Whether you need to create an emergency fund, save for vacation, or stash away some extra cash for the holidays, a money saving challenge can be your best friend. Money saving challenges not only help you set a specific financial goal to aim toward, they give you a plan to reach it.
Below is a list of 16 smart money saving challenges that can help you stay on track with your savings goals this year.
1. 52-Week Savings Challenge
Of all the saving strategies, this yearly money savings challenge is probably the most well-known. It’s also one of the easiest to follow.
To start, make a chart (or download a printable) with the numbers 1-52, representing the number of weeks in a year. Beside each number, write your savings goal for the week:
Week 1: $1
Week 2: $2
Week 10: $10
Week 52: $52
If you consistently save the amount that matches your goal each week (never more than $52 at its peak), at the end of a year you’ll have saved $1,378.
Just like the original 52-week savings challenge, this challenge helps you tuck away an extra $1,378 over the next 12 months. Kelan and Brittany Kline, Founders of The Savvy Couple, recommend this alternate approach as an option that might work better for some. Start with your largest weekly savings goal first ($52) and work your way down the list each week.
The Klines like this method because you put your heaviest savings efforts at the beginning of the year (instead of during the cash-strapped holiday season). Plus, by making more progress up front, you may be better motivated to stick with it.
3. The 26-Week Bi-weekly Savings Plan
One of the best things about the traditional 52-week challenge is its flexibility. You can change the savings amounts (or even the dates you save) based on what works best for you.
Do you get paid every other week? If so, a bi-weekly savings plan might be a better fit. Break your 52-week challenge (regular or backwards) into 26 weeks and double up your savings goals. At the end of the year, you’ll still have saved an extra $1,378 either way.
This isn’t your average savings challenge. Phillip Taylor, personal finance pro and Founder of Part Time Money, lays out a 31-day challenge that could put your entire financial life on a better course.
Taylor doesn’t claim to make you rich or debt-free in 31 days. But he does offer daily, actionable steps you can follow to start improving your finances day by day, month by month, and year by year.
Andy Hill, founder of the popular Marriage Kids and Money Podcast, shares a unique money saving challenge that you might not have heard of before. Hill offers a three-step guide to help you save $1,000 without leaving home.
The guide walks you through ways to create money to save, including:
Selling unwanted items (aka turn your trash into cash)
Cutting your bills
Searching for better insurance rates
If you want to trim some fat from your budget and free up extra money to save, Ashley Patrick with Budgets Made Easy has a plan that might help. Patrick’s “No Eating Out” challenge comes with a free downloadable tracker so you can set a goal, a reward, and check off each day that you stick with your commitment.
Here’s another twist on the classic 52-week savings challenge. Sara Trezzi of GatheringDreams.com breaks down how you can add an extra $5,000 to your savings account, little by little over the next year, by using an easy-to-follow guide.
Trezzi’s best tip? Open a separate online savings account so you’ll be less tempted to spend the money you’re setting aside.
Want to ramp your yearly money savings challenge up to the next level? TriedandTrueMomJobs.com has a supersized plan that could help you save $10,000 over the next 12 months.
The 52-week money challenge comes with a chart to track your progress. Plus, the website offers you some great ideas to slash spending and make extra money to make it easier to reach your savings goal.
“When it comes to saving, the little steps are what make the biggest difference.” That’s what Megan Wells of Money Done Right says when describing the popular website’s 14-day money saving challenge.
The challenge walks you through 14 tried-and-true ways to improve your finances. At the end of the two weeks, you’ll be encouraged to follow up with a new monthly savings challenge to keep all that great momentum going.
Having an emergency fund is an important part of your financial health. FINRA (the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) recommends saving back around 3 to 6 months of living expenses so you’re prepared if illness, injury, or other unexpected events put a strain on your finances in the future.
Ready to get started? Lance Cothern of Money Manifesto gives three simple tips that can help you save $1,000 for your emergency fund in the next 90 days. You can even download a free printable to track your progress.
Another creative way to save money is to commit to a no-spend challenge. Debt and Cupcakes has a great guide on how these challenges work and how to set yourself up for success if you decide to try one for the first time.
A word of caution: no-spend challenges can be intense. If you’re just starting your savings journey, a smaller money saving challenge might be a better way to dip your toe into the water. However, when you’re ready, there’s no question that a no-spend challenge can be a great way to kick your savings efforts into overdrive.
