12 Money-Saving Challenges to Try in 2021

Switch up your everyday savings routine by trying a money-saving challenge. Find out which one might be the best fit for you.
Last updated May 12, 2021 | By Ben Walker | Edited By Jess Ullrich
Woman doing money saving challenge

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Saving for your goals is important, but it’s not always the most fun or interesting task. If you want to boost your bank account and start a savings habit that lasts, consider using money-saving challenges to shake things up.

In this list, you’ll find challenges and tools that can help you reach your savings goals, whether it’s to pay for a dream trip or to save money for a big purchase. These challenges can help you set and achieve more than you may have thought possible. See which one might make the most sense for your unique situation.

No-spend challenge

The premise of a no-spend challenge is simple: don’t spend money on anything that’s unnecessary for a set period. This is a form of budgeting because you’re trying to cut out unnecessary spending and be more frugal. It may not be possible to do a complete no-spend challenge where you don’t spend money on anything at all, but that’s not necessarily the point.

This challenge is designed to help you focus on where you can create better money-saving habits, whether you have short-term or long-term savings goals. You might decide to do this challenge for a week, two weeks, or a month. During that time, keep track of your expenses and compare them to times you weren’t trying to limit your spending. This will help give you an idea of areas where you might have tendencies to make impulse purchases.

For example, a trip to the grocery store seems necessary, but are you only buying the essentials while you’re there? Buying an extra item or two may not seem like much, but it adds up. And any money you save from unnecessary spending can be put toward your savings goals.

52-week savings challenge

The 52-week money-saving challenge sets a specific savings goal for you to hit over the course of one year, or 52 weeks. The end goal is to save $1,378 in a year’s time. This may seem like a random number, but it makes sense when you consider how the challenge works.

Your first week’s savings goal is one dollar. Your second week’s goal is two dollars. And so on until you get to the 52nd week, where your savings goal is $52. So each week you’re saving a set amount of money that’s slowly increasing. The rate of growth helps make this challenge more doable and you end up with a lot of money at the end of the year.

Of course, you can change the amount of money you save each week to bigger amounts, but starting small and slowly working your way up is a great way to learn how to save money when you’re just beginning.

Bi-weekly savings challenge

If you receive your paycheck on a bi-weekly (every two weeks) basis, the bi-weekly savings challenge might be a good fit for you. Getting a paycheck every two weeks means you should end up with 26 paychecks for the year. With the bi-weekly savings challenge, you save a specific dollar amount with each paycheck throughout the year.

This challenge has the same end goal of saving $1,378 as the 52-week savings challenge, but you’re saving every two weeks instead of every week. So you would start saving money with your first paycheck with a $3 savings goal, which is simply the $1 goal from week one and the $2 goal from week two added together. Your next paycheck would have a $7 goal and your third paycheck would have an $11 goal.

Continuing this challenge and seeing it through may help you get into the habit of saving money on every paycheck. This could help you learn how to manage your money more effectively and be more conscious of how your funds are being used.

365-day savings challenge

If you want to save money over the course of a year on a daily basis, this is a good place to start. This challenge has a simple savings plan of putting away pennies throughout the year and increasing the amount by one cent each day. On day one, you save 1 cent. Day two is 2 cents. And so on until you reach day 365, which would be $3.65.

If you follow this pattern for a year, you’ll end up with $667.95 saved. For never saving more than $4 in any single day, that’s not a bad chunk of change to end up with. This sort of challenge can be adjusted depending on your financial goals and how much extra money you have.

It could make sense to replace the penny base number with a nickel, or maybe even a dime. This would immediately increase your savings on the year to thousands of dollars instead of hundreds. Starting with a nickel and adding a nickel every day would net you $3,339.75 on the year. Using a dime instead would give you $6,679.50.

Holiday savings challenge

The goal of many holiday savings challenges is to use short-term goals to save up money before the end of the year because you know you’re going to have big expenses for Christmas or other holidays. The point of this challenge is to save money before you reach the holidays so you can get through them debt-free.

The length of the challenge is up to you. It could be two weeks, 90 days, or even six months. Look at your finances and see what would work best for you. In addition, be sure to consider the kinds of expenses you typically have during the holiday season. This will give you a specific number to reach for your savings goal.

For example, if you often spend around $2,000 during the holiday season, then at least $2,000 should be your goal. If you’re doing a 90-day (12-week) challenge, that’s about $167 you need to save each week. If that seems steep, lengthen the time frame of your challenge. If you give yourself six months (24 weeks), you would need to save about $83 each week, which could be a lot more doable.

Spare change challenge

The spare change challenge doesn’t revolve around big contributions each week to your savings account. Rather, it’s focused on taking the spare change you often receive when making purchases and making it part of your savings. This is like putting extra cash or coins into a piggy bank or mason jar on the kitchen counter.

This challenge likely wouldn’t generate enough savings for short-term goals, but if you give it enough time, you might be able to build a sizable emergency fund. Even a few hundred dollars could go a long way if you’re stuck in a bind, such as needing to pay for emergency repairs on your vehicle or home.

Cutting one cost each month

Do you know how much money you pay for your expenses each month? This could include trips to the grocery store, gas purchases, entertainment expenses, and more. If you track your expenses using a checking account or credit card, it’s easy to see the breakdown of how much money you’re actually spending and what you’re spending it on.

