages 86-92 in the book for expert advice from Sallie Krawcheck and Fran Hauser (and also a few anecdotes from me). And this Tuesday, we’ll be publishing a piece from Fran, where she shares the negotiating success stories from women who have followed her good advice! Save $7
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Day 10: Talk to a recruiter

One of my favorite pieces of advice in the book comes from Fran, who suggests the best way to know what salary to ask for in a job negotiation is to talk to a recruiter. I recently had dinner with a woman who said two different recruiters suggested she ask for two vastly different salaries (we’re talking $50,000 difference!). When it comes to knowing what you should be paid, the more data you can collect the better. So don’t just stop with one recruiter, ask a few. (Not sure how to find one? This Muse article has some great advice.) Save $8
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Day 11: Go out to a networking coffee

It’s easy to fall into a habit of going to work every day and not thinking about your long-term career goals. But there’s no better time to look for a new job than when you have a job. And even if you have no desire to make a switch today, it’s always good to nurture your relationships. Take a page from one of our awesome book diarists (A Week in Philadelphia on $88,000) and go out to coffee with someone in your network today. Save $9
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Day 12: Update your résumé

There are few things that are less fun than revising your résumé, but it’s so much easier if you update as you go along. Spend a little time tidying it up today — even if it’s just 10-15 minutes. We’ve got a lot of great résumé resources for you right here. Save $10
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Day 13: BONUS CHALLENGE: Plan a vacation

Did you know that if you don’t take your paid vacation days, it actually means you’re working more for less money? So take some time off! (Want to know how much those vacation days are actually worth? See page 83 in the book.) With the end of year fast approaching, spend some time today planning a vacation. Don’t have an emergency fund? Then make that a staycation, okay? Then save an extra $10 because this is a bonus challenge!
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Day 14: Rest Day

You made it through the second week of the challenge! Nice job! Take today to rest and relax, or catch up on anything you didn’t finish yet from week 1 or 2.
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Week 3: Debt Week

It’s time to get back in the black.
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Day 15: Write down your debt details

Do you know how much debt you have? You might have a vague sense of your credit card and student loan balance, but today let’s figure out the exact amount. And if you have student loan debt, write down the date the final payment is due. Even if that’s 15 years (or more) from now, you’ve got an end date and that’s powerful information. Save $11
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Day 16: Set up a plan to manage your debt

There are two debt repayment methods that financial advisors typically recommend: snowball and avalanche. With the snowball approach, you first pay your monthly minimums, then throw any extra cash at the smallest amount of debt until you conquer it. The avalanche method focuses on interest rates, so you pay off the loan with the highest APY first, because that’s the debt that’s costing you the most money. Pay your monthly minimums first, and then focus on the debt with the highest interest rate. Want to learn more about the fastest way to pay off your debt and how to consolidate your loans? See Chapter 5 in the book. Save $12
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Day 17: Do a Zero-Dollar Day

You’ll need to do a little prep ahead of doing a zero-dollar day to make sure you’ve got enough food, a full tank of gas or a prepaid Metro card, and your rent or bills aren’t due. Then simply don’t spend any money for one day. Looking for other easy ways to save some cash? See pages 132-133 in the book! Save $13
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Day 18: Cancel 1 subscription

Most of us are paying for a subscription or service we don’t really need because sometimes it’s just easier to not cancel them. But do you really need Netflix and HBOGO and Hulu and cable? Or what about that gym membership you never use? Today, cancel one subscription you’re not using. Save $14
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Day 19: Social your debt payment

Okay, I know this is a little out there, and even if you don’t want to share your debt payment with the world, you should still $15 today. But if we really want to change the negative stereotypes around debt (and we do!), we have to be more open talking about our money challenges. So today, social your debt. Take a snap of your most recent student loan or credit card statement (don’t include account numbers, I don’t want you getting hacked!) and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Use the hashtag #MoneyDiariesDebtChallenge Save $15
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Day 20: BONUS CHALLENGE: Use found money to pay down more debt

One of my favorite financial tips from Priya Malani, financial advisor extraordinaire, is to use any extra money to pay off more of your debt. So say you sell something on Poshmark, get an unexpected bonus at work, or your grandma sends you some birthday cash — use some of it to make an extra payment on your student loans or credit card debt. Every extra bit can help you get back into the black more quickly! Need some ideas for a side hustle you could take on to earn some extra cash? See pages 166-167 in the book. Then save an extra $15 because this is a bonus challenge!
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Day 21: Rest Day

Nice job, you’ve made it through week 3, and we’ve only got three more weeks to go! Take today off, or get caught up on any challenges you might have missed!
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Week 5: Relationships Week

This week, let's talk about how our money impacts others!

