These creative saving challenges can help you spend less and save more.
With inflation running high and gas prices soaring, saving money is a top priority for consumers. And although it may be a struggle to save money right now, finding creative ways to cut back can help – including gamifying savings with a money-saving challenge.
Found everywhere from Pinterest to personal finance blogs, money-saving challenges encourage spenders to become savers by economizing in creative ways. “The primary problem that keeps people from starting to save money is not that they don’t know where to find money to save. Rather, it’s their mindset around money. It is having thoughts like, ‘I’m never going to be able to save enough money or earn enough to make a difference,'” says Nev Harris, a financial coach in Pittsburgh.
But every little bit can make a difference. If you’re looking for new ways to save, consider these 15 money-saving challenges:
- The 52-week savings challenge.
- The “no spend” challenge.
- The pantry challenge.
- The “keep all the change” challenge.
- The holiday gift challenge.
- The “pay yourself when you make a money mistake” challenge.
- 365-day nickel-saving challenge.
- The “no eating out for a month” challenge.
- Weather Wednesday money challenge.
- The “save money at a different grocery store” challenge.
- The “trim 1% of your salary” challenge.
- The “roll the dice” money challenge.
- The 33.3 challenge.
- The “No Swear” money challenge.
- The “kick a bad habit” money challenge.
52-Week Savings Challenge
This classic savings challenge existed long before people were posting money-saving challenges on social media. It’s simple: Decide that you’re going to save $1 a week or $2 or $5. A manageable amount is key. If you save $10 a week, for example, you’ll have an extra $520 at the end of the year.
You can get more creative with the 52-week savings challenge, too. Some people will save $1 a week during the first week, $2 a week the second, $3 the third week, and by the 52nd week, they’re putting away $52 a week. If you did that, you’d have $1,378 by the end of the year.
The ‘No Spend’ Challenge
For the no-spend challenge, pick a weekend or a week – whatever seems challenging and doable for you – and spend no money except on necessities. Rent or the electric bill would be a necessity; a burger and fries, assuming you have food at home, would not.
The idea is to save some money by not spending. And it can be fun. You might be forced to come up with creative workarounds because you suddenly can’t buy a tool that you need – or maybe you’ll dig deeper in your closet instead of buying new clothes.
The Pantry Challenge
This is a good money-saving challenge for the times, and it’s a subset of the no-spend challenge. The pantry challenge is a contest in which you commit to not buying any food until you’ve exhausted all the possibilities from your refrigerator and pantry. You bought those artichoke hearts and that coconut oil for a reason, even if you can’t remember the reason, right? As long as the food is not expired, this is your chance to consume what you’ve already bought and save money for a few days or weeks.
The ‘Keep All the Change’ Challenge
A lot of people do this anyway, but this challenge formalizes it. Any time you receive change from a purchase or stumble upon loose coins in your house, put them in a jar. Do this for a year, and see how much you have at the end – by taking it all to a coin-counting and collection machine or your bank.
You could also do this spare-change challenge in a more modern way and download an app like Acorns. Any time you make a purchase, Acorns will round up the total, take that money and invest the spare change into a diversified investment portfolio. Acorns charges fees that start at $3 a month.
The Holiday Gift Challenge
This idea has been around for decades. Many credit unions offer holiday interest-bearing savings accounts, to which you contribute $5 or $10 or another amount each week, every week, and then when December arrives, you have money for the holidays.
It’s simple and smart. Think about how much you spent on the holidays last December, or better yet, look at your bank account or credit card statements and tally it up. Assume that you’ll spend that much, or more, this December. Then take however many weeks are left and figure out how much you need to put away every week to reach your target amount for holiday gifts.
The ‘Pay Yourself When You Make a Money Mistake’ Challenge
This doesn’t seem to be much of a national thing, but it could be, and it makes a lot of sense. You promise yourself that whenever you do something financially foolish, you’ll put $5 – or another amount – in a piggy bank or savings account. For example, if you pay a bill late, receive an overdraft fee at the bank or make impulse purchases, you punish yourself with a fee.
By the end of a year, you win either way. If you have a lot of money, you’ll be thankful – but chastened by all of your financial errors throughout the year. If you have almost nothing in the account, you can feel great about how financially responsible you are.
The 365-Day Nickel-Saving Challenge
This is a clever challenge that seems to have originated on SavingAdvice.com. Those who can stick it out for a full year will be rewarded handsomely.
In this challenge, you save money in 5-cent increments. Most checking accounts won’t allow you to transfer 5 cents from one account to another, and so it’s likely going to be a savings challenge that involves cash. But on the first day, you put a nickel in a jar or some sort of container, and you are done.
The next day, you’d put 10 cents into your jar. On the third day, 15 cents goes into the jar. See how this works?
By day 365, you’ll be depositing $18.40 into that jar (and presumably throughout the year, you’ve been taking the money from the jar and putting it into a savings account). By the end of the year, you’ll have $3,339.75 in your savings account – without ever having to put aside more than a $20 bill.
