The 30 Day Money Cleanse: A Step-by-Step Detox Program for Your Financial Health

Have you ever done a juice cleanse or a “Whole30” challenge?

While I haven’t ever gone to that extreme, I DO always feel better physically and mentally after even just a few days of clean eating.

So if a quick “cleanse” can work for our health, why not try it with our money?

This post is inspired by a 30-Day Money Cleanse Calendar Personal Capital sent me, and I thought it was a cool idea.

Here’s their original calendar:

I don’t agree with all of those points, and I don’t expect you to either.

As you can see below, I’ve adapted a few of the suggestions for Side Hustle Nation.

This isn’t a sponsored post, but does contain affiliate links to Personal Capital and other resources.

Ready for the cleanse? Let’s do it!

Day 1: Track Down Your Money

This one is a great place to start. Make a list all your financial institutions and your usernames and passwords to access them. Figure out how much you have in all your different accounts. 

Bryn and I did this last year and it was almost embarrassing how many different accounts we had accumulated over the years. Since then, I’ve been on a mission to consolidate and simplify our banking and have made some pretty good progress.

We’ve been able to close or merge half a dozen accounts, and I’m feeling much better about the situation. There are still a few more on my chopping block, but we’re getting there.

Day 2: Identify Your Financial Goals

What money goals do you have in mind?

  • “I will be debt free by the end of 2018.”
  • “Our house will be paid off in 15 years.”
  • “I will be making $1000 a month on the side by the end of the year.”
  • “I will retire at 40.”

You’ll notice that each of these sample goals is specific and time-bound — not something vague like “I will spend less money.” 

Related: 5 Steps to Accomplish Your #1 Goal

Day 3: Discover Your Net Worth

I like to use a tool like Personal Capital or Mint.com (I actually use both because I’m a nerd like that) to pull all my accounts into one place so I can figure out my net worth.

What’s net worth?

Your net worth is your assets minus your liabilities, basically what you OWN subtracted by what you OWE.

Here’s an example:

In this scenario, the person (or family — my wife and I always do this a team sport) has $380,000 in assets and $227,000 in liabilities, leaving him or her with a net worth of $153,000.

What’s cool about your net worth is it doesn’t care about your income or expenses. It’s just a financial snapshot of where you’re at in one moment of time. It gives you a benchmark to work from. 

Day 4: Know How Much You Make

Do you know what your take home pay is? You probably know your salary, but what’s leftover each month after taxes, insurance, and other deductions?

In this number, make sure to include your side hustle income as well.

You can look at this at an annual or monthly level, whichever makes the most sense to you. While my wife’s income is pretty predictable, my income tends to fluctuate quite a bit month to month, so I need to zoom out a little to get a more accurate picture.

Related: The Most Important Number You Won’t Find On Your Tax Return

Day 5: Know How Much You Spend

Have you ever taken the time to itemize out your expenses — like ALL of them?

It’s a pain in the butt, but can be pretty eye opening. That’s one reason I put almost everything on credit cards — partially to get the rewards, but partially so I can have a detailed electronic record to review.

Don’t stress too much about cutting costs at this point, we just want to get a baseline if income and expenses right now, because tomorrow we’re going to …

Day 6: Calculate Your Monthly Profit

You’ve got your total income number from Day 4, and your total expense number from Day 5, and if you subtract the expenses from the income you’re left with your net profit.

Did you end up with a positive number or a negative number?

It might be weird to think of yourself as being profitable or unprofitable but this really is a key mindset shift. No company can survive being unprofitable for long, and neither can we as individuals.

Naturally, the bigger the gap between your income and your expenses, the more profitable you can be. Take Michelle as an extremely profitable example; she has very high income and very low expenses (she lives full-time in an RV!).

Day 7: “Bucket” Your Spending

On Day 7, take a closer look at your itemized expenses from Day 5. You’re going to put everything you spent money on into one of 2 categories:

  1. Fixed
  2. Discretionary

In the Fixed column, you’ll have stuff like rent/mortgage, car payment and insurance, daycare, and groceries.

In the Discretionary column, you’ll have stuff like eating out, clothes, travel, and Netflix.

