The $20 challenge

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.

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.

More about...Side Hustles

Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others

Subscribe to the GRS Insider (FREE) and we’ll give you a copy of the Money Boss Manifesto (also FREE)

Yes! Sign up and get your free gift
Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others

45
Leave a Reply

avatar
newest oldest most voted
snappy
snappy

good idea,going to watch your success story,thx.

basicmoneytips.com
basicmoneytips.com

I like the idea of the $20 dollar challenge. Seems like a good way to get the creative juices flowing. Plus, I like that your husband went on you-tube to learn how to fix his IPOD. There is a wealth of information on the internet and it is easy to save yourself money this way.

Suzanne
Suzanne

Id like to know how it turns out at the end of the year! By the way, the challenge will give you money for entertainment plus its entertainment in and of itself.

DreamChaser57
DreamChaser57

Interesting. I think the middle class has to give up the notion that money only comes from a paycheck. We must become more innovative when it comes to discovering ways to bring more cash flow into our lives!

Chris at yardsalequeen.com
Chris at yardsalequeen.com

We’ve played a similar game like this on my message board on my website. What we do is have a limit of $1 and plans to hit next saturday’s yardsales. Then whoever can turn their $1 yardsale purchase into a lot more on ebay is declared the winner and gets to gloat until the next time the game is played.

Ken
Ken

I love this idea! What a great way to not only pick up some extra cash, but also to let your creative and entrepreneurial spirits grow.

Jessica @ Life as I See It
Jessica @ Life as I See It

Suzanne – I initially wrote about this on my blog and have done a couple updates (though nothing beyond the information in this post here). I have a second challenge going on this year too where I am only buying clothes second hand for myself and my boys (by “second hand” I mean from thrift stores and yard sales… most of the items have been BNWT!) It’s unbelievable how much people get rid of and my perspective on stuff has really changed this year! Anyways, both those challenges will be updated on my blog soon. And maybe J.D. will let… Read more »

Suzie
Suzie

Wow! What a fantastic idea 😀 I love it!

drummer
drummer

Brilliant!

whoami9801
whoami9801

Don’t think of that $20 as your only asset. They did something similar in a class at stanford. they gave each group of students $5 and 2 hours to make the most money.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/creativityrulz/200908/the-5-challenge

*spoiler*

The team that made the most money didn’t even spend their $5 they sold their 3 minute presentation to a company that wanted to hire students in their class.

Nicole
Nicole

Neat. Good luck!

Barry
Barry

This reminds me of the guy who years ago traded up from one red paper clip to a house (took him a year to do it). Here is the link his blog.

http://oneredpaperclip.blogspot.com/

Still a terrific illustration of what is possible if you stick with it.

Chickybeth
Chickybeth

This seems like a really fun activity. It seems like it would be hard to figure out what to do at first, but it might get easier as you start to make more money. I can’t wait to see what happens and see the steps along the way!

Rascuache
Rascuache

I like this, I really do. It’s a great idea. I tried to do what you’re husband’s doing with an old iPod and Sadly both times it backfired on me. The first time it cost me more to sell it than I made, and the second, after buying the battery and opening it up, more expensive component, the click wheel broke when i was reassembling it. After taking it to a store which purportedly was able to fix it, they chucked it into a box in their warehouse and didnt tell me and now i’m still trying to get it… Read more »

Chiot's Run
Chiot's Run

So what about using that $20 to grow a small garden, you could buy all kinds of seeds and save tons of money on groceries. I only spend about $50 on seeds/supplies for our garden each year and last year I harvested over 1000lbs of organic produce. My 25lbs of organic strawberries alone would have saved us around $100 on our grocery bill. You woulnd’t necessarily make money, unless you calculated what you saved at the grocery and put that money aside. You could start a small market stand by the road and see what happens. There are a lof… Read more »

Mike Choi
Mike Choi

If you know about cloths and fashion and such, You could buy brand name cloths on clearance at stores like TJ maxx, marshalls and resell it online.

