The Ultimate Guide to Making Money

Tip #22: Analyze your progress in the 30 Day Challenge

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This is Tip #22 of of the Save $1,000 in 30 Days Challenge. (See past tips.)

Today’s tip is to step back from the day-to-day tips and analyze how well you’re doing overall in the 30 Day Challenge.

(Note: Don’t forget to scroll down for the pictures of how I’ve been doing in the Challenge.)

It’s easy to get caught up in the details of any goal, so let’s step back and try to evaluate how we’re doing. (I’ll do it, too.)

  • What were your goals when you started the Save $1,000 in 30 Days Challenge?

  • How much have you saved?
  • Have you really tried your hardest? If not, could you double your efforts over the next few days to finish off the 30 Day Challenge?

To make it easy, here’s a full list of tips so far
Tip #1: Pack lunches for the rest of the week (175 comments)
Tip #2: Turn your thermostat down 3 degrees (97 comments)
Tip #3: Sell something on eBay today (84 comments)
Tip #4: Involve your friends in your savings challenge (41 comments)
Tip #5: Optimize your cellphone bill (82 comments)
Tip #6: Use gas prices to become your own hedge fund (92 comments)
Tip #7: Create a “No Spending” day once a week (51 comments)
Tip #8: Implement the A La Carte Method (65 comments)
Tip #9: Only buy new things when replacing something old (39 comments)
Tip #10: Use the free rewards from your credit card, car insurance, and workplace (36 comments)
Tip #11: Never pay full retail price for clothes or eyeglasses again (61 comments)
Tip #12: How I’m saving $2,000+ on eating out in 2009 (51 comments)
Tip #13: How to negotiate your car insurance (47 comments)
Tip #14: Use self-persuasion to share how much you’ve saved so far (12 comments)
Tip #15: Forget going to a bar — ask people over for dinner (14 comments)
Tip #16: Cancel any large purchase this month (5 comments)
Tip #17: Buy generic for the stuff you don’t care about (50 comments)
Tip #18: No Christmas gifts this year (62 comments)
Tip #19: Save Money, Eat Well and Look Hot in Less Than an Hour (20 comments)
Tip #20: Change the date of Christmas (21 comments)
Tip #21: Save thousands by pre-paying your debt (just launched a few hours ago)

A couple people told me that they haven’t read the comments on these tips. Guys, the comments have some of the best stuff in this Challenge. Read them!

My experience during the 30 Day Challenge
Finally, let me share how I’ve been doing. I figured some pictures would be more fun than me writing more words.

Following the (pack-your-lunch tip), I took a picture of these apples I brought to work as a snack, which (1) forced me to eat healthier, (2) prevented them from going rotten, and (3) most importantly, removed the barrier of not eating them at home.

apples-at-work

Next, I had to buy a coat for a quick trip I took, so I went to TJ Maxx, where I saved $100 on a coat — and saw this hilarious sign.

hilarious-tj-maxx-promotion

All right guys, this next one is my favorite photo. I tried to cook at home, but as I’ve told you before, I’m horrible at making anything. You’ll notice the cornbread here, which tasted disgusting. If you look closely, you might wonder why I’m wearing a skull cap in my own house. That’s because I turned the thermostat down and it was freezing. But if you guys are going through this Challenge, how can I not?

sad-cooking-experience

I want to show you the difference in receipts from the month before this Challenge to a dinner I took in the last few days. Now, the receipt on the left is a special occasion — some friends were in from out of town, so it was pretty expensive. But in the bill on the right, I split an $8 entree, which was more than enough food and resulted in a total bill of about $5. I’ve saved hundreds by cutting down on eating out this month.

Ramit's dinner receipts

Finally, I couldn’t take it any more. My parents were coming over to visit so I asked my mom to bring food. “What do you want me to make?” she asked. I just replied with a simple request: “PLEASE BRING ANYTHING YOU CAN!!!!!!!!”

Mission accomplished:

moms-indian-food

So that’s how I’ve been doing during this Challenge. How about you?