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Day 22: Open a high-yield savings account

This simple task that Priya Malani has been preaching for years is a game-changer. It doesn’t take very long to do, but it can have a real impact on your savings. Do you know how much interest your savings account is earning right now? Most traditional banks offer pretty paltry interest rates (I’m talking 0.02%), but do a little digging and you can find a lot of great options at 1.5% or higher. Maybe that doesn’t seem like a lot, but just do the math. Say you manage to save $600 over this 6-week challenge. In a traditional savings account, you might earn $0.12 in interest. In a high-yield account with a 1.5% interest rate, you’ll earn $9. That’s $9 more dollars on your way to saving for a fully-funded emergency account. Save $16
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Day 23: Make a plan to save $2,000

In the book, I worked with financial advisor Manisha Thakor to finally answer the question: how much money do you need in an emergency account? Her answer is $2,000. Today, map out a plan to save that much. It roughly breaks down to $5 a day over the course of a year, but maybe you can do it faster! Need some quick money-saving ideas? Check out pages 132-133 in the book. Save $17
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Day 24: Deal with any outstanding medical bills

Is it just me sitting on a few medical bills that need some attention from the insurance company — as in, isn’t this included in my coverage plan? This kind of project is a bigger lift, so you might want to break it over a few days. See page 119 for more advice on understanding your insurance plan. And when dealing with insurance reps on the phone, just remember: It’s okay to ask questions until you get an answer you understand. Good luck! Save $18
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Day 25: Decide if you need life insurance

Life insurance is one of those scary adult things that most people don’t worry about until they have kids. But I worked with Certified Financial Planner Barbara Ginty to determine just who needs life insurance — and what kind. Check out pages 128-131 to build out your ultimate “escape plan” — that’s the 21st-century version of an estate plan, and everyone needs one. Save $19
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Day 26: Use your FSA dollars

An FSA account is a great idea — but only if you spend it. These pre-tax dollars can be used on everything from your birth control to your therapy copay. With only a few months left in the year, make sure you’re up-to-date filing all the paperwork. I have to admit, there’s nothing quite like seeing the reimbursement check hit your bank account to feel a little bit (unexpectedly) flush for a minute (or two). Save $20
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Day 27: Rest Day

This has been a busy week, so I’m giving you a rest day a day early. Use today to get caught up on anything you missed or give yourself a break. You’ve made it through four weeks of this challenge — that’s amazing!
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Day 28: BONUS CHALLENGE: Meal prep for the week

I swapped the rest and bonus days this week, so you could spend Sunday doing meal prep. One of my favorite Money Diaries money-saving tips is prepping your meals so you can save on lunch and dinners. Today, take a page from a bunch of awesome OPs and prep for the week ahead. Need some inspiration? My fellow Refinery29 food editors pulled together a slideshow of their favorite Money Diaries meal prep tips. Check it out here! Then save an extra $20 because this is a bonus challenge!
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Week 4: Emergencies Week

This week, let's lay some ground work to protect future you.
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Day 29: Share a financial secret with someone you trust

One big theme throughout the book is how awkward it can be to talk about money, whether you’re trying to navigate splitting the bill on the first date, chatting with your parents about their retirement savings, or asking your boss for a raise. But it’s awkward for almost everyone — it only gets easier if you talk about! Today, share a financial secret with someone you trust. It doesn’t have to be something super dramatic. Maybe just share a goal you’ve set for yourself, or finally fess up to how much student loan debt you’ve got. It might not be easy, but it will be worthwhile. Save $21
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Day 30: Make a plan for kids & money

One time, in a Refinery29 focus group, a young woman said, “It’s not like you can save to have a baby.” Cue the record screech. You can save to have a baby — and it’s not a bad idea to think about the cost of raising a kid before you start trying to have one. Today, begin to plan for how you might afford a baby one day. Already have one? Do you have a 529 plan, a will, and life insurance? Never want kids? Start thinking about another long-term goal you want to achieve and start putting a plan in place to make it a reality. Oh yeah, the book has a whole chapter on kids and money — check out pages 168-193. Save $22
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Day 31: Send your parents a thank you note

I’ve taught my toddler to say “please” and “thank you,” and it’s so sweet to hear him expressing gratitude for everything from a new toy truck to a cup of milk. Today, take a few minutes to send your parents (or a parental figure in your life) a thank you note for all the nice things they’ve done for you, whether they paid for college or still pay your phone bill. Save $23
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Day 32: Make a money date

