“Money Challenges” Make Saving Fun

By Mike Peterson
In May 29, 2014

Think of them as a form of positive peer pressure.  Money challenges are becoming an increasingly common sight online. They dare us to get out of our financial comfort zone, so to speak, to develop a healthy money habit or drop a harmful one. They’re fun, and they even offer built-in support:  When you tackle a money challenge, you often have the comfort of knowing there are others out there trying to do the same thing.

These financial quests can range from a month of super-frugal living to taking on a long-put-off personal finance goal.

While some are skeptical about the long-term benefits of these challenges, they do have the potential to get you thinking about your money habits – and possibly – to give you the push you need to make some needed changes.

Here are just a few examples of popular money challenges out there these days:

The “Emergency Fund” Challenge

This task is more than a money challenge; it’s a critical step toward long-term financial health.

The challenge is actually setting aside the money you’ll need.  The general rule of thumb is to have three to six months of living expenses saved, but anything is better than nothing.

Whenever you come into extra money, whether it’s from a garage sale, overtime on the job or a rebate check, try to put it toward your fund.

In addition to saving unexpected income, challenge yourself to set aside a small amount each month toward this goal.  You’ll get there.

The “Cut Back Your Debt” Challenge

This challenge is a money-management basic, too.

If you’d like to take it on, try totaling all of your existing debt and setting time-related goals for reducing it by a specific amount.  It will probably be less overwhelming if you set small goals at first — possibly a set amount for three months from now and again for six months.

Over time, you can set bigger goals. If you fall short, don’t let that discourage you. You just want to keep making progress.

Save That Change!

Many families have memories of collecting spare change in a water cooler jug, piggy bank, or plastic cup. When it was full, the money was used for something special. In your case, you can apply it toward your most important money goals.

Pinterest has all sorts of versions of this challenge. You can set a time-based goal, such as seeing how much change you can save in six months. Or, you can try a visual challenge, such as filling a water jug and totaling your savings.

Go on a “Spending Diet

To try this challenge, you have to cut all of your unnecessary spending for a given period of time – two weeks, a month, or some other set period. During that time, you limit your purchases to the very bare essentials: food, toiletries and other basics.

To help yourself, try to avoid places that will tempt you to buy things you want, rather than essentials you need. Keep this rule in mind on the Internet, too.

Not only could you save hundreds of dollars with this challenge, it will help you become more aware of your day-to-day spending habits.

Try the 52-week challenge

This year-long money challenge has been especially popular online, probably because it’s super-easy to start.

The rules are simple: During the first week of the challenge, you set aside $1. During the second week, you save $2. Each week of the challenge, you increase your savings by one dollar. By the last week of your savings year, you’ll have put aside $52 for the week.

If you stick to the plan, you’ll finish the year with $1,378 in savings.

This challenge is a helpful tool for building basic savings skills.

Money challenges have been accused of being the personal finance world’s version of fad diets. Some question their ability to make long-term differences for the people who try them.

Sure, there may be an element of trendiness to these challenges.  But that’s not necessarily a bad thing:  Anything that gets you thinking about your current habits and your money goals is a worthwhile investment of your time.

Mike is the author of “Reality Millionaire: Proven Tips to Retire Rich” and he has been published in a variety of local and national publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, Deseret Morning News, LDS Living Magazine, and Physicians Money Digest. He holds a B.S. in business administration from the University of Phoenix.