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What the heck is a money-saving challenge? It’s a simple way to save money without actually thinking about saving money. Skeptical? Hear us out. With inflation rising and wages stagnating, it can be difficult to find the motivation to save. However, even socking away as little as $1 routinely can add up to quite a nice stash of cash.
No matter how small, the amount you save with one of these money challenges might be just what you need for unplanned expenses, an extra payment on your car or home, or to buy that one thing you’ve needed but didn’t think you could afford.
One of the best ways to save money without it being a chore is by turning saving into a game. Here are 20 money-saving challenges you can use to beef up your savings without breaking a sweat.
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1. Bring Your Lunch Money-Saving Challenge
The average American spends $53 a week on lunch. Resolve to bring your lunch from home more often and transfer the amount you would have spent to savings. With more people working from home, this should be an easier challenge to achieve.
2. Save a $1 a Day Challenge
One of the easiest savings challenges to implement, the $1 a day challenge encourages you to save $1 every day. At the end of the year, you should have $365 (or $366 if it’s a leap year).
3. Round Up the Change Challenge
Apps like Digit or banks like Bank of America have a round-the-change program, which will round up every purchase to the nearest dollar amount. They’ll then transfer the difference to a savings account. These forced savings programs are easy to implement. The more transactions you make, the more you’ll save. Try to sign up for one of these programs through your bank or credit union if they have one.
Learning how to save money in a way that’s doable? Check out our collection of helpful tips.
4. 52-Week Challenge
The 52-week challenge is a great challenge for newbie savers. Start by saving $1 in week one and increasing the amount by $1 every week. By week 52, you should be saving $52. After a year’s worth of savings, you should have $1,378.
5. 26-Week Challenge
For those who are paid every two weeks, try the 26-week money-saving challenge. During the first week, you’ll save $2 and increase the amount by $2 every two weeks. You’ll still save the same as those on the 52-week challenge, but it’ll be easier to sync up with a biweekly paycheck.
6. Clean Out the Pantry/Freezer Challenge
Use this challenge to lower your food bill. Start meal planning by using the food you already have in your fridge, pantry, or freezer. Prioritize the food by expiration date, and try to avoid buying new ingredients when possible.
Use sites like Budget Bytes or Leanne Brown’s “Good and Cheap” cookbook to find ideas for affordable recipes. Do this challenge once a quarter or any time you find the pantry or freezer getting too full.
7. No-Spend Money-Saving Challenge
The no-spend challenge is just as it sounds: try not to spend any money beyond the essentials. You can customize this challenge by not spending money on a certain category, like clothes, entertainment, or beauty. You can also try to eliminate all discretionary spending for a certain period of time, like a week or month.
8. Save Your Dollars Challenge
Every time you get a dollar bill, put it in a special jar. At the end of the month, deposit the cash in your savings account. You can also do this with every $5 or $10 bill, depending on your preference.
9. Morning Coffee Challenge
If you love grabbing a latte every morning, you may not realize how much you spend on your caffeine fix. Resolve to make coffee at home to save money. Every morning that you successfully avoid getting coffee, transfer the amount you would’ve spent to a savings account.
10. Bad Habit Challenge
Have a bad habit you want to change? Give yourself a financial incentive with a money-saving challenge. For example, if you’re trying to quit smoking, force yourself to save $1 every time you light up. You’ll be rewarded either by getting rid of your bad habit or by saving more money, which is a win-win.
11. Weather Wednesday Money-Saving Challenge
Every Wednesday, check what the high temperature will be that day. Then transfer that amount to your savings account. For example, if the high is 40 degrees, then you can transfer $40 to a savings account. If transferring the exact amount is too high, then you can divide the temperature by 10. For example, if the high is 40, you can transfer $4 instead of $40.
12. Receipt Saving Challenge
When you get a receipt from a store, it’ll often show how much you saved by using coupons, customer loyalty programs, sales, and more. Every time you get a receipt, look at the amount saved and transfer it to savings. You can do this with both paper and electronic receipts.
Even your receipts can help you earn money to put aside. Learn how with our ultimate guide to rebate and cash-back apps.
13. Swear Jar Challenge
If you’re trying to swear less, you can start fining yourself every time you let a bad word slip. This challenge may be most relevant for parents trying to set a good example for their kids. Encourage your children to hold you accountable and keep a swear jar nearby.
14. Keep the Change Challenge
Every week, take any change you have and deposit it into a jar. At the end of the year, visit a change counting terminal and see how much you have. This is another fun challenge to try with kids, since it’s an easy visual for them to learn about saving.
15. Roll the Dice Money-Saving Challenge
You’ll need some dice to participate in this challenge. Whatever number comes up when you roll the dice, transfer that amount to a savings account. You can do this challenge as often as you want, but most people prefer to do it daily or weekly. The amount you save will depend on how often you roll — and how lucky you get.
16. Bowl Grab Challenge
Write down 30 different numbers on scraps of paper and put the scraps in a bowl. Every week, pick a piece of paper, look at the number, and transfer that amount to your savings. You can keep that number in the bowl or discard it. When all the numbers are gone, you can start over.
17. Reduce Your Subscriptions Challenge
These days, it’s easy to sign up for a subscription or recurring service you don’t really need. Go through all your subscriptions and cancel the ones you never or rarely use. For the ones you do use, see if you can find a cheaper or free version, like getting audiobooks from the public library instead of buying them on Audible. Take the amount you save from canceling each subscription and transfer it to your savings.
Are you a cheapskate wannabe? Check out our penny-pinching money-saving hacks for your grocery bill.
18. Takeout Money-Saving Challenge
With the popularity of apps like DoorDash, GrubHub, and UberEats, it’s easy to have food delivered to your house any time you want. But using takeout apps can cost as much as eating out in a restaurant. Every time you avoid getting takeout, transfer the amount you would have spent to your savings account instead.
You can also do a modified version of this challenge by resolving to skip delivery and pick up your takeout order instead. Then transfer the amount you would’ve spent on delivery fees to a savings account.
19. 100 Envelope Money-Saving Challenge
For this challenge, take 100 envelopes and write the numbers one through 100 on them. Then every day or week, you can shuffle the envelopes and pick one. Whatever number you get, transfer that amount to your savings.
20. Declutter Challenge
This money-saving challenge is a win-win. You clean up clutter while packing away some bucks. Most of us have too much stuff but struggle to get rid of it. Try the declutter challenge, where you aim to get rid of one thing every day or week.
But don’t just throw the item away. Try to sell it on platforms like Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, Poshmark, or eBay. You can also have a yard sale if you have a lot of random items. Take your proceeds and stash them in a savings account.
You could also resolve not to buy anything discretionary unless you get rid of an item and sell it. This’ll force you to minimize how much you buy while maximizing your savings.