Having this information could help you cut out unnecessary spending. But it might not happen all at once.

This challenge focuses on cutting out your unnecessary costs, one month at a time. For example, if you find you spend a lot of money on streaming services each month, start saving by canceling one of your subscriptions. Or if you order a lot of takeout, try going a month without ordering in and see how much money you can save.

The point of this strategy is to make you more aware of where you can cut down on costs in your life. This could help you save money and put it toward other things, such as paying off debt or taking a dream vacation.

Debt avalanche

The debt avalanche method isn’t necessarily a money-saving challenge, but it’s a common strategy for paying down debt as quickly as possible. Because the end result is getting rid of your debt, this can leave you more opportunities to have extra money and put it toward savings goals.

Debt avalanche focuses on making minimum monthly payments on all your debts, whether it’s for credit cards or loans, and then paying extra toward the debt with the highest interest rate. So if you have three credit cards carrying balances and their interest rates range from 11% to 23%, you would pay the minimum amount due on each card and then pay extra on the card with the 23% interest rate.

By paying all the minimum amounts, you won’t be hit with late or missed payment fees. But by focusing on paying more toward the account with the highest interest rate, you save money on that interest in the future. So over time, as you pay off debts, your overall interest rates get lower and lower, which could save you loads of money. This saved money can be put toward any goals you might have in the future.

Debt snowball

The debt snowball method is similar to the debt avalanche method. The strategy is to pay the minimum amount due on all your debt so you don’t have to pay late or missed payment fees. Then with any money left over, you pay off the account with the lowest overall balance. Once you pay off one balance, you move to the next account with the lowest balance.

As you continue paying off balances, the amount of debt you owe decreases and your interest payments become less and less. The more money you have to put toward paying off balances, the quicker the process will be.

The end goal is to pay off your debt completely and free up your funds so you can save for future financial goals.

Acorns

Remember the spare change challenge above? One issue with that challenge is many people don’t use cash to pay for things anymore. If you don’t use cash, how are you supposed to receive change and do this challenge?

The Acorns app addresses this issue and helps update the spare change challenge for modern finances. With Acorns Round-Ups, your linked debit or credit cards take the starring role of accumulating “spare change” on your purchases. Each time you make a purchase with a linked card, the Round-Ups feature rounds up your transaction to the nearest dollar and puts the change (once it totals at least five dollars) into your Acorns Invest account.

This is a quick and easy way for you to start saving money without having to think about it. In addition, the Acorns app also has plenty of other features that could help you manage your money, including a checking account, retirement account, and more.

Learn more about this app in our Acorns review.

Acorns Benefits

  • Bonus $5 after your first investment
  • No surprise fees
  • Get started for just $1 per month
  • Protected by bank level security

Digit

Digit is a money-saving app like Acorns that can help you save money for your financial needs. One of the best parts about this app is it takes a lot of the challenges out of setting and achieving your savings goals.

Once you get set up with Digit and set a savings goal with a specific end date, Digit will analyze your finances and spending habits and automatically save an ideal amount of money each month toward your goal. This money is transferred from one of your linked bank accounts to your Digit Account, where it’s insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for up to $250,000.

This type of saving is considered effective because it’s automatic and you don’t have to think about it. Digit takes the guesswork out of how much to save. And the goals you set are up to you, so feel free to set short-term or long-term goals and let Digit take care of the rest.

Learn more about this app in our Digit review.

Digit Benefits

  • Save the perfect amount every day without having to think about it
  • Try Digit free for 30 days
  • Build your savings without changing your lifestyle
  • Over $1,000,000,000 securely saved

Qapital

Part of the difficulty with saving money is staying focused and making sure you’re always on top of your finances. You have to stay within your budget when you’re making purchases and transfer money to separate accounts so you don’t accidentally use those funds for non-savings-goal expenses. But it’s not always easy to track everything on your own.

Enter Qapital, a mobile banking app built on the premise that you should bank smarter and more effectively by using technology to your advantage. Qapital allows you to set personalized savings goals and then helps automate the process. Whenever you get paid, Qapital will distribute your money between your different goals and needs. This can include your savings goals, everyday spending, bills, investments, and more.

When your funds are automatically divvied out, it can become easier to sort and track your finances. In addition, you don’t have to think about putting money toward your savings goals because it happens automatically.

Learn more about this app in our Qapital review.

The bottom line

If you want to save money with a money-saving challenge or financial tool, you have plenty of options to choose from. Keep in mind that each of the strategies we’ve listed can be helpful, but the best one for you depends on your situation.

If you’re learning how to save money, it could make sense to start small with a challenge like the no-spend challenge. Try it for a week and see how you do. Then you can increase the time frame or move onto a different challenge. As long as you’re learning good money management habits and saving skills, you’re making progress.

Remember that money-saving apps can help you automate the savings process and be useful in other ways. But they’re no replacement for gaining knowledge and learning how to save money yourself.

Truebill Benefits

  • Automatically find and cancel subscriptions
  • Slash your monthly phone, cable, and internet bills
  • Save an average of up to $720 a year

Author Details

Ben Walker Ben Walker is a credit cards and travel writer at FinanceBuzz who loves helping others achieve their travel goals through financially-sound decisions. For nearly a decade, he has been using credit card points and miles for the sole purpose of traveling the world. Ben has been featured in The Washington Post, MSN, Debt.com, and Finder.com.