The $1,000 Challenge: How I Painlessly Cut My Family’s Monthly Budget
Shortly after Brian J. O’Connor moved from Florida to Michigan eight years ago to work as a personal finance columnist at a newspaper, the recession hit.
At the time, his wife was busy caring for her aging father in Florida, so she was unable to return to work. As a result, their home equity line was frozen—along with raises at the newspaper. Then O’Connor’s insurance company informed him that his son’s speech therapy would not be covered.
After taking a serious look at their situation, O’Connor challenged himself to slash his family’s budget, so he could afford his son’s treatment on top of their day-to-day living—and, like any good columnist, wrote all about it.
In “The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese,” he explains how he trimmed $100 a week from his spending for ten straight weeks to the tune of $1,000.
From finding services on his cell phone bill that he’d forgotten to cancel to discovering an unused email account that he’d been paying to keep, his honest-to-a-fault storytelling proves that a little work goes a long way when it comes to saving. And as you’ll see from this interview, everyone can follow O’Connor’s example.
LearnVest: Can you explain how the challenge started?
Brian J. O’Connor: Living in Detroit, we were at ground zero for everything happening in the country during the recession. As a journalist, I looked at the cumulative effects of changes to the auto industry: lost jobs, economic downturn … and it occurred to me that people didn’t need to read about which credit card would give them the most frequent-flyer mile points.
So I decided to take the top 10 spending categories in my family’s budget and cut each one by $100 for a total of $1,000. I covered one spending category each week in my column, which I renamed the “Grand Experiment.” When I started, I didn’t know if we’d accomplish our goal, but I knew it would be a good story either way. If we could slash $1,000 from our budget, that would be great. If we couldn’t, it would show how bad things really were during the recession.