Take the Fall Progress Money Challenge (The Prize Is $250!)

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october challengeFall is officially here, which means it’s time to pull out the cozy sweaters, plan a trip to the pumpkin patch—and get back on track with your finances.

After a summer likely spent traveling or perhaps indulging in one too many warm nights out, your budget may be in need of some TLC. That’s a nice way of saying: It’s time to reevaluate your spending and saving, especially before the holiday season rolls around.

We all have little go-to tricks to keep our budgets in check, so for our October money challenge, we’d love to know: What’s your best tip for making sure that your budget doesn’t “fall” back?

After all, Halloween—not your bank account!—should be the only thing scary thing that creeps up this month.

Once you post your unique, budget-saving tip in the comments below, you’ll be entered to win $250! And be sure to use your email address when you comment—it won’t be visible to other users—so we can notify you if you win.

Best of luck, and happy fall!

  • Lala

    I am a poor student; therefore, budgeting my spending becomes very important to me. One thing I learn to do is to cook. I learn how to make fancy meals on a budget. I learn to add herbs to my marination and dishes so they taste yummy and healthy!

  • Karen

    I start shopping right after school begins in September for the holidays. Baking needs, wrapping supplies, gifts and stockpile them for the holidays. This way when the holidays come I am not so overwhelmed with extra costs so the stress level stays down.

  • Sheena Nix

    As a newly-wed, my husband and I vowed to pay off our debts in order to purchase our new home. We’ve made a budget and made a fun game out of sticking to it. We have little weekly contests to see who can stay under their budget for the week and whoever spends the least amount for the week is declared the winner. The winner is then treated by the loser to a small, usually non-monetary prize.

    For example, last week my husband won so I had to do the dishes all week, something that is usually his chore. The week before that, I was the September monthly winner (we do weekly/monthly contests) so he bought me a small treat from my favorite candle store. It was inexpensive and fit into our budget but really made me feel proud of my hard work all month!

    The element of a little friendly competition keeps us motivated and really, everyone is the winner as our debts are shrinking! We’ve paid off two credit cards in just three months of marriage, totaling almost $2,000! This doesn’t have to be between spouses either, this game could work well with a close friend, too.

  • SX Bradley

    I use an Excel spreadsheet for my monthly budget. I look ahead to the next month to see what I have coming up that may be a one time expense or out of the norm, such a home repair, oil change, vehicle registration, etc. Then I adjust my other expenses accordingly if I need to. I also start looking at 2014 and look to see what big expenses I might have, so I know how much I need to save or how to allocate my tax return. It’s all documented in my spreadsheet. Lastly, I never shop online without googling coupon & the store/item I need to purchase. There are several sites like RetailMeNot that display online coupons that you can use. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars this way.

  • Brittany Aeschlimann

    I like to “pay myself second” the government has a nice little way of paying themselves first out of your paycheck each month to pay for taxes so it is important that you also pay yourself…so I like to take 20-30$ out of each check and put it directly into savings for a rainy day, or unexpected emergency.

  • Maggie

    I try to clean house to get my head back in a budget. Take items to consignment, put items up on swap pages. Focusing on getting rid of things helps me to not bring more items into the house. An added bonus is not only does this bring in some extra cash, but that my house also tends to be more organized and clean so am more willing to spend time at home instead of going out for entertainment and food.

  • Kelly

    I have found that by breaking my direct deposit (paycheck) into multiple accounts helps keep spending on track.
    Checking 1 Monthly Expenses – only the actual budgeted amount gets deposited.
    Checking 2 Gifts – this is the total amount in gifts and charity I will give all year divided by number of pay periods.
    Goal Savings – each savings account is labeled (nickname) and based on the timeline set for the goal, a fixed amount is deposited every pay period.

    I review trends in utilities from time to time and make any adjustments that might be necessary.

  • Marie Wimmer

    I start my holiday shopping in September – that is if I can get all my family to start telling me what they want! If I can’t find a gift I want to give someone that month I have a set amount of money I put aside each month for my holiday expenses. It helps a lot!

  • Emily

    I write out my bills for the month and decide how much money I am going to pay towards my highest interest rate credit card. I do my budget before I even deposit each paycheck, and I take out about $40 each week to spend however I’d like. The rest of the money goes to bills and necessities, like gas and food. I’ve been quickly paying down my bills, so that is what keeps me motivated on this strict budget!

  • susanna

    To avoid the buying impulse, I make myself wait at least 24 hours before coming back to purchase the item. I have found out that if I keep thinking about the item the next day AND am willing to make the trip back to the store to get it, it is a purchase I am happy to make and don’t mind making the modifications in my budget to make ithe purchase work.

