Saving money can be so hard sometimes. Hard to save yet so, so easy to spend.
Remember when you were a child, or if you’re a parent, think of your own children – turning something that seems otherwise boring into a game is always a fun way to motivate them, right?
Even as adults, we are motivated by challenges or competitions, which is why money saving challenges are a great way to motivate yourself to save money and work toward reaching your financial goals.
Set Yourself up for Saving Success
Sure, participating in a fun money saving challenge is a great way to disrupt your regular saving patterns (or lack thereof) and trick your mind into saving more money this year. It’s also a great way to kick off any money-related new year’s resolutions or treat yourself to a fresh start after your financial world was rocked by a bunch of unexpected expenses.
And at the most basic level, a money saving challenge is a financial tool to help you change your spending and saving habits. But in order to ensure you’re able to make the most of this tool, some light preparation is recommended.
A few easy ways to prime your saving challenge for success are to:
1) Invite a friend or family member to join you. Not only will you compete against yourself, but adding an extra layer of ‘friendly competition’ never hurts anyone. Plus, having someone you trust to compare notes with along the way never sucks.
2) Prefer to go it alone? No problem, but consider finding an accountability partner to bring on board. This person does not have to participate in the challenge themself, but rather be a sounding board or hype man to cheer you up if you find yourself struggling along the way.
3) Make it time-bound. Many of these money saving challenges have a set period of time built into the challenge. However, for those that don’t, pre-determine how long you will take to complete the challenge before you begin. Working toward achieving a goal with no clear set period of time or end date in mind can make it difficult to stay on task.
4) If you haven’t already, create a monthly budget. Learning how to budget will help you get a better understanding of how much money you’ll be capable of saving each month.
Money Saving Challenges You’ll Love
These seven saving challenges are perfect whether you’re a struggling saver or a seasoned pro. Try one or try ’em all and see how much money you can save.
1. Five Dollar Bill Savings Challenge
Also known as: $1 Bill Save Challenge
This challenge is pretty self-explanatory and can be easily tailored to your preferences. Every time you receive a five-dollar bill, you save it…easy peasy.
This can be a five-dollar bill you receive as a gift, change from a purchase, or cash you receive from your bank or credit union. Any five-dollar bill that passes through your hands goes into your piggy bank, or better yet, deposited into a high-yield savings account so it can earn interest.
Creative Ways To Modify This Challenge
It’s worth mentioning if you’re on a super-tight budget, this challenge might not be the best place to start. Missing out on five dollars (or more if you get multiple bills) could serve to put a decent dent in your disposable income each month.
There are a few different ways you can modify this challenge to fit your specific financial situation by switching up the dollar amount.
If you’re struggling financially, try saving your one-dollar bills instead. This will have less of an impact on your monthly budget while still allowing you to begin saving.
Conversely, if your finances are solid and you want to up the ante, consider saving your ten-dollar bills or even twenties.
2. Monthly Saving Challenge
Also known as: 12-Month Savings Challenge, Monthly Money Challenge
This money saving challenge is simple, easily customizable, and the best way to save a set amount of money over the course of a year. This challenge is perfect if you typically struggle with money-related new year’s resolutions, as you can start at the beginning of the year and save throughout the entire year.
However, don’t let a specific start date stand in your way, as any month of the year is a good time to save money. Simply determine your long-term goal, or the total amount of money you want to save during this challenge. Divide that amount by 12 to get your monthly savings amount. Save that specific amount each month, and by the year’s end, you’ll have conquered this challenge.
3. Weekly Saving Challenge
Also known as: 52-Week Challenge, 52-Week Money Challenge, 52-Week Savings Challenge
The weekly saving challenge is a helpful way to save a substantial chunk of money without affecting your budget in an extreme way.
This challenge is a great method to force yourself to save throughout the year and dedicate this money to a specific sinking fund at the end of the year. If you celebrate the Christmas holiday, this is an effective way to plan for the holidays and experience a debt-free Christmas.
The catch is that in the last quarter of the year, you’re saving the bulk of the money for this challenge, which can be difficult for many. If this sounds overwhelming, the next challenge may be a better fit for you.
In this challenge, you will save a small amount of money each week, equal to the week of the year. For example, for the first week, you will save $1. In the second week, you will save $2. The third week, $3, and so on.
The final week of this challenge calls for you to save $52, as there are 52 weeks in the year. At the end of the challenge, you will have saved $1,378!
4. Reverse Weekly Saving Challenge
Also known as: Backward Weekly Saving Challenge, 52-Week Money Challenge Backward, 52-Week Savings Challenge Backward
This is technically the same challenge as number three, but you’re going to flip the script and complete it backward or in reverse. This version is awesome because it lets you get the big numbers out of the way early in the year and relieve your budget come year-end and, more importantly, the holiday season.
Not only will you not be stuck trying to scrounge up extra money for the weekly savings at the peak of the Christmas shopping season, but you will still have saved up $1,378 at the end of the year for your holiday budget. Win-win.
