Want to kick your savings into gear for the new year? There's no better time than now to try a savings challenge. Use your motivation to save as fuel and commit to taking back control of your finances with these 7 savings challenges:
The Classic 52 Week Savings Challenge
If you haven’t heard of this challenge before, it’s fairly simple: you save $1 the first week, $2 the second week, $3 the third week, all the way up until you hit $52 in the last week.
This will give you a total of $1,378 at the end of 52 weeks -- all from saving small amounts of money each week.
You can use this handy sheet to keep track of your deposits, or try one of the many alternatives to this challenge. These include a few where you can save any amount at any point (saving $52 in the first week, for example).
Don’t be discouraged that you didn’t start this challenge at the beginning of the year - as we're only a few weeks into 2015, you can quickly catch up by saving about $10.
No Spend Challenges: Daily, Weekly, or Monthly
The thought of not spending a single cent over the course of a week might sound frightening to you, but there are people who have successfully pulled off no-spend challenges for a month. The key is preparing beforehand.
And understand that "no spend" realistically refers to not spending any discretionary income. You can, of course, still pay your bills and buy groceries. But you shouldn't shop for wants or indulge in meals out when you could cook at home.
There’s nothing wrong with taking baby steps here, either. Try focusing on having 10 no-spend days throughout a month, and work your way up until you feel comfortable going an entire week without spending on discretionary items.
Put a Ban on Your Shopping Weakness
This is similar to a no-spend challenge, but you’ll focus only on your biggest spending weakness(es).
Maybe you have your grocery budget perfected, but you can’t stop yourself from buying new clothes. Challenge yourself to a period of no spending on any clothes.
Then, any time you walk away from a purchase, put the amount you would have spent into your savings account instead.
Get Family and Friends Involved
If you decide to commit to challenging yourself, corral some friends and family into the mix and make it a game to see who can save the most. This is a great option for those that could use an accountability partner, or for those who have a competitive streak. Or maybe you know your loved ones could stand to save a bit more. Challenge them to compete with you!
Track Every Dollar You Spend Challenge
Do you keep saying you need to start tracking your spending, but never do? Take an opportunity to challenge yourself to track every transaction that occurs for a month. 30 days should be long enough to you to form the habit, and it’s a great one to have.'
Chances are, being aware of your spending will make you realize you need to focus on saving more and spending less.
Save According to the Weather
This unique savings challenge comes from financial blogger Sunburnt Saver, who lives in sunny Arizona. Her goal is to match her savings to the highest temperature recorded in the state every Wednesday.
You can do this however you like - take the average high of the week, and save that amount, or switching up the day you choose to save on.
This will get you the most savings in the summer months (unless you’re lucky enough to live somewhere that doesn’t incur the wrath of winter), but it’s a neat way to make sure you’re saving on a weekly basis.
You can also use this as inspiration to design your own unique challenge that encourages you to save.
Challenge Your Costly Habits
We touched briefly on having spending weaknesses, but do you have any bad habits, like defaulting to the fast food drive-thru when you feel lazy? Tossing whatever you want at the grocery store into your cart, without checking prices? Do you spend a little too much on alcohol?
Decide to challenge these habits by replacing them with new ones. Try planning out your meals in advance, looking at circulars for sales, or cooking in bulk. These will help you save on groceries and dining out. As for alcohol, try only drinking what you have currently, or only when you’re at home. Bars are always more expensive.
When you've finally got those new savings habits firmly in place, don't forget to make them stick. Make your savings automatic. It's a great method for sticking with your goals to save more.
There’s a challenge here for everyone, so choose one that appeals to you and jump right in. Try and find a group so you can hold each other accountable, or at least tell your family about your efforts. Support is key.
Are you challenging yourself to better financial habits this year? How are you making it more fun or interesting?