Saving is a goal that sounds easy enough to accomplish but for a lot of Americans, it often slips to the back of the priorities list when other expenses come up. In the blink of an eye, the month slips away and the money that should have ended up into savings went to meals out, new clothing, or an unexpected car repair. With a renewed sense of determination, savings once again becomes a goal for the next month but often has the same outcome. If you’re struggling to grow your savings, sometimes all it takes is a little extra effort and planning.
Why do you need to save?
Saving is a security blanket for the future. It offers peace of mind as you move through both the expected and unexpected elements of life. Making the effort to build your savings can help you achieve bigger goals like buying a house, retirement, purchasing a car, or sending your children to college. When you make saving a priority, it can also make it easy to accomplish smaller goals like taking a vacation or adding a new exercise bike to your home gym. Whether it’s for something unexpected like household repairs or for something planned like a vacation, a savings strategy can help set you up for success in the future. You can use our Savings Calculator to help you figure out the right number for your savings goal.
Start with a Savings Challenge
Saving is one of those things that feels like it should be simple but in reality, needs some attention and thought. There are a lot of ways to save but a ‘Savings Challenge’ is a great way to get the ball rolling on a dedicated savings effort. It helps remind you to save and encourages you to focus on the actions you need to take to achieve your goals. It’s as simple as saving a predetermined amount of money based on your chosen savings challenge rules. And, best of all, you can pick the one that works best for you and your savings goals.
If your finances could use a makeover, here are 10 simple savings challenges to help you get started.
10 Savings Challenges to try:
No-Spend Month Challenge
This challenge is fairly straightforward. It’s as simple as not spending money for an entire month–with the exception of essentials like groceries and gas. The goal of this challenge is to stop overspending. All of that money that would have gone to things like new clothes, extra things tossed into the cart at your favorite store, or unplanned meals when you don’t feel like cooking can go into your savings account.
A challenge like this has the added benefit of encouraging you to look at your spending habits and see where your money really goes each month. By the end of the month, you’ll have a fuller savings account and a good idea of how to structure your spending for the months to come.
✅ Savings Challenge tip: If you choose to do this challenge, try to begin it in a “normal month” –one where you aren’t traveling for work or have a lot of family birthdays. Events like this can lead to buying extra things that feel essential but are really a result of the circumstances. And, if a month ever feels too overwhelming, start by incorporating a no-spend week each month.
This challenge makes saving feel more like a fun game. To get started, you’ll first want to choose an amount of time like 30, 60, or 90 days. Then, you’ll need enough envelopes to match the length of time you chose for your challenge. Number each envelope on the inside (or insert a piece of paper with the number) and then shuffle your envelopes. Each day you’ll select an envelope and transfer the amount inside the envelope into your savings account. For example, if you open up the envelope with the number 15 inside, you’ll deposit $15 into your savings account.
At the end of the challenge, if you’re consistent, you’ll have either $465, $1,830, or $4,095 depending on the length of time you chose.
✅ Savings Challenge Tip: If you struggle with saving, it might be better to start small with a 30 day challenge and then move up to trying 60 days and then 90 days.
Subscription Service Cleanse
It feels like everything has a subscription nowadays. From what you watch on TV to fitness memberships to online classes and book clubs, it’s easy to end up spending a lot of money every month on things you might not even use. This is made even more challenging when you are prompted to sign up for a free 30 day trial of something you might forget to cancel after that trial month.
This challenge is as simple as going through each and every subscription you pay for on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis and canceling the ones you aren’t actively using. You might find that when you eliminate the unnecessary charges, you’re actually saving a lot per month. The best way to take on this challenge is by going through your bank and credit card statements. It can be really easy to forget a particular subscription if you try to just go by memory.
✅ Savings challenge tip: Add up how much money you’re saving each month from the canceled subscriptions and set up an automatic transfer to your savings account for that amount.
Rewards Points Challenge
Most of us are already using credit cards and racking up points monthly. While the rewards points may seem like a fun bonus at the end of the month for something special, they can actually help your savings goals. If you have a credit card where you can redeem the points as cash, this challenge might be a great option for you. Simply redeem your points as cash back and then transfer that amount of money directly into your savings account.
✅ Savings challenge tip: To add an extra layer of savings effort to this challenge, try to only put the items on your credit card each month that you absolutely need–things like groceries or gas. It’s easy to build up extra points by buying unnecessary things but this ultimately sets you further back in your savings goals.
