If financial stress in 2022 has caused you to consider how you might save more money and build more stability in the new year, you're not alone. Whatever 2023 holds, building up your savings can help you weather potential hard times and enjoy the good. Here are eight savings challenges to try in 2023.
1. 52-Week Saving Challenge
The 52-week money challenge works like this: Start by depositing $1 in week one, $2 in week two, $3 in week three and so on. Keep the funds you save in an interest-bearing savings account.
By week 52, you'll have amassed a full $1,378 in savings. That could be a great start to an emergency fund, or a way to cover next year's holiday shopping or a splurge without going into debt.
Here's a fun twist. If you're starting your money savings challenge in the new year, you may be sitting on some gifted funds from the holidays that you want to funnel into savings. Try a reverse 52-week money challenge: The challenge works much the same way, except you start by saving $52 in week one, $51 in week two, and decrease by one dollar per week. You'll have the same amount saved by the end of the challenge.
2. 26-Week Saving Challenge
This is an alteration of the above 52-week challenge that may work better for you if you're paid every other week.
You'll start by saving $3 in week one, and then increasing the dollar amount you save by $3 each week. You'll save $6 in week two, $9 in week three, then $12, $15, and so on. By week 26, you'll have amassed $1,053 in savings.
The most you'll ever deposit in a week will be $75, and if you're only making a deposit on each payday, it's a fairly bite-sized goal.
3. The No-Spend Saving Challenge
The no-spend saving challenge is highly customizable, but here's the gist of it. You'll turn saving into a game by setting tight restrictions on all the spending you do, limiting yourself to only basic necessities: housing, bills and groceries. You'll cook at home, find free things to do and challenge yourself to see just how frugal you're capable of being. Then, pocket the money you save and direct it toward building long-term financial stability.
Keep in mind that it's tough to go bare bones, so consider starting small with a no-spend weekend. You can push yourself for a week, and the grittiest of no-spend savers can try for marathon no-spend months.
4. Round-Up Saving Challenge
For this challenge, implement a roundup rule. Anytime you make a purchase, round up to the nearest dollar and pocket the change. For instance, if you spend $28.57 at the store, the difference is 43 cents.
Keep a tally of your change throughout the day or week and then transfer that money over to savings, if you're using cards for payment. If you're paying in cash, stash the change away in a change jar.
5. Dollar Saving Challenge
It may not seem like $1 a day is a lot, but it gets you to $365 by the end of the year—a respectable sum that you could funnel into your emergency fund, use for holiday shopping or direct toward another long-term goal, such as saving for a down payment on a house.
To do the dollar saving challenge, set up an automatic transfer for $7 per week into your savings account. Consider completing this challenge in tandem with another challenge to bolster your successes.
6. Financial Minimalist Challenge
Have you considered that implementing minimalist practices could benefit your finances, but aren't sure if you can fully hack the minimalist lifestyle? Then try going minimalist for a week—or even a month—with a money minimalism challenge.
The key to the challenge is living simply, reducing your spending down to only buy what you need or truly love. Try to approach it from the angle of not what you can afford, but rather how little you can buy without diminishing your quality of life. That may mean cooking more at home or going to a free concert rather than paying for entertainment. It could also mean finding things you do need, such as clothing or bakeware, second hand or through a Buy Nothing group.
7. Money Mistake Jar Challenge
Money mistakes happen. But what if every time you made an impulse purchase, went off budget or otherwise made a money move you swore you wouldn't, you put a dollar in the money mistake jar?
The challenge is simple. If you promised yourself you wouldn't eat out for lunch this week, and you do, throw a dollar (or whatever amount works for you) in the jar. If, in a moment of impulse, you did some online shopping that wasn't budgeted for, throw a dollar in the jar.
Will those dollars offset the damage that going off budget can inflict on your bank account? No way. But if you're striving toward better long-term money habits, gamifying your mistakes can help you reinforce those good habits and unlearn the bad.
8. No Dining Out Challenge
How much can you save by not dining in restaurants at all? If you tend to order in or go out a lot, probably quite a bit. That's why this money challenge has very few rules—though, if you're heavily reliant on ordering in, it can be challenging.
Consider starting your challenge small with a weekend or week. During that time, don't eat out at all. Try pairing this challenge with a pantry challenge, in which you challenge yourself to eat through everything in your pantry. To maximize your odds of success, you'll need to do some heavy lifting from the start: Search for easy weeknight recipes online and stock up your fridge with the supplies you need. Consider cooking meals in advance and reheating for busy nights.
Transfer whatever money you typically spend on dining in a week into a savings account. If you're not sure how much you spend on dining out each week, consider this is a stellar opportunity to print out your bank or credit card statements and tally up your typical dining spending.
Make 2023 Your Best Financial Year Yet
Whichever challenge you try—or if you choose to combine challenges to up your savings even more—know where to stash your funds. A high-yield savings account will help you earn interest on your savings.
And on top of getting serious about spending less than you earn and pocketing the difference, consider making some other key money moves this year. If you haven't already, start a financial plan and set a retirement savings goal, then start investing a portion of all your pay toward it. Set up a budget that supports your savings and investing goals.
Lastly, start monitoring your credit through Experian to work toward strong credit. A higher score can help you save money on auto insurance or qualify for a mortgage.