* * *

Last thing to do
1. See other tips in the Save $1,000 in 30 Days Challenge
2. Leave a comment on this post describing how much you’re saving with this tip and any unusual techniques you use to make this tip work.

If you liked this tip, check out my Premium tips — one long, tactical tip per week. Save money or get a 100% refund.

scrooge

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51 Comments

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  1. It was looking awesome until you called your Mom. It seems like mooching. Look into food boxes and community discount food programs. The potato is your friend.
    I paid $8 (half price, original tag was $16) for a secondhand fox-trimmed coat last week; it was similar to $150 coats last year.
    Not taking the challenge, but I’ve been living like this for 3 years. It took me about 8 months before I learned how to manage with so little. Lots of bad habits to break.

  2. Sadly, I’ve saved very little during this challenge because most of these tips are things I already do. HOWEVER, it’s been a great reality check for me to see how much I could be spending. I understand how easy it would be for me to exceed my income each month if I didn’t set limits.

    And I’ve really enjoyed the reading the comments too because so many people have offered good ideas. (And other nay-sayers who echo my thoughts!)

  3. We’ve saved (or ‘found’) $4,189. On a $60,000 annual salary, that’s pretty significant.
    1) car insurance
    Because of the ’30 day challenge’, I called my insurance company about some hail damage that I received last spring. I ended up with a $2,900 check for that damage. Then, I called around to check on insurance rates and ended up saving $460 by switching companies. The original company refunded me $430 b/c of timing
    differences.
    2) utilities
    Last winter we started adjusting our thermostats down in the winter. This year, we’ve continued to do so. Due to the ‘challenge’, we stepped up our efforts (putting electric blanket on our bed and additional blankets on the kids’ beds). I called the power/gas companies and they are adjusting our budget billing plan. The savings totals $180 over 1 year.
    3) company perks
    Decided to live it up by taking advantage of some pro football tickets we were offered this past weekend. Saved $125.
    4) restaurant.com
    Found an awesome new restaurant and got drinks, appetizer, and two awesome entrees for $21. Took advantage of the tip and stocked up on more coupons from them. Estimated savings this month and next: $94. The only downside to this tip, is that we were reminded how much we enjoy eating at nice restaurants (a practice we had largely given up to save money)!!

    Overall, not too bad! Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. Ramit,

    This challenge came at a great time for me. My fiance just moved in with me, and he is looking for work right now, so things have gotten very tight even though otherwise I wouldn’t have to worry so much about money. I love my future husband but he has about six figures in student loans and just dropped out of school to move here, so needless to say it’s a very stressful and difficult time.

    Many of these tips I had already done or was in the process of doing. But seeing everyone else who is participating makes me feel like I’m not alone in this situation. It’s also been very useful to read about everyone else’s experience for hints and tricks.

    Thanks!

    (PS: I’m not sure how much I’m cutting back but I’ve saved at least $2000 per year with all the tips combined)

    Becoming The Marshmallow

  5. Yeah, I agree with the first post.

    Anyone can save money by mooching off of other people. It’s not really in the spirit of this challenge and kinda killed it for me.

  6. Awesome series. I’ll definitely forward this to any of the people I know that need help saving money.

  7. You gotta love a mom who bring over all that food. I’m vegan, and my mom interprets vegetarian as “eats salads all day” so I don’t think I can ask her to bring me food. =)

  8. Doing pretty well with savings so far.
    Packed lunch every day ($100 savings)
    Kept pretty close to my per diem for meals while traveling ($50 savings)
    Shopped at discount grocery store ($50)
    Canceled land line telephone ($45 per month – $540 year)
    Decided to scale back on Christmas ($200)
    Filed some old expense reports ($400)
    Redeemed some CC cash back ($250)

    So far I’m plus $1045 for the month. Pretty happy!

