Personal Finance

How To Save Money Challenge

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 18 minute read

This is the year that you’ll finally begin to save for the future, whether it’s for retirement, your children’s college education, or that trip to Europe you’ve always wanted to take. You decide to look online for cost-cutting measures.

When this occurs to you, you know there was a good reason you didn’t begin this sooner. There must be a certain kind of person who can save money. However, no matter how much money you have, you may save by making a few simple changes.

Gamifying your savings strategy with challenges may be a lot of fun. On top of that, towards the conclusion of the challenge, some of them can amount to actual money, sometimes in the thousands of dollars. Furthermore, these cost-cutting competitions are adaptable to fit any financial plan.

Budget-Boosting Money-Saving Challenges

Take on these challenges to increase your savings for retirement, further education, or debt elimination. You may do them separately or save money by combining them.

  1. Expense-Tracking Test

Expense tracking competition does not lead to a net financial gain. Instead, it aids in understanding your spending habits, where your money goes, and how much it all adds up to.

Keep all of your receipts for a month and record your daily expenditures in a spreadsheet at the end of each day. Check your online banking and set up similar recurring payments for invoices that can be paid automatically. If you’d prefer to simplify things, try a budgeting program like Mint or MoneyStrands to keep track of your spending.

Don’t worry about whether or not the deals make sense right now. In doing so, you want to have a better understanding of your current financial standing. You should put your receipts in an envelope so you can easily find them when you need to look them over.

Examine your spending habits at the end of each month to identify areas for savings. If it helps, split it up and do it on the weekends.

The first weekend is a good time to review your utility options. Would switching power providers allow you to negotiate a lower monthly bill? Is the unlimited data plan necessary? Axe any and all unused subscriptions or memberships.

Examine your food spending records throughout the second weekend. I’m curious as to how frequently you splurged on things you didn’t need. Have you ever considered making those cinnamon buns on your own? Is there a store that sells generic versions of the popular brand? If you want to know how much a product costs in comparison to similar items sold by other stores, you may look it up on the website of your local grocery shop.

Focus on the perishables that went bad before you could eat them. Plan ahead to save money on your next shopping trip. In order to save money, you might need to learn how to cook, plan out your meals, or buy frozen items instead of fresh ones. All other purchases should be evaluated for need and strategies for resisting temptation should be developed.

  1. The Pantry Challenge

Even if you stick to your plan and don’t make any impulsive purchases, a weekly trip to the supermarket for a family of four might still cost several hundred dollars. Get by for a week without spending any money on food by making do with what you already have on hand.

The money you save on food for the week (and on eating out, assuming you don’t cheat) is more than the cost of the challenge itself. Moreover, it has the potential to radically alter how you see both eating and preparing meals.

You’ll improve as a cook, relish the challenge of using up leftovers, and learn to waste less food at home.

The initial intention behind this challenge was to help participants clean up their pantries in only one week. However, this is flexible and may be adjusted to fit your needs and available resources.

  1. The No-Eating-Out Pledge

If you take this vow, you’re promising to never eat at a restaurant again. Intuitively, that makes sense, but in practice, it may be difficult because eating out can alleviate both time and mental load when you’re pressed for both. However, there are means of alleviating the burden.

If eating out is what you’ll miss, plan a cheat day once a week, once a month, or on special occasions. This safety mechanism prevents you from gradually increasing the frequency by random acts of cheating.

If the thought of doing all the cooking, buying, and cleaning by yourself is overwhelming, split the responsibilities among family members.

If you’re just too busy, then the Internet is the place to go. It’s hard to make the case that you have to order takeout when there are recipes that can be prepared in less time. Try to find some “fast and easy” dishes.

You can literally just throw together a make-ahead meal and throw it in the oven when you get home. Prepare a meal only once a month (or once a week). That’s when you prepare all of your meals for the entire month in one big batch. That day should be a cheat day since you deserve it after all that hard work.

If you don’t want to give in to temptation and have a cheat day, you may still motivate yourself by rewarding yourself with a lunch out after a specific number of days of accomplishment. As the process of earning a reward gets less difficult, you should increase the amount of days before giving it.

