This guest post from Jessica is part of the “reader stories” feature here at Get Rich Slowly. Some reader stories contain general “how I did X” advice, and others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity, and with all sorts of incomes. Note that Jessica won $500 in the GRS video contest for this success story.

My husband Paul and I have set out huge financial goals for our family, including becoming debt-free, paying off our mortgage in ten years, saving so we can take a six-month sabbatical to pursue a dream we share, and remodeling our 50-year-old house.

Being military, we have a set income each month that we can rely on and budget for. And budget we do! We pay ourselves first with automatic withdrawals from checking to our savings account, and then the rest of our money goes where we’ve planned for it to go.

Each of us has a very small amount of “blow money” every month, but the truth is, our goals are more desirable than any material item, and we’d rather not let go of any of our goals to increase our monthly blow money.

This year, I was thinking of ways to earn extra money that didn’t have a purpose — money that would enable us to be a little bit crazy, pursue some of our small dreams, push us outside of our comfort zone, and, finally, give us a good chunk of money to blow on whatever we wanted. One of my brainstorms was this: What if Paul and I each started with a small amount of money and used it to make even more money over the course of a year.

From this thought the $20 Bill Challenge was born.

The challenge is simply this: We each get one $20 bill; at the end of the year, the person who has made the most money wins.

Wins what, we haven’t yet decided. But the satisfaction of beating the other person would be pretty great on its own. We’re each other’s biggest cheerleaders, but we also enjoy a good challenge between us.

We’ve made a few simple rules to keep ourselves on target:

  • We’re able to sell personal items, but we’ll still check with each other to make sure the other person doesn’t mind the item that’s being sold.
  • We can’t “borrow” money to invest in another project if our current funds are all tied up in a current project.

Those are our simple rules. If other issues arise along the way, we’ll sit down and see if we need to add to the rules, but the point of this is to challenge ourselves to think outside the box — to see if we can keep investing money in projects and make a larger return.

We’re several weeks into this challenge, and it has already proven to be a lot of fun.

My initial $20 went towards purchasing frames for some of my photography to be sold in a local shop. It certainly was a new experience! It was a challenge for me to inquire about putting my art up for sale. But that’s exactly what we want this $20 Challenge to be: a reason to push ourselves to try new things.

While I’m still awaiting news of my first sale, my energies have turned to selling items in our home in order to get myself back in the game. With minimal effort, I’ve made over $80 selling clothes and toys that I wouldn’t otherwise have imagined selling. This challenge made me come up with something new to make money.

I’m deliberating what my next investment will be with the cash I currently have.

Paul’s initial investment was to purchase a $6 battery in order to fix an old iPod someone had given him. With the aid of YouTube, he figured out how to repair the iPod, and then sold it for $40. He’s currently working on recreating something of no value into something of value, and hopes to turn a tidy profit from his venture.

While our challenge is still in the early stages, we’ve been encouraged by the progress we’ve made, and have had fun brainstorming ideas to make more money. We’ve also begun to realize the impact this could have on our lifestyle. The $20 Challenge opens up the opportunity to do exciting and bigger things that aren’t in the budget.

Reminder: This is a story from one of your fellow readers. Please be nice. After nearly a decade of blogging, I have a thick skin, but it can be scary to put your story out in public for the first time. Remember that this guest author isn’t a professional writer, and is just learning about money like you are.

Update from J.D.: I’m just now pulling into harbor at Sitka, Alaska and have an internet connection, so I see that Jessica dropped me a line to say she has entered a photography contest and could use your support, if you have time. I’m flying home tomorrow night, and will be back posting either Tuesday or Thursday. Hope you’re all doing well.

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