  9. These tips are awesome. My 2 cents:

    1.- Switched my cell phone bill to a pre-paid plan a year ago. Total cell phone ‘bill’ now is $25/month. Oh, and I don’t talk on the cell phone. I just text message and call my girlfriend and family from my VOIP line. Phone calls on my cell phone are for emergencies only, or only very short chats. At first, my GF had a HUGE issue with this, but eventually she got used to the idea.

    2.- Cancelled my DirecTV account. With TIVO I was paying $60+ per month….to record shows from open-air networks (FOX, etc.). Now, I watch these same shows on hulu.com. Savings per month: $60.

    3.- Changed my Internet contract. Since I’m not downloading videos, or games, and basically use the Internet for email and reading the news and blogs, I downgraded to a “slower” DSL connection (which is still very good speed). From ~$40/month, I now pay ~$20/month.

    4.- Thanks for the tip on perks from my insurance company. Found movie tickets for $6.50, i.o the $9 I usually paid. BUT, we also rent movies with my GF, so i.o $13 movie tickets, I spend $4 for a BlockBuster DVD.

    5.- Speaking of insurance, I checked my coverages, and found out I was paying for stuff like “Mechanical Breakdown Insurance” (??!!??!!) on my 2-year old German car. After re-doing my insurance, now I’m saving $20/month ($120 savings on a 6-month policy).

    6.- I live in Florida, so turning the thermostat off, esp. during these winter months, is something I always do. But still, I’ve had to fight the temptation to turn the heater on, esp. when it’s so freezing-cold I feel like dying (i.e., when it drops to 55). But hey, no pain, no gain, right?

    7.- With my GF, i.o eating out every weekend (~$50/weekend once you add up all the receipts) we buy food on the grocery market, and go out to eat one time, and call this our “special” night out. Turns out, it’s even better than we thought, since being only one night, it makes it unique and believe or not, romantic. And we save money by cooking home. In case there are leftovers, we pack them for lunch at work.

    8.- The total savings are now going to a hedge fund account…thanks 4 the tips!

  10. Check out http://www.cookingforengineers.com/recipe/4/Sweet-Corn-Bread This recipe is delicious!

    You can always take the half way route on eating out… eat out, but bring fruits and veggies with you. Say the meal you split wasn’t enough for you. If you had an apple, orange, carrot, bell pepper slices, or whatever your favorite fruit or veggie is around to top it off it would be cheaper and healthier!

  11. TOO FUNNY about mom bringing the food. I’ve enjoyed this series very much.

  12. I think some of these tips are really great! I haven’t taken the plunge to join the challenge however will definitely be taking some of these tips and running with them. Really eager to save some $$$$.

  13. Most of the tips here either don’t apply to me or I’ve been doing for years. But I had a headstart on frugal ways, raising 6 children on a single salary (and not even that since hubby was laid off in July and hasn’t found work yet.) I haven’t had any long-term savings, but have saved about $91 for a one-time boost. The biggest thing I’ve gained so far is the comfort of knowing that I’m really doing GREAT at my frugality efforts despite my self-recriminations.

  14. That cornbread looks absolutely disgusting.

  15. Wow, Ramit. You’re on quite a roll with this frugality campaign. Bravo!

    Out of the 21 tips so far, I admit there are 4 that I don’t do for a variety of reasons. Ahem….

    But I hope that more people will catch on. Frugality has this stigma that it’s uncool and it’s something your grandmas does, and I hope that perception changes.

  16. Ahhahaha, that cornbread picture is priceless!

    Tip #23: Sign up for cooking classes. The ROI is substantial.

  17. How is your mom supposed to do on the challenge when she has to feed you too?

    Love the pics and the tips. Hate the mooching.

  18. I concur with Charlie – take a cooking class! I’m fortunate that I live in Seattle with world class chefs who teach classes of all types a la carte. Whole Foods in my neighborhood hosts a number of cooking classes. They are not that expensive ($40-$100 depending), but it’s an investment in your health and skills. I was not that great of a cook, but with the Food Network (I credit Alton Brown and Rachael Rae), specialty cooking classes and lots of practice, I can hold my own as a hostess.

