Try Out a Money-Saving Challenge This Winter
Have you ever wished you were money-smarter? Haven’t we all! But tackling your family’s debts and spending all at once can seem overwhelming. Different types of bi-weekly money-saving challenges, as well as slightly longer-term money-saving challenges, can be a non-intimidating and fun way to take on your family’s finances in small, manageable pieces, and make the piggy bank feel fuller.
The Bi-weekly Money-Saving Challenge: Why Two Weeks?
The idea of completely overhauling your personal finance system and permanently adopting a new slate of good habits is intimidating for anyone. But tackling one savings goal for two little weeks? That’s actually manageable.
Two weeks is enough time to form a good habit and enough time to see progress toward your financial goals. And if it’s not working for you, it’s easy enough to stop at the end of the challenge without feeling like you’ve wasted a considerable amount of time and effort.
If it does work? You can always opt in for another two weeks or more.
Why Do a Money Saving Challenge at All?
We’ll give you three good reasons.
First, a lot of people find a challenge to be motivating, even if you’re only competing with yourself.
A two-week challenge can also be a great way to reset your spending and saving habits.
Finally, a money-saving challenge can help you to put away money for short-term goals, like a vacation or the holidays, start an emergency fund, or even kick-start long-term savings goals such as education or retirement.
Preparing for a Money-Saving Challenge
You might be thinking that this is the part where we tell you to make a spreadsheet of all of your income and expenses, download a savings tracker, and open a savings account, right?
You can do those things, of course. Analysis can be very helpful for identifying overspending and wasteful expenses, and the more tools you have at your disposal the better.
But the majority of our challenges require very little analysis or preparation. In most circumstances, you can start right now!
15 Money Saving Challenges
They say it takes two weeks to form a new habit. Are you ready?
1. Eat at Home Challenge
In a recent survey, more than half of the respondents reported eating out or ordering delivery two to three times per week.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that costs households around $3,000 per year.
It’s estimated that for every $15 you spend in a restaurant, you could prepare the same food yourself for about $4.
Try this: for two weeks, prepare all of your food at home. Not just meals, but coffee, snacks, and so forth. Take the amount of money you would have spent in a restaurant or on delivery, and put it into your savings account.
You might be surprised how much extra money you have at the end of the second week. Did it work? Try a third week, or work the savings into a weekly savings plan.
2. Library Challenge
A lot of us have more books on our devices than we’ll ever read. That handy ‘buy’ button makes it easy to buy books without seeing the money going out. Why not treat yourself to a trip to the library when that new book urge strikes?
And if you prefer to read electronically, there’s an app for that! It’s called Overdrive, and it lets you borrow books and audiobooks from libraries all across the United States.
Keep track of how much money you’ve saved and reward yourself at the end of two weeks.
3. Transportation Challenge
Americans spend an average of 17,600 minutes per year in the car. That’s 12.2 days – almost two weeks! It’s bad for the body, disastrous for the environment, and, with rising gas prices, it can be terrible for the wallet.
Some car trips are unavoidable, but many aren’t. For two weeks, try to walk or use your bicycle for short trips, say three miles or less. Use this handy mileage calculator to keep track of your distance - you might be surprised at how much money you end up saving.
4. Spare Change Challenge
Few products are priced in whole numbers. Instead, you’ll see prices ending in .59, .89, .99, and so forth.
Keep track of your purchases and round up. If you buy a coffee for $3.79, for example, round that up to $4.00, and log the .21. At the end of two weeks, add up the change and put it into your bank account.
5. Cash Only Challenge
A credit card makes it all too easy to mindlessly spend. Using only cash is a psychological trick that can make your spending feel more “real.”
Take out a certain amount of money to last two weeks (this should be less than the amount of your bi-weekly paycheck) and leave the cards at home. You’ll have to think about every purchase and evaluate how much you really want it.
6. 3-6-9 Paycheck Challenge
Longer-term planners may enjoy this 26-week savings challenge.
