Are savings challenges worth it?

Find out how the 1p, 52 week and other challenges work.

If you struggle to put money into savings then a savings challenge could be the perfect way to get motivated and keep doing it.

Here you’ll find out about the main challenges and how they work. But they aren’t perfect, so I’ve shared some of the downsides and some tricks to make them easier.

Watch my video taking you through the best challenges and the alternatives

What is a savings challenge?

Very simply you follow certain rules which tell you how often and how much to save over a set period. So it could the same amount every week, or an increasing (or decreasing) amount every day.

The most common examples tend to last for a year and get most attention in January. But you can start the challenges any time and make them last any length of time.

And at the end of the challenge you’ll hopefully have a decent amount of cash put aside which normally would have been eaten up by everyday spending.

Popular money saving challenges

There are so many different challenges out there, and you can adapt any of these to suit your own goals. Perhaps you’ll change the amount, how often you save or how long you save for.

However these are the most common ones you’ll see people taking part in.

£1 savings challenge

What you’ll make: £365

The most straightforward of the challenges. You put aside £1 a day, every day for a year. That’ll mean there’s a pot worth £365 at the end. It’s certainly affordable and easy to follow. You could adapt it to £7 a week and get the same result (well £364).

1p savings challenge

What you’ll make: £667.95

Lots of people like this one, and you’re only putting away small amounts each day. You start with 1p on day one, then 2p on day two, 3p on day three and so on. By New Year’s Eve you’re saving £3.56.

This adds up to a surprisingly decent £667.95. See, every penny does count.

However it can get complicated working out what you need to save if you don’t use a guide (more on these below).

52 week savings challenge

What you’ll make: £1,378

Moving away from daily challenges, you instead save on a weekly basis. You start with £1 in week one, and increase the value by another £1 for each subsequent week. So in week two you save £2 and so on until the final week when it’s £52.

This is one many prefer to do in reverse, starting with £52 and working down to the final week saving of £1.

26 week challenge

What you’ll make: £1,378

You’ll end up with the same amount as the 52 week challenge, but you combine the savings of each two weeks. So you start with £3 (£1 + £2), then £7 (£3 + £4) and so on.

You can do this every other week, or keep it weekly to get to your target faster.

Andy’s podcast

Listen to Cash Chats, Andy’s twice-weekly podcast. Episodes every Tuesday and Friday.

£5 savings challenge

What you’ll make: £7,000

This one will save you a huge amount of money – seven grand. But you’ll be putting aside a lot of cash each week. You start with £5 in week one, then add and extra £5 each week. So then it’s £10 in week two, followed by £15, then £20 and so on. The last amount in week 52 is £260.

Targetted savings challenge

This option is DIY. Work out how much you need to save, then divide it by months, weeks, days – whatever you want. You’ll have a set amount to save each time so it’s easier to keep track of.

For example if you want to have £750 in a year, and you want to save weekly, you’ll need to put aside £14.43 a week. Or if you want to save £500 in six months, saved daily, you’d put £2.74 away each day.

Are savings challenges worth it?

It’s certainly a mixed bag. Here are the main pros and cons of savings challenges:

When savings challenges are good

  • They motivate you to save
  • That in turn will hopefully build a habit
  • It’s active saving. You know what you’re putting away
  • You can customise them to suit what you can afford and what you need

When savings challenges are a pain

  • With some the amount changes each time, which can be hard to track
  • They can be very expensive in the final month, not ideal if you start the challenges in January
  • You’ve got to remember to do it
  • If you’re using cash it can be hard to find the exact amounts
  • And if you’re saving cash you’re not earning any interest

Andy’s analysis

I think that anything which helps you save is a great idea. And I really like the active nature of these challenges. You are having to think every day about saving and think about the how and the why. This is great for helping you change your habits, and make it something you just do in the future, even without a challenge.

However, I think some of them get a little too complicated. Are you really going to find 123 pennies one day, and 124 the next? No. This could easily mean you skip the odd day, then the odd week, and ultimately give up.

If I was going to do one it would be the simple £1 a day version, or maybe a scaled up or weekly version. These are easy to remember and easy to action.

But if you fancy one of the others, there are some tricks to help. In the next section I’ve shared a few ways to make it easier to track your savings, and even automate the process, which are worth checking.

But perhaps even better are the alternatives such as auto-savings algorithms and roundup savings on spending. You do lose the “active” side of saving, which is a shame, but you make up for it by easily generating savings on a regular basis.

Savings challenge hacks

Use a printable

A printable is just a sheet of paper you can print out that details exactly how much you save and when. It’s particularly useful for the 1p / 52 week challenge. Ideally you’ll mark off each one with a highlighter to help track your progress (and remind you where you’ve got to).

Another benefit of a printable is you can pin it somewhere you won’t miss it, making it a constant reminder of your challenge. People sell this in sites like Etsy, but you will be able to find free versions from places like SkintDad.

Automate with IFTTT and Monzo

I love this way to gamify savings if you have a Monzo current account. It’s via a free third-party service called If This Then That (IFTTT). It allows you to set conditions that will trigger an action in your bank account.

Though there are lots of different things you can do, such as move money every time it rains (according to your weather app) or every time you visit a certain location (via your maps app), you can also set up rules based on the day, week or month.

This makes it possible to automate most of the savings challenges listed above. In fact the 1p challenge is set up within Monzo, while others you can create yourself or see if anyone else has already done this.

So if you already have and use Monzo this is a great feature to explore. There are more details in this video.

However, if you don’t already use Monzo, though you could set one up just for this, you will need to make sure enough money is there to cover the savings challenge withdrawals. And if you’re setting up transfers to the account to do this, you may as well just put that cash straight into savings.

Where to put the money

Though you can use cash for savings challenges, it’s not always going to be easy as more and more of us move to a cashless society.

I think it’s better to transfer money each time, or combine a few payments in one go, to a separate savings account – not to your current account or another savings account. This has three advantages:

  • you’ll earn interest on the money
  • you won’t mix it up with your everyday spending money
  • you will be able to track the progress of this challenge distinct from any other savings you make

My regularly updated savings account guide lists the best buys with the highest interest to help you find the right account for you.

2 thoughts on “Are savings challenges worth it?

  1. I’m not a fan of these. good intentions fall by the way side especially when the amount is lot.
    I prefer deciding on an amount and transfer it before i pay my bills etc to a saving account or premium bonds.

    I do use a terramundi pot ( you have to smash it open to get into it) . you can buy cheap from B and M.
    I save 50ps or any extra cash I get from Selling, lottery wins etc.
    I used to crack it open in the new year and have saved various amounts ( £500 average)
    Im not cracking it open this year due to having less cash available to put in due to covid

    1. I think that’s the best option, though the autosavings apps can be good for finding a little extra when you use cards rather than cash!

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