Do you cringe every time you check your savings account balance? Between holiday spending, unexpected bills, and keeping up with daily expenses, building a solid rainy-day fund can feel impossible. But what if growing your savings were fun?

Recently, you may have seen friends or social media influencers trying popular money-saving challenges. From stashing cash in envelopes to eliminating all purchases for a month, these challenges can completely change how you think about your saving and spending habits. 

A great way to begin building wealth is through small, easily achievable actions. One of the reasons viral money-saving challenges are so popular is that they break big savings goals into bite-sized mini accomplishments, letting you celebrate small wins more frequently. By following specific formulas, you can create steady savings habits and watch your money compound over time. 

Are you intrigued by the idea of making saving more like a game than a chore? Keep reading to learn more about the most popular money savings challenges sweeping the internet right now. Try the one most appealing to you and see how much you can save in 2024. 

100 Envelope Challenge

The 100 Envelope Saving Challenge provides a structured system to save over $5,000 in 100 days. To begin, gather 100 envelopes and sequentially number them $1 through $100. On day one, you’ll place $1 in envelope one. On day two, you’ll add $2 to envelope two, and so on. Place each envelope in a safe place, and by the end of the challenge, you’ll have saved $5,050.

Using this method, you’ll save very small amounts in the early days and larger amounts toward the end of the challenge. Starting with tasks that are extremely easy to accomplish helps you turn saving into a habit. By the time the amounts become more substantial, it will feel like less of a challenge.

Create Your Own Version

You may find it more effective to shuffle the envelopes and pick one each day. This will allow you to alternate between large and small amounts, which could be easier than trying to fill all of the large envelopes toward the end of the 100 days.

If saving $5,050 in 100 days stretches your budget too far, try filling only a couple of envelopes each week rather than one every day. While it will take longer, it still leads to consistent progress toward your savings goals.

Once you’ve finished the 100 envelope savings challenge, deposit the money into a savings account. Alternatively, print the dollar amounts on index cards, choose a card each day (or whatever frequency you choose), and electronically transfer the corresponding amount into your savings account. This allows you to avoid cash altogether and can help prevent potential risks associated with keeping a large amount of cash at home.

52-Week Money Challenge

The 52-week savings challenge is similar to the 100-envelope challenge, but it only requires a deposit once a week, spreading your savings out over an entire year. This challenge can help you ease into savings without making dramatic lifestyle cuts. It works by creating small habits that focus on consistency and incremental increases.

To start this challenge, use a savings account at the bank or set up a cash system at home, such as a large envelope or a jar. During week one, you’ll deposit $1. The next week, you’ll deposit $2 and deposit $3 the week after that. While these initial deposits are essentially just spare change, by the end, you’ll be depositing large amounts, ending with a deposit of $52 in the last week.

Using the 52-week savings method allows you to focus on making small, manageable deposits rather than focusing on an intimidating, far-off goal. The deposits add up; by week 30, you’ll have saved over $500. Week 40 sees your savings hitting over $820, and at the end of the challenge, you’ll have saved $1,378.

Create Your Own Version

There are several variations of this money-saving challenge, one of which may prove more appealing depending on your current financial situation. For example, if you receive a paycheck every two weeks, try creating a 26-week challenge, making deposits each payday. In this case, you’ll start with $3 on week one and increase each deposit by $3 increments. So, you’ll deposit $6 on week three, $9 on week five, $12 on week seven, and so on. At the end of this challenge, you’ll have saved $1,053. You can also create your own envelope challenge, choosing the frequency and increments that work best for you.

No-Spend Money Challenge

If you want to ramp up your savings but feel overwhelmed with budgeting, consider the simple – but effective – no-spend money challenge. As the name implies, this challenge involves completely stopping spending on unnecessary purchases for a set period of time — often an initial 30 days. During the challenge period, avoid any spending that is not essential for daily living. This means no spending on things such as takeout, lattes, or online shopping.

To get started, make a list of your absolutely necessary fixed living expenses, such as rent and transportation. Then, factor in critical variable needs, like groceries and household items.

Once you’re satisfied with the list, make a commitment not to buy anything you haven't written down until the set time period has passed.

Create Your Own Version

If going completely spend-free seems too dramatic to you, try limiting specific spending categories, like dining, entertainment, clothing, or hobbies. As an alternative, you can designate specific no-spend days. For example, maybe you commit to avoiding spending on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday or on the weekends. Giving yourself a bit of flexibility helps ease the adjustment. As you get used to thinking twice before spending, add additional restrictions to create even more savings opportunities.

At the end of the month, add up all the money you saved skipping purchases such as late-night food deliveries, visits to the salon, and impulse buys. Compare your actual spending during the set timeframe to what you typically spend and transfer the difference into your savings account.

If you prefer to watch savings grow in real time, make a transfer to a savings account each time you say “no” to a non-essential purchase. For example, if you usually spend $20 on takeout but decide to eat at home instead, transfer the $20 to savings immediately.

Keep the Change Challenge

If you make a lot of cash transactions, a “keep the change” savings challenge might be appealing. To get started, set up a jar, piggy bank, or some other place to drop your coins at the end of each day. 