You can focus on just one meal if you choose. You may, for instance, choose to bring your lunch to work every day rather than buying it, or you could resolve to eat out fewer meals but more lunches.

  1. Randomized Weekly Savings Challenge

Choose any day of the week. Use a random number generator on that day of the week. Pick a card at random, roll some dice, or tally up the coins in your car’s center console. 

Procedure selection is up to you. No of the sum, that’s how much money goes into your savings. If you don’t want to go over your weekly allotment for challenges, you may modify this one to suit your financial situation. Using a deck of cards as an illustration:

  • Save the face value of numbered cards and $5 for all face cards if you have a low income.
  • Save the face value of the numbered cards, ten dollars for the face cards, and twenty dollars for the aces.
  • Save $5 for the cards 2 through 5, $10 for the cards 6 through 10, $15 for the jacks, $20 for the queens, $30 for the kings, and $40 for the aces.
  • Depending on your salary, you may need to double, quadruple, or add a zero to the comfortable income numbers.

Some people are more likely to complete a task if it involves a pleasurable activity, such as playing cards or dice. You may use a random number generator online if you like, or set a minimum and maximum quantity yourself. In any case, the element of surprise is amplified by casting the situation as a game of chance.

  1. The Challenge of Spare Change

Children aren’t the only ones who may benefit from piggy banks. Take out your wallet or purse’s worth of spare change every night and put it in a jar or other safe place. Do not go out and buy a piggy bank if you do not already own one. Anything from a coffee cup to a pail or container would do.

Periodically, you should convert it to bills at a bank or one of those coin-counting machines seen at supermarkets. The challenge won’t help you save a lot of money. However, by year’s end, you may have earned enough to cover the costs of your holiday buying.

  1. The Dollar Bill Challenge

For this test, there is just a single guideline. You should save any one dollar bills you come into possession of. Spend the other bills whatever you choose, but put those Washingtons toward your retirement savings.

It’s possible that this obstacle can’t be overcome in some situations. Servers can’t afford to put away all of their tips if they can’t cash out their little dollars every night. (Tomorrow is a bank holiday, so put aside some cash.)

To further complicate matters, those who get their income digitally and make the majority of their purchases with plastic may not come into regular contact with enough cash for this to make a noticeable effect. Then you may start counting by fives and twenties instead.

  1. The Nickel-a-Day Challenge

It may not seem like much, but even a small amount of money each day may add up to a significant sum by the end of the year. Start with a single cent and deposit it into your savings account or piggy bank. The following day, set aside two nickels. Next day, increase it by one nickel, so that it costs three nickels. Even if you only do it for a month, you’ll spend more than $20.

You may save over $300 each year by starting again every month. If you do this every three months, you’ll save more than $800 annually. However, if you maintain adding a nickel every day for a year, you’ll have saved nearly $3,000.

Servers and other service workers who are paid on a regular basis in cash would thrive in this scenario. You may tailor the duration of the challenge to fit your budget.

Though the last day of the yearlong challenge only requires a deposit of $18.25, the 31 days of December add up to over $550, so beware. If money is short, try limiting the challenge to a monthly or quarterly period, or try a cent challenge instead.

  1. The Roundup Challenge

When making a purchase, it’s unusual for the total sum to be exactly one dollar. You may put that to good use by putting aside some of your disposable income.

We’ll use an example budget of $114.74 for electricity, $37.88 for pizza, and $44.23 for petrol. If you did that, on a single day you could put away $1.15.

This task is like the spare change challenge but without the use of actual currency and with the added bonus of being automatable. Microtransactions may be automated by linking your bank account to a savings software like Acorns or Stash.

These forms of savings accounts, however, are widely available at numerous financial institutions. Both the up-and-coming Chime and the time-tested Bank of America provide accounts with a round-up feature that may be used to increase your savings.

  1. No-Spend Challenge

Two distinct forms of the “no-spend challenge” exist. Both help spread the message that frugality is beneficial, both as a temporary challenge and a permanent way of life.