It will be cool to see at the end of the year how much the initial $20 investment can grow.

Mike Crosby
Mike Crosby

Watch out, you might end up with Warren Buffett kind of wealth;-)

ConsumerMiser
ConsumerMiser

The $20 Challenge: I love this idea of making a game out of finances and making more money. The $20 Challenge will make trying to make more money fun. I may try this with my spouse. This summer the kids and I are starting a lemonade stand complete with a business plan, budget, marketing plan and target. I want to start them thinking early about making money, personal finance and planning.

Trina
Trina

This is a really cool idea! It really got me thinking, and all kinds of things popped into my head. I immediately thought of the grocery game (using coupons and rebates at drug stores to get stuff for free). Last year I got about $11,000 worth of stuff for free. I donated most of it to charity and got a nice tax deduction out of it, but you could sell it all at flea markets and yard sales, which is what a lot of people do. I wish I had kept track of my out of pocket spending. It would… Read more »

TosaJen
TosaJen

I like using the friendly competition to encourage you both to be creative.

DH and I have used similar means to eat better and exercise more, too. For a while, we compared pedometer totals every evening!

We’ll have to look at that idea of growing $20 to ?? 🙂

Bananen
Bananen

What an awesome idea! From now on I’ll set aside some small amount each month for small investments. Perhaps in time it could spur a bigger and more profitable scheme.

Lauren
Lauren

I think this is a fabulous idea! I would love to know how this turns out, and it gives me some ideas. Getting creative is absolutely essential to keeping to a budget, otherwise it gets to be a chore. There is nothing that says budgets and cutting back have to be boring. More power to you!

brooklynchick
brooklynchick

Awesome – please post again at the end of the year!

Miss N
Miss N

This reminded me of an exercise a professor at Stanford would give out to her students: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/creativityrulz/200908/the-5-challenge. Same premise but instead of $20, it’s $5 and you only get a few days. They ended up with a wide range of results and a team actually converted their $5 into $600.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what both of you end up doing by the end of the year!

ami | 40daystochange
ami | 40daystochange

I love the fact that this simple challenge has opened your eyes to the opportunities around you. Suddenly an old iPod isn’t junk waiting to go to the dump – it’s a potential investment that yields a rate of return that any financial professional would be proud of. Suddenly you’re taking risks with your art – learning much more by the risk taking than you would have learned from a multi-thousand dollar business class. I hope you continue to have a lot of fun with this activity and wish you great luck with your efforts. Add my name to the… Read more »

Bear
Bear

What a great idea! I love that you’ve turned it into something that benefits your family, helps you encourage each other and puts fun into the idea of creative saving! Good for you guys! Let us know who wins and what other fun things you come up with to “beat” each other!

Sarah L
Sarah L

This is cool, such a great idea!!! I might have to see about us doing this!!! We do something slightly similiar during the school year. My husband is a teacher, so we buy school supplies cheap when it’s near free at the start of the school year, then sell the notebooks and pens/pencils to his students for 50 cents each. They don’t have an excuse not to have supplies, and they get it cheaper than buying it in the stores once the prices go back up so a lot of kids actually buy all their supplies for all their classes… Read more »

Maureen
Maureen

Fabulous idea – you are both exploring new pathways and having fun !! What could be better. Thanks for the suggestion and good luck.

KS
KS

Just a great idea. Since making more money is not important to me, I would like to see someone challenge themselves to use that $20 to do something that breaks one out of a comfort zone and do someting new. Registration fees for a 5K to train for, to go towards a workshop or class, get a cheesemaking kit, etc…

Jennifer
Jennifer

Great idea! It reminds me of an Adventures in Odyssey episode I heard once.
I like the friendly competition factor.

finallygettingtoeven.com
finallygettingtoeven.com

What a great idea. And who doesn’t like a little friendly competition now and then. It’s great that you have a competitor instead of playing the game by yourself. It increases your motivation by ten-fold. After all, who doesn’t like to tell their significant other once in awhile (“I’m better than YOU are…”.) I am rooting for you. Because, well just because we women always stick together (as hubby likes to say “not for any rhyme or reason, you are all just nuts”). Something that comes to mind that i just did (and i am always looking for opportunities mind… Read more »

