Manage Money

5 min read

September 28, 2020

Plan for Success: 7 Money Challenges to Change Your Savings Habits for Good

Saving up has never been simpler

If you’re ready to make big changes to your money habits or are in the need to shore up that budget, try starting small. After all, you’re more likely to achieve specific, measurable goals than just telling yourself you need to do “better.” And once you’ve achieved a goal, you’re more motivated to set and achieve even more. Here are a few of the best money challenges from around the web to help get you started.

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Money Challenge #1: The 21-Day Financial Fast

The idea of resetting your finances by doing a “financial fast” has been around for a while, and has quite a few fans. Popularized by Washington Post financial columnist Michelle Singletary in “The 21-Day Financial Fast: Your Path to Financial Peace and Freedom,” this money challenge gives your budget a break from your routine spending cycle.

Think of it like a “cleanse” for your wallet. The idea is to put a temporary stop to spending on everything except absolute necessities. In other words, you’ll need to shop for food, but not go out to restaurants; you’ll need to pay your rent or mortgage, but not a hotel room.

Start by listing out your true necessities and assigning a clear and realistic limit for each category. Then, take a look at the month ahead and make a plan for overcoming potential obstacles, like a friend’s birthday or an upcoming concert. Finally, keep a detailed log or money diary of your financial fast, taking note of where you spend, estimating what you save, and identifying where you struggle.

Of course, as every dieter knows, commiting for the short term is much easier than committing for the long term. That’s why the key to this money challenge is reflection. Use the break from spending and the notes in your money diary to understand your habits and focus on financial priorities. The 21-day financial fast is meant to give you the insights you need to establish new long-term money strategies that get you closer to your financial goals.

Money Challenge #2: The 52 Week Money Challenge

If you think you can commit to saving just one dollar this week, this challenge could be for you! The 52-week money challenge aims to get you in the habit of socking away more money in savings, building momentum — and your balance — as you go. You begin with just $1 the first week, then $2 the second, and so on until you reach $52 the last week of the challenge. Take a look at Bankrate.com’s chart to get a visual of this concept.

Following this prescriptive plan will net you over $1000 to put toward that new car, home repair, or other savings goal. To make the most of this challenge, be sure you have a smart place to stash your cash, like a high-yield checking account, so your money continues to make more money!

Money Challenge #3: 365 Day Nickel Challenge

Not sure you can part with a dollar all at once? How about five cents? The 365-day money challenge is like the 52-week challenge, except that it starts smaller and ends bigger. And instead of adding to your balance weekly, you add to it every day. Start with just five cents and add five more cents to your total daily saving amount every day for a year. If you’re consistent, you’ll end up with over $3000.

In addition to the obvious benefit of amassing a sizeable savings balance, the 365-day challenge forces you to be mindful about your money by keeping it top of mind every day. Of course, you can use real nickels — you’ll need a big jar or two — but you can also keep track in a diary and make a regular transfer to savings in whatever increments make sense for you.

Money Challenge #4: The Vice Challenge

Do you keep buying that new shade of lipstick even though you already have a bathroom cabinet full? What about the fast food stop on the way home from work? Look, we’re not here to judge. But everyone’s got a vice, and that little “bad habit” usually requires funding. What if you had a little extra incentive to curb the spending in your “fun money” budget column?

The strategy behind turning your vices into virtues is simple. “Tax” yourself every time you indulge and put it away in your savings. Your self-imposed tax amount can be whatever you choose, but make it count. This way, not only do you spend more meaningfully and avoid impulse purchases, but you also sock away a little savings every time you decide your indulgence is worth it.

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Money Challenge #5: Spare Change Challenge

The idea behind this challenge stems from the days when you’d come home and plunk down your spare change on the counter or in the “junk drawer.” Most of us don’t exactly carry around spare coins anymore, but you can still reap the benefits of saving your “change.”

The concept is to round up all your purchases to at least the nearest dollar, and save the difference. For example, if your grocery bill comes to $152.35, you treat it like it’s $153, and automatically put that 65 cents into your savings account. Chances are, you won’t miss that spare change, and you’ll grow your savings painlessly.

Money Challenge #6: Wear What You Own Challenge

“Uniform” dressing, or wearing the same thing every day has gotten a lot of press lately. With everyone from celebrities to CEOs to fashion bloggers touting the benefits, why not tap into the trend and save a bundle on your clothing budget while you’re at it?

The wear-what-you-own challenge isn’t exactly like uniform dressing, but it goes along the same lines. And even if clothing falls into the “needs” category of a household budget, you probably buy new items more often than necessary. That can derail your financial goals without giving you much to show for it.

Set a reasonable but challenging time period to go without purchasing any new wardrobe items. Whether it’s for six months, a year, or longer, commit to wearing only what’s in your closet. You’ll be surprised how much you save, and may even end up paring down your outfits to just the essentials in the long run. Who knows, with fewer decisions to make about your clothes, you might just have more energy to channel into bigger decisions.

Money Challenge #7: Dollar-a-Day — in Reverse

You could take the regular dollar-a-day challenge and do just what it sounds like: save a dollar on day one, two dollars on day two, and so on for any time period you choose. That’s a popular money challenge that’s seen its share of success. The only problem is, you might lose your motivation to continue as the savings amounts get steeper.

So if you’re more of an eat-your-veggies-first kind of person, try doing the dollar-a-day money challenge in reverse. If you’ve chosen a 60-day challenge, for example, you’d start by saving $60 the first day, $59 the next, and so on. That way, the savings goals get easier as you go.

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Laura Southwick
With 15+ years of experience writing for finance and tech, Laura specialises in simplifying complex topics for all audiences. Her work has appeared on Ally Bank, Inman, and Hyper Networks.

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