Use the 100 Envelope Challenge to save over $5k
How does an extra $5,050 in your savings account sound? What could you do with this extra money? Maybe there’s a persistent credit card balance that you’d really like to get rid of. Or perhaps you’d like to take your family on a summer vacation. There are many options available to you when you get in the habit of saving thousands of dollars.
But, how do you do it? In this post, I’m going to tell you about the 100 envelope challenge, and how you can save over $5,000 in as little as 100 days. All you need is some envelopes and the commitment to set aside money every day.
Ready to take the 100 Envelope money-saving challenge? Download these free trackers and start today!
What is the 100 envelope challenge?
The 100 envelope money challenge is a simple yet effective way to save money. As the name implies, you use 100 envelopes to complete the challenge.
Here is a step-by-step breakdown of the 100 envelope challenge:
- Number your envelopes from 1 to 100.
- Shuffle the envelopes so they are in a random order.
- Put the envelopes in a shoe box or other container.
- Each day, select any one envelope from the box.
- Set aside the amount of cash equal to the number written on the envelope.
- Be $5,050 richer in 100 days!
Sounds simple, right? That’s because it is! However, it probably won’t be easy. Later in this post I’ll give you tips to help you be successful with this money challenge – even if you think you have no extra money to save.
What materials you need to do the 100 envelope challenge
The great thing about this money challenge is that it’s super simple and requires very little set up.
Here is a list of materials you’ll need to complete the 100 envelope challenge:
- 100 envelopes – Typically this would be standard #6 or #10 envelopes, but you can use whatever envelope you like.
- Pen or Marker – You’ll need something to write down all those numbers.
- Container – An empty shoe box would do the trick, but any small box will do.
- Savings tracker – This is optional, but very helpful, and will help you keep track of how much you’ve saved so far.
Why do the 100 envelope challenge?
You may be wondering why you should even try the 100 envelope challenge. After all, isn’t it easier to just add extra cash to your savings account?
It is, but … it isn’t. It all depends on how disciplined you are with your money.
Do you struggle with saving money? Do you use your credit card for impulse purchases? Do you wonder where all your money goes?
If you said yes to any of these questions, then taking on a money challenge would probably benefit you. It’s one way to create the savings habit, build your motivation, and be intentional with your money.
And, in the end, you’ll increase your net worth and strengthen your financial security!
How much money do you save with the 100 envelope challenge?
If you are consistent with saving money with your envelopes every day, you will end up with exactly $5,050 after 100 days.
This means that when you add up the numbers from 1 to 100 (1 + 2 + 3 …) this equals 5,050.
Of course, if you miss some days, your savings will be less. But, don’t let that stop you! Even if you missed half the days, you’d still have more savings than you would if you never tried.
Is the 100 envelope challenge for me?
Although the 100 envelope money challenge is a great way to save a lot of money in a short amount of time, it’s not for everybody.
With some quick mental math, you can realize that this challenge could potentially require you to save hundreds of dollars within a few days. For example, let’s say you randomly select envelope #98 on Monday, #83 on Tuesday, #100 on Wednesday, and #77 on Thursday. This would equal $358 in savings over 4 days! This may not be realistic for your financial situation, depending on your budget.
Also, if you have significant, high-interest credit card debt, you should definitely focus on paying that off before you start the 100 envelope challenge.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to have an emergency fund established before you start saving for unnecessary expenses like vacations or a new big screen TV.
Getting in the habit of saving money is always wise and beneficial, but make sure you’re taking care of debt and emergency savings first. Once you’ve accomplished these challenges, you’ll have the financial security to save more money.
Does the 100 envelope challenge work?
The short answer: YES! The 100 envelope challenge does work to help you save over $5,000 in under 4 months.
However, as with any other money-saving challenge, you must be consistent. You must be committed and be disciplined enough to save your money. And, you might have to make a few sacrifices along the way.