I’m not out to cut anything yet, but being honest with yourself and labeling some of your spending as “discretionary” or “optional” can be helpful in “finding” money.

Day 8: Rank the Discretionary Expenses

Of all the things you spent money on in the Discretionary column, which ones brought you the most joy?

For Day 8, go down that column and put a little smiley face :-) , neutral face :-| , or sad face :-( next to all those expenses:

  • Flights to Mexico — :-)
  • Dinner with friends — :-)
  • New shirt — :-|
  • Candy bar — :-(

For example, I’d rank a dinner out with friends over a new shirt. Your list might not have ANY sad faces, and that’s totally fine. After all, why spend discretionary money on something you didn’t Really want?

Again, you don’t even have to cut anything right now. I think the mere act of doing this might influence future buying decisions. And that earns a :-)

Day 9: Emergency Fund Check Up

Do you have 6 months of fixed living expenses in savings? Or 12 months if you’re really conservative?

For example, if you spend $4000 a month on housing, insurance, groceries, and other fixed costs, that means maintaining an emergency fund of at least $24,000.

If you don’t, make a plan to get there. Living on the brink of broke is no fun, so build yourself a little cushion.

Day 10: Savings Interest Check Up

Is your emergency fund sitting in your checking account earning ridiculously low interest? Consider moving that cash to a higher interest savings account.

I’ve been with CapitalOne360 since it was ING Direct (get a $25 bonus when you create an account). They pay .75% interest, and some other online banks like Ally pay 1%.

It’s not great, but it’s better than .01% my checking account gets.

If you have more than 6-12 months of expenses saved up and sitting in cash, that brings us to Day 11…

Day 11: Deploy Idle Cash

Yes, there is such thing as “too much” money.

Every year, the value of your savings gets whittled away a little bit by inflation. After your emergency fund is flush with cash, put the surplus to work for you!

That means investing in low cost index funds either on your own or through a service like Betterment. (Which I’m not legally allowed to endorse as an affiliate due to SEC regulations… so I may or may not be a happy Betterment customer and you should do you own independent research.)

And if you think the market is about to tank — like I have for the last 4 years — find some shorter term investments that can pay you more interest or yield than your savings account. After all, you don’t need the cash right away.

Actually one thing that’s helped me get over my market fears is dividend investing. I don’t necessarily care if the stock price falls; I’m just there to collect my quarterly dividend payments.

Caveat: If you think you will need the cash right away, like to buy a house or a business, ignore all of Day 11.

Day 12: Think about Refinancing

Refinance high interest mortgage, credit card, or student loan debt.

For instance, SoFi has helped thousands of customers reduce their student loan payments, and they offer personal loans for debt consolidation as well.

Day 13: Max Out Your 401(k)

If your employer offers it, make sure you are enrolled in your 401(k) plan. At the very least, contribute up the amount of any company match.

When I worked at Ford, this was 6% of my salary, meaning if I allocated 6% of my paycheck to my 401(k) retirement plan, the company would contribute an equal amount to my account, dollar for dollar. That’s like getting an extra 6% raise in free money!

Unfortunately, they paused the matching program shortly after I joined the company. Womp womp.

In any case, the 401(k) plan allows you to reduce your taxable income this year, and force yourself to save for retirement.

If you’re self-employed, you can defer even more cash through the company match … which is nice when you own the company. This is something we talked about on a recent tax-saving episode of The Side Hustle Show.

Day 14: Find Something to Sell in Your Garage or Attic

I’m pretty confident you’ve got something collecting dust that someone else would pay for. Put it up for sale on Craigslist or ebay.

I’ve sold bobblehead dolls, model cars, books, furniture, Magic cards, electronics, and tons more.

Day 15: Take a Break

You’re halfway there. Good job! You deserve a breather.

Day 16: Meal Plan

At our best, we make one grocery store visit a week. For me, it’s Sunday mornings on the way back from yoga.

At our worst, we’re making 3-4 separate trips because we didn’t plan well. Not only is that a huge waste of time and gas, but it’s also bad for your wallet because you inevitably end up buying other stuff that wasn’t on your list either.

Proactive meal planning can help that. Find some recipes you like and get organized for the week, or consider a meal planning service like Erin Chase’s $5 Meal Plan.

