52-Week Money Challenge for 2022

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I am not in the business of promising magic, or even overnight results.

Building wealth, including a successful business or career, requires time and dedication. But the biggest obstacles to these challenges are bad daily habits and your mindset—things that can turn around with regular, dedicated practice. That’s what this money challenge is all about.

In a year or less, you can tackle every single major part of financial wellness—most critically of all, the way you think and act around money. It’s not all mindset and intention. It’s also about the real, practical steps to getting your financial act together. 

This 52-week money-saving challenge will get you on track to control your spending, start saving and investing and turn around your debt and credit score. 

In short, if you follow these simple steps every week, you will thrust your spending, earning, and saving on a powerful, positive trajectory—which will change your life forever.

Ready to revolutionize your finances? Save more, earn more, spend less? Sign up:

Before you start this money challenge:

Ready to start this year-long money challenge? Babe, here’s a quick jumpstart to get your money flowing in the right direction:

Commit to a 52-week saving challenge (automatically)

Depending on your level of income and extra money, challenge yourself to save each and every week for a whole year. you will be so addicted to watching your emergency cushion grow, you will find yourself increasing your savings and extending this practice beyond 2022 into a lifetime habit.

Savings challenge Step 1:

Designate a savings account ONLY for this purpose. I recommend a savings account at a bank that is separate from your regular checking account, to minimize the ease of transferring your savings into a checking account when you find a good sale online, tc. If you need a new account, I recommend CIT, which offers a competitive interest rate and great customer service.

Savings challenge Step 2:

Set up automatic weekly deposits to your new account. This should be a sum that challenges your spending addiction, while also not challenging your ability to pay rent.

Savings challenge Step 3:

Assess your savings goal quarterly. Every three months, have a look at that savings account. How good does that feel? Celebrate with a moment of deep gratitude for the security and abundance that account provides — and all the good things that helped you achieve that goal. Now, ask yourself: Can you save more? If yes, bump up that weekly auto-payment, even if it is by $1.

Explore ways to make more money

Need to make more money? Later in the challenge we will explore ways to start a side gig, work-at-home careers, negotiate a higher salary and more.

Short-term: Download the FREE app Steady. More than 2 million workers have used this app to find quality gigs and jobs that pay up to $26/hr., plus earn bonuses. 

Protect your family

Part of repairing and growing your relationship with money is addressing your guilt or worry or stress around money topics. For example, you likely know that you should get life insurance, but have not.

Fix that. Take 5 minutes now to get a free quote online in 5 min. from Bestow, which promises NO MEDICAL or LAB EXAM, and term life insurance up to $1.5 million for premiums starting at $9/mo.

“I love money!” Money Challenge Week 1

Each week of this money challenge has two parts: a battlecry, which is a phrase I want you to shout out loud, to think about, write in your journal and stew on.

Each week will also include one task. This is an action step. Each is small, yet powerful. Do each and every one.

Here we go!

Week 1’s battlecry

“I LOVE MONEY!” Say it at least three times, as loud as you can muster. Public or private, no matter. Own it. Own that money is powerful and you deserve to feel amazing about money. Maybe today you don’t love money. Maybe money makes you squirm or want to turn away and wish it didn’t exist. 

Maybe you tell yourself that money is the construct of the patriarchy, designed to control and manipulate the vulnerable. Maybe that is true, I don’t know. But I do know this: you can’t serve the world if you are broke and worried about paying the rent. So I will help you get over all that and learn to adore money and the power that comes with it.

Week 1’s task

You don’t need an expensive leather-bound notebook. Any scrap of paper will do. You can buy yourself a nice journal on Amazon. Save a polar bear and reuse the back of all that crap they send home in your kid’s school folder, or the margins of the newspaper. The point is to physically write it down. Powerful! 

Write down the number-one aspect of your money that gives you the most grief and stress and sucks away time. Debt? Stuck in your career? Not saved yet for retirement? No cash cushion? Write it down and look at it hard. That is your truth. Neither good nor bad. Huge step. Good work!

“I’m money-honest!” Money Challenge Week 2

Today is the day you have likely been avoiding: looking at the cold, hard numbers.

Week 2’s battlecry

“I am ready to be 100 percent honest with myself about my finances! No more fibs or avoiding facts.” Remember to say this out loud!

Week 2’s task

Embrace technology. 

Use an app like Mint.com (free), Ellevest or YNAB (You Need a Budget, free for 34 days) to connect all your money accounts into one place—checking and savings, investment, credit card, student and car loans, mortgage. 

As you stare at your debts and assets, you will see some patterns and some truths. Write these truths down. The good, the bad, the nasty-ass. 

One mom completed this step and emailed me: “I was really surprised to see that I have a six-figure net worth. I feel so broke all the time, and this helped me realize I’m doing better than I thought.” 

You may also be disgusted by how much debt you have, or how much more you owe on your old car. Avoid judgment on these feelings and facts. Embrace the pain as a necessary step in positive change.

Ready to dream big? Money challenge Week 3

Let’s set some goals now.

Week 3’s battlecry

“I’m ready to dream big!”

Week 3’s task

Use a goal calculator to be very real with yourself about how far you are from your saving and investing goals. Ellevest has a free financial planning tool to help you set and meet whatever your personal finance goal is: pay off debt, retirement, buy a home, start a business, go back to school, save for a vacation or a home remodel. It takes fewer than 10 minutes, and is very easy to use.

Make it a family affair: Money Challenge Week 4

Today’s mission is fun and easy: talk to your kids about your money goals, and make them a family goal. 

I don’t care how old your kids are, it’s your job to teach them about money and to have a positive, healthy relationship with personal finance. I know that might sound really hard if you’re working through your own issues around money, but this is such an important part of your journey. 

When you tell your child that as a family, you have created a money goal and explain what you will all do together to reach that goal, so many positive things are happening:

  • you hold yourself accountable;
  • you are transparent and honest about money; 
  • you take a step in financial education for your kids, which is something you know you break the cycle of money taboo!

Week 4’s battlecry

“I am the single most powerful source of financial information and habit-building for my kids. I have a moral obligation to be the best money management role model for everyone who is watching—especially my children!”

Week 4’s task

Communicate your new financial goals with your kids. The key here is to be honest and specific. Tell your kids: “It is important that we live within our income, live frugally, and appreciate what we have, which is a lot. That way, we will have money in the bank in case of an emergency, so we are secure in the future, and we can save for special things like vacations. 

To reach our savings/debt/car/home goal, we are going to make some changes. This includes . . .” Tell them that you will eat out just once per month, will cut cable, and will stop hanging out at the mall on weekends. Then, as a family, keep track of your goal progress in a community place— like using a paper thermometer on the kitchen fridge that they can color in.

Money-soul connection: Challenge Week 5

Hooking up all your accounts on Mint, Ellevest or YNAB or another tool is so powerful because you just can’t argue with those numbers. They’re in your face and they don’t lie. If you haven’t created accounts there, do it now! 

Week 5’s battlecry

“I am devoted to raising my consciousness about money. I am grateful for the small and large things that money affords my family and me.”

Week 5’s task

Drill down into those charges in YNAB or Mint. Really take stock of how much you spend each day, week, and month on things like restaurants, cafes, clothes, unmemorable activities for your kids—like movies at the theater or frivolous trips to the toy store. Then, over the next week, keep track of all the cash you spend. I know that a lot of financial experts recommend paying all cash for everything if you’re trying to change your money habits; but I recommend credit or debit cards for all expenses, because it’s 100 percent tracked on my Mint account, so I see it all in one place.

For things you pay in cash, like coffee, field trip fees for your kids, parking meters—everything else—write them down and plug them into your YNAB account. This is about honesty, being accountable, and appreciating that even small decisions and expenses define your money situation and mindset.

For the past few months, categorize expenses, including restaurants, clothes, home goods, grocery stores, coffee, etc.

See any problem areas? See if you can drill down further. For example, if you notice you’re spending a lot on meals and drinks out (coffee, happy hour), categorize those expenses by: “workweek lunch,” “takeout for family dinners,” etc. What do you see? What’s behind those expenses? 

For example, if you’re spending too much on weeknight takeout with the kids, you might be feeling guilty for working long hours — and then coming home to spend more time cooking instead of with the kids. 

Instead, can you find a way to make meal planning and prep a family activity? Or, if the kids are older than 8 eight, assign them a meal to be prepared before you get home—or if you can easily afford all the restaurant food, then keep buying it and stop feeling guilty for not June Cleaver-ing every meal!

What if money were EASY? Money Challenge Week 6

Today’s exercise is to streamline your money management. This will be an ongoing process, but chances are, that hard look at all your accounts made you realize you have way too many accounts, too much information, and general overwhelm. The easier you make your money management, the less you have to think about the basics of paying bills, and the more energy and time you’ll have to spend on making, investing, saving and ENJOYING money.

Week 6’s battlecry

“Money is easy!”