This might mean:
- Making your coffee at home instead of going through the Starbucks drive-thru
- Taking your lunch to work instead of going out with your co-workers
- Streaming a movie on your TV instead of going to the theater
- Looking for an outfit at a thrift store instead of buying new
- Choosing to work out at home and cancelling your gym membership
- Learning to cook more homemade meals you can enjoy instead of dining out
- Selling that third vehicle to save on insurance and registration
- Giving your fur baby a bath at home instead of taking her to the groomer
- Using an over-the-counter hair color kit instead of going to the salon
Swapping out expensive, discretionary expenses for lower-cost options may feel inconvenient and uncomfortable at first. But, over time, you’ll experience the benefits of saving more money and be successful with any money-saving challenge you take on!
Pros and cons of the 100 envelope challenge
Building the habit of saving money and paying cash for big purchases are excellent ways to get control of your finances. Having thousands of dollars in the bank is always a good thing, right?
Although there are several benefits to completing the 100 envelope money-saving challenge, there are also few downsides as well.
Here are the pros and cons of the 100 envelope challenge.
- You’ll be thousands of dollars richer in a short amount of time!
- You will strengthen your financial discipline and build good money habits
- You can increase your net worth
- You’ll be able to pay cash for a large purchase, or pay off a large debt balance
- You will learn to be intentional with your money
- You’ll have fun while saving a lot of money!
- You might have to come up with a few hundred dollars in cash to save within a few days
- Your cash won’t be earning any interest if it’s sitting in envelopes for 100 days
- You’ll need to keep a large supply of cash on hand if you choose to add your savings to the envelopes daily
- If you’re already struggling to cover your expenses, this challenge could put unnecessary stress on your finances
Tips to be successful with the 100 envelope challenge
As mentioned before, the process to do the 100 day money challenge is simple enough. All you need are some envelopes and the willingness to set aside money every day.
And, oh yeah – all that extra cash.
Don’t let the challenge’s simplicity fool you. Saving an average of $50 a day over 100 days is not easy! You’ll need to stay focused and probably give up a few lattes in the process. But there are things you can do to make saving money easier.
Here are a few tips to help you be successful with the 100 envelope challenge:
- If you want to be more selective about your daily savings, you can leave the envelopes in order from 1 to 100. This way, on those days when you have more cash available for savings, you can select from the back of the envelopes where the larger numbers are. For those days you don’t have much to save, just choose an envelope closer to the front.
- Set up a separate savings account for this challenge that’s linked to your checking account. When you pick your envelope for the day, you can just make an online bank transfer into the savings account instead of putting exact cash in the envelope. Just be sure to remove that envelope to your “saved” pile so you don’t accidentally pick it again.
- Pick your daily savings envelope in the mornings. When you take care of it first thing in the day, you’re more likely to not miss any days or skip it because you spent too much money that day.
- If you don’t think you’ll be able to keep up with saving because the numbers get too high for your budget, simply number 5 sets of 20 envelopes from 1 to 20. This way, your daily savings won’t exceed $20, and you’ll still end up with $1,050 after 100 days!
Tips to increase your savings
You might be thinking this challenge would be impossible for you because you can barely cover your expenses now. Of course, never take on a money challenge if it’s going to add financial stress to your life.
However, if you can decrease your expenses and/or increase your income, then you’ll free up more money to save.
Getting on a budget is the first priority, so you can track your spending and see where every dollar is going. A budget will help you get intentional with your finances and take control of your money. It will also allow you to see those spending leaks that are wasting your savings potential.
Here are a few ways you can lower your expenses so you can save more money:
- Cancel all recurring subscriptions that you don’t use often (this could be a gym membership fee, a streaming subscription, magazines, etc.)
- Shop around for lower insurance premiums
- Refinance your mortgage to get a lower rate and smaller payment
- Stop eating out and create meal plans for at-home dining
- Move all high-interest debt to a lower-interest option
- Always shop with a list to avoid impulse purchases
- Take advantage of sales and coupons
- Swap high-cost recreation and entertainment for low-cost or free options
Making the most of your income is the first place to start freeing up more money for savings. However, there are only so many corners you can cut in your budget. When you open yourself up to the possibilities of increasing your income, then the sky’s the limit!
Here some ideas for generating additional income so you can save more money:
- Work overtime at your job
- Ask for a raise
- Apply for a promotion
- Get a weekend side job
- Start a small business
- Offer paid services you enjoy doing in your neighborhood
- Rent out a room in your house
- Sell homemade products online
There are literally hundreds of ways you can increase your income, but you need to have the right mindset. Once you believe there are possibilities all around you, making more money becomes easy.
