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My Favorite Money-Saving Challenges You Should Try

Motivate yourself to save more money with calendar-based challenges.

$100 bills bursting out of a brown leather wallet
Start a savings challenge to have extra money.
James Martin/CNET

A few years ago, I started trying money-saving challenges that help me save cash over a period of time. They're fun, easy ways to stash away cash for a vacation, a down payment on a car or just to have as a rainy-day fund.

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While some of these challenges are designed to start at the beginning of each year, you don't have to wait until January to get started. For instance, if you start the 52-week savings challenge in October, your savings plan would finish at the end of September next year.

Here are a few money-saving challenges to get you started. For more ways to save money, check out these tips to save money at the gas pump and ways to lower your utility bills.

52-week savings challenge

The very first money-saving challenge I tried was so easy to keep up with. It gives you a saving challenge every week of the year (hence the name 52-week saving challenge). 

Start off week one by saving $1, week two by saving $2 and so on. On week 52, you'll put away $52. By the end of the year, you'll have $1,378 saved. That might not be a huge amount of money, but it's a good start for those who are looking to introduce new savings habits into their lives. If you want to save more, just raise your starting amount or increase your contributions by more each week.

If you do start in January, you can also start in reverse so that you're not putting away as much money during the winter holidays. For instance, during week one you'd put in $52 instead of $1, and by week 52 you'd put in just $1.

12-month savings challenge

Ready to bump up the amount you save each year? Switching from the 52-week saving challenge to the 12-month saving challenge can do just that. Instead of having a small weekly amount that you save, you just put back a certain amount each month. This plan is a little more flexible in that you decide how much to save each month.

For instance, save $150 every month and you'll have $1,800 total in savings by the end of the year. Or if you're able to save more -- like $300 a month -- you'd have $3,600 in savings at the end of the year. 

Piggybank standing over $100 bills

Money-saving challenges are a fun way to stockpile cash.

James Martin/CNET

3-month savings challenge

Saving for an upcoming trip that's just a few months away? This plan might be the one for you. If you're looking to save money quickly but have little time to spare, the three-month savings plan (12 weeks) can help steer you in the right direction. (Plus it's a good way to familiarize yourself with how savings plans work.)

Start by deciding how much you need to save over the three months, and then divide that amount by 12 to determine your weekly savings contributions.

If your savings goal is $1,000, you'd need to put back roughly $334 each month, or around $84 weekly for 12 weeks. If your goal is $500, you'd need to save nearly $42 each week, roughly $167 each month.

As with the 12-month savings challenge, you can personalize the three-month savings challenge by adjusting the amount of money you'd like to save each month.

Tight budget? These tips can help

Try these tips to make sure you meet your monthly savings goals.

  • Cut back on streaming services. CNET has a list of streaming services to consider canceling in September
  • Pick a couple of months out of the year where you don't go out to eat. 
  • Look at expenses from previous months and see where you can cut back -- for instance, if you spend $6 on coffee every day of the week, temporarily cut it back to three days and save $24 per week.
  • Buy store-brand groceries instead of name-brand products. See how much you could save.

For more money tips, check out the three best ways to find cheap airline tickets. Plus, here's how to tweak your W-4 to get a bigger tax refund (and why you probably shouldn't).