The first type is temporary difficulty. Schedule a week where you have no recurring expenses and don’t buy anything. The food in the fridge and the cupboards should be consumed. Keep an eye on the shows on TV. Fix things up with what you have on hand. Don’t waste petrol money by driving if you can help it.

The more extensive form of the budget only permits purchases of food (at the grocery store), housing and utilities, and transportation. For extended times, say a month, this one performs better.

To ensure you don’t give up entirely, you might set up cheat days or other conditions that make it more feasible. If you have a lot going on on Fridays after school, you could treat yourself to takeaway.

  1. The 52-Week Savings Challenge

One of the simplest is the 52-week money challenge. And since there are so many variants on this subject, you should have no trouble finding one that is within your price range.

The idea is straightforward. Put away a dollar throughout the first week of the year. Afterwards, put aside $2 the following week, $3 the following, and a dollar every week after that until you’ve saved $12. This last payment of $52 will be due the week of December 31. (because there are 52 weeks in the year).

However, with a handful of variations on the original, you may allocate the amounts in alternative sequences or increase or reduce the amount you’re saving.

  • Alternating. Switch between intense and relaxed weeks. A $50 week might be somewhere between a $1 week and a $10 week, for instance.
  • Realistic. Put low-contribution weeks next to birthdays and vacations and high-contribution weeks when you know you’ll receive some additional income, such after a quarterly bonus.
  • Backward. The weekly difficulty of the original challenge gradually increases over time. However, if you reverse the process and begin at $52 and work your way down, you’ll find it much simpler to raise the necessary funds just in time for the holidays.
  • Fortnight. Although someone should go to work on the video game, this has nothing to do with it. A biweekly salary schedule allows for more consistent saving habits. You can save $4 after the first two weeks if you start with $2 and add $2 every two weeks. The sum is the same.
  • Spending $52 every week for 52 weeks will get you $10,000. Put down $125 the first week, $150 the next, and $25 more every week after that. With the remaining $325 deposit, you’ll have a total of $10,000 in the bank.

In certain iterations, you may need to write things down to ensure you don’t forget. You may also search for a free printable template that meets your requirements on the internet.

  1. The Weather Savings Challenge

Taking on the weather challenge together is a fun way to get the whole family interested in saving and to start young children on the path to responsible financial behavior.

The highest temperature for the week should be checked using your weather app once a week on the same day every week. Put the sum into your savings account. Say the warmest day last week was 64 degrees Fahrenheit; you save that amount since it’s the hottest temperature you experienced.

Do this once a week for a whole year. To those of you celebrating the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, this challenge comes with the extra bonus of requiring smaller contributions.

In terms of dollar value, the Fahrenheit scale is preferable to the Celsius one. If you reside in the American South or Southwest, though, switching to Celsius in the summer might save you as much as $400 per month.

If you choose, you may also use the weekly national average temperature instead. Because of this, the weekly savings required during the summer is reduced in hotter regions and increased in colder regions.

  1. The Savings Throwdown 

Challenge your loved one to save the most they can in a predetermined account. The person with the most money in their savings account at the end of the month wins. The winner gets to boast about their accomplishment.

Insights gained from this challenge into your day-to-day financial habits may prove useful even after the competition has concluded. The throwdown is entertaining for those with a healthy dose of competitive spirit, but it does have a downside.

It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of competition and put off necessary but costly purchases until after the race is over. When it comes to credit cards, for instance, it’s not uncommon to just pay the monthly minimum due instead of the entire amount due.

If one of you has a successful month followed by many terrible ones as they try to recover from short-term thinking, it’s advisable to prohibit such negative money moves under the guidelines you agree to.

You should also consider challenging a buddy who is in a comparable financial position. The enjoyment is diminished when you challenge your friend who is a $500-an-hour lawyer. Moreover, it’s more probable that you’ll quit if you don’t believe you have a chance of success.

  1. 3-Month Savings Challenge

Even if you don’t have much money saved, just having $1,000 puts you in the top 40 percent of all Americans when it comes to financial security. And if you really put in the effort, you can get it all together in only three months.

You now have $84 going into a savings account each and every week. That settles the matter. How you get said funds is entirely up to you. Spend less, work more, sell goods online, or become a food delivery driver on the side to make ends meet. Everything is fair game if it’s within the law.

