Sense & Centsibility Blog

Improve Your Personal Economy: The 1-Year Challenge

The Goal

The purpose of this exercise is to combat increased costs and taxes that I really cannot control with new savings and spending habits that I can control. I will lay out a few simple savings ideas with my next entry. For now, I will focus on the spending portion of my one year challenge. I have my own set of ground rules, but feel free to set your own as you see fit. I am, in short, going to purge and sell things I do not use, reduce my spending on unneeded items, and develop stronger financial discipline along the way! The beauty of this challenge is that you can build your own plan to improve and control your spending habits.

The Plan

Over the next twelve calendar months, I will attempt to not purchase anything new. With a challenge such as this, there obviously needs to be a set of ground rules. I will start with the types of purchases that are included in the challenge: There will be no frivolous buying, no fishing lures or new games or books, no new technology or other toys…all of the obvious things one might consider. I will add items of convenience to this list such as paid services. This is a bit of a grey area, but the general rule for me is to do things instead of buying things. I will make coffee instead of buying it, things of that nature.

The point is not to become a miser who wallows away in misery and boredom while I watch friends and family have fun. The point is to sacrifice in the short term for long term benefit, and to find new and creative (not to mention cheaper!) ways of doing things. First, I will try to go without or make do with what I have. If that doesn’t work, I will attempt to salvage, repurpose, and barter for things whenever and wherever possible. Today’s tools make it easier than ever to trade items or skills. Craigslist, grocery store bulletin boards, etc are still full of people looking to trade, sell, barter, or even give away!

The Exceptions

The obvious exceptions are food, gasoline, and coffee. I think necessary auto and home repairs are still fair purchases and I will try to barter first before hiring a repair service. I will also throw in my ten year anniversary gift to my wife as an exception to this new rule.


I will provide several updates throughout the year as well as some future entries about neat savings ideas to accompany any spending reduction plan you may be considering. If you would like to try something, but have no aspirations to go a year without shopping, then start with a simpler or shorter timeframe. There is a one month challenge that can certainly help you gauge your spending and get a starting point for improved control over your spending habits.

If you want to be creative and save some money, join me in this challenge and post your comments and updates! Or, comment or email me at if you have another financial challenge idea for me.

There are plenty of ways to save money and every little bit helps. Check out another one of Malcolm’s posts: 10 cheap date night ideas or for budget help, read Barb Miller’s blog on Budgeting Basics.

Need a little more direction in creating your monthly spending plan? The Financial Counselors at LSS are here to help you create a plan you can stick to, manage your debt, build up savings, or achieve other financial goals you may have. Call us today at 888.577.2227 to schedule an appointment. Don’t wait to improve your financial present and future – take action today!

You can also get started right now. Help is a simple click away!

Author Malcolm Johannessen with LSS Financial Counseling is a Certified Financial Counselor and he specializes in Foreclosure Prevention Counseling.