Week 6’s task

This week’s task is to sign into every single account you have and tackle these three things:

1. Set up auto-payment on every single account you can: rent, credit cards, car, insurance, utilities, phone. If you’re not sure, call and ask or research online. Never miss another bill!

2. While you’re logged into your accounts, set up paperless payments for everything. The environment thanks you, and vendors often give you a small discount. 

3. Change the payment dates on all your accounts to the same day—say, the first of each month. No more trying to remember when everything is due! Again, find ways to remember and think about fewer money tasks.
This process can take a little time, but it’s so worth it. Invest an hour now, and get your life back. You Need A Budget (YNAB) is a great tool that will bring all your accounts into a single snapshot, set budgets and reach your goals. Try YNAB free for 34 days now >> Or, Mint.com is a totally free online tool that helps you streamline your finances.

Ready to revolutionize your finances? Save more, earn more, spend less? Sign up:

Money: less is more? Challenge: Week 7

Like last week, today’s exercise is to streamline your accounts. This time, you will see if you can consolidate existing bills. The fewer bills you have to manage, the less you have to think about boring money administrative issues, and the more time and money you have to get at those goals.

Week 7’s battlecry

“Money is easy!” (Can we say it enough?)

Week 7’s task

Use as few credit and bank accounts as you can. The fewer accounts you have to manage, the fewer pieces of information, the more likely you are to be engaged and successful with your money.

Have multiple credit cards? Consider consolidating your credit card debt and closing accounts.

Do you have multiple checking accounts? Personally, I have just one personal checking account and one business account, and one credit card for each. That’s it! I use my Costco card as my personal card. Fewer accounts the better!

No shopping, no problem: Money Challenge Week 8

Today is all about not buying shit. Our culture is hyper-focused on shopping for, consuming, and owning stuff. If you’re not happy with your money situation, you’re likely out of alignment with your values. If you always wish you had more or other things—a new wardrobe, a different/better/bigger house, a nicer car, better furniture—your thoughts and energy are engaged in a poverty mentality. 

You are focused on things, when deep down you know it’s people and experiences that bring you joy and love. You become focused on what you do not have. You put little energy in being grateful and full with what you do have. Which, if you’re reading this on a smartphone or laptop, then you already have a lot. Your life is abundant. Live in abundance, and you generate more abundance.

A personal shopping ban requires not just curbing the buying, but putting a stop to the shopping. No more browsing your favorite stores “just to look.” No longer skimming online retailers “just to see what they have.” No more careering from Target’s grocery section to the home goods section “in case there are good deals.” The point is to recondition yourself from seeing shopping as an innocuous hobby, and instead focus on how much you do have and appreciate that it’s more than enough. 

Today, I invite you to join me on my no-shopping week. I am right there with you. I know we are a few days into our challenge, but let’s support each other for the rest of this month to buy nothing. No new clothes. No toys or crap for your kids. Make a goal to eat through everything in your pantry, cupboards, fridge, freezer—including the granola bars in the glove compartment, but not necessarily all the booze in the liquor cabinet (I leave that to your discretion).

Week 8’s battlecry

“I do not need new things. My life is full, and I am so grateful!”

Week 8’s task

Start a daily gratitude practice. Write down all the things you’re grateful for. Here are a couple gratitude journals if you prefer. Remember: no shopping!

No spend, no problem: Money Challenge: Week 9

Now that the personal shopping ban has ended, today is the day you start shopping with a list. No more shopping without a list. No shopping when you’re hungry. No adding things to the cart that aren’t on your list. If you get home and you realize you’ve forgotten something, try to be creative and make do with what you have.

One of my favorite challenges is to cook away all the scraps of random food in the fridge. It is fun, it prevents the waste of food and money, and it makes me really appreciate how much I have — even if I had just 20 minutes earlier opened the fridge and cried, “There is nothing to eat!”

Week 9’s battlecry

“I have so much more than I could imagine! 

Week 9’s task

Make your food shopping list while you’re at home, after you’ve had a meal. Full stomach = better shopping decisions Buy only what you need and nothing more. Consider shopping online for groceries and other essentials, comparison shopping and resisting the impulse purchases.

Financial independence: Money Challenge Week 10

For most single moms, your kids have a father in the picture in some form. Child support and/or alimony are likely part of your single mom story—especially if you don’t get all you feel you are owed. 

My goal for all single moms, everywhere, is to enjoy the freedom, independence, and pride of building a life without depending on a man for child support or alimony. Note: child support is monthly payments to maintain your home and food, while extras are out of-pocket expenses that parents can and should split in a fair way (insurance, health care, childcare, and extracurriculars). Alimony is designed to keep women in “lifestyles to which they are accustomed,” supported by men they are no longer in romantic relationships with. 

Money very, very rarely does not cause conflict between divorced or separated partners, which destroys the possibility of healthy co-parenting. Also, any negative energy about money with your kids’ dad is just that: negative energy.

Week 10’s battlecry

“I deserve to feel the amazing, unique power of being completely financially independent—independent from debt, from reliance on my parents, and from a man or government programs for my future.”

Week 10’s task

First, be honest with yourself. How do you feel when you take money from your kids’ dad? How do you feel about fighting with him over money? Write down any downsides of that money exchange—or fighting for money. 

Write down all the energy and time you spend getting that money and being mad about not getting more. Do these arguments bring you back to bad times during the relationship? Does it make it harder to move on and heal? Finally, do you ever under-earn or manipulate your income to qualify for more alimony or child support? Be honest: How does that make you feel? 

Next, make a plan to stop relying on child support and alimony. I appreciate that you may receive it now and may very much feel that you need it. Also, you may not receive money you are owed but spend a lot of time, energy, and even money fighting for it or being angry about it. 

Take a breath. 

Consider this: you deserve not to feel angry or spend negative energy on getting that money out of a man. You cannot change him. You can change yourself. You can, right here today, make a plan to let go of any sense of entitlement to his money—no matter how much you are legally or even ethically owed it. Today, recognize that you have the power to build whatever lifestyle you want to become accustomed to! You deserve all the financial security in the world, and to never be limited by another person—especially one who you are no longer in a romantic relationship with! 

Practical tools:

Our list of career-level jobs for moms

How to become a self-employed bookkeeper and earn 6-figures 

How to become a proofreader and start at $25/hr

Steady app is our No. 1 recommendation, since its has helped more than 2 million workers find gigs and jobs that pay up to $26/hour, plus earn bonuses. Get Steady now free >>

Abundance mindset: Week 11

When I first became a single mom, I was so terrified. I was obsessed with the quality of life I used to have with my (ex) husband. I was always watching what my married friends wore, new things they bought for their home, and (the worst of all) the vacations they boasted about on social media. 

First of all, just because people have fancy things or trips does not mean that they can afford them—after all, so many people purchase all this stuff, but most people also have debt and no savings! But the real point of today’s task is to help you focus on how much you do have and recognize how absolutely abundant your life already is. When you focus on what you do have—and not on what you don’t have, or covet—your energy refocuses away from a poverty mentality, and into an abundance mentality.

Week 11’s battlecry

“By the mere fact that I can read this challenge on an electronic device attached to the internet in a warm, safe place means that I am wealthier than 99 percent of the people on this planet. I am so unbelievably grateful for everything I have, and I have the power to create even more abundance—as much as I desire. In fact, it’s embarrassing how abundant my life is!”

Week 11’s task

Get out a pen and paper, baby. You are going to write. Write down every single thing and feeling and fact you are grateful for. 

For your health. 

Health of loved ones. 

Abundance of food at your disposal. 

A job. Nice people in your life. 

That you live in a time and place of unprecedented opportunities for women. 

Peacetime. 

That dime you found on the sidewalk. 

That you didn’t get a parking ticket even though you should have (on my personal list today!). 

That hug your kid gave you this morning.

That your BFF made you crack up. 

That you never worry about clean water coming out of the faucet when you turn it on. 

Wine. 

Magnums. 

That you are loved. 

For the internet that connects you with amazing people and ideas and community and opportunities all around the world. 

I could go on for days. You can too. This exercise is so sosososososososo powerful. It feels so fucking good. Do it every day. Your life will change.

Ready to revolutionize your finances? Save more, earn more, spend less? Sign up:

Budgeting: Money Challenge Week 12

Now that you have started crunching numbers, seeing how much you actually spend each month, and realizing how far you actually are from your goals, it’s time to shake up your life by creating a budget.

Budgets aren’t sexy and they’re rarely fun, but they are empowering and necessary. Plus, you know you need one, and by simply doing this one thing, you relieve yourself of so much guilt and stress. Trust me, you will feel incredible after this task.

If you took my advice and signed up for an app like Mint.com (free), Ellevest or YNAB (You Need a Budget, free for 34 days), you can set up your budget right now, for free. Didn’t sign up yet? Go back to week 2 and get started now.

