As part of the Frugal Family Challenge, "Good Morning America Weekend Edition" and USA Today followed two families, the Pivniks and the Walkers, as they attempted to change their spending habits for a month.
On Sunday, Oct. 5, "Good Morning America" will air its next installment of the Frugal Family Challenge in which two families will compete to see how much they can save on gas in a month. Tune in to pick up some tips on what you can do to keep your family's fuel costs low.
Check out how much each family saved with some judicious planning and cost-cutting.
The Walkers were asked to control impulse spending with fewer trips to the mall, fewer cell phone calls and more meals at home. A month ago, the very concept of saving even 5 percent of their income seemed impossible.
"I think it's a pretty far-fetched goal," said Mitzi Walker.
Their financial planner, Tim Wyman, said, "Saving money or sticking to a budget is so much more about perseverance and dedication and desire -- more than dollars and cents."
Mitzi Walker's first test of will was bypassing the golden arches -- "'cause usually every day I go to McDonald's for lunch," she said.
She also eliminated trips out for dinner and to the mall, which brought another benefit.
"We used half as much gas because we weren't going to the mall to go look for things to buy and then spend," Mitzi said.
Even trips to the grocery store were carefully recorded.
"Mitzi's trying to get things that aren't on the list and that we really don't need, like some cupcakes or whatnot," Jimmie Walker said of his wife. "And I went, 'Hey, that's not in the budget,' you know, 'we gotta be frugal.'"
The Walkers set out to save $500 over the course of the month, but they managed to save double that amount -- equaling 12 percent of their income.
How the Savings Broke Down
Eating at home more often and cutting down on mall trips: saved $543.
Dad got rid of iPhone: saved $68 a month.
Changing satellite TV service: $17 a month.
Deposited $280 in retirement account and $100 in college account.
Total Savings: $1,008 over 30 days = 12 percent of monthly income.
Visit www.usatoday.com to read more about the Frugal Family Challenge.
Go to the next page to read about the Pivnik family's month.
Bruce and Jennifer Pivnik needed to file their taxes, cut back on service fees and trim their cell phone bills.
To get started, financial planner John Kvale gave them some simple but sage advice.
"That old saying … 'How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,'" Kvale said. "Just take one bite at a time, and if you get frustrated just back up."
The Pivniks did some number crunching and found that by switching cell phone plans, they could save $140 a month.
Invigorated, they shopped around for automobile and homeowners insurance, cutting their bill by $235 a month but maintaining the same coverage.
Instead of heading to the department store Nordstrom's for the kids' back-to-school clothing, the Pivniks went to the store's cheaper little sister, Nordstrom's Rack, and said they were more "frugal" than in past years.
They also buckled down and finally filed their taxes -- and it turns out they got $7,000 back.
When Kvale told the family how much they saved over a month, there were high fives all around. Their savings for 30 days amounted to $1,750.95, or 14 percent of their monthly income.
How the Savings Broke Down