    Plus if you’re looking for the entrepreneurial edge, it’s another way to network. In Seattle, many young, urban professionals take these classes. Hosting dinners for friends is popular, and being a decent cook is more impressive than getting it catered. I love Seattle!

  19. It’s not a skull cap, it’s a touque.

    Sincerely,
    Canada

  20. I am lucky enough to live near not only my indian mother, but my indian aunt.

    I will never go hungry.

  21. My goal wasn’t $100 per se but I did want to save as much as possible.

    1) I bought my lunch every single day of this month. 30 days x $6 a day – about $30 or so I’ve spent on sodas, snacks, food etc. = $150
    2) No savings (I don’t pay a heating bill)
    3) Sold a cell phone. Probably will sell a DS game next = $180 after fees
    4) Nothing
    5) Already get a work discount and I’m on the lowest plan
    6) nada
    7) Zip
    8) Cut HBO, saved $8
    9) Nil
    10) Using my savings for my phone from work $8, Credit Card gave me $25 in rewards, Price Chopper gave me about $7 in gas savings. = $40
    11) Zip this month
    12) Nothing
    13) I am waiting until after the holidays to do this. I want to get a counter offer from my local agent before jumping ship. I really love the service there so they might be able to help me. If I go with Progressive, I’m looking at a good $700 less but my regular company (Encompass) may match that due to laws changing, my car being almost paid off and me being out of the “high risk” age group now.
    14) Nothing
    15) Nothing
    16) Nope
    17) Always do this so nothing really to compute
    18) No
    19) No
    20) Discussed it with the family. They said we wouldn’t save anything since no one travels and they wouldn’t have the day off of work. Oh well.
    21) That I have done and by paying off my car early I’m sure I’ve saved quite a bit in interest. A quick and dirty calculation estimates I have saved well over a thousand just on this.

    So I’ve definitely saved more than a thousand, the problem is that most of these I already do. The car insurance one was a biggie I didn’t expect (I thought about $100 max) Crazy huh?

  22. that cornbread looks gross. you should just get jiffy cornbread mix and make that. it’s easy and foolproof. i think after that i kinda understand why you called your mom. lol.

    i’ve been doing ok on the challenge, but i already do a lot of this stuff too. today though, that was weird. i’d JUST gone online to pay my house payment and randomly decided to chip in $20 extra each month toward principle (i know it isn’t much, but it’s all we can do for now)…and then i came here and read the tip for today! strange coincidence indeed….

  23. I made it! But that’s because I got a bonus check I deposited this month and didn’t spend it.

    Otherwise, after rent (damn LA real estate) I only have $1000 of income/month to cover everything else, so saving $1000 is ordinarily unrealistic. I already don’t buy anything, completely avoid bars and clubs (which I don’t really enjoy anyway), and don’t go to anything that costs much more than a movie to get by on that in LA. Since most of my expense then winds up being food, the Restaurant.com tip was nice to upgrade my restaurant trips without upgrading my cost. I’m looking into CSA too since organic food is the only thing I allow myself to splurge on.

  24. hilarious picture! that’s why i love your blog :)

    some of us were raised so cheaply that we don’t really need to change anything now! being cheap is as natural to me as breathing.

    basically….my father turned buy nothing day into buy nothing ever.

    i never go to movies, never buy clothes, never drive anywhere i don’t need to, RARELY eat out, mooched wireless internet for years until i felt guilty and i realized the time i was wasting was worse that the cost…being cheap is fun…but i have only a few friends. i imagine if i had hundreds of friends it would be harder to be as cheap as i am now.

    so there’s always a trade-off. but i like my life and i like your blog.

  25. halarious. love the pic of mom’s food.

  26. HAHAHAHA *wheeze* the pic with the cornbread is great.

  27. My gosh, the food your mom bought looks absolutely delicious. God bless moms!

  28. I was way into this idea until now. Most (more like all) of the tips don’t apply to me because I already live a pretty frugal lifestyle already. I live like this by choice, because I have developed discipline when it comes to my finances, and I am committed to making sure I have money for a rainy day, as well as to do the things in life that really matter to me.