Week 12’s battlecry

“I am a grown-ass woman and I am ready to do the work it takes to achieve my goals!”

Week 12’s task

Next, make your budget: 

1. Write down your net income. This includes money that goes into your bank account, net of taxes, insurance, and other deductions that come from a job, side gigs, and child support and alimony. YNAB keeps track of this for you if you have already connected your accounts, so log in to see your total income.

2. Write down your core expenses—what you are actually spending today on rent or mortgage, basic utilities, insurances, car payments, food, and taxes if you are self-employed and pay those directly. Again, YNAB or Mint.com will be helpful here.

3. Write down the rest of your expenses. 

Total all of your expenses from steps 2 and 3 and that’s how much you spend in a month. Ideally, your expenses should be less than your income from step 1 so that you can start setting aside money for those goals you identified earlier in this money-saving challenge.

If your expenses are greater than your income or there is very little difference, then the next step is to slash those expenses.

More on setting up a budget here.

Find all the ways to save: Money Challenge Weeks 13-29

Slash your expenses like your life depends on it. I don’t care what your money goal is, you very likely can stand to spend less than you are. Here are ways that you can further cut your monthly and weekly expenses like a boss.

Week 13-29’s battlecry

“The less I spend, the more I feel.”

Week 13’s task

Cable TV: I know, you love it. The kids love it. But this is serious business, and the whole family must get on board to make important changes. And it doesn’t have to be forever. You can watch tons of stuff on your computer, Hulu, or SlingTV (or stream Netflix and Amazon videos to your TV, which is what I do). Showtime has a free 30-day trial for new members.

Also: read, play games, and do other stuff you keep telling yourself you’ll do with the kids but don’t get around to.

Week 14’s task

Libraries: Did you know that you could borrow more than books from the library? Nowadays, you can borrow e-books, DVDs, streaming services, and much more. Some libraries even have baking pans to lend you and makerspaces to try out new hobbies. 

If you listen to a lot of audiobooks, your local library likely has an online resource that you can use. And, if that won’t work, Audible is a great deal for unlimited access to millions of audio books, audio articles and other products.

Week 15’s task

Gym membership: I really hope you’re getting exercise and taking care of your body. But if you haven’t been to the gym in more than two months, you must cancel that membership. Get real. Also, there are zillions of ways you can get and stay fit for free, including jogging, yoga, and training and aerobics at home.

Week 16’s task

Subscriptions: Go through all the subscription and automatic-renewal services on your bills. Upon close inspection, I realized I was paying for two monthly Netflix subscriptions. At $9.99 per month, that was costing me nearly a hundred dollars per year. Sneaky on their part, lazy on mine! 

You may pay for membership to professional organizations that you’re no longer interested in, or have access to publications or online services you don’t use. Cancel, cancel, cancel.

Week 17’s task

Internet, cable and phone service: This one may feel brutal, but it can save you thousands of dollars per year. [Buckle your seatbelt!]

  1. Cancel cable. I haven’t had cable for 10 years! I DO NOT MISS IT! I get my news by reading a paper newspaper, reading the Internet, and listening to public radio and podcasts. The pleasant voices of WNYC have been the backdrop of my children’s mornings.

    For entertainment, we subscribe only to Netflix and Amazon Prime. This makes our entertainment very affordable, but also forces us to be conscious about what we consume — no more channel surfin. Amazon Prime is 50% off for students and those who qualify for EBT, SNAP, TANF and other programs. See if you qualify >>
  2. Get rid of that landline!  I did this and saved twenty dollars per month, effective immediately! Also, check Assurance Wireless to see if you qualify for a free plan. Assurance is a federal government assistance program that provides low-income customers free monthly data, unlimited texting, and free monthly minutes, plus a free phone. Learn about other resources for low-income single moms
  3. Without cable, phone and streaming services, you might be able to get away with a slower internet connection, which could mean a lower bill. Call your Internet service provider to see what’s available. 

Also, research bundling your Internet, cable and mobile phone services. I recently changed up my plan, bundled my mobile and Internet services with Verizon and saved $30/month! 

Week 18’s task

Utilities: Get serious about using less electricity, gas and water:

  • Set the thermostat at a few degrees cooler in winter and raising the AC a few degrees in the summer. 
  • Switching to a programmable thermostat like NestEcobee or Honeywell can save you save up to 10 percent on cooling and heating costs, according to the Alliance to Save Energy, switching to a programmable thermostat.
  • Use ceiling and floor fans through the year to circulate heat in the winter, and make the room feel cooler in the summer. 
  • Use energy-efficient light bulbs.
  • Keep blinds closed. 
  • Unplug electronics when they’re not in use. 
  • Use the dishwasher. According to the California Energy Commission, using an Energy Star-qualified dishwasher instead of hand washing can save you, on average, 5,000 gallons of water and $40 in utility costs each year, (as well as 230 hours of your time)!
  • Only run a fully loaded dishwasher!
  • Opt-out of the heat-dry cycle on your dishwasher and open the door just a crack and let your dishes air-dry.
  • Set your washing machine to cold water.
  • Run an extra spin cycle to help speed energy-sucking time in the clothes dryer. 
  • Keep your dryer lint-free, and invest in reusable dryer balls that can reduce dryer time. 
  • Use the smallest appliance for the job — no need to turn on the oven when you can warm or cook a small item in the toaster oven, for example.

Week 19’s task

Food: It can be very tempting for a busy, working single mom to splurge on restaurant food and prepared meals. Use these as special treats, or when a discount makes them a great deal. 

Here are things that happen at my house to keep food costs down (other benefits include kindness to the environment, healthier diets and more fun!)

  • Eat less meat. My daughter and many of our friends are vegetarian and since I like to keep cooking simple, we eat a lot less meat than we used to. I feel so much better as a result! 
  • Cook from scratch more. Less packaged food means healthier food, less waste. 
  • Share the cooking and cleanup. The less of a burden cooking is, the more likely you will do it. My kids alternate weeks at their dad’s house and mine. When they are here, I do the cooking. When they are with their dad, my boyfriend cooks. Plus, the kids are responsible for cooking and cleaning some meals when at my house. We all win. 
  • Focus on cooking in bulk. I like to make a giant pot of stew, roast, or pasta sauce, eat a third that night, freeze a third, and eat the rest for lunches and dinner leftovers. More on meal planning here.
  • Keep cooking simple. Food Network is not the goal. Some tasty, vegetable-based meals that you eat together as a family is the goal. One dish is fine. Simple ingredients is find. Roast some veggies and toss with pasta or rice. Grill some fish and eat with ramen. Eggs and toast is great for any meal. You’re welcome!

Week 20’s task

Insurance: Call your auto insurer and ask about lowering your rate or bundling your car, life insurance, and homeowners policies for a discount. Especially if you are a longtime customer, your insurer is likely to give you a competitive rate—but you have to call and ask! 

Research other car insurance policies, too.

Week 21’s task

Phones: Check Assurance Wireless to see if you qualify for a free plan. Assurance is a federal government assistance program that provides low-income customers free monthly data, unlimited texting, and free monthly minutes, plus a free phone. 

Learn about other resources for low-income single moms, as well as more places to get free smartphones wireless service.

Ready to revolutionize your finances? Save more, earn more, spend less? Sign up:

Week 22’s task

Prescriptions: If you don’t have prescription drug coverage with your health insurance and have to pay cash, ask the pharmacist if they know of any discounts available. You can also download the GoodRx app to see if there are coupon codes available for your particular prescription.

Read: 7 pharmacies offer free or cheap prescriptions

Week 23’s task

Holidays and birthdays: Christmas, Passover, Eid, birthdays and anniversaries — these special days can be especially stressful for single moms (they are for me). Co-parenting arrangements tend to implode during these events, and special times can feel especially empty without another parent to share them. The financial stress can make them anxiety-ridden for everyone involved. It’s no wonder that overspending plagues the holidays—and single moms are especially vulnerable. 

To tackle this financial landmine, set a budget in January for each family member’s birthday celebration, birthday gifts, and holiday gifts. Focus on activities instead of things. Instead of toys, make part of the Christmas gift a family trip to the water park in the spring or a favorite museum (especially if you were planning to go to these places anyway).

9 places for free Christmas and holiday gifts for single moms

Week 24’s task

Gifts: When you’re shopping for gifts, shop Amazon Renewed for refurbished goods and Amazon Warehouse for open box specials. Even if the recipient figures out that the gift is not perfectly new, they will understand and appreciate the gesture! 

Also, consider thrifting for holiday gifts, hitting up antique, pawn and consignment stores — including online favorites like ThredUpPoshmark and Mercari, as well as eBay and Etsy.

Week 25’s task

Sell your car: If you ended up underwater purchasing your last vehicle, you might try selling your car for cash. Then, purchase a less expensive, more economical vehicle. 

Before you buy another car though, check 1-800-Fresh-Start.com to see if you can qualify for a better rate on your new car loan than you had on your old one.