The ‘No Eating Out for a Month’ Challenge
According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household spent $2,375 on dining out in 2020 – considerably less than the year before when Americans spent $3,526 eating out, with the pandemic likely affecting the numbers.
Using that logic and math ($2,375 divided by 12), if you don’t eat out in any given month, your household might save around $200.
Granted, with the cost of groceries and everything else higher these days, you may not be able to cut back that much. But given that it’s generally cheaper to prepare food yourself rather than dine out or order takeout – and that you may have a pantry full of ingredients you’re not utilizing – you should end up spending less if you cut out restaurants and delivery for a month.
Weather Wednesday Money Challenge
When a money challenge takes off on the internet, it’s sometimes hard to know where it began. This one seems to have originated with the personal finance site TrendyMoney.com.
Here’s how it works: Every Wednesday, you put money in your bank account, and you tie it to whatever the highest temperature is in your state or town. This means in the summer you will probably be saving more than in the winter. So if in August the mercury is pushing 110 degrees on a Wednesday, you put $110 into your savings account. If it’s the dead of winter and only 17 degrees, you only have to save $17.
If it’s -3 degrees, you could arguably take out three bucks or put nothing in. In any case, with 52 weeks out of the year, by the end of this money-saving challenge, you should end up with several thousand dollars in your account.
The ‘Save Money at a Different Grocery Store’ Challenge
If you’re spending a lot at the grocery store, maybe you’re shopping at the wrong grocery store.
If you tend to buy a lot of the same products week after week, hang onto the receipt from your last trip and take your shopping list to a discount grocery store. Save that receipt, too, and see how you came out.
Obviously, you may find that you save very little – maybe your grocery bill is smaller, but so are the packages of food or laundry detergent. Or maybe you’ll find that you saved a considerable amount of money for the same grocery items. We all get stuck in ruts. Maybe switching things up and simply challenging yourself to shop somewhere else will lead to a shopping habit that saves you more.
The ‘Trim 1% of Your Salary’ Challenge
The name of this challenge may sound misleading. You’re not working for less. You’re effectively giving yourself a 1% raise.
Instead of saving money, you could trim your budget, which means you might spend less money and have more to save.
So do the math and figure out what 1% of your yearly salary is. For instance, if you make $80,000 every year, 1% of that is $800. So start looking at your budget and find ways to bring down your spending by $800.
For example, if you spend money on a streaming service that costs $10 a month, drop it, and you’ve saved $120 of your $800. Maybe you can call your insurance and report your teenage daughter’s good grades and get your premium lowered, and you save $100, and so on.
The ‘Roll the Dice’ Money Challenge
This one literally is a game, but you’ll want to make up your own rules – and then stick to them.
Every day or every week, depending how often you want to play, roll a dice, or two dice, if you prefer, and what comes up is how much you save.
For instance, if you roll a “1,” you just have to save $1 that day. Phew, or darn, depending how you feel. If you roll a “6,” you have to set aside $6 – in a jar, or your savings account, or wherever.
Now, if you want to raise the stakes, you could decide that rolling a “1” means you put aside $10. If you roll a “6,” you have to save $60 that day or week.
Or you could do two dice, so that you’re always saving at least $2 or $12, or $20 or $120. Again, you can do this weekly or every day.
The 33.3 Challenge
This might be a fairly painless way to save $1,000, as long as your budget allows for it.
Every day, you divert $33.33 into a savings account. Of course, you may have to do with an even $33.
After a month, you’ll have $999.90 cents, or $990, saved up. And if it’s a month with 31 days, you’ll have anywhere from around $1,023 to $1,033 saved. If the 33.3 challenge works out for you, and you don’t already have an emergency fund, now you do.
The ‘No Swear’ Money Challenge
Do you swear a lot and wish you didn’t? Want a G-rated household instead of an R-rated one? You could institute a “swear jar,” the way some families do. You could make it a $1 a swear word, or even $5, so family members can send $1 or $5 into a savings account, since not everybody has cash lying around in great quantities these days.
It might work out really well if you’re not the one in your family who curses. Then maybe you will see your household savings account fatten up without having to give anything up yourself.
The ‘Kick a Bad Habit’ Money Challenge
Do you smoke? Drink a lot of soda? Go out for coffee every day? There are degrees of bad habits, of course. Going out for a coffee every day isn’t anywhere in the neighborhood of smoking in terms of what both vices do for your health, but still, you may consume excess calories in your daily coffee drink if it contains sugary syrup and whipped cream.
Whatever the habit you wish you could drop, this could be a good time to tell yourself that you’re going to finally end a pattern of behavior – and save money at the same time by not buying coffee or cigarettes. But arguably if you kick your habit at the end of the month, you should do something fun with the cash you’ve saved from this challenge to reward yourself for all of your hard work.