Got an S.O.? When’s the last time you talked money? Today, schedule a money date so the two of you can start really discussing your finances — and your future together. Not sure what to say? Check out pages 54-57 in the book for 21 questions to get you started. No S.O.? That’s okay! Make a money date with yourself! Save $24
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Day 33: Donate money to a cause you care about

Okay, I know it might seem counter-intuitive to spend money during a money-saving challenge, but hear me out. Yes, I want you to save money, but I also want you to make sure you’re spending money in a way that makes you feel good. So today, take a few minutes to donate money to a cause you care about, whether that’s a friend’s GoFundMe, a political campaign, or a local nonprofit you believe in. Save $25
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Day 34: BONUS CHALLENGE: Catch up on a missed challenge

We’re almost to the end of our six-week challenge — just one week left! And I bet you’ve missed at least one challenge along the way. Take today to get caught up on one of the bigger projects, whether that’s developing your escape plan or going out for a networking coffee. Then save an extra $25 because this is a bonus challenge! (And celebrate because you just hit the $400 mark!!)
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Day 35: Rest Day

Look at that! You made it through week 5! Nice job! Today, take a real rest day and don’t think about your money. It’s good to take a break every once in a while, and you’ve been doing such an awesome job!
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Week 6: Future You Week

Let’s plan for the future, and let’s make it fun!

(Note, there's no rest day or bonus day this week — we're just going to power through and finish the challenge! You can do it!)
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Day 36: Increase your 401(k) by 1%

Do you know how much your contributing to your 401(k)? Is it enough? I have to admit, when I was writing this book, I had to look up to see exactly how much of my paycheck was going to my 401(k) each pay period (10% for the record). If you don’t have a 401(k) yet, let’s take some time today to set one up. If you do have one, let’s see how increasing your contribution by 1% might impact your overall savings and spending goals. Bankrate has a great calculator to see how just a small change can help you reach big goals in the future. For more on retirement accounts in general, check out pages 270-278 in the book. Save $26
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Day 37: Make a long-term savings goal

It can be really hard for some people to save if they don’t have a goal that’s motivating them. (Okay, sometimes it's just hard to save because of small paychecks and big expenses.) Today, let's make some long-term savings goals, whether that’s an amazing vacation next summer, a house in five years, or your own business in 10. See page 283-284 in the book for more advice on how to plan for and then successfully tackle your long-term savings goals. Save $27
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Day 38: Rollover an old 401(k)

Oh, this dreaded task! I was sitting on two very old 401(k) accounts before I wrote this book, and I finally rolled them over last winter. Did you know that you get charged all kinds of hidden fees to leave those old 401(k)s just sitting there after you leave a job? Ugh, I don’t even want to think about how much money I wasted when it takes just a few minutes (okay, okay, more like half an hour) to take care of this annoying chore. Check out pages 279-280 in the book and get this off your plate once and for all! Save $28
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Day 39: Research investment options

If you have an emergency fund and you’re maxing your match on your 401(k), today could be a good time to do a little research into your best plan for investing any extra money you might have (this will help you achieve those long-term goals). See pages 283-290 for more advice on investing; and also check out this interesting Refinery29 article on different robo-advising platforms. They can be a great place for beginner’s to get comfortable with the market. Save $29
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Day 40: Write a review of Money Diaries

Did you make it through both the book and the six-week challenge? Can I ask you a favor? Can you write a review of the book on Amazon? And leave a comment below? We love to hear feedback, and good reviews on Amazon can help book sales! I really appreciate it! Save $30
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Day 41: Take a screenshot of your savings account

You don’t have to share the screenshot with the world but save it for yourself. Did you manage to save as much as you hoped during this challenge? What are some changes you would make to your savings habits going forward? Take a minute today to reflect on the last six weeks, and decide if there are any outstanding challenges you still might want to tackle. Save $31
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Day 42: Do a Money Diary

This is the last challenge in the book and one of my all-time favorite money tips! You don’t have to submit it to Refinery29 for publication (though here’s a link to the form if you do), but it’s a really great way to get more mindful of your spending and savings habits. Save $32
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Celebrate your savings!

And with that, we’re all done with our six-week challenge! How did it go? Let us know in the comments if you made it through the whole thing! Either way, thanks for following along, and good luck getting your financial life in order! We hope if you learned anything over the last month and a half is that none of this is that hard, but the feeling of saving money can be really satisfying and motivating!

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