Week 26’s task

Refinancing: If you have credit card debt , car note, mortgage or personal loans, it may be ruining your chances of saving money. The average credit card interest rate is 18%, according to CreditCards.com, and mortgage rates have dropped dramatically in the past few years. 

The more high-interest debt you pay off, the more money you’ll have to spend and save each month. By lowering your monthly interest rates, you can pay down debt faster. A good way to do this is to refinance your debt.

For credit card debt, a balance transfer card that gives you 0% APR for up to 21 months can change your life. Keep in mind, however, that some cards that offer 0% APR for a limited amount of time also charge a balance transfer fee of 3% to 5%.

Resource: Find a balance-transfer credit card

If your credit is low, and you don’t qualify for a refinance, work to fix your credit. Read: How to repair a low credit score — fast!

Week 27’s task

Go genericShop Brandless bundles for skin care, pet care, and more. Use promo code BRANDLESS15 for 15% off.

Stick to generic products at the grocery and drug store. I wrote this article for Forbes about why department store and Sephora cosmetics are a huge rip-off.

Kirkland brands from Costco are a big presence in our house (including my boyfriend’s beloved wardrobe of Kirkland Couture or is it Kouture?).

Week 28’s task

Go thrifting. When you go shopping for clothes that you or your kids need, start at thrift stores and consignment shops — including online favorites like ThredUpPoshmark and Mercari, as well as eBay and Etsy.

Week 29’s task

Get creative. Even more ways to save money here, including:

  • Find cheap or free things to do outside.
  • Save on travel (and see the world) 
  • Invest in quality clothes and home goods

Ready to revolutionize your finances? Save more, earn more, spend less? Sign up:

Declutter for cash! Money Challenge Week 30

Today’s task is both practical and spiritual. I am a firm believer in living a simple, frugal life—a life full of gratitude for the things you do have, and surrounding yourself with items and people who fill you up and bring you joy and abundance in your emotions, health, experiences, and money. 

Today’s task is to cleanse your physical life of negative objects, with a special focus on negative past relationships (i.e., the ex). I have been separated/divorced for more than eight years, and I know this can be a long and hard process. For one, you may not be able to afford to replace all the furniture/dishes/clothes that have memories and emotions attached to past, negative people and experiences. In that case, today’s exercise is designed to be a starting point, an opportunity to map out a long-term plan to renovate your possessions and life. 

Plus, it’s a big task! After years of systematic purges, I still occasionally come across a memento or household item that floods me with bad memories about my ex-husband. Case in point: in cleaning out the above-the-fridge cupboard, I found one of those big plastic Tupperware containers designed for cereal, which was the source of so much domestic contention when I was married. Stupid, but true. Needless to say: buh-bye stupid Tupperware container! 

When you rid your physical space of things that hold negative feelings and memories, you make room for positive experiences and feelings—like the feeling of having a shit-ton of money. Those items, big and small, help you let go of old ideas about who you used to think you were, and what you used to believe you were capable of, and makes room for a new, better, and more abundantly joyful you. Today’s exercise will free your energy to attract all kinds of good things, money being just one of them: better relationships with your kids/friends/family, a new girlfriend/boyfriend, new work opportunities, travel—you name it. 

Trust me on this. It may be hard at first, but you really just have to get rid of everything that you don’t love or use.

Week 30’s battlecry

“My surroundings reflect my self-identity. I am in control of both.” Say it loud, and say it proud!

Week 30’s task

Start with one spot in your house that you dread dealing with the most. Perhaps a closet full of photos from your marriage, a garage shelf loaded with your ex’s crap, or a closet full of clothes that don’t fit/are out of style from a time in your life that you senselessly pine for. Take an hour and tackle that spot. Be ruthless. Brutal. Throw out everything and anything you absolutely have not used in the past month. Sell it, give it away, or just throw it away. 

If you have something worth selling, like designer clothing or purses, you might be able to use a site like MercariPoshmark, or ThredUP to sell it.

If you have old jewelry you don’t wear, sell that, too. CashforGoldUSA.com buys gold and silver whereas Worthy.com will buy high-end brands like Tiffany and Cartier. Both sites offer excellent customer service, fair prices and have an A+ with the Better Business Bureau. 

Sit for a moment when this is done (completely done—the crap at Goodwill or in the town dump or sold for profit). How do you feel? Pretty awesome, right? Then, identify the next spot for tomorrow. Repeat daily this week.

When you’re done, set aside the money you made from those sales to either contribute to your savings goal or pay down debt. Check out our favorite online savings account, CIT, with some of the highest interest rates in the market.

Downsizing: Money Challenge Week 31

You have your budget, and you have your goal. Today, I want you to take a very hard look at your housing situation. As your money situation stands today, is your current home really your best option? One of the biggest mistakes I see single moms make is financially struggling to stay in a home they cannot easily afford. 

Whether you go into debt each month to make rent or mortgage, or constantly stress and put all kinds of negative energy into the universe just to make ends meet, this is a bad personal and financial decision. I hear moms tell me the following reasons for staying in homes they can’t afford: 

“I love this house.”

“I want to keep the kids in a good school district.”

“Selling this house would be a public sign of failure. I don’t want my neighbors and friends to know how broke I am.” 

“This was the house I was supposed to grow old in with my ‘whole’ family. It’s not fair that I have to move just because he had an affair and decided to get divorced.” 

“I can barely make rent, but when I go to court and force my ex to pay more alimony/child support (or when I get my business off the ground/get that promotion), then it will be better.” 

Here are the facts about what home you can afford:

  1. What is the monthly cost to own or rent that does not stress you out? That is the home you need to live in right now. You can upgrade in the future when your finances are in a different spot. But perpetuating a lifestyle you cannot afford is living a lie. Nothing good comes of lies. 
  2. All those positive reasons for staying put are overshadowed by a nagging stress or outright panic for not being able to afford it. Again, when you are stressed about money, you are a stressed-out mom, you make decisions from a place of fear and frenzy, and you don’t live up to your potential as a woman. You attract the wrong guys. You consider partnering with a man for financial reasons. You make money and career decisions based on fear.

Week 31’s battlecry

“I deserve to live in a home I can easily afford. Today.”

Week 31’s task

Get real about whether you can afford your current home. You know the answer already. Make a plan. This might include calling a mortgage broker, a real estate agent, an apartment broker, or committing an evening to culling the local rental ads. Remember: home ownership can be wonderful, but it’s not always right for everyone, all the time. Plenty of wealthy, successful, financially wise people chose to rent their homes. 
Not sure what to do? Start with the New York Times ‘Rent or Buy?’ calculator. Also, consider there are affordable housing programs you might qualify for and also a quick way to sell your house for cash if you need to.

Ready to revolutionize your finances? Save more, earn more, spend less? Sign up:

Debt: Money Challenge Week 32

Today starts the debt-destroyer part of this challenge, and it is going to be gooooood. 

If you are like most Americans, you have consumer debt: credit cards, medical debt, student loans, a car payment. Just because debt is so common doesn’t mean it’s not destructive. When you owe others money, they own you. Even if the interest rates are low and your credit score is solid, debt still erodes your life. When you’re focused on paying back debt, your work, energy, and thoughts are focused on a negative—not on building wealth, assets, or a positive life. 

If you are drowning in debt, you likely find it hard to make payments on time, max out your limits, and other habits that result in a low credit score. When your credit score is low, you have fewer options: it’s harder to get a mortgage or lease, trickier to start your dream business, and more difficult to buy or lease a new car when your old one dies. You deserve to have all the choices in the world. Your money situation can be a prison of few options, or a bountiful smorgasbord of choice and freedom. You deserve choice and freedom. Choice is power. 

Week 32’s battlecry

“I am ready to take every necessary step to build my financial security and my family’s future—no matter how uncomfortable or painful!”

Week 32’s task

The first step is to retrieve your credit score and report. If your score is low, you likely have avoided your credit. This means that getting your score is that much more important. By doing so, you’re telling the universe you’re ready for change! In this case, that change means taking steps to clean up your credit history and boost your credit score.

The first step? Request your credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com so you can take steps to improve clean up your credit history, which will help improve your credit score. Start by cleaning up errors on your report. By law, you are entitled to have any obsolete, outdated, or erroneous errors removed. To do so, contact (in writing and sent by certified mail) the reporting credit bureau with documentation about why the item is wrong. By law, they have to remove these errors within 30 days of confirming your complaint is valid. Removing credit report errors is 100 percent doable and within your legal rights. Here are ways to repair your credit yourself. 

That said, there are also some really great and legit tools where, for a modest fee, you can get some support. One is paying a legitimate credit repair service like The Credit People to help clean up errors on your credit history, like old errors that should have been removed by now, debts that your divorce decree specifies is the responsibility of your ex, debts that do not belong to you, or debts reported multiple times.

