Five Money Saving Challenges To Try Right Now

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Written By: Taylor Rao

It’s no secret that millennials are stereotyped as being more concerned about avocado toast than building up a savings account, but that isn’t totally true. As much as it’s rewarding to spend a bit of disposable income on food, leisure or travel, it definitely doesn’t hurt to save here and there and focus on the long-term benefit.

But here’s the thing --a lot of us out there can’t really save much at all, and it’s not necessarily our fault. With student loan debt rising on top of all of the typical expenses of being a young adult (including, but not limited to: rent, cable and internet, car payments, health insurance, etc.), sometimes it feels like we’re pinching pennies just to pay for a two-hour parking spot.

The other part of saving up, especially when you don’t have the means to do it, is that it can feel unrewarding to save small amounts when it takes a long time to add up. That shouldn’t be your excuse not to save, though, because once you get in the habit of putting away even just a tiny bit, you’ll feel the reward as long as you focus on the end result.

So, why not try a saving challenge? With a set of rules and a schedule to follow, you’ll have no choice but to hold yourself accountable and get a little competitive with yourself to prove that you can do it. Savings challenges can predetermine a goal for you, or set a total amount saved over time, but it’s up to you to make it part of your routine to get that extra money outta sight, outta mind and back in your bank account.

We’ve rounded up five different savings challenges that could work for you and your wallet.

1. The Traditional 52-Week Saving Challenge

The 52-week saving challenge is one of the most popular saving challenges out there for a reason. It’s popular because it works, and even more so because the final number saved within a year is pretty impressive: $1,378.

The concept is relatively simple --the first of the year you put away one dollar, and for every week after that, you increase the dollar amount by one. So, in the second week you’ll put away two dollars, the next week three dollars, and so on. 

Critics say what can make this challenge difficult is that in the final month, you’re expected to save $200, which is a lot to put away during the busy, financially demanding holiday season. And since that’s been a major sticking point with those who have tried the challenge, there are two other solutions you can try while still sticking with this challenge.

2. 52-Week Saving Challenge Variations

One thing you can easily do to switch up the timing of the weekly savings is to complete this cycle completely backwards. In other words, start week one by saving the maximum amount per week of $52, and lowering your contribution by one dollar every week moving forward. Nothing really changes except the name: it’s now the reverse 52-week saving challenge.

Or, if you are super organized and can keep track of your savings without a cheat sheet chart, you can save any dollar amount per week you want. If it’s a time of year where money is notoriously tight for you, or on a certain week your highest priced bill gets taken out on autopay, save your lower dollar amount payments for those weeks. And when you’re feeling pretty good about your bank account, throw the higher dollar amounts in for then.

3. The No Spend Challenge

Well, one way to save money is to not spend it, right? This type of challenge gives you full flexibility to tailor it however you want, giving you a chance to not spend money on certain splurge items or habits you’ve formed.

Let’s say for example you have a habit like buying coffee five days a week and you’re starting to feel it add up. Challenge yourself for an entire month not to buy a single coffee while out and about. You can calculate how much you’ll save before you start the challenge, or surprise yourself with the results and wait to count your savings until after you’re done.

This can be applied using any bad habit you have --from retail therapy, to eating out, to paying to be in a parking garage instead of walking a little bit further for a free spot on the street. And if you’re not brave enough to quit any of these habits altogether, set a limit or budget for yourself (i.e. I will spend $10 per month in coffee, or buy one coffee a week for four weeks), to get started and amp it up from there once you know you can do it.

4. Weather Dependent Savings Challenge

For those of us who are a bit more go with the flow and want to make saving money fun, this weather dependent saving challenge is unique and effective. Choose a random day of the week --maybe the day you get paid or simply your favorite day --and check the daily high temperature for that day. Whatever the number is, you’ll deposit into your savings account for the week.

Now, if you’re going to try this challenge, you might just want to live somewhere with a pretty steady climate and a change of seasons, considering during the summer months it could be taxing to deposit high numbers in the 80s, 90s or 100s. But, if you live somewhere like the Northeast with many cooler months and a few peak weeks in the summer, this could be a fun, unpredictable way to increase your savings.

5. Five Dollar Bill Saving Challenge

The $5 bill is kind of a forgettable dollar bill, right? Sorry not sorry! Once a $5 bill appears in your pocket, you’re excited to see it, but you can rarely track where you spent that little bit of cash. How about for every time you randomly come upon five bucks, whether your friend pays you back in cash, or you got lucky and found the bill in your jean pocket, tuck it away and don’t even think about spending it on something mindless like a 3-pack of gum or an extra Burt’s Bees.

Even in an age where most of us rarely carry cash, you’d be surprised by how many $5 bills you come across in any given week or month. By simply training yourself to treat that dollar amount as a saving tool and not extra spending cash, you could really see the savings add up.