12-Day Money Challenge

2021 is right around the corner, and it seems like we are all eagerly counting down to the end of the year of COVID. The holidays are a welcome sight, but at the same time, we might go a little overboard with holiday spending. Don’t get me wrong. Spending is a good thing, after all, that’s what money is for. It’s uncontrolled spending that leads to problems later on.

Here’s a solution. Try this 12-Day Money Challenge. Although the temptation is to “spend, spend, spend,” we need to remind ourselves to “share, save, spend.” Now is the ultimate time to maintain those good money habits you have built all year long. Don’t derail all your savings on short-lived distractions. Consider it your holiday gift to yourself: More money for you.

How does the 12-Day Money Challenge work? Each day focuses on a theme:

  • Day 1, Share.
  • Day 2, Save.
  • Day 3, Spend.
  • Day 4, Share.
  • Day 5, Save.
  • Day 6, Spend.
  • Day 7, Share.
  • Day 8, Save.
  • Day 9, Spend.
  • Day 10, Share.
  • Day 11, Save.
  • Day 12, Spend.

On each day of the challenge, pick a dare that goes with the theme. You can use the ideas below or come up with your own. Everyone’s circumstances are different, so make the challenge your own. And no matter where you stand financially, everyone has the ability to do this challenge. If funds are low, share the gift of time instead by running an errand for someone or by volunteering at a local food drive. There are many ways that you can embrace this challenge, and the benefits go beyond building good money habits.

Are you up for the challenge?? Here are some ideas to help you along!


  • Donate to your favorite charity.
  • Treat a co-worker to lunch.
  • Double the tip on your food delivery or restaurant order.
  • Pay it forward — buy coffee for the next person in line.


  • For one day, match every purchase you make by saving the same amount in the bank.
  • Skip buying coffee or lunch that day and put that money towards savings.
  • Keep the change — round up every purchase to the next whole dollar amount, and put the difference in savings (some banks and apps will do this for you automatically).
  • Review your long-term savings accounts to make sure that 1) you’re invested, and 2) your investments still align with your goals.


  • Spend no more than $5 today.
  • Set a budget for buying holiday gifts.
  • Buy one thing for yourself today, only if it costs 5% or less of what you earned today.
  • Everything you buy today must be on sale or with a discount/coupon.

If you are able to stick with the challenge for all 12 days, congratulations! Maybe extend the challenge into the new year, and rotate the themes each month rather than each day? Sounds like a great new year’s resolution!

Homework: Take the challenge! How did you do? What ideas would you like to share with others?

To our readers: Ace Academy has changed from weekly to monthly lessons, so starting 2021, each month will focus on a new topic (college savings, retirement, etc.). If you have topics you would like to see, please let me know. And thanks for subscribing! Wishing everyone a happy holiday season!

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5 Steps To Smarter Spending

Spending money. Let’s face it. We love to spend money, but we don’t love to talk about our spending decisions. Have you ever been in a store when a child asks, “Can we buy that toy?” and then hear a long, detailed response on all the reasons to buy or not buy the toy? Probably not. Instead, we hear a quick response like “maybe” or “nope.”

That conversation is actually a great opportunity to educate children about money. Ask them the questions: What do you need to do to get that toy? Would you rather spend money on a toy instead of eating dinner that week? What else could you buy with your money? Make them aware of the decisions they face when spending money. They will come to appreciate what they have and not spring for every shiny new thing just because they have money.

What might help is to talk through these 5 Steps to Smarter Spending. If shopping on your own, go through the steps as a thinking exercise.

  1. Set a limit. How did you come up with that number? Spending money is fine, but only if it’s within your means.
  2. Trace your money. What did you have to do to earn that money? Understand the value of what you are spending.
  3. Weigh your options. Where else can you spend that money? Don’t forget to factor in basics like food or shelter.
  4. Compare prices. Read my post “What Is The Right Price?” to learn more.
  5. Let go. Every financial coach seems to say, “Don’t spend money!” But I’m here to tell you that spending money is ok. Let me repeat. SPENDING MONEY IS OK! We make money so we can use it. Just be smart about it!

Homework: Practice the 5 steps to smarter spending using a food menu. Bon appetit!

Tune in next week as we tackle budgeting. What is a budget? How do I begin? Or subscribe below to automatically receive weekly lessons in your inbox!

