How to Get Competitive With Yourself (and Save a Ton) on "Zero-Dollar Days"

It's safe to say we all share a common financial goal: to save lots of money. Yet with all the overpriced smoothies, online flash sales, specialty coffees, and one too many overindulgences, many of us fall short of our intentions and then wonder why on earth saving money has to be so difficult.

Well, guess what: it doesn't have to be. In fact, I've discovered a hack that makes saving money quite easy, not to mention a little fun.

While there are many money-saving hacks out there, the one I'm referring to is called "zero-dollar days." Each week, you pick one day in which you don't spend any money — absolutely zero! I started implementing this tactic when I first graduated college and was determined to find ways to travel on my low, entry-level salary. Fast-forward four years, and I'm still partaking in zero-dollar days — it's that effective.

So if you're looking for ways to add a bit more cushion to your wallet, below are three reasons to jump on the zero-dollar days bandwagon.

1. You will become more mindful of your spending.

A latte here, a shirt there . . . while these simple purchases don't seem harmful in the present moment, it's fascinating how quickly they add up. And before you know it, you've eaten right through your month's budget, and then you risk sliding down the slippery slope of living outside your means. But not with zero-dollar days.

This trick will serve as guardrails preventing you from making impulse purchases. You'll become more mindful of your spending, and will realize how little you actually need on any given day. By delaying the purchase of any items you come across that you're tempted to buy on your nonspending days, chances are you won't end up circling back to buy them. And if you do, at least you know this is something you really do want, instead of another random impulse transaction.

With zero-dollar days, you'll have the time to step back and ask yourself why you even want to purchase something in the first place, which will ultimately make you a more mindful buyer — and one with self-control and restraint. Now, is that not a powerful money-management tool or what?

2. You will become a better planner . . . and cook.

Because you'll need to decide your nonspending day(s) ahead of time, this hack will inadvertently also make you an all-star planner, both in the short and long term.

Oh, and don't be alarmed if meal-planning (and Tupperware!) suddenly becomes your new best friend. Trust me, it's much easier to tackle these days when your meals are prepared and ready beforehand. OK, scratch that — it's the only way. I recommend prepping and planning all of the upcoming week's lunches and dinners on Sundays. This way, you're ready before the exhaustion of the workweek can get the best of you.

3. You will ignite your inner competitiveness — with yourself.

Once I started noticing larger numbers in my account, zero-dollar days suddenly became more than a money-saving hack to me; it became a personal challenge. I started asking myself questions like, "Instead of one zero-dollar day this week, why not two? Or three?" And I guarantee the same will happen for you. It's all because of the instant gratification. It works wonders, I tell you.

It won't take but a few short weeks of zero-dollar days before you start seeing the savings add up. And before you know it, you'll have a couple hundred extra dollars in your back pocket. Whatever you decide to spend this newfound money on — whether you save it for a rainy day, pay off loans, or get out of town on a spontaneous trip — the important thing to note is you now have that choice. You made it happen, all thanks to some willpower and simple planning.