    At the beginning of this challenge, Ramit said: “This is a 30-Day Challenge. Everything should be able to be accomplished within 30 days, but you have to commit to doing it.” To me, bringing some apples to work as a snack and having your mom bring you food does NOT show commitment! I’m not saying that you have to be perfect as a blogger, it’s hard to practice what you preach sometimes. But asking your reader to commit to this for 30 days, and by the looks of it, not really making much of an effort yourself? WEAK!!

  29. I love that some people are calling mooch on the food! If only my mom didn’t live in another state! She would feed us all the time..and we would accept it! NEVER, EVER TURN DOWN A FREE MEAL!

  30. Some frugal types have no sense of humor. Most of this doesn’t appy to me either because I’ve been doing all this for years, but I’m still enjoying reading it anyway and contributing to the comments. If you’re already doing it, congratulations!

    I laughed at the mom food. Shoot, I’m not gonna lie – I’d be doing it. It looks delicious! Ramit, maybe as one of these challenge posts you can give us mom’s recipes so we can eat in too! I love Indian food, but I don’t know how to make it right.

  31. So basically I need a new washing machine… if I buy it tomorrow (crazy black Friday), I might save a bundle but lose the challenge. And if I don’t buy it then I can say I saved whatever the amount was and win the challenge.

    And, yes, we’re cold at home too but getting used to bundling up.

  32. Tip #25.- Ask your mother to give you a few cooking classes for free. She will be trilled, you will save yourself the cost of a course.
    Tell her to teach you a few very basic, few ingredients, foolproof, fast things.

  33. I’m glad to see a challenge like this. I have been living the frugal life for a couple of years now. I am fortunate to have a pretty good job right out of college but without my frugal lifestyle things would be much different. I am married without children and I bought my first (brand new) house the day I graduated college. I decided that living in a house was a priority and the only way to make that a reality was to cut back on items that weren’t necessary. It all started for me by reading “The Millionaire Next Door”. My advice to anyone wanting to really get in touch with their finances is to read that book, pay the $60 for Quicken and really start to take an interest in what you spend. I think most people would be amazed on what they spend their money on. Tracking my finances has changed the way me and my wife spend money and has easily saved us thousands of dollars a year.

  34. Ramit, that cornbread looked horrible! Here’s a foolproof recipe that tastes delicious. I make them in a mini muffin pan so they are bite sized and extras can be frozen.

  35. The pictures are hilarious!

    Also, there’s definitely nothing wrong with getting some free food from other people occasionally! If you can’t get it from your parents, you may be able to get some from friends who love to cook. If you’re afraid of looking like a moocher, you can “repay” them in different ways like doing them a favor or helping them out with something. I think it’s smart and of course saves a good bit of money during the week.

  36. Awesome pics!

    I second Blanka – have your mom teach you how to make a few recipies.

  37. RookieMom – have you considered scouring Craigslist for a used washing machine? There are some good deals and a wide price range and quality to choose from.

  38. If I include the fact that I put my double bed in the house I bought to let, and have been sleeping on a single mattress on the floor [God my mother would be horrified!] thus saving about £350 on a new bed this month, then I saved £704.40 = $1081.90. And I did better than that due to the so-called ‘credit crunch’ coz my **three** mortgages all came down in cost +, but I think counting that is probably cheating….. The best thing I did was get off my arse and change my credit cards to interest free, saving £60 per month, and I’ve paid the extra, plus the overpayments I usually make, into a savings account, which will be used to pay off the principal when the interest free period ends, but gets me a tiny bit extra in the meantime. And I think getting Mom to cook is inspired, jammy b*strd!!

  39. I packed my lunches and packed snacks most of this month. I went out to lunch just 1x each week and scaled back the portions. Took my BF out to one nice dinner. Other dates, I cooked at home. Savings – $60

    Turned gas heat down to 55 degrees while I was out of town for Thanksgiving. Unplugged idle appliances. Savings – $10 est.