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A Life Of Sharing

You make a living by what you get;

You make a life by what you give.

– Winston Churchill*

I spent the past two lessons on saving money, but now let’s talk about sharing money. In my opinion, of the 3 S’s – Share, Save, Spend – sharing comes first. Why? Because your saving and spending habits depend on how you view sharing.

You’re probably thinking, sharing has nothing in common with the other two. Saving and spending are self-serving, whereas sharing is about others. But let’s examine that for a moment. The money you save eventually gets spent, and who do you give that money to when you spend it? To others. In fact, you could argue that the end goal of all money is to be shared with others.

Can you think of all the ways that your money gets shared? Let’s look at a few.


Charity donations and/or church tithes are a great way to develop a habit of sharing. Not only do you make a difference for others by giving, but you also feel good about it. Practice sharing first by automatically setting aside a portion to give away each time you receive money.


Even though it’s called “paying” taxes, you are actually “sharing” taxes with everyone, including yourself. Tax dollars fuel essential parts of our society. Police, firefighters, roads, and schools name a few. Taxes get a negative reputation because they lower our earnings, money that we feel belonged to us already, when in fact, we should take the same approach with taxes as we do with charity. Set aside what you are “sharing” in taxes first, and then treat the remainder as your own earnings.

Parents can teach young children about taxes by taking back 25-cents of every $1 dollar of allowance or gift money for “household tax.”


Tips probably belong in the Spend, rather than Share, category, but the act of tipping is sharing money. I have witnessed millionaires who did not tip when the situation warranted it, which led me to wonder: If you have $50 million, what is an extra $5 dollars? Was sparing $5 dollars worth letting down the worker who depended on that tip for income? Avoid becoming a scrooge by factoring in the cost of tip before receiving services.

The Ripple Effect

The beauty of sharing money is that it creates a ripple effect. When you donate to a cause, your friends and family will likely follow your lead. When you tip someone, he or she will likely be more generous when tipping others. Sharing not only enhances your own perspective of money, it impacts everyone else’s mindset too. All the more reason to share!

Tune in next week to learn how to have a conversation about spending. Or subscribe below to automatically receive weekly lessons in your inbox!

Homework: Whenever you receive money, automatically devote a portion for sharing before counting your money. If you don’t already have one, find a cause that you are passionate about and donate!

If you like this lesson and want to see more, please consider a donation on GoFundMe.

*The origin of this quote may be different, according to the International Churchill Society.

How Much Money Should I Save?

The million dollar question (pun!): How much should I save?

Well, there’s a complex answer and a simple answer. In most cases, you’ll get the complex answer.

It depends.

Everyone’s number is different because we each have different savings goals. Saving for a car is different than saving for a house. Saving for a house is different than saving for college. Saving for college is different than saving for retirement.

Some factors that aid in calculating your savings number:

  • How much do you need for your goal?
  • What have you already saved?
  • How long before your goal takes place?
  • Where will you invest your savings, and at what growth rate?
  • How much can you afford to save?

As adults, your savings number will likely be limited to the last question: How much can you afford to save? I challenge you to reverse your thinking: How much can you afford to spend? Recite the following motto, specifically in this order: SHARE, SAVE, SPEND.

Looking at spending last will be a good way to focus on your savings goals and forces you to examine how much you must earn to afford your lifestyle.

A good rule of thumb is to save one-third (1/3).

Earlier I mentioned that there is a simple answer to the question of savings. If you are young and don’t have any major goals yet or are just starting out, a good rule of thumb is to save one-third (1/3). Any time you receive money, share a third, save a third, and spend the rest!

So ask yourself the question: How much should I save? Don’t get discouraged if your number seems high. Remember that you can adjust some factors to reach your savings goal, like decreasing or delaying your goal. Even if you save a small amount now, you are still building the blocks to your financial future. As you continue, increase your savings little by little. Soon enough, you will be savvy at saving without giving it any thought!

Tune in next week to learn why “sharing” is first on my list. Or subscribe below to automatically receive weekly lessons in your inbox!

Homework: The next time you get allowance or money, make sure you know how much is going into each of the 3 S’s: Share, Save, and Spend. Can you save one-third or more? What would a small increase in savings do for your goal?

If you like this lesson and want to see more, please consider a donation on GoFundMe.