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A new year is upon us. And with the new year comes lots of new (and probably old) resolutions. Resolution-making is a popular tradition; resolution breaking, more so because when they’re too broad, they’re easy to break.
For instance, the classic resolution to “save money.” Each year, a popular resolution is to save more and spend less. But Americans’ less-than-spectacular personal savings rate shows most of us never meet that goal.
Too often, we set vague goals without progress markers. In reality, we need support, a timeline, and resources to achieve our goals. We need more specific, measurable goals–preferably ones we share with a friend for accountability.
Enter savings challenges. These challenges involve saving a set amount of money each day, week or month, or tackling other specific savings goals. Savings challenges can help you reach your broader goal of saving money by giving you a precise savings schedule.
If you’ve struggled in the past to meet this particular New Year’s resolution, pick one of these eight savings challenges to save more in 2023 and kick off the new year right with some extra cash in your bank account.
52-Week Savings Challenge
This is the first common savings challenge I remember seeing on Pinterest. It comes in many different varieties. The classic money-saving challenge has you save $1 on week one, $2 on week two, $3 on week three, and so on. By the end of the challenge, you’re saving $52 in a week, and your total account balance is a not-too-shabby $1,378.
Try doubling up the 52-week money challenge if you need a tougher challenge. Start by saving $2 on the first week, $4 on the second, and $6 on the third. Carry that through, and by the end of the year, you’ll have saved $2,756.
The beauty of this type of challenge is it starts slowly by saving just a few bucks at a time. But, by the end of the year, you’ll have over $1,000 in your savings account and a healthy savings habit.
Next is the 52-week savings challenge, which I see most often. It’s a spend-free challenge for a certain amount of time. I think it started as a no-spending month. But many have modified it to eliminate spending on a particular day or time.
Your rules for the no-spend challenge may vary. Of course, you’ll still keep accumulating bills. After all, most of us can’t just shut off the water and electricity for a month! But the goal is to cut as much spending out of your budget as possible–including groceries.
You can pay most of your bills ahead and stock up the fridge and pantry, then avoid the grocery store for a week or a month. It’s incredible how much a no-spend month can change your habits for the next year, and it’s a good exercise in patience and frugal living.
Weather Savings Challenge
Here’s an interesting tip. Randomizing your savings rate can be an excellent way to save and be more frugal with your spending habits. If you don’t know exactly how much you’ll need to save in a given week, you’ll have to keep your spending in check all the time. The weather savings challenge originated with a blogger in Arizona who decided to transfer money to her savings account according to the high temperature each Wednesday.
If temperatures in your area are frigid until May, this may not work well for you. But you can think of other ways to randomize your savings. For example, save according to how many minutes your commute takes on a given day. Set a random goal and follow it through.
Bi-Weekly Savings Challenge
If you get paid bi-weekly, make a habit of saving a little more each paycheck. You could also do this with the 52-week savings challenge. At the end of week two, you’ll save $3 ($1 for the first week, $2 for the second week). For week four, you’ll save $7 ($3 for the third week and $4 for the fourth week), and so on.
The idea is to choose a goal and stick with it. Begin saving so that it seems incredibly simple and easy at first. And then gradually save more and more until it looks like a bit of a stretch this December. By then, though, you’ll be used to saving money.
365 Day Money Challenge
This challenge is similar to the 52-week challenge, but it starts smaller and ends larger. Instead of doubling what you save every week, you add to it every day.
According to this challenge, you should start with just five cents. Add five more cents to your daily savings rate every day, and by the end of the year, you’ll have saved $3,339.
You can, of course, customize this one however you want.
Expense Tracking Challenge
This one isn’t directly a savings challenge, but it can contribute to better savings. You commit to tracking every penny you spend for a set period–usually around one month. That way, you’ll see exactly where your money is going. This is also a great way to start an emergency fund for those rainy days and surprise expenses.
There’s no set way to track your expenses. You could use an old-fashioned spreadsheet and pen or use newer online options like YNAB or Mint.com. At any rate, the goal isn’t to prescribe spending ahead of time but to observe where you’re spending your money.
This challenge is an excellent place to start if you’re unsure where all your money goes every month.
Learn more: 4 Reasons YNAB Beats Mint Hands Down
Spare Change Challenge
This one is pretty simple. You save all of your spare change for an entire year.
You might think that you don’t have that much spare change. I don’t either. I rarely spend cash, so it doesn’t happen that often. (Plus, my six-year-old likes to swipe any spare change I do happen to have to feed her piggy bank.)
Little Vices Savings Challenge
Look, I don’t think it’s your daily latte that’s going to keep you from retiring a millionaire. It takes a lot more savings than $5 or less a day to do that, but our small vices can hamper our ability to reach our financial goals.
To start this challenge, you’ll need to figure out what your spending-related vices are. For me, vices include adding little extras to my Amazon cart because it’s just so easy and going out for coffee multiple times per week.
One option for this challenge is to cut out your vices for a set time–a week, a month, whatever. Then, figure out what you would have spent on your vice in a typical month. You can look back over your bank records if you need to and then transfer that money to your savings account.
Another option is to “tax” yourself for your vices. Let’s say yours is getting a latte every day. So when you swing by Starbucks, buy your latte as usual. But then immediately transfer an extra $1 to your savings account.
These challenges can be helpful because they give you concrete savings goals to reach. Each one can help you become more disciplined at saving and better at knowing where your money is going. So pick a savings challenge this new year and watch your savings account grow!