Day 17: Re-examine “Memberships” and Subscriptions

What recurring monthly or annual memberships or subscriptions do you pay for? Do you really use them enough to justify the cost?

In my case, it’s stuff like Dollar Shave Club, my gym membership, and Netflix. And this goes for the business side too, with software like LeadPages, AWeber, Libsyn, and GeniusLink.

You might find something you’re not using enough to pay for anymore, or you might find a lower priced alternative.

For example, we cut our cell phone bill in half by switching from Verizon to Ting (get a free $25 service credit), and it’s kind of funny to say, but 15 minutes DID save us 15% on car insurance by switching to GEICO.

Pro Tip: You can use a free app like TrueBill to summarize your recurring subscriptions and cancel the ones you don’t want anymore in one click.

Day 18: Join Ebates

If you’re not already an Ebates member, you should be. Basically you earn cash back for shopping online as you normally would. They’ll even give you $10 just for signing up.

Day 19: Sign Up for Auto-Payments

I’ve got a confession: just last month I had my first-ever late payment fee and interest charge on a credit card. Somehow I missed the statement reminder email and it happened. Embarrassing!

(I sent the bank a note asking for forgiveness and they actually waived the fees.)

But after that I immediately set the card up on auto-pay so it wouldn’t happen again.

All our utilities get paid automatically. It’s one less thing to clutter your brain with and you never have to worry about being late. 

I was hesitant to do it for the credit card because I wanted to review the statement first in case there were any charges I didn’t recognize, but I’m pretty sure I can still dispute something after it’s been paid.

Day 20: Take Inventory of Your Skills

Write down all of your skills, even the ones no one has ever paid you for. If you don’t think you have any skills, ask your friends or co-workers what you’re good at. You might be surprised!

I’ll admit, I have a hard time with this too, and I think it’s because once you know something, it’s hard to imagine not knowing it.

For inspiration, it might help to browse some of the categories on Fiverr.com:

Day 21: Post Your Gig

Other people are making money from these skills! Why not you?

Related: How I Earned $7490 in My First 14 Months on Fiverr

Day 22: Take a Dip in the Sharing Economy

Check out this post with over 200 ways to make extra money by tapping into the renaissance of peer-to-peer commerce.

It’s easier than ever to do business with your neighbors, and that’s unlocking millions of dollars in side hustle opportunity!

Day 23: Set Up Your Clarity.fm Profile

On Clarity.fm, you can set up an on-demand consulting business in a matter of minutes. The site has a price floor of $60 an hour and you can take calls from anywhere.

I’m closing in on $4000 in lifetime earnings on the site.

Day 24: Subscribe to The Side Hustle Show 

You subscribed to the Best Business Podcast-nominated Side Hustle Show yet? If not, you’re missing out. 

Each week my guests and I will fill your earbuds with all sorts of part-time business ideas and actionable advice toward building job-free income streams.

All you’ve got to do is search “side hustle” in any podcast app and the bright green cover art will pop right up. Then whack the “Subscribe” button and you’re all set!

Day 25: Find Your Rat Race Freedom Number

On Day 5 you listed out all your expenses and on Day 7 you categorized those into Fixed and Discretionary.

Today, add up all your Fixed expenses. That total is your bare bones Rat Race Freedom Number.

That’s the “nut” you need to hit every month to quit your job and maintain some semblance of your current lifestyle.

The fastest path to escaping cubicle captivity doesn’t rely on replacing your income; it relies on covering your expenses.

Day 26: Start Rolling Your Side Hustle Snowball

The Side Hustle Snowball is a way to reframe that journey to Rat Race Freedom by looking for ways to cover your expenses with new non-job income streams, starting with the smallest and working your way up.

Check out this post for a more detailed explanation and how I’ve gone about “erasing” some of my actual expenses with various side hustles.

Day 27: Get Some Free Money From a Bank

Over the last decade, I’ve earned thousands of dollars in free money from banks in form of credit card sign-up bonuses.

Now if you don’t trust yourself to only spend what you can pay off each month, absolutely don’t do this. But if use credit cards only with money you already have to buy stuff you would have bought anyway, I think it makes sense to get the maximum bang for your buck.