Spend to Save Challenge
The name of this challenge may sound counterintuitive but in reality, even an incredibly budget conscious individual has to purchase things they need on a regular basis. This challenge encourages you to put money away every time you have to spend money. Choose an amount of money anywhere from $1 to $10 and commit to transferring that amount of money into your savings account every time you make a purchase–whether you’re swiping a card, handing over cash, or inputting your card info online. It would be easiest to transfer immediately after making the purchase but you could also go through your purchases at the end of the week, tally up your total weekly savings and transfer the money all at once.
✅ Savings challenge tip: Even though the goal of this challenge would be to put away extra money when you’re buying something you were already planning on purchasing, unnecessary or extra purchases happen sometimes. Make sure you account for the unexpected purchases that come up too and transfer money to savings! And, you can always consider selling some of the clothes or items you don’t use anymore and add those funds to your savings.
Weather Wednesday Challenge
This challenge is both simple and fun! Every Wednesday, check the weather in your state. Choose the highest temperature and then move that amount in dollars into your savings account. If it’s a 71 degree day, you’ll save $71 that week. Set a reminder on your phone every Wednesday so you don’t forget to move the money. And if Wednesdays are too chaotic for you, choose a day of the week that works best for your schedule.
✅ Savings challenge tip: If you live in a state that often has a lower temperature in the winter but still want to save more for the holidays, choose a warmer state’s temperature or even a country in the southern hemisphere to go by. You can save a lot and also enjoy the thought of warmer weather!
Minimalism is a term that gets thrown around a lot in terms of the aesthetic of your living space but it can also help your finances. For this challenge, choose a length of time, anywhere from 30 days to 60 days and commit to getting rid of something in your home each day. (Consider donating the item if it’s useful but just no longer has a place in your home). With the focus on getting rid of items you don’t need, you’re not thinking about spending more money and bringing more stuff into your home.
✅ Savings challenge tip: Use this as an opportunity to evaluate what purchases are actually necessary. If you find that you’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff that ultimately just took up space and didn’t serve a real purpose, you can use this as a guideline for future purchases. Ask yourself “is this going to sit on a shelf, in a closet, or be in the way OR will I actually use this?” This can save a lot of money in the long run.
Sober Saturdays Challenge
Going out and having some fun on the weekends is a great way to let off some steam after a long week but your bank account can take a big hit when you’re having fun. This challenge requires you to evaluate how much money you spend on a typical Saturday out. Go through your bank statements for previous Saturdays and add up the cost of a night out. Then, challenge yourself to stay home instead and transfer the money you would have spent into savings. Plan a fun movie or TV show night with your favorite homemade foods instead so you still have fun while you set yourself up to save.
✅ Savings challenge tip: If you don’t want to give up all of your Saturdays of fun, make it a point to stay home 1-2 Saturdays a month. You’ll still save a significant amount of money that month!
Meal Prep Challenge
Ordering food out after a long day or picking up your morning cup(s) of coffee from the nearby cafe on the way to work can become the norm for a lot of people. It also puts more strain on your bank account and makes it harder to save. Challenge yourself to cook and/or make your coffee at home for one month. Search through your favorite food blogs or on Pinterest™ for simple recipes and then choose one weekend day to prep all of those meals and portion into tupperware so mealtime is simple and inexpensive.
For coffee, seek out simple recipes for homemade cold brew or simply put out your favorite mug and coffee beans the night before to remind you to have your coffee at home.
✅ Savings challenge tip: Choose recipes where you have some of the ingredients on hand. It can be easy to end up spending a lot of money at the grocery store when following a recipe with a lot of ingredients. But, if you already have a lot of the spices and staples on hand, it will help with saving!
52 Week Savings Challenge
This challenge is similar to the Envelope Challenge but might be a little easier if you’re new to saving. The idea behind this challenge is to put away money in an amount that increases each week. In Week 1, you put away $1, in Week 2, you’ll put away $2, Week 3 you’ll put away $3 and so on. By the end of the year (52 weeks), you’ll have $1,378 saved up. This challenge is a great way to gradually build up your savings skills and the amount in your savings account.
✅ Savings challenge tip: Don’t feel like you have to start this one at the beginning of the year or the beginning of a new month. Start as soon as you have the idea to start. The longer you wait, the longer you’ll delay building your savings safety net.
A little extra effort goes a long way
Saving money doesn’t have to be hard. At the end of the day, it just takes a little extra intentional effort to build up an amount you feel secure with. If saving has been a challenge for you in the past, turn it into a “challenge” and have some fun with it. Choose the challenge that works for you and then try another or, choose a challenge for each of your savings goals. The possibilities are endless.