For every biweekly paycheck, put money into your savings in increments of $3. So, $3 for the first paycheck, $6 for the second, $9 for the third, and so forth. By the end of the challenge, the final $78 deposit will make a total of $1,053!
7. Second Hand Challenge
How many times have you donated perfectly good items to make room for new ones? Probably a lot. Guess what? Lots of people have. This means that almost-new clothing, books, appliances, and more, are waiting for you.
For two weeks, pledge to buy only second-hand. Visit local charity shops, or, if you prefer online shopping, check out sites like Vinted, ThredUp, Alibris, and others instead of automatically heading to Amazon.
Keep track of your second-hand purchases, and at the end of the week, calculate the amount of cash you’ve saved over buying brand-new ones.
8. Buy Nothing Challenge
Buy nothing (except groceries) for a whole year? It can be done! One woman did the challenge, crunched the numbers, and came up with $23,000 in savings!
If a whole year of borrowing, bartering, DIY-ing, and frugal living scares you, try a two-week no spend challenge. Local “buy nothing” groups, barter networks, and websites like Freecycle.org can make your adventure easier.
9. Challenges with Friend
Doing a challenge with a friend can be more fun than doing it alone. And taking on a challenge together means you’re accountable to one another.
You may have done an exercise or diet challenge with a friend. Why not a savings challenge? Agree on a two-week savings challenge and see who can save the most!
10. Kick a Bad Habit Challenge
We all have bad habits that cost us money.
Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day can cost you over $200 a week. American households spend more than $500 a year on soda, and almost that much on alcoholic beverages. Visits to fast food restaurants cost the average American around $600 per year.
If you’ve been thinking about quitting, two weeks could be money in your pocket and a good start on healthier habits.
11. Clear the Pantry Challenge
Do you stick food in your pantry or freezer and forget about it? Take a two-week pledge to cook only things that are in your pantry and/or freezer. You’ll save money, and you’ll become very, very creative. These sites can help.
- Pillsbury’s 33 Pantry Dinner Recipes
- 20 Pantry Meals from Shelf
- 500 pantry recipes from What to Eat
12. Leftovers Challenge
According to the FDA, Americans waste between 30 and 40 percent of their total food supply. In fact, food is the largest single category of items that go into landfills. By challenging yourself to use all of the food that you buy, you can save money and address this problem.
Here’s what you can do.
- Check out the FDA’s tips for eliminating household food wastage.
- Plan meals ahead.
- Have a ‘leftovers night’ once a week.
- Incorporate leftovers into new meals.
- Know when your food expires and use or freeze it before it does.
Try it for two weeks and see what happens!
13. Cancellation Challenge
Subscription services and auto-renewals are great for businesses, but they can cost you money for services you don’t use that often.
Go over your subscriptions and auto-renewals. Ask yourself if you’re using the service enough to pay for it month after month, or if you would be better off doing one-off purchases on an as-needed basis.
14. Envelope Challenge
A cash envelope challenge can be a fun way to save up extra cash. It can also help to make money feel more ‘real’ than when working with plastic. Here are a few envelope challenges to try:
- At the end of each day, put all of the spare cash from your wallet into an envelope. Put the envelope away. At the end of two weeks, open your envelopes.
- Take a certain number of envelopes, for example, 20. Number them. Every week, put that number of dollars in the envelope and put it away until the end of the challenge.
- Choose a denomination, such as $1 or $5. Every time you get a bill in those denominations, put it in an envelope. Do this for two weeks.
You might be surprised to find that in time your financial situation dramatically changes.
15. 52-Week Money-Saving Challenge
If you’re ready for more, you might try a 52-week money challenge. It starts out slow but ramps up fast. Are you ready?
Put away $1 during the first week. Just $1!
The second week, put away $2. Then put away $3 on the third week, and so forth.
At the end of the year, you should have around $1,400.
Are You Ready to Save?
Of course you are! You just have to pick a challenge!
If you’re interested in learning more about family finance, check out our library of family finance articles, and even more personal finance advice!
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Jess is a qualified teacher who is experienced in teaching different languages and linguistics. Jess speaks multiple foreign languages, including Russian and French.