1% cash back is boring, but 20-50% cash back in the form of free travel? That’s what I’m talking about in applying for new credit cards and earning big sign-up bonuses.

I like ThePointsGuy.com and CardsForTravel.com to see what the latest offers are. Hold out for at least 50,000 points per card.

Day 28: Set Monthly & Quarterly Check-ins

Make a calendar reminder to check your account balances monthly, and check your net worth quarterly. It’s not something you need to track day to day, but over time, you’ll start to get a picture of how it (hopefully) grows in response to your efforts.

Every 6-12 months, review your investment allocations and rebalance if necessary. (Betterment does this automatically for you.)

Day 29: Make a Donation to Charity

Make a donation to the charity of your choice. Living well is about being able to give back.

Day 30: Treat Yourself

Congratulations! You made it all the way to the end of the cleanse!

via GIPHY

Take a moment or two for some (inexpensive) celebration, and recognize that figuring out this whole “money thing” isn’t easy.

I definitely won’t pretend to have all the answers, but I’m confident that in going through these steps you’re better off than you were before (and you’re miles ahead of most of your peers).

Your Turn

What do you think? Was this money cleanse helpful?

Anything you’d add or change? Let me know in the comments below!

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24 thoughts on “The 30 Day Money Cleanse: A Step-by-Step Detox Program for Your Financial Health

  1. Love this.. and very timely. Been meaning to get a better handle on my wallet. You mention some great resources too. A few that I’ve heard of but haven’t had the chance to jump on. No better time.

    … to be continued.

  2. Great post! Gonna use this as a guideline to win back my freedom. Wait a sec… Really, have I ever been free?

    Okay, gonna use this to help earn my freedom.

  3. My wife just started Whole30 for the second time. She loves how much better her body feels during the cleanse.

    Not a lot to disagree with from my perspective. You have to know your spending habits and set goals if you want to make changes. Side note – I’m a huge fan of Personal Capital. I’ve been using it for about a year now and love how easy it is to track everything.

  4. A great set of ideas. Some of them I already use. Even though I am debt free and already retired, there’s still lots to learn. I certainly saved money when I went through my direct debits, and also checked all the renewal premiums for insurance / cable / energy as they came through. I certainly no longer automatically renew anything!
    Strangely enough I posted on the benefits of a budget only a few hours ago, then I got this in a Rockstar Finance email….

  5. Well, that looks downright exhausting!

    Fortunately, I’ve done most of these things in recent months or years, or have good rationale for not following all the recommendations. Great advice for beginners and novices who are looking for a place to get started with personal finance.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

  6. Although I love this post, SoFi advertises a lot lower interest rates, than they actually offer. They wanted to give us a 6.7 on. Credit score average of 754. I wonder if you have used this site personally.

  7. Am I really the only one who has no clue what my salary is but can tell you to the penny how much I bring home? Day four is a common exercise in the PF blogs and it always boggles my mind that people don’t know what gets deposited in the bank each payday but can tell you what their annual salary is. I must just be backwards…
    :-)

  8. This post should be on a chart somewhere. This would be a great starter for those who want to take control of their finances.

    If someone can follow this cleanse for 30 days, it only means they are ready to commit to getting their financial freedom

  9. Thank you!!!! I just finished working my way through this – I also did a 28 day spending freeze concurrently. This 30 Day Detox and Money Cleanse was amazing. The spending freeze was also an amazing challenge. Together …. powerful learning. Thank you!!!!

  10. Man, you jam packed this post with so much valuable info!
    Thank you for reminding me about Mint. I’ve heard of it, but haven’t had the chance to research it. So I look forward to looking into it and the other you mentioned.

    You just gave me a LOT of homework that I’m oddly excited to jump into. Again, thanks for this loaded post.

  11. Two months later I have made some progress! In addition to getting our finances in order, this post has inspired me to start writing (which I suck at) and commit to building a successful side hustle (link in my name). Not sure what that side hustle will be, but I think writing will help flesh that out.

    I’m looking forward to days 20-23 when we’re challenged to put our skills into the marker.

    Thanks again, Nick – love what you do. And good luck to all the hustlers here.

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