  1. Holiday Helper Fund

Overspending on things like presents, entertainment, and travel during the holidays leaves many households with debt at the start of the new year. You need not be a Scrooge and forgo holiday expenditures. The Holiday Helper Fund Challenge is a better option. There are only four simple actions to do.

  • To estimate your typical Christmas expenditures, review your bank statements from the prior several years.
  • Cut the sum in half by adding 11.
  • Don’t spend more than that from January through November.
  • Put the money you’ve been saving for Christmas expenses instead of charging everything.

Don’t let the end of the year pressure you into going crazy with your expenditures. You took on this test to ensure that the holiday season would be debt-free for you. Just as you do every year, create and adhere to a holiday spending plan.

  1. Cancellation a Week Challenge

This problem lies at the heart of a major avoidable expenditure in the twenty-first century: subscriptions. According to research conducted in 2018 by the national business consulting company West Monroe, the typical American spends over $200 per month on subscription services.

If you want to save money each week, cancel one of your subscriptions. Few individuals know how many services they actually use. This is an example of what you may have done:

  • Hulu, ESPN+, and Apple Music are examples of media streaming services.
  • Boxes of subscriptions
  • Newspapers and magazines (digital or paper)
  • Sites for dating
  • PlayStation Now and Xbox Game Pass are examples of gaming services.
  • Storage in the cloud
  • Personal assistance applications such as MyFitnessPal, Headspace, and Quicken
  • Grammarly and Office 365 are examples of useful tools.
  • System of home security
  • Amazon Prime and Walmart + are examples of retail membership programs.
  • Services for identity theft protection
  • Web domain or email hosting (particularly for inactive accounts or domains)
  • HelloFresh, Blue Apron, DoorDash, and Seamless TV and Wi-Fi services are examples of meal preparation and delivery services.
  • Service for mobile phones (including calling and data)

After three months, you’ll have cut your monthly budget by thirteen dollars. A monthly savings of $130 is achieved even if each service saves you just $10 a month. Don’t stop until you’ve looked at every service for which you pay.

Not all of them may need to be canceled. Saving money may be as simple as not buying a few extras. If you choose electronic billing, for instance, a corporation may discount your cost by $5 each month.

  1. The 1% Challenge

The recommended savings rate is 20% of gross income. New savers could be intimidated by that sum. To ease into saving, try putting away just one percent of your next salary at first. On a monthly income of $2,000, that amounts to less than $20. Two less restaurant dinners each month will free up enough money for that.

Raise it to 2% beginning next month. You’ll just need to give up one restaurant meal a week. If you start saving 10% of your income right away, in less than two years you’ll have saved 20%.

If that’s too much, consider instituting semi annual raises instead. For example, you may increase your spending by 1% for the first three months, 2% for the next three months, and so on. Spending cuts can be made more gradually over the course of five years, allowing you to reach the 20% target. In all likelihood, you won’t feel a thing.

  1. Monthly Climb to $1,000

This 52-week savings plan is a monthly variant that increases your goal to $150 and then decreases it for the holidays.

You should put away $25 the first month, $50 the second, and $75 the third; this means you should add $25 to your savings each month. After the sixth month, instead of adding $50 per month, you should reverse the challenge and begin with $150.

At the beginning of the seventh month, you may expect to pay $150. (July if you started in January). After that, put $25 less into savings each month until you’re back to December’s total.

  1. The 14-Day Saving Challenge

In her work as a personal finance writer, Megan Wells devised a two-week plan that entails completing one step every day in order to put oneself on the path to financial success.

