Want to kick your savings into high gear this year, or need a little boost to reach your financial goals? Try a saving challenge. Saving challenges turn the act of setting money aside into a game. Whether you compete against yourself or get your friends involved, at the end of the challenge, everyone wins since you’ll all have saved money.
If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to building strong saving habits, give one or more of these challenges a try.
1. 52-week challenge
The premise of a 52-week challenge is simple: Each week, you set aside a steadily increasing amount of money.
At the start, the amount is so low you won’t even notice you’re saving. If all goes well and you complete the challenge, you’ll have an extra $1,378 saved.
To do a 52-week challenge, save $1 the first week. Save $2 in week two. In week three, save $3. (You see what’s happening.) When week 52 rolls around, you save $52. You can use a handy printable to keep track of the weeks. Check them off as you put the money aside.
You’re more likely to stay on track if you have a goal for the $1,378 you save. For example, you might put it in your emergency fund or use it to pay for a new appliance.
2. 6-month challenge
The six-month saving challenge is an accelerated version of the 52-week challenge. If you have a bit more disposable income and want to save more money in a shorter amount of time, this is the challenge for you. If you get paid biweekly, you can do the six-month challenge, but spread it out over the entire year (26 pay periods).
Six is the theme of the challenge. Start out saving $6 the first week, then $12 the second. During the third week, set aside $18. (And on and on.) During the last week, set aside $156. By the end, you’ll have saved $2,106.
Similar to the 52-week challenge, it helps to have a goal for your savings, whether you’re putting the money aside for a vacation, a big purchase or a rainy day.
By the way, keep the money you’re saving in a separate account, not in your checking account. Keeping your savings separate will reduce the temptation to spend.
3. No-spend challenge
Impulse buys can throw your savings goal off track. A no-spend challenge helps you reset your shopping habits and recommit to saving. Before setting out, decide what no-spend means for you. For some people, it means literally spending nothing, including not purchasing groceries or other “necessities.” Others allow themselves grocery shopping but won’t buy nonessentials, such as clothing or gadgets.
Start small and build your way up. Some people start out with just one weekend without impulse purchases, then they’ll upgrade to a week-long no-spend, then a one-month no-spend, then six months or longer.
If you come across something you want to buy during a no-spend time, put it on a list and wait until the end of the challenge. By the time you’ve completed the challenge, you might not even want the items you put on your waitlist.
4. Round-up challenge
Every penny counts when you’re trying to save, and the round-up saving challenge is a perfect illustration. During this challenge, you round up every purchase and funnel the extra change into a savings account. You can do it manually, or your bank or credit union might round up your purchases automatically.
If you buy something for $4.50, you round up to $5 and put the extra 50 cents into a savings account. Check on your progress after a month to see how you’re doing, then decide whether to continue the challenge or try a new one.
5. Live-without challenge
You know that (fill in the blank) habit costs you money that you might be better off saving. Whether it’s getting a daily latte or buying a candy bar every time you’re at the supermarket, nonessential purchases can eat into your budget.
Try to live without one extra thing for a month, such as coffee, candy or little treats. Put the money you would have spent on those treats in that separate savings account we talked about and see how much you’ve saved by the end of the challenge.
Any of these saving challenges prove that saving money can be fun. Whichever one you try, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment once you reach the finish line.