Credit score: Money Challenge Week 33

Credit scores can seem complicated and intimidating, but achieving a score above 700 is actually simpler than you might think. Below, I outline a simple system for boosting your credit score by at least 100 points over a year—and at least 50 points within a month. The process takes patience, time, and diligence.

Week 33’s battlecry

“My credit score is important, and I am committed to facing my past mistakes and making changes so my credit report reflects my positive financial future.”

Week 33’s task

When your credit score is low, you have fewer options for dealing with your debt and also qualifying for housing or a job.

Now that you have your credit reports, credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com so you can take steps to improve clean up your credit history, which will help improve your credit score. 

The second step is to get your credit score and see what you can do to make improvements. You can use Credit Sesame, Credit Karma, or Experian Boost to get your credit score for free, right now.

With your score in hand and credit report errors disputed, you can focus your efforts next on paying off smaller balances. This is great for a quick credit score boost. If you have, say, $100 on a credit card, compared with $3,000 on a student loan account, paying off the smaller sum signals to the credit bureaus that you are tackling debt.

Debt: Money Challenge Week 34

Now that you have your credit score, and you can see all your debt in one place, it’s time to make a plan for getting rid of it!

Week 34’s battlecry

“When I owe others money, I lose power. I am powerful, and my money reflects that.” Remember to say it out loud!

Week 34’s task

Get real with your debt total. Look at those numbers on Mint or YNAB.

Haven’t connected all of your accounts to Mint or YNAB yet? Start by collecting statements for each and every one of your debts that might have come in the mail:

  • Credit cards 
  • Medical bills  
  • Student loans  
  • Car note  
  • Mortgage 
  • Home equity line  
  • Personal loans from your family or friends  
  • Back taxes
  • Loans against your 401(k) or pension 

Lay these statements out on the kitchen table. Feel them in your hands. Look them in the eye. I’m talking 100 percent transparency. 

Next, connect all of these other accounts you’ve received statements for to your account so you have all of your debt totaled in one place.

Then, create a list of all your debts, including interest rates, monthly minimum payments, and any deadlines—such as when promotion rates expire. You’ll use this list in the next task.

Debt payoff plan: Money Challenge Week 35

Now that you know what’s what with your debt, it’s time to make a monthly budget and figure out how much you can afford to pay toward your debt. 

Week 35’s battlecry

“I am committed to living debt-free. I am willing to do what it takes to pay off debt, and stay that way!”

Week 35’s task

After you have cut out all those extra expenses, stopped shopping, and taken steps to live that elegantly simple life, how much extra do you have each month to devote to getting rid of debt? Subtract your income from your expenses now and write that number down — that is the minimum you will devote to paying off debt each month.

With that extra money you have identified in your budget, start by paying off credit cards or loans with the lowest balances first. When the smallest debt is paid off, then you will pay off the next smallest debt and so on until your are debt free. This is called a “debt snowball” and the advantage is that you get the psychological and emotional thrill of paying off accounts quickly. 

More on how to pay off your debt, for good

Lower rates: Money Challenge Week 36

Perhaps you are one of the very few Americans without consumer debt—no credit card balance, car note, student debt, outstanding medical bills, or money you owe your loved ones. If so, good for you, mama! 

For everyone else who has some debt to pay off, here’s some good news: you can usually negotiate your credit terms for a better rate. This is a great way to pay off debt and save a lot of money on interest along the way. 

Week 36’s battlecry

“When I ask for what I want, with a sincere desire to make my life better in a meaningful way, I usually get it right away, and I always get it eventually.”

Week 36’s task

Call companies to which you currently own money and simply ask for a better rate. Here’s a script to help you: “Hi, as you can see, I am a longtime cardholder and I love using your product. I am committed to paying off my debt and improving my credit history, and I’d love to stay with you. However, I need a better rate on my balance. Based on my research, I can get a [insert honest quote you received from another card] rate. Can you match it or do better?” 

If you can’t get lower rates on your credit cards, you could see if you qualify for a 0% balance transfer credit card to consolidate your credit card debt. This only works if you are very organized, read all the fine print, and make sure you pay the premiums on time, and either pay off the balance or transfer the balance before the end of the promotion period. Check out CardRatings.com to see which companies have balance transfer offers today.

Open a savings account: Money Challenge Week 37

Part of being wealthy is dealing with shame around being a financial hot mess. I have certainly been there: living paycheck-to-paycheck, no emergency savings, a credit card balance, car note, student loan, and a big fat $0 in retirement accounts. Not a good look! 

Before I could change that ugly scene, I had to be honest with myself about a) what a mess I was, b) how I got into that mess, and c) how to get out of it by making a plan that worked for me. 

One of the most powerful tools in my financial arsenal actually has one of the lowest balances. That is my emergency savings fund. I like to keep around three months of business and personal expenses in a separate savings account that is not connected to my checking accounts or credit cards. This chunk of money sits there, in conservative investments, and does two things for me:

  1. Serves as an actual safety net in the event that I have a medical emergency, a home or car repair pops up, my business unceremoniously tanks, or Armageddon hits. 
  2. In the more likely event none of those things happen, I walk around God’s green earth with a bounce in my step thanks to the confidence that I am not SOL. The confidence and void of financial fear is actually the most powerful part of my entire financial portfolio, even though the dollars sum is but a small percentage of the rest of my assets. This account helps me make good, sound financial and business decisions every day, because those decisions are made from a place of confidence, not fear.

Week 37’s battlecry

“I deserve to feel financially secure every day, all the time.”

Week 37’s task

If you have not set up an emergency fund, take that first step today. Open a savings account that’s at a different bank than your checking account so that it’s harder to toss money back and forth when you don’t really need to.

Next, set a goal. If you are at $0, start with the goal of saving $1,000.

CIT Bank’s Savings Builder account can help you save by way of automation because the Savings Builder account can be set up so in such a way that you can automatically save $100 each month. That way, in just 10 months, you can get that $1,000.

Ready to revolutionize your finances? Save more, earn more, spend less? Sign up:

Open an investing account: Money Challenge Week 38

According to some fascinating studies I’ve read, women are actually better at investing than men, but they save and invest far too little, too infrequently, which puts us at a huge disadvantage. The wealth gap is a terrible issue, as women have far less invested and saved than men, and we need those long-term assets even more than dudes since: 

a) women will live longer, on average, 

b) women are disproportionately more likely to be responsible for children and aging relatives, and 

c) will earn less during our careers (damn you, pay gap!), and therefore receive less from Social Security. 

Plus, we are better at investing, so we should just be investing and growing our money for the sake of the economy, gender equality, and national security—am I right?

Week 38’s battlecry

“I am in control of my financial future, and I have the power to start investing today.” 

Week 38’s task

First, read this post: How to get started investing for women.

Second, open a retirement account if you don’t already have one. Even if you have just $100 today to start investing, it’s something!

Third, write down your experience with investing. If you do have a great foundation to your retirement investments, articulate in writing how this makes you feel. If are just starting out and worry you have a lot of catching up to do, write that down. It’s so powerful to articulate your fears and joys. Honesty is required for change.

Earning: Money Challenge Week 39

Throughout my work, I constantly discourage women from anything that keeps you thinking small. Go big, or go home. You only have so many hours in the day, only so many kilowatts of energy, only so many years on this planet. Do you want to focus on clipping coupons, arguing with your ex over money, or slogging away at a meh job that pays the bills—or do you want to build an incredible life where your energy is spent creating meaningful work that helps others, generates tons of money, and sets an incredible example for your kids and everyone else around you? 

I thought so. 

When it comes to money, it can be an easy crutch to focus on saving money by cutting costs and bargain shopping. These things are so important, but you can only cut so much. However, when you focus on earning, the sky’s the limit! Plus, when you focus on building a career or a business, there are so many residual positives. You bring joy and productivity into your life. You affect the world in a positive way. You attract other joyful, successful people into your professional and personal (and romantic, trust me on this) lives. 

All of this growth is so good for you as a woman and a mother, and inspires others around you to live to a higher standard. In other words, when you succeed, you give others permission to succeed. Your children. Your neighbors and colleagues. Your friends. This is activism. It is important and powerful.

Week 39’s battlecry

“I have amazing gifts and talents that I deserve to be paid a lot of money for. I deserve to wake up excited, proud, and positive about my career! Loving my work is not a luxury allocated for a special few. I deserve both money and joyful work.”

Week 39’s task

Today’s task might be really easy for you—you may currently be building your next career chapter and are cruising! However, you might join many other women who are frustrated, scared, unsure, or confused about where you are on your career journey.

Get really real with yourself about your career. Sit down and get in touch with how you feel about your job, your income, your daily schedule, and the people you spend time with at work. Ask yourself:  

  • Am I happy with my income?  
  • Do I feel appreciated?  
  • Is what I do each day in alignment with my values?  
  • Do I respect the people I work for and with?  
  • Does this work showcase my greatest talents and skills that I have to offer the world?  
  • Do I like my job? 