    Cell phone is already on the optimal plan.

    I found a fantastic consignment shop in DC. Nabbed a pure wool blazer, with the tags still on it (retail $200) for $50. Plus, it was tax free weekend in the city! I’ve been needing a new blazer for interviews, so this was fortuitous. I’d never have paid $200 for this but for one of this quality I’d have paid $125, so Savings – $75.

    I also scored some veggies and food when I left my parents’ house after the holiday. I can’t call this mooching, because it wasn’t bought just for me. My stepmom bought way too many groceries, so I took food home rather than letting it go to waste. I have food for the next 3-4 days now. Savings – $30.

    Consciously avoided getting fancy espresso drinks and got drip coffee instead when traveling. Savings – $5.

    Participated in a taste test at my university. Earnings – $20.

    Participated in online surveys. Earnings – $10.

    Total – $200.

    Have I tried my best? No. It was a horrible month at work. But, $200 is still a good amount of money!

    I have also tried to share the wealth. I donated several articles of clothing to my parents’ favorite charity.

  40. Hi,

    Gave some of your tips a go and managed to save $1000 :-) kinda went mad on ebay selling a load of stuff that was just lying around took on some extra work which gave me half of my total.

    Thanks for your tips and thanks for sharing

    MrG

  41. [...] designed to get you thinking outside the box.  Along with the ten tips check out Ramit Sethi from I will teach you to be rich who is running a 30 day challange to save $1000 in a month.  This is great place to get some [...]

  42. The “split the dish” approach is one of the best ways to save money without sacrificing on lifestyle, as most restaurants serve overly-large portions that can easily be split. We find that by splitting dishes, we save money, taste more appetizers, and eat healthier. And because we’re sharing with someone else, we actually discuss the food and end up enjoying it much more than if we were not having a common experience around a shared meal.

  43. Hi Ramit,

    I hope you don’t mind that I posted your tips on my website. I found them quite helpful and so did a couple of my readers.

    Also, next time try Jiffy mix for the cornbread. All it takes is eggs, milk and water. Delish.

    Regards,

    phillygrrl

  44. Awesome! Nice progress, Ramit. Sorry about the cornbread. It’s great that your mum was able to supply you will lots and lots of food, though, to make up for your not-so-successful cooking experience.

    Thanks for the 30 day challenge. It’s been a great, eye-opening experience thus far.

  45. Erin Happycamper Link to this comment

    I LOVE IT. Good job!

  46. S. Marie Fraide Link to this comment

    I’m so glad to see you asked your Mom for help- we did too!!!
    My boyfriend and I have also decided to split dishes more frequently! Saves money two ways- one the bill, two my pant size!!!!!

  47. Josephine Gardner Link to this comment

    G’day Ramit. Went back to perve on Ramit/Cornbread flop read the blogs/got fired up over the mooching issue. Solution: get a look @ either Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay. Jamie said once something like if you can’t cook stuff you are a (:*…Like how hard is it to try? And he made an impression on me. And you guessed it I love cooking now!!! Get over it. Like the others I’m frugal 24/7. My Dad was an accountant, My bro is CEO. My step Mum has a MBA in economics. Saved @ the sales i.e clothing $50 petrol cheaper now YES!!. Pls blog this Xmas and beyond! Thanxs So Much

  48. Margaret in Mississippi Link to this comment

    Dear Ramit

    Regarding cooking, I strongly recommend that you check out real simple magazine. I cook dinner for my family using that magazine every night, and the recipes are pretty fullproof. I then use the leftovers for lunch. It will make your take your lunch to work project more successful.

    Sincerely, M.

  49. Forget the cooking classes! Watch food network!!
    …wait, that means you need to get your cable back. d’oh!!!

  50. I started packing breakfast for work and Ive been saving 3.00 per day (that translates into $720 per year) I loved this tip since I used to spend so much money on meals. soon I’ll appy other tips and I’ll end up saving a big percentage of my paycheck.