  • Day 1. The first step is to become familiar with the idea of “paying yourself first.” The first thing you do when you get paid is put money down for savings and your financial well-being.
  • Day 2. On the second day, open a new online savings account to keep your savings distinct from your checking account.
  • Day 3. Three days from now, install a browser add-on that will automatically apply discounts to all of your online purchases (like Honey or Capital One Shopping).
  • Day 4. Learn about all the credit card rewards programs you may use every month and sign up for them.
  • Day 5. Calculate the cost of some of your regular purchases on Day 5. Review the prices in light of your hourly salary. A daily trip to Starbucks may add up to a lot of wasted time, so this helps put the expense in perspective.
  • Day 6. On day six, get the best credit card balance transfer rates so you may reduce your debt quickly and cheaply.
  • Day 7. On day seven, you need to refuse to pay for something you desire very much.
  • Day 8. On day eight, cancel any unnecessary memberships. Services like Hulu and Netflix, as well as grammar checkers like Grammarly, are all examples of this type of product.
  • Day 9. On day nine, decide what you’d like to save up for, whether it’s a new video game console or a down payment on a house.
  • Day 10. Don’t buy anything all day.
  • Day 11. On the eleventh day, you’ll need to figure out how to move around without a car.
  • Day 12. Examine your insurance plans for cost-cutting opportunities.
  • Day 13. On the thirteenth day, begin incorporating coupon savings into your normal retail excursions.
  • Day 14. Resolve to stick to your savings goal.

A high-impact, high-stakes strategy that can boost your financial well-being in the near term. See How to Get Your Financial House in Order for further information.

  1. 8-Week Vacation Savings Challenge

This challenge to save money presented by the Soccer Mom Blog can be used to help pay a short trip. In just two months, you’ll be able to tackle your money situation from every angle.

The first step is to start saving money: $420 over the course of eight weeks. The site recommends a set weekly amount to contribute to your vacation savings, starting at $10 the first week and increasing to $150 by the fourth week, and then decreasing back down to $10. However, you should choose whatever number that works with your financial reality.

Reduced spending is the second front. The blog suggests staying home one night a week instead of going out to dinner to save about $50 per week or $500 per year, depending on how many people live in your family. In addition, if you skip your twice-weekly Starbucks runs and save $10 every week, you will have saved $80 over the course of a month.

You won’t be able to afford a vacation to Disneyland, but you can get some good camping gear, take a road trip, or even take a trip to Mexico if you live close enough or can find inexpensive flights.

  1. The Vice Challenge

David Bach, author of “The Automatic Millionaire,” refers to this as the “latte factor” in his book. A daily latte is an example of a tiny yet recurring cost. You’re supposed to slash it in half (or more) and put that extra cash away.

The vast majority of people deal with many of these lesser costs. It might be anything from a weekly meal delivery service to in-app purchases for your favorite game to a daily energy drink or restaurant delivery service. Limit your purchases of that vice to a certain time period, like a month.

You may either do without it totally, restrict how much you spend, or swap it out for something else. For instance, if you normally get food delivered once a week, you may save money by going out and obtaining it yourself, or even better, by cooking it yourself.

Treat yourself to a cheat day after the month is through. Now that you’ve overcome that obstacle, you may confidently press forward. Either reduce your dependence on that one habit even further, or look for another one to give up.

You may incorporate the idea with your physical fitness by focusing on a single vice, such as sugary snacks, fast food, alcohol, or soda. You may eliminate a habit like shopping or going to the movies that you enjoy but would prefer to engage in less frequently.

One of them may cost a very little amount, but when added together they can cost hundreds of dollars a month and thousands of dollars a year.

You may save even more money if you give up costly habits like smoking and excessive drinking. However, medical help, psychotherapy, or a community of peers may be necessary. Some of these solutions may be costly initially, but in the long term, they will save addicts money and help them live healthier, happier lives.

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides a toll-free helpline, 800-662-HELP, for anyone struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues (4357). Call 800-QUIT-NOW if you need assistance quitting smoking (784-8669).

Bottom Line

To save up towards a variety of objectives, try participating in various challenges. Use the 1% challenge to put money down for retirement, the holiday helper fund to put money aside for the holidays, and the 52-week challenge to put money aside for a yearly trip.

That implies you’ll need a separate checking account for each test you take. Don’t let that money sit around doing nothing; invest it somewhere that will provide you a good return. You can alternatively open a taxable brokerage account and invest the money there, if that better suits your needs.

Consult a financial expert if you need help deciding how to invest the money you save by completing challenges. Your financial objectives might be accomplished before you realize it.

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