You may find this truth through meditation, prayer, hiking in the woods, exercising, sex, yoga, or before you fall asleep at night. This is an exercise in feeling, not thinking. Do not focus on rationalization, like, “I hate my job, but this work allows me to be there for my kids,” or, “I am really bitter that I am not paid more, but my job is secure,” or, “I am underpaid, overworked, and treated poorly—but not everyone can love their work and get paid a lot, ya know!”

This exercise may take some days and weeks to work on—I am constantly revising my relationship with my work and tweaking my business, art, and income goals as a result. Be gentle with yourself, but also brutally honest. Remember: you love money! (You said that earlier in this money-saving challenge.) Also: loving your work is not a treat, but something you deserve and can achieve.

Career goal: Money Challenge Week 40

Last week, you were assigned a frank look at how you feel about your career. What you do each day. How much you earn. The people you work with and for. The people or causes you serve. How these things align with your sense of joy, appreciation, values, and your healthy, awesome desire for a lot of money. Now, it’s time to set career goals.

Week 40’s battlecry

“I am worthy of all the career and financial success I desire.”

Week 40’s task

Write down a big-arse, scary career goal. Here’s my process for how to do this: 

Step 1: Set a goal. 

Step 2: Revise your goal to make it so big and crazy it scares you. For many years on January 1, I would set income and other goals for my business—and I would always blow that goal out of the water. I’d get so pissed at myself for not setting a bigger goal. If it doesn’t make you uncomfortable, the goal is not worth making. 

Step 3: Be really specific about what you want. “I want a big raise this year” is not enough. “I want to earn $20,000 more by Christmas, and to be in a new position where I am able to exercise my vision for my team” is specific. 

Step 4: Identify the intention behind the goal. Your objective must not include only money or a title or vanity metric (like attracting a certain number of Instagram followers, or making a bestseller list). The goal must include meaningful accomplishments, like serving others in a campaign you are passionate about, or jumping out of bed with excitement every (or, most!) morning, or being a positive role model to your children. Also, I learned early on that money or titles are not enough. You must serve others. When you focus on how you can create positive change in the world and seek joy in your work, that’s when you do your best work and have meaningful, impactful, and long-lasting success. Since we are so abundant, that is our obligation.

Step 5: Share your goal with someone, but be careful about who you share that goal with. I have a tight circle of accountability partners, mentors, and homegirls and homeboys who have my back. Others don’t need to know about my goals. I don’t welcome random energy into my circle. Gotta keep this sphere void of any toxic energy.

Negotiate a raise: Money Challenge Week 41

If you want to make more money, often that means asking for more money—whether by getting a different job with a higher salary, starting a business where you will set rates that will bring in more income, or by asking your current employer or clients for a raise. Better yet—tell your boss or client that your rate is going up! 

In Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, the authors show women negotiate 30 percent less often than men and, when we do, we ask for up to $16,000 less. 

Low confidence and lack of female role models in leadership positions are to blame. I also argue women are taught that prioritizing money is unseemly and the equivalent to greedy. Eff that! 

The net result? In 2015, the gender wage gap narrowed by just .4 of a percent. In fact, the pay gap “has not shown a statistically significant annual increase since 2007,” according to the US Census Bureau!

Week 41’s battlecry

“Upping my fee or asking for a raise is business—not personal.”

Week 41’s task

Commit to asking for that raise. Here’s how:

1. Remember that a raise it business, not personal. 

The PayScale survey found employees avoid salary negotiation because they’re worried about being fired or appearing too pushy (like women fear being called bossy?).

But a salary negotiation is not about whether people like each other; it’s a conversation with the goal of coming to a mutual decision that benefits both parties. It can actually be a win-win situation if you bring up the pay scale in the right manner. 

If you are paid fairly, you are more committed to your work and company. Your boss feels more confident that you will be a better employee and stay around longer. Bosses hate replacing workers. It’s expensive and time-consuming. Capitalize on that fear!

2. Do salary research first.

Understand your value in the marketplace to see if there’s really wiggle room, or if you’re asking for a pay raise without a good reason. Check sites like PayScale and CareerBuilder, look at comparable job postings, ask your colleagues, and inquire with industry associations and recruiters. Then, define your boss’s and the company’s greatest needs and challenges. Understand how your past performance and current skills address those pain points. 

Whenever possible, quantify your success and put a number on it. Prove how your marketing efforts drove this much more traffic to the company’s website, or that you exceeded sales goals, which meant X million dollars in more revenue for them.

If your firm’s top priority is to grow a certain segment of their business, show how your deep contacts within the group have already led to the bottom line and can stand to contribute even more next year. Focus on the other party. 

Also, consider timing. If it’s been more than a year since your raise or hire, or evaluations are just several months away, now is a good time to approach the boss. 

Most companies stipulate a certain sum of money for payroll, raises, and bonuses, and some of that can be decided based on performance reviews. That said, even if your colleagues warn you that a raise is not likely, consider going for it anyway. But if there have been massive layoffs or any other kind of financial crises, you probably won’t gain anything from going for it.

3. Ask for that raise!

Approach your boss about meeting to discuss your salary. Keep communication in line with your normal exchanges. For example, if your boss is typically very direct, also be direct. If you have frank weekly lunch meetings, bring it up then. If you chat face-to-face throughout the day, it may seem unusually passive to suddenly approach them by email. Likewise, if you’re on instant message throughout the workday, suddenly popping into their cubicle could be surprising. 

Use this type of language to set up the meeting: “Can we meet in the next week to discuss my compensation?”

During the meeting, keep the tone light, direct, and non-emotional (it’s business, not personal!). 

Arrive armed with documents backing your performance, but start with a verbal, top-line summary of your accomplishments, as well as any additional responsibilities you’ve taken on during your tenure. 

Don’t forget to position your case to appeal to their interests. And don’t take for granted your boss is aware of all of your duties or successes. If your research indicates you’re paid below market, mention that too. Here’s a script: 

“I believe my accomplishments deserve a salary of X based on what other positions are paying, and my successes for the company.”

More on how to negotiate a pay raise here.

What if you’re turned down?

In the event you’re turned down, ask about other benefits. 

For example, see if your company pays a “spot bonus,” a reward for a single project done well. Or counter with a more flexible work schedule, more vacation time, or increased training possibilities. 

If you’re finding difficulty in getting a raise in your current situation, consider looking for a new job. Some of the biggest pay raises typically come when workers switch companies.

Ready to revolutionize your finances? Save more, earn more, spend less? Sign up:

Networking: Money Challenge Week 42

Some really annoying life coach somewhere coined the phrase, “Your network is your net worth.” I’m repeating it, because it’s true. 

CareerXroads survey found that only 15 percent of jobs are landed by sending your résumé into the black hole that is job boards. The other 85% of jobs? Networking. 

What is networking? Here are some examples of how I’ve gotten paying jobs via networking: 

  • People I vaguely know on Facebook who vaguely know what I do for work reached out and asked if I was open to new work. 
  • Random people who found me on LinkedIn, which I obsessively update and work. 
  • A guy I chatted with once at the gym referred me to a client who hired me.
  • A mom of my kid’s friend who noticed my email signature while we were sorting out a play date.
  • I went for lunch with an old friend and shared my goals with her. She said: “I know who you should talk to!” and introduced me via email to a friend who got me a job.
  • and many more…

Week 42’s battlecry

“The key to making my dreams come true is connecting with the right people. The universe will conspire to help me find those people.” 

Week 42’s task

First, dig into all the contacts you have and make a list of all of them: personal friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Networking also means meeting new people. For the next week, contact at least 20 people every day. Every. Single. Day. That is 100+ people in one week. That sounds like a lot, but think about how many Facebook friends you have, email contacts, LinkedIn connections, Twitter followers, etc…

Many of these are people you actually know at least a little, if not a lot? Even the ones you have never even chatted with—digitally or otherwise— these are contacts. These communications should very briefly outline to the other person: 

  1. Your goals 
  2. What you offer 
  3. Ask what you can do for them. As always in life, give as much as you can. It comes back around. Always. Say: “What are you working on that I can support?”
  4. Listen. Yes, listen to their request and do your best to help. But also ask questions about what’s going on at their company, their industry, what their predictions and experiences are. That’s how you learn about opportunities that you may not have considered. Listening also gives you the chance to identify connections and opportunities for other people you know—which is the number-one best way you can cultivate good career and money mojo. Plus, helping others feels awesome!
  5. Ask for referrals or introductions to help you build your network.

Part of setting these big goals is to jump-start your goal-making momentum. The more people you reach out to, the more feedback you’ll get. The more positive reactions, introductions, and referrals you receive, the more positive you will feel about reaching your goals getting that money rolling in.

Gigs: Money Challenge Week 43

Today, you have untold opportunities to find a side gig or create a business with little financial investment, from home, in your free time. A side gig is not only an incredible income opportunity, but it can also be very personally fulfilling, and is a great way to create security—after all, should your main job go away, you always have at least a little income coming in from your side hustle. 