  • Dana

    We try to buy gifts year round so we don’t get walloped at Christmas (it’s also birthday time for both of us, so a triple whammy). Also, we eat out on weekends, so we’ll try to use coupons and deals as much as possible to cut costs. Really, we just try to notice what we’re spending and where and then cut back accordingly. I’m an avid couponer, so that saves us money on groceries and household goods, in addition to freebies I find online (and for our birthdays!).

  • Amy

    I recently opened several savings accounts for short-term and long-term goals (emergency fund, house down payment, vacations, etc.) and I set aside a certain amount each month in each account. I have had to cut back a little on extra spending in entertainment, spoiling my pets, and little things that aren’t really necessary. But I find that I hardly miss a lot of the extra stuff because I can see those accounts growing which makes me feel good about being that much closer to my goals. I can see myself sitting on the beach sipping a mai-tai and it further encourages me to question everything I buy- whether it is a want or a need. One thing I like to do to cut back on entertainment is trying to find free things to do, or things to do at home. Renting a movie and making dinner rather than going out. Cozy up in front of the fire with a good book. Going on bike rides.
    I tend to do very little clothes shopping, but I can be a very impulsive buyer. To avoid these perhaps regretful purchase, I always weigh the value of the item to how many times I see myself wearing it. I also like to ‘sleep on it’ and will often move an item to my shopping bag or wish list and wait to see if it goes on sale. Often times I can buy an item weeks later on sale, or find that I don’t like it as much as I thought. I avoid spending lots of money this way.

  • Sharon Swenson-Nelson

    I make plans that do not require a big payout! Shopping at Goodwill on the 15th of the month saves me money at the cash register, as they give you scratch off coupon cards on the 15th. Using information from Stockpiling Moms gives me the deals at local stores and when I use their coupons many of the items are FREE!

  • Colleen

    I use my credit card for most of my purchases during the
    month because I get cash back and I pay the credit card off in full every month,
    so it makes sense to benefit from the “free money”. The thing is because it’s my credit card I’m
    more likely to buy something I don’t need because I don’t feel the sting of the
    money I spent till much later. To
    prevent myself from overspending in this way still benefit from the cash back I
    keep a running tally of my purchases in my phone. Every time I make a purchase with my credit
    card I put it on the list. I monitor the list daily and I have a goal amount that
    I want to keep my credit card under each month, so this helps me stay on track
    to reach my goal each month.

  • malini bhattacharya

    Oscar Wilde once said that the only way to get rid of temptation is to give in to it. I live on $1130 a month, my boyfriend makes a little more. We’re teaching assistants at SUNY, Buffalo. October is a particularly hard month not to give in to temptation because my mother and my boyfriend have their birthdays then, and it’s about when I normally wake up to the fact that university fee deadlines are creeping up.
    But this is what we did: I did not buy an expensive present for my mother, but set aside a whole hour to Skype chat with her (something we hardly ever have time for), and I sent her short messages, and little memory slips every hour on the day of her birthday. I’d also taken pictures of famous Buffalo architecture with my old DSLR, and I’d edited them, added captions and emailed them. A handwritten letter in my native language went in the mail.
    For him, I picked out one store-bought item, a reading lamp, and baked a gooey, sticky chocolate cake, my first ever. His friends cooked a midnight meal and I cleaned his room, organized his papers and went for a ten-mile walk with him the next day.
    Both birthdays cost me about $30.
    We aren’t going to be buying ANYTHING by way of Halloween costumes. At a free university event we carved pumpkins and brought them home. He will dress up as an X-man, for which we’ll make antennae, and I will be a banshee. For my own costume I’ll need white face paint, that’s it.
    Again, we’ll spend nothing on Black Friday. The no return policy is a deterrent, but the fact is we are people who never really needed a conversation to sort out needs and wants. We know we don’t need any electronics/clothing/housewares at this time, so using a 50% off scheme is equal to throwing away $20 as opposed to $40. Such savings have always let us order takeout Chinese or have frozen pizzas in the fridge for nights when we’re too tired to cook, and after sixteen hours on an uncomfortable chair in a brightly lit library, sometimes anybody will be.
    And we already bought ourselves our first Christmas tree. I’ll start making origami decorations this weekend, the rest will come from Dollar Tree.
    Finally, we are hosting a potluck for a friend’s birthday on the 28th. This is how I’ve seen many of my friends socialize, so nobody needs to spend too much on entertaining 15 or so people.

  • MelissaCherie

    After doing a little fall cleaning I realized that I had a number (more than 5) gift cards hidden in purse pockets, different drawers around my apt, etc. So for the last few weeks all non-essentials (groceries, rent, utilities) I am using my gift cards. Its controlling my urge to go out to lunch or happy hours or buy new clothes.

  • Katie G

    We check our receipts at the store to make sure items were rung up correctly, and also check our bank accounts a few times throughout the month to verify we knew what payments we were making. It can be a good check – it’s easy to see if you continually spent $$ at the same place frequently (eating out, etc.)