Each time you pay for something in cash, hold onto the change and toss it into the jar as soon as you get home. In most cases, you won’t even notice a difference in your budget and may be surprised by how fast it can add up. As you work toward consciously minimizing the amount of small cash on hand, you’ll diminish temptations to spend it on unnecessary items. Count up the money in your savings jar every six or 12 months and take it to the bank. Watching your savings account balance grow from spare pocket change can be incredibly empowering.

Create Your Own Version

If you want to save even more, try putting all of your $1 bills in the jar as well, or commit to putting every $5 bill you receive into a jar. 

You can also give your savings an initial boost by going on a “coin hunt.” Clean out your junk drawers, between the couch cushions, jacket pockets, and the bottom of your purse. Stash any found cash in your jar.

1% Retirement Challenge

Saving for retirement can sometimes fall to the wayside when more immediate financial needs arise, but consistently putting money into a retirement account can help you create a more secure financial future. The 1% retirement savings challenge is an easy and sustainable way to contribute to your retirement account consistently.

If you currently have access to a 401(k) plan, start by increasing contributions by 1% of your gross salary. For example, if you are contributing 2% now, increase that amount to 3%.

The beauty of this method? It doesn’t drastically affect your current lifestyle. For someone earning $50,000 a year, an extra 1% comes out to about $19 per bi-weekly paycheck. While this may not seem like much, over decades, it can really add up. To further optimize your retirement savings, continue to increase the contributions by 1% per year until you reach the annual maximum.

Create Your Own Version

Don’t have access to a 401(k)? No problem! As long as you meet the requirements, you can open an individual retirement account, like a Traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. Then, calculate the initial contribution amount based on at least 1% of your gross salary. For someone earning $50,000 per year, 1% equates to $500, or a monthly contribution of about $42. The next year, you could increase this by another 1% of your salary, for a total of $1,000, or $83 per month. Continue this process each year until you reach the annual contribution maximum.

Weather Wednesday Challenge

Make savings feel more like a game with the weather Wednesday challenge. Here’s how it works. Each Wednesday, you’ll check your city’s weather forecast for the day’s high temperature and make a savings deposit equal to that amount. For example, if the day’s high is 71 degrees, transfer $71 into your savings account. This will typically cause you to save more during the summer months and a bit less when the temperatures drop. The variability helps keep the challenge interesting and committing to making a transfer every Wednesday helps you to build a consistent saving habit.

If you live in an area like Florida, where matching high temperatures might strain your budget, simply choose another variable. You might match the savings to Wednesday’s low temperature, the chance of rain, or even the day’s predicted wind speed. The key is to choose a metric that makes sense for you and commit to doing it consistently. 

Cancellation Challenge

Monthly subscriptions provide many forms of entertainment and conveniences but can also diminish your ability to save for the future. The cancellation challenge brings awareness to overlooked outflows and helps you uncover potentially significant savings opportunities.

Begin by carefully reviewing your bank and credit card statements for the past several months, noting subscription payments for services like video streaming, music platforms, software licenses, box subscriptions, and regularly delivered products. Then ruthlessly cancel anything you don’t need.

Get rid of any subscription you don’t use regularly or that is not considered a household necessity. When you’re finished, total up the amount you’re no longer spending and set up an automatic savings transfer for the same amount instead. 

For example, assume you were able to cancel subscriptions for a $5 service, a $15 service, and $20 worth of products. Over the next year, you’ll be able to deposit $40 a month into a savings account – for an annual total of $480!

Create Your Own Version

If you want to take it a step further, look at the subscriptions you’ve decided to keep. See if there’s anything you could try pausing or canceling for a month or two. You may find you don’t need those extra services and can get rid of them entirely. Even if you choose to reactivate subscriptions, you’ll still be able to enjoy an additional savings boost while they’re on pause. Being conscious about where your money goes and whether you truly need or derive enjoyment from expenditures is a skill that will help you over the long term. You'll find even more opportunities to save as you get better at saying "no" to unnecessary expenses.

Boosting Your Savings Can Be Easy and Fun

Whether you choose an envelope challenge, match your savings to the weather, or stash away extra change, taking on a savings challenge is a fun, easy way to boost your savings over time. Even setting aside $5, $10, or $20 each week quickly adds up. After several months, what might seem insignificant day-to-day can add up to hundreds of dollars earning interest in your savings account. It's no wonder savings challenges are all the rage right now!

Whatever creative savings approach you choose, the key lies in making a commitment and sticking to it. As you make saving a priority, you’ll become a more conscious spender. Seemingly small expenditures become more noticeable, and you’ll feel empowered, knowing that making small changes now can ultimately have a big impact on your future.

To further streamline the process, consider digital banking products such as PNC Bank’s Virtual Wallet®, the bundled solution which includes checking and savings has features that make it easy to move money between accounts as you progress toward savings goals.

It also offers other digital money management tools such as customizable categories to track spending, a calendar that allows you to schedule and track upcoming paydays and bills, and the ability to set savings goals.

When you combine the right digital tools with a viral savings challenge, you can meet your savings goals and lay the foundation for a more secure financial future.