In my case, my side gig—Wealthysinglemommy.com—turned into my full-time career and passion, and my income quadrupled when I stopped writing for clients in my freelance business and instead chose to grow my media company serving single moms.

Week 43’s battlecry

“Multiple streams of income are a great way to try a new field, have fun, and make my family more financially secure. I deserve it all!”

Week 43’s task

The opportunities for income on the side are endless. Here are resources to help you find an opportunity that’s right for you, but start with Steady. 

Steady app is our No. 1 recommendation, since its has helped more than 2 million workers find gigs and jobs that pay up to $26/hour, plus earn bonuses. Get Steady now free >>

Business ideas for moms

Start that side business: Money Challenge Week 44

A business is different than a gig. A gig pays a bill. A business can grow into an empire. 

Today, you can complete entire college degrees online. But you don’t need a college degree to get a high-paying job that lets you work from home and has great benefits. Nope. You can learn new skills online now to build your resume.

Week 44’s battlecry

“I am an entrepreneur!”

Week 44’s task

You can work from home either full time or part time if you want a way to make extra money. Here are resources to help you find an opportunity that might be right for you:

High-paying jobs, no experience required

How to become a bookkeeper

How to become a proofreader

How to become a coder

How to become a doula

Outsourcing: Money Challenge Weeks 45-47

Women are super weird about outsourcing household tasks. They tell me, “Doing one’s laundry is simply a part of life.” 

Or, “If my family heard I hired a housekeeper, they would think me a snob.” 

Or, “Cooking homemade meals for my family every day is simply what good mothers do.” 

You already outsource nearly every task in your life. You don’t wash your clothes on rocks in the river. You outsource laundry to sophisticated machines. You don’t grow, harvest, preserve, and cook food over a wood stove. You buy food—probably plenty of preprepared and packaged food—at the store and make a meal out of it in your kitchen full of very advanced cooking tools and devices — whose production were outsourced to underpaid workers in a developing country.

Week 45’s battlecry

“No one has ever become wealthy without outsourcing. I deserve to be wealthy, and I deserve to outsource. It’s a no-brainer.”

Week 45’s task

Feel squeamish about outsourcing? Convinced you can’t afford to ever pay someone else to clean or mow or cook for you? Feel guilty for paying someone else to do what you should be able to do for yourself? Worried that your parents or friends will think you are a snob if they find out?

Dig into those feelings. Where does that guilt, shame, resistance come from?

Next, write down in your journal all the things you ALREADY outsource. These include:

  • Growing your own food
  • Making most of the food you buy at the grocery store
  • Sewing clothes — including growing the cotton, shearing the wool, weaving cloth and designing and sewing all the garments your family wears. Plus linens.
  • Did you pull a Pa Ingalls and build your home out of logs you fell yourself in the North woods of Wisconsin? Didn’t think so. 
  • Etc.

See? By way of being a member of contemporary society in a developed country you already outsource 99% of the tasks required to keep your family alive and remarkably comfortable. The list above could become an incredible book, there are so many things you already outsource!

Ready to revolutionize your finances? Save more, earn more, spend less? Sign up:

Outsourcing: Money Challenge Weeks 45-47

Women are super weird about outsourcing household tasks. They tell me, “Doing one’s laundry is simply a part of life.” 

Or, “If my family heard I hired a housekeeper, they would think me a snob.” 

Or, “Cooking homemade meals for my family every day is simply what good mothers do.” 

You already outsource nearly every task in your life. You don’t wash your clothes on rocks in the river. You outsource laundry to sophisticated machines. You don’t grow, harvest, preserve, and cook food over a wood stove. You buy food—probably plenty of preprepared and packaged food—at the store and make a meal out of it in your kitchen full of very advanced cooking tools and devices — whose production were outsourced to underpaid workers in a developing country.

Week 46’s battlecry

“No one has ever become wealthy without outsourcing. I deserve to be wealthy, and I deserve to outsource. It’s a no-brainer.”

I know this is a tough one to internalize, so we’re using the same battlecry twice. 

Week 46’s task

Identify one task in your home that you can outsource. What is the thing you hate to do the most? Which do you resent? Commit to using that extra time you save by outsourcing to build your income or to rejuvenate yourself so you can better serve your family, career, and community. A few ideas to get you started: 

  • Laundry 
  • Housekeeping  
  • Yard work
  • Meal planning and preparation

Then, go to Care.com and find someone to do that task for you. Get 20% off with code JOINCARE20 >> BAM!

I know the pushback: But, Emma—not everyone is a wealthy single mommy! I can’t afford to outsource

To this, I say: you have to take a risk with the confidence that it will pay off. You invest money in housekeeping now, that makes your week and life infinitely better. You have more time to build your side gig, more energy for your kids, or better performance at your full-time job. Extra hours to exercise, which helps you look and feel incredible—sentiments that trickle into the rest of your life.

The return on outsourcing may not be immediate, but if used constructively and with gratitude, it will change your life in dramatic ways.

No one has ever become wealthy without outsourcing.

Outsourcing: Money Challenge Weeks 45-47

Women are super weird about outsourcing household tasks. They tell me, “Doing one’s laundry is simply a part of life.” 

Or, “If my family heard I hired a housekeeper, they would think me a snob.” 

Or, “Cooking homemade meals for my family every day is simply what good mothers do.” 

You already outsource nearly every task in your life. You don’t wash your clothes on rocks in the river. You outsource laundry to sophisticated machines. You don’t grow, harvest, preserve, and cook food over a wood stove. You buy food—probably plenty of preprepared and packaged food—at the store and make a meal out of it in your kitchen full of very advanced cooking tools and devices — whose production were outsourced to underpaid workers in a developing country.

Week 47’s battlecry

My children do not benefit from countless hours with me. In fact, they benefit from quality child care, time with other loving people in their life, and a professionally fulfilled mom who earns a lot of money! 

Week 47’s task

Outsource more child care. Most moms are spending too much time with their children — as evidenced by the fact that we spend 3X the hours our mothers spent with us, per Pew studies, and the pandemic’s documented effect on all this time we spent with our kids was overwhelmingly bad for moms, bad for kids and bad for the economy. 

Here is my favorite piece of research that has been produced since someone proved that masturbation does not cause blindness:

A meta study of 34 related studies by University of Maryland found the pressure to spend so much quality time with children stresses moms out so much that it may actually make us worse parents than if we just focused our time on making more money, and less on frontal-lobe development and deep connection with our children. Read more about that study and what you can do about all that wasted guilt about not spending enough time with your kids. 

Here is how to hire a nanny or babysitter.

Then, go to Care.com and find someone to help. Get 20% off with code JOINCARE20 >>

Mom Guilt: Money Challenge Weeks 48-50

I often hear from moms who tell me: “I need to work limited hours / earn low because my children need me at home. Especially now that they are from a broken home (single mother guilt).”

I understand why moms feel like that — I have felt that way myself. We are conditioned since birth to believe that maxim time with children is best. We are told that stay-at-home moms are superior moms.

The message is: If you work outside the home, your children will suffer. In fact, a couple years ago a Pew survey found a stunning 40 percent of Americans believe that when a mother (not parent, mind you. Mother.) works outside the home it actually harms her children.

If you are like me and the majority of mothers in the United States, and you work outside the home, it is very hard to avoid feeling guilty and stressed as a result.

And so we dutifully spend more time with our kids. Wrote the Pew researchers:

For 3-to-11-year-olds, U.S. mothers spend an average of 11 to 30 hours each week either fully engaged in activities with their kids, or nearby and accessible when needed. And for kids in their early teens, moms are there between 11 and 20 hours each week. On average, in 1975 moms spent just over 7 hours per week with their kids. We are spending more time with our children, yet feeling more guilty and stressed.

The ramifications of this trend are enormous. The more-time-is-more parenting paradigm has given rise to and celebrated stay-at-home-mother-is-best paradigm, which puts actually puts women, children and families in financial peril. 

Week 48’s battlecry

“I will base my relationship with  being a working mom on facts, not feelings.“

Week 48’s task

Here are some facts about the benefits of mothers working for pay:

  1. A University of Maryland meta study found that after age 2, it makes literally zero difference how much time parents spent with their kids when it comes to measuring the children’s academic or psychological success. In fact, researchers found that the pressure to spend so much quality time with children stresses moms out so much that it may actually make us worse parents than if we just focused our time on making more money, and less on frontal-lobe development and deep connection with our children.
  2. “How Does the Amount of Time Mothers Spend with Children Matter?” authors found that the pressure to spend so much quality time with our children means all parents — working and stay-at-home — schedule both professional and housework around the children’s activities to maximize this presumed critical time together — at the detriment to all parties’ emotional wellbeing. To what effect?
  3. The researchers found that for young children, not much.
  4. That is right: We are spending TOO MUCH time with our children.
  5. Say what?
  6. This is stunning in and of itself (though more juicy data are to come).
  7. This finding completely confronts and contradicts the prevalent parenting message of our time: More time with your kids is more.
  8. In fact, that is a lie. 
  9. Harvard Business School study of 50,000 adults found that in 24 countries, the daughters whose moms worked before the girls were 14 years old finished more years of education, earned higher salaries, and were more likely to be employed and in supervisory roles than their peers whose moms stayed at home

In the United States, the Harvard study found that daughters of working mothers earned 23 percent more than daughters of stay-at-home mothers, and sons spent seven and a half more hours a week on child care and 25 more minutes on housework.