Do you make a weekly trip to the grocery store (or a weekly grocery delivery order)? The Pantry Challenge will put those shopping trips on hold until you’ve used up all the food that’s currently taking up space in your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator.
Naturally this challenge can help save you money in the short run (while challenging your recipe creativity at the same). Also, if you force yourself to participate in a pantry challenge every few months, it can lead you to create better buying habits that will reduce waste and keep more money in your wallet in the months and years to come.
Kristin Stones, Founder of Cents and Purpose has put together a great challenge to help you put away some extra cash for whatever financial goal you’re trying to reach. With the Five Dollar Bill Challenge, you simply save every five-dollar bill you receive.
Whether the bill comes as a gift, change at the grocery store, or from the bank when you cash your paycheck, you commit to tuck each five-dollar bill away. If $5 seems like too much for your budget, try the same challenge with one-dollar bills. On the other hand, if you’re in a good place financially, you could double down and save all the ten-dollar bills you receive instead.
14. Spare Change Challenge
This super-easy savings challenge is another way to put away a little extra money without adding extra strain to your budget. Whenever you make a purchase and receive coins back in change, you can drop those pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters into a jar.
Commit not to touch your savings for a certain period of time (perhaps a year) before you add it up to see how much you’ve saved.
Also, your credit union or bank might have a free coin counting machine that can save you time when you’re ready to turn your coins into cash. Beware of coin counters at grocery stores and elsewhere. These typically tack on fees for the service.
Depending upon your pay cycle (and how you manage your budget), a monthly savings challenge might be easier to follow than a weekly option. The Land of Milk and Money has put together an easy-to-follow monthly savings challenge that can help you put away $1,050 over the next 12 months.
Here’s how it works. On month 1, you save $25. During month 2, you save $50. Month 3 calls for $75 in savings. See the trend?
Eventually, your monthly savings goal climbs to $150 for months 6 and 7. However, then it starts to move downward again to $125, $100, and so forth.
16. Round Up Money Saving Challenge
When you buy something, round up the amount to the next dollar. Direct the difference to a savings account.
You can do this the old-school way by recording rounded-up amounts on a piece of paper and then depositing that amount into a savings account, but you can automate it with one of several apps. Check out the pros and cons of these apps with this list from NerdWallet. If you use one, be sure you understand any fees involved and where your money goes. Some apps direct savings to FDIC-insured accounts, but others send your money to investments that involve more risk.
17. Do a Money Throwdown
Challenge a friend, romantic partner, or family member to save more than you do in a month. Then, get busy figuring out how to win your savings contest. Start packing your lunch and shopping around for bargains on food, gas, and other necessities.
At the end of the month, check in to see who gets to declare victory in this money saving challenge. You might even want to pick an affordable prize in advance that the winner has to buy the loser.
18. No Soda, No Alcohol, More Money Challenge
Money often leaks away a few dollars at a time. You start buying a soda at the office vending machine daily or going out for a beer most nights after work.
Kick just one of those habits for a month, and you will fatten your bank account. You may even find that you don’t miss what you gave up, providing momentum to keep saving. Keeping Life Sane even offers this handy chart that lets you cross off your no soda challenge days one at a time.
Soda and alcohol are just two ideas, but you could just as easily start making coffee at home to save money or identify some other small source of savings. If you feel deprived, remember that you only need to hold out for a month.
19. Get the Savings Fever
Draw a thermometer on a piece of paper or large piece of cardboard—the bigger, the more motivating—and list your savings goal at the top. Add interim savings goals to your thermometer, and then start coloring it in as you reach your targets.
We’ll finish where we started, with a 52-week saving challenge. However, this version of the challenge offers you more flexibility than any other.
The Random 52-Week Challenge comes to you once again courtesy of The Land of Milk and Money. Instead of giving you a specific goal to save each week, this challenge gives you 52 amounts to choose from. Each week, you select an amount ($1-$52) to put into your savings account. Fill in the circle of the option you select.
Once again, as long as you follow through, this challenge will help you save $1,378 over the next 12 months.
Can’t choose where to start? Here’s the good news: there’s no bad choice.
Any of the money saving challenges above can be a useful tool to help you jump-start better budgeting and saving habits. If you’re worried about starting a challenge that’s too difficult to stick with until the end, consider choosing the option that seems easiest to follow and work your way up from there.