Raise your hand if you’d love an extra $5,000 right now. We see you. Our hands went up too. Oh, the things we’d do: pay down some debt, build up savings, pay cash for that vacation. The list continues.
Well, there’s a way to get there that’s gotten quite the buzz on social media—and for good reason! With the 100 Envelope Challenge, you can save up that $5,000 in just 100 days. Are you up for the challenge?
What Is the 100 Envelope Challenge?
Okay, but what is this 100 Envelope Challenge? It’s a simple, low-tech way to gamify your savings. You label 100 envelopes 1 to 100, and over 100 days (or more), whatever number is on the envelope you select, you stash that amount of cash in there.
The math works out to $5,050 when you’re done! (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 . . . you can double-check us if you want. Or just drive to the dollar store for envelopes right now.)
How to Do the 100 Envelope Savings Challenge
You’ll need a stack of 100 envelopes, a marker, a competitive spirit and a healthy dose of willpower. Then, follow these steps:
1. Label 100 envelopes from 1 to 100.
If you’re doing this with the family, pull out some art supplies and get the kids in on decorating. They can even help you track your money-saving progress with our 100 Envelope Challenge chart. Just print it off and have your kids color in each envelope as you save! (Or print it for yourself if you want the visual motivation!)
2. Store the envelopes.
Find a box or drawer to keep all the (currently empty) envelopes and a spot for the ones that are about to be bulging with bucks.
3. Fill the envelopes with cash.
Okay, enough planning. Time for filling. You can grab one envelope each day at random or go in order. If you want the challenge to get easier through the months, start backward (with 100!).
Tips to Succeed With the 100 Envelope Challenge
Okay, those are the basic steps of the 100 Envelope Challenge. And here are some practical and motivational tips to get it done—starting with three ways to find (and make) the extra money you need to fill those envelopes:
1. Create a budget.
First off, make a budget so you can see where your money’s going . . . and so you can start telling it where to go. Because right now, you’ve got $5,050 you want to go into envelopes.
2. Increase your income.
Next up, find ways to increase your income. Meaning you need to put in some extra work. Get a side hustle, sell some stuff, work overtime—or a combo of all three! It’s just for 100-ish days. You can do this!
3. Cut your spending.
The final way to have more money to knock out this 100 Envelope Challenge is by cutting some of your spending. Again, it’s just for 100-ish days! (Although, no one is stopping you from filling more than one envelope a day. Just saying.)
So, stop eating out, skip the fancy lattes, brown-bag your lunch, pause some subscriptions. Who knows—you might realize you can live without some things forever because you prefer to have that extra cash in your budget every single month.
4. Set a deadline.
Having a set goal for how long you plan to work this 100 Envelope Challenge will help you stay motivated and focused. Knocking it out in just over three months is the traditional target, but if you need more time, take more time! Just write down your deadline and keep it where you can see it.
5. Create accountability (and competition).
A challenge is easier when you have an accountability partner to check in with. If you’ve got a spouse or kids, you should all be working on this together!
Save more money for the things that matter (to you) with EveryDollar.
But also, let’s be honest—since the 100 Envelope Challenge is about making a game out of saving money, well, making it a competition against some friends could be the extra motivation you need to hit the finish line. See who can get there quicker, or go in like a team and plan a group reward for when you all make it through.
6. Put that money to work.
Once you’ve got your $5,050, it’s time to enjoy your hard work. Don’t waste it. Put it in the budget. Give it a job.
Part of the job should be celebratory, but make the bulk of that money work as hard as you did. Set up a sinking fund, boost your money goals, and move forward with the Baby Steps (aka the proven plan to get ahead with your money—from saving more to paying off debt to building real wealth).
Will it take some effort? Of course! Is it a simple concept you could start pronto? Also of course! But before you start labeling, let’s talk some pros and cons of taking the 100 Envelope Challenge.
Pros and Cons of the 100 Envelope Challenge
- Saving up $5,050 is the number one pro. Right?
- Setting goals and reaching them makes you a stronger person.
- Taking on the 100 Envelope Challenge makes your goal of saving money more fun!
- Cutting back on spending can promote contentment.
- Budgeting (if you aren’t doing that already) gets you in control of your money. (Don’t stop this step when the challenge is done, BTW.)
- Working toward a common goal as a family or friend group creates closeness.
- 100 days isn’t a long time, and yet it is. Some people would say it’s a con that you have to work that hard that long. (Personally, we think you can do it. And you saw all the praise we gave for the challenge. We believe in doing hard things.)
- If you’re already tight on money, because of inflation or any other reason, knocking this challenge out in 100 days might not be possible. Following all those steps we listed on budgeting, increasing your income, and decreasing your expenses will get you moving forward with your money. But don’t be afraid to take the challenge—and realize you’ll be pushing through it longer than some.
- Our final con doesn’t have to be one. And we’ve touched on it a little, but let’s be completely clear: If you take the 100 Envelope Challenge, do all that work, and then don’t have a solid plan for that $5,050—it’ll be gone quicker than it took you to fill that first envelope.
That solid plan starts with the thing we keep mentioning—the budget. And we just so happen to have a free budgeting app called EveryDollar that you can download. Right now.
Hey, 100 days will go by no matter what. At the end of it, you could have $5,050 saved up, or you could still be right where you are. If you’re up for the work, the results are worth it. So, we’ll ask you again: Are you up for the 100 Envelope Challenge? (Heck. Yes!)