Mom Guilt: Money Challenge Weeks 48-50

I often hear from moms who tell me: “I need to work limited hours / earn low because my children need me at home. Especially now that they are from a broken home (single mother guilt).”

I understand why moms feel like that — I have felt that way myself. We are conditioned since birth to believe that maxim time with children is best. We are told that stay-at-home moms are superior moms.

The message is: If you work outside the home, your children will suffer. In fact, a couple years ago a Pew survey found a stunning 40 percent of Americans believe that when a mother (not parent, mind you. Mother.) works outside the home it actually harms her children.

If you are like me and the majority of mothers in the United States, and you work outside the home, it is very hard to avoid feeling guilty and stressed as a result.

And so we dutifully spend more time with our kids. Wrote the Pew researchers:

For 3-to-11-year-olds, U.S. mothers spend an average of 11 to 30 hours each week either fully engaged in activities with their kids, or nearby and accessible when needed. And for kids in their early teens, moms are there between 11 and 20 hours each week. On average, in 1975 moms spent just over 7 hours per week with their kids. We are spending more time with our children, yet feeling more guilty and stressed.

The ramifications of this trend are enormous. The more-time-is-more parenting paradigm has given rise to and celebrated stay-at-home-mother-is-best paradigm, which puts actually puts women, children and families in financial peril.

Week 49’s battlecry

“It is OK that I feel guilty sometimes about work, but I will not succumb to it.”

Week 49’s task

Try to understand where your working mom guilt comes from. Use your journal and write down your earliest memories about moms who work, vs stay-at-home moms. Maybe it was some modeling (good or bad) from your own mother, grandmother or neighbors. Perhaps you idolized some TV families with at-home moms, or remember overhearing your parents lamenting how horrible it was that working women created a generation of latchkey kids. Or perhaps you feel the pressure from your current friends and neighbors to be a full-time at home mom.

Whatever you realize, sit with that. That is all OK. Just the facts of how you got here. Helpful in moving forward!

Mom Guilt: Money Challenge Weeks 48-50

I often hear from moms who tell me: “I need to work limited hours / earn low because my children need me at home. Especially now that they are from a broken home (single mother guilt).”

I understand why moms feel like that — I have felt that way myself. We are conditioned since birth to believe that maxim time with children is best. We are told that stay-at-home moms are superior moms.

The message is: If you work outside the home, your children will suffer. In fact, a couple years ago a Pew survey found a stunning 40 percent of Americans believe that when a mother (not parent, mind you. Mother.) works outside the home it actually harms her children.

If you are like me and the majority of mothers in the United States, and you work outside the home, it is very hard to avoid feeling guilty and stressed as a result.

And so we dutifully spend more time with our kids. Wrote the Pew researchers:

For 3-to-11-year-olds, U.S. mothers spend an average of 11 to 30 hours each week either fully engaged in activities with their kids, or nearby and accessible when needed. And for kids in their early teens, moms are there between 11 and 20 hours each week. On average, in 1975 moms spent just over 7 hours per week with their kids. We are spending more time with our children, yet feeling more guilty and stressed.

The ramifications of this trend are enormous. The more-time-is-more parenting paradigm has given rise to and celebrated stay-at-home-mother-is-best paradigm, which puts actually puts women, children and families in financial peril.

Week 50 battlecry

“I choose to let go of working-mom guilt and go big. I want my sons and daughters to see me break through previous limiting beliefs and set a new, positive trajectory!”

Week 50’s task

Double-down on earning more. Now that you are free from the weight of guilt, now have permission to hire out more child care, are free to leave your kids alone more, and are generally more accepting that your kids don’t need you all the damn time, you can get to work. 

This week do at least one:

  • Ask for a raise
  • Make a plan to get promoted 
  • Start networking to find a new and better job 
  • Take steps to get more training or education to advance your career
  • Start or invest time in a side business 
  • If you own your own company, raise your rates or hire support staff (more outsourcing!)
  • Etc. 

Accountability: Money Challenge Week 51

You almost completed this monster challenge. This is so incredible. No matter how much progress you made, no matter whether you tackled every single task, just taking a step on this journey is huge. 

You recognized a need for change, and took responsibility for that change. All good things stem from the moment you decided to own responsibility for your success. 

Today, your job is to take stock of how far you’ve come and where you are on your money mastery journey.

Week 51’s battlecry

“No one is responsible for my financial well-being but me. I am in control of my financial future. I am powerful!” 

Week 51’s task

Write down how far you have come in your money journey. Answer these questions: 

  1. What is the biggest mental or emotional roadblock you recognize that was or is holding you back financially? 
  2. What have you done to overcome that mindset? 
  3. Do you check your YNAB account regularly? Your credit score and debt pay-down plan? How do you feel about your financial snapshot? 
  4. How much have you reduced your monthly expenses? How have you done on your no-spend month and simple living plan? 
  5. What steps have you taken to get on track for retirement? 
  6. How do you feel about your new career path? What steps have you taken to boost your income and create a dream career? 
  7. Overall, how do you feel about this challenge? What was the hardest part? The most inspiring? What do you need help with next?

Accountability: Money Challenge Week 52

We’ve been talking about budgeting, saving, investing, and debt. We also talked a lot about money mindsets. Negative money mindsets plague everyone, but the brand of negative self-talk when it comes to single moms is unique. 

One of my own personal growth breakthroughs in my life— including around money—is learning to ask for help. As a child, I was taught to ignore any emotions perceived as “bad” (feeling sad, angry, jealous, bitter, heartbroken). I also felt as a child I couldn’t count on people. These two things went hand in hand. Not only did my parents let me down in important ways, but also I was taught to deny my feelings. How can you even think to ask for help if you aren’t allowed to recognize you need it? 

As an adult, I am so grateful to realize that everyone needs help. Everyone experiences every emotion, and humans are limited and fallible. It’s those limitations that drive us to seek help from others. That help may come in the form of logistical support, such as asking a neighbor to watch your kids when you have a really hot date and your ex flakes on his visit. Or it may also be emotional support, such as asking for encouragement when you feel guilty for having insanely audacious dreams, or as if you will never meet your money goals. It’s that interdependence of people that creates social and emotional connections, communities, tribes, relationships, and families—the very connections that are the very most important experiences a human can have.

In other words, needing help fosters the very relationships that you and I and the Pope and Oprah and everyone else seek out the most. By taking this money challenge, you have consciously sought out a very big shift in your life. This is hard. This is very hard. This kind of shift requires not simple budgeting strategies. That’s easy, and that doesn’t work to make significant change in your life. To change your money situation—to have more money, to feel abundant, to be powerful and in control of your finances—requires a spiritual, emotional, and social change. That is hard.

Week 52’s battlecry

“I am not alone. I have all the support and love I need to make positive change in my life, and the lives of my children. All I have to do is ask for the support I need and be ready to receive it.”

Week 52’s task

Identify an area of your money mindset that’s challenging, and seek out the support you need. Perhaps this means asking for help and care from your accountability partner, your romantic partner, a good friend, colleague, or family member. Tell them what you need. Receive it. Feel lost for a person in your life? Head right now to our closed Facebook group Millionaire Single Moms. We are your tribe!

*Credible Operations, Inc. NMLS# 1681276, “Credible.” Not available in all states. www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org.”

**“Prequalified rates are based on the information you provide and a soft credit inquiry. Receiving prequalified rates does not guarantee that the Lender will extend you an offer of credit. You are not yet approved for a loan or a specific rate. All credit decisions, including loan approval, if any, are determined by Lenders, in their sole discretion. Rates and terms are subject to change without notice. Rates from Lenders may differ from prequalified rates due to factors which may include, but are not limited to: (i) changes in your personal credit circumstances; (ii) additional information in your hard credit pull and/or additional information you provide (or are unable to provide) to the Lender during the underwriting process; and/or (iii) changes in APRs (e.g., an increase in the rate index between the time of prequalification and the time of application or loan closing. (Or, if the loan option is a variable rate loan, then the interest rate index used to set the APR is subject to increases or decreases at any time). Lenders reserve the right to change or withdraw the prequalified rates at any time.”

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist, author and expert. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. As an expert on divorce and gender, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality and multiple state legislature hearings. More about Emma's credentials.

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