A new year is upon us. And with that new year comes lots of new (and probably old) resolutions. The tradition of making (and breaking) resolutions is strong in our culture. And most of us never keep the resolutions we set.
This is probably because our resolutions are too broad. Take, for instance, the classic resolution to “save money.” The biggest resolution of 2017, according to a survey by GOBankingRates, was to save more and spend less. But the less-than-spectacular personal savings rate of Americans shows most of us didn’t meet that goal.
That may be, in part, due to a lack of understanding about how to set and achieve goals. Too often, we set fluffy, vague goals without real progress markers. According to the latest research, we need support, a timeline, and resources to achieve our goals. In short, we need more specific, measurable goals–preferably ones that we share with a friend for accountability.
Enter savings challenges. These popular little blog posts have been all over Pinterest for the past few years. They involve saving a set amount of money each day, week, or month, or tackling other very specific savings goals. These challenges can help you put legs on your broader goal of saving money by giving you a specific savings schedule.
If you’ve struggled in the past to meet this particular New Year’s resolution, I’d encourage you to pick one of these eight savings challenges to kick of 2020 right.
Table of Contents:
52-Week Savings Challenge
This is the first common savings challenge I personally remember seeing on Pinterest. Now it comes in many different flavors. The classic 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 one week, and your total account balance is a not-too-shabby $1,378.
If you need a harder challenge, try doubling up the 52-week challenge. Start by saving $2 on week one, $4 on week two, and $6 on week three. Carry that through, and by the end of the year, you’ll have saved $2,756.
The beauty of this type of challenge is that it starts off so slowly. Who can’t afford to save just a few bucks a week? By the end of the year, though, you’ll have built up a savings habit. If you have over $1,000 in your savings account and a new level of comfort with saving $50 per week, you’ll be in a good place financially in 2020!
Next to the 52-week savings challenge, this is the one I see most often on Pinterest. It’s basically a spend-free challenge for a certain amount of time. I think it started off as a no-spending month. But many have modified it to eliminate spending on a certain day of the week or for a week at a time.
Your rules for the no-spend challenge may vary. Of course, you’ll still keep accumulating bills during this week or month. 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–even including groceries.
The idea is that you’ll pay most of your bills ahead and stock up the fridge and pantry. Just avoiding the grocery store for a week or a month is a good exercise in patience and frugal living. It’s amazing how much a no-spend month can change your habits for the next year!
Weather Savings Challenge
Randomizing your savings rate can be an interesting way to save and be more frugal. 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 this 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. Maybe save according to the scores of your favorite sports team, or according to how many minutes your commute takes on a given day. Just set up some random goal, and follow it through.
Bi-Weekly Savings Challenge
If you get paid on a bi-weekly basis, make a habit of saving a little more each paycheck. You could follow along with the 52-week savings challenge. You’d basically save $3 for weeks one and two, $7 for weeks three and four, and so on. Or you can come up with another scale to escalate your savings with each and every paycheck.
Again, though, the idea is to choose a goal and stick with it. Make your savings so that at first, it seems incredibly simple and easy. And then gradually save more and more until it looks like a bit of a stretch this December. By then, though, you’ll be so used to saving that it won’t really be a problem.
365 Day Money Challenge
This challenge is similar to the 52-week challenge. But it starts smaller and ends larger. That’s because 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. Getting into the habit of saving daily can be a good practice, though. And, again, starting off miniscule and winding up saving a lot of money is a great option.
Expense Tracking Challenge
This one isn’t directly a savings challenge, but it can be a conduit to better savings. Basically, you commit to tracking every single penny that you spend for a set period of time–usually around one month. That way, you’ll see exactly where your money is going.
There’s no set way to do the tracking. You could use an old-fashioned spreadsheet and pen. Or you could use newer online options like YNAB or Mint.com. At any rate, the goal isn’t to prescribe spending ahead of time, but to simply observe where you’re spending your money. This challenge could be a good place to start if you’re not sure where the money goes every month.
Spare Change Challenge
This one is pretty simple. It basically has you save up all of your spare change for an entire year.
But you might be thinking that you don’t actually have that much spare change. I don’t either. I rarely spend cash, so it just doesn’t happen that often. (Plus, my six-year-old likes to swipe any spare change I do happen to have so she can feed her piggy bank.)
You’re in luck, though. These days, there are a host of apps designed to help you save your virtual spare change. Apps like Acorns and Qoins will let you direct that money towards investing or debt, respectively. Simply run your transactions through a debit card tracked by the app, and they’ll move your virtual spare change around for you.
Little Vices Savings Challenge
Look, I don’t really think it’s your daily latte that’s going to keep you from retiring a millionaire. It takes a lot more savings than that $5 or less a day to do that. With that said, our little vices actually can hamper our ability to reach our financial goals. And being more aware of them by tying savings to these habits can be helpful.
To start with 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. Yours might include truly harmful vices like smoking. But you might spend money on other things habitually, even when you don’t really need to.
These things aren’t necessarily bad. But getting a handle on them can help keep your finances under control.
One option for this challenge is to cut out your vices for a set period of time–a week, a month, whatever. Then, figure out what you would have spent on your vice in a typical month. Look back over your bank records if you need to. Transfer that money to your savings account, instead. Just this one step can be eye opening.
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. Suddenly, your vices are costing more than they had before. And you’re getting more money into your savings account, to boot.
These challenges can be helpful because they give you concrete goals to reach for when it comes to your savings account. Each one can help you become more disciplined at saving and better at knowing where your money is going. So pick one this new year, and get started.