With the reverse weekly saving challenge, you will save $52 in the first week. Save $51 the next week and continue to follow suit, counting down to $1 in the final week of the year.
5. Envelope Challenge
Also known as: 100 Envelope Challenge
Technically this is a 100 day challenge that requires 100 envelopes. However, this is another challenge you can easily modify to fit any set amount of time you prefer.
Take any number of envelopes and number the front of each envelope. If you choose to participate for 100 days, you’ll number each envelope, beginning with number one and going to 100.
On the first day, pick any envelope at random, and whichever number is marked on the front of the envelope is the amount of money you’ll place inside the envelope to save.
For example, if you choose envelope #58 on the first day, you’ll place $58 inside the envelope. Suppose you choose envelope #16 on the second day. Save $16 in the envelope. On day 100, you will have $5,050 saved in cash.
If the thought of keeping this much cash around makes you uncomfortable, opt to deposit or transfer the amount from your checking account to a savings account instead.
6. Spending Freeze Challenge
Also known as: No Spend Challenge
A spending freeze is not only an excellent way to save money, but it will also force you to cut back on unnecessary spending at the same time. Prior to beginning a spending freeze, it’s important to choose the duration of the challenge and set the ground rules on when you can and cannot spend.
A spending freeze does not have any specific guidelines, so you can execute it however you see fit. But, once you set the rules, be sure to abide by them. You will need to spend money to pay your fixed expenses, of course; however, you’ll need to decide what type of discretionary spending, if any, is allowed during your freeze.
Discretionary spending is typically categorized as unnecessary spending. Things like trips to your favorite coffee shop, impulse purchases, or extra subscription services. At the end of your spending freeze, try to refrain from purchasing everything you wanted during the freeze.
7. Spare Change Saving Challenge
Also known as: Round-Up Saving Challenge
If you already save your spare change, this will be an easy challenge for you. But participating in this challenge with intention will help you find even more change to add to the pot.
Find yourself a cool change jar and keep it in a convenient place where you can drop your change each time you return home from making a purchase; that way, you’ll be sure to save it and avoid tossing it in a junk drawer, never to be seen again.
If you’d rather go digital, the Acorns app will round your purchase to the nearest dollar and invest it for you!
8. Starter Emergency Fund Challenge
Also known as: $1,000 in 3 Months Challenge, 3-Month Saving Challenge
This is an awesome challenge to try if you’re working to build up a starter emergency fund. An emergency fund of 3-6 months of living expenses is essential for financial security, but it’s a good idea to pay off debt you may have before putting that much money aside.
A starter emergency fund, however, is usually around $1,000 set aside for emergencies that pop up while you’re working to improve your finances.
This savings challenge is a great way to get your starter emergency fund established in only three months. You can save this daily, weekly, or monthly. Weekly would be $77/week, daily would be about $11/day, or monthly would be $333/month.
This challenge requires you to save a substantial amount of money in a short amount of time, but having a very specific endgame in mind, i.e., funding your starter emergency fund, can be an incredible motivator.
Not all, of course, but many emergencies we incur can be covered by $1,000. A sick pet (or kid), a flat tire, a broken dishwasher, and most of the annoying little things that pop up can be handled with your starter emergency fund, so this challenge will really put you in a good position to start the new year.
9. Pantry Challenge
Also known as: Eat at Home Challenge, Cook at Home Challenge, No Dining Out Challenge, No Eating Out Challenge
While grocery bills have been through the roof recently, you will still save a lot of money by cooking at home and avoiding eating at restaurants or ordering takeout.
A pantry challenge forces you to cook at home and takes it a step further by requiring you to use the ingredients you already have on hand to feed your family.
Most people opt to visit the grocery store one time per week to purchase fresh produce, milk, and eggs. Others purchase nothing throughout the challenge. The specific dietary needs of your family will shape this challenge.
In all scenarios, the point is to significantly slash your food costs and use up all the food you likely have in your cabinets, pantry, and refrigerator.
What is the Best Money Saving Challenge?
The best money saving challenge is simply the one you will stick with. Of course, if a specific challenge causes you to save a larger amount of cash than another, one could argue it may be a “better” challenge. But if you give up after the first week, is it truly better?
No one challenge is the best. Any challenge – or other motivating factors, for that matter – is a great option if it helps you cultivate a habit of consistent saving.
Regardless of which savings challenge you (or try them all), the point is that you are creating a habit of paying yourself first by saving consistently each day, week, or month. Neglecting to save a portion of your income can set you back years on your journey to financial freedom!
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Kristin Stones is the owner of Cents + Purpose, an online community dedicated to sharing practical personal finance content. Her mission is to equip women with the necessary tools and knowledge to take back control of their money and live a more purposeful life. She creates actionable content to help her audience achieve financial wellness using her simple approach to managing money - all learned through her personal experience of paying off almost $55,000 of debt in under two years.