Need more ideas to find more savings potential in your budget? Read these helpful articles for some inspiration:
- How To Save $1,000 A Month Without Saving More
- 50+ Easy Ways To Make Extra Money
- How To Save Money When You’re Broke
- How To Save $5,000 In One Year
- 11 Effortless Ways To Save Money
- 5 Tips To Save Money Easier
- 50 Money Habits To Help You Save More
How to do the 100 envelope challenge digitally
If you don’t want to deal with envelopes and cash, you can totally do this money challenge on your computer or entirely online!
While some may be more motivated by using a tactile method, I like spreadsheets and using phone apps. I appreciate the ability to access files wherever I’m at, and I know the calculations are accurate.
Here is how I would do the 100 envelope challenge digitally:
1. Open a separate savings account named “100 Envelope Challenge” that’s linked to my checking account.
2. Create a table of 100 cells in a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets (10 rows and 10 columns). Add numbers 1 to 100 in each cell. Print out and cut so you have 100 separate pieces of paper numbered 1 to 100. Put these in a jar.
3. Daily choose a piece of paper from the jar, and transfer that amount from my checking to savings account using the banking app on my phone. (Be sure to discard the number you chose – don’t put it back in the jar!)
4. Fill the cell containing the number I selected in the spreadsheet with a pre-selected color. For example, I might make all cells with the numbers I’ve already chosen the color yellow. Those numbers I haven’t picked yet would remain white. This gives me a visual of my progress.
5. Keep a running total of my savings in my spreadsheet. All I have to do is input a formula to one blank cell that sums up all the cell numbers I add to the formula. See screenshots below:
Variations for the 100 envelope challenge
One of the nice things about this money saving challenge is its flexibility to be customized. There are several adjustments you can make so it fits your situation and preferences.
Here are just a few ways you could add some variety:
- Number your envelopes from 1 to 20, creating 5 sets for 100 days. Or you could number them from 1 to 25, creating 4 sets for 100 days. This way, your daily savings average will be lower.
- Keep your numbers from 1 to 50, but add more envelopes. If you double the envelopes to 200, this would be 4 sets of envelopes numbered 1 to 50. After 200 days (approximately 6.5 months), you will have saved $5,100!
- Number your envelopes in tens (10, 20, 30, etc.) and choose only 2 envelopes each week. This will get you to $5,500 in a little less than year.
- Keep your envelopes in numbered order, so you can be selective about how much you save each time. Choose from the back of the stack to save more that day, or pick an envelope from the front if you less available to save.
- Go digital! Follow the instructions in the previous section to skip the envelopes and just use your computer.
Some of these variations will result in doing the challenge for a longer period of time or saving less money. Don’t let this discourage you! Adjust the challenge to fit your current financial circumstances so you can still save money.
Get creative with how you can save more money. Make it fun to increase your motivation. Even if it’s just $5 a day, you’re building the habit of saving money and strengthening your financial security.
Other money challenges you can try
If you really want to start saving more money, doing a money challenge is a great way to achieve your goals. The good news is, there is an unlimited number of challenges you can try!
You can create your own, depending on what financial results you want. Simply determine a goal you want to reach (e.g., save $1,000 for Christmas gifts) and come up with a strategy that is realistic and motivating for you. Use whatever resources that will make it easy for you to save money and stay on track. This could include a printable tracker, a phone app, a spreadsheet, etc.
If you don’t want to come up with something on your own, a quick Google search will provide you with plenty of ideas. Some popular ones are the No-Spend challenge, the 52-week challenge, the Keep The Change challenge, and the Pantry challenge.
For more motivation, read my post on 51 money-saving challenges. Remember, you can choose to save your spare change or save $20 a day. Both efforts result in more savings in your pocket.
Don’t forget to grab this FREE download to help you save more money with the 100 Envelope Challenge!
Final thoughts on the 100 Envelope Challenge
The 100 envelope challenge is a simple strategy that can help you save money for the future. All it takes are envelopes and some creativity to keep your savings separate from your spending, which will make saving more manageable.
Have you started this challenge yet? If not, start today! Use the information and resources in this post so that you can get started right away on making your own game plan to meet or exceed any financial goals you have this year.
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