Jessica @ Life as I See It
Jessica @ Life as I See It
Thanks for all the positive encouragement!! 🙂
You all are so inspiring 🙂
Money Green Life
Money Green Life

I think $20 is too small. If it was pretty much a guarantee to make a margin from $20 investment, I would go higher, maybe $100 or $200. Bigger investment, bigger rewards, right?

Angie
Angie

Awesome idea! I may have to copy it (only, I can’t even begin to compete with my hubby – he’s a genius at stuff like this!)

Good luck, and let us know how it goes 🙂

honeybee
honeybee

What an awesome idea!! Go Jessica! I might have to take and modify this idea. I challenge my finacee to a cooking contest and it was way too fun. This sounds like a fun challenge too. AND our key issue is we have too much Stuff. So very cool contest.

However Jessica/JD… you may want to modify the term “Blow Money”… blow is a term for cocaine.

Ted Hessing
Ted Hessing

Jessica, this is awesome! This exactly the kind of challenge I love to do. I cannot wait to try it out! Thanks for the tip.

John Bardos - JetSetCitizen
John Bardos - JetSetCitizen

This reminds me of the $5 business challenge at Stanford University. Teams of students are given $5 and two hours to turn it into something more. The extreme constraint forced students to come up with some novel ideas. http://su.pr/4HXHk1

Another one is http://oneredpaperclip.blogspot.com/. Kyle MacDonald traded up from a single paper clip to a house. True story!

Who knows how big your $20 will get. Good Luck!

Heather
Heather

Yes, please update us! What a fun idea! My husband and I each have an “allowance” and I like to save mine. I’m playing this game with myself, just because I didn’t think to get my husband involved. I sold some aprons I sewed out of old clothes, and I sold some old gold. Also, I often look for free-after-rebate items, and if I can use it and can afford it out of our weekly grocery/household money, I will get it. Then, when the rebate check comes, I cash it and put it aside. I also play a game with… Read more »

Dan
Dan

Kind of reminds me of my grandfather’s story: Arrived in this country with a trunk and $45. He did OK!

Enjoy the challenge!

Jon
Jon

This is great. It shows the kinds of opportunities that are out there and forces you into some action. It could also be interesting to imagine that you’re down to your last $20 and need to earn $100 by next week. Or to limit yourself to only selling products, not your services (time). If there’s anything that would be good to market online, like framed photographs, Ed Dale’s 30 Day Challenge is a free internet marketing course that’s focused on getting you to earn your first $10 online. (The course is free, but if you decide to register a domain… Read more »

jeffeb3
jeffeb3

You can really get just as much enjoyment out of spending money as you can making it. This is a good example of that.

I bet finding out how the iPod worked, and repairing it was rewarding. And how fun is photography? Spending three hours on a weekend working on a profitable project can be just as fun as spending $15 on a movie.

brian
brian

Very cool! This can also be applied to many other areas of life: packing for trips, activities, etc. In the Boy Scouts, we would use this same concept. Our game was “MacGyver”, you had 25 ft. of rope, one canteen, and a book of matches…now go build a shelter, cook a meal, and find the way back to the car. Its not about survival, its about thinking abstractly. Everyday items that you glance over can be repurposed for another use. Good Luck on the challenge! By the way can you only sell items or can you sell your services, like… Read more »

BobJ
BobJ

i am just glad you are having fun while attaining your goal.

Bec
Bec

This is such a fantastic idea. I have to admit to not being creative with ways to find money. I’m on a very low income and need to take up some of these ideas.

I’m going to have a go at this challenge and blog it up, I will link to your story.

James
James

this is such a great way to build on your already strong bond. i love this idea and it sounds like the two of you are really thinking outside of the box to win. i love it.

shares