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What is the 100 Envelopes Challenge and Does it Work?

We could all use an extra $5,000, right? Well, that's what the 100 Envelope Challenge says will happen if you follow the directions. This latest money-saving trend is all over the place right now. From Tiktok and free charts on the internet. Special stickers are available to seal the envelopes.

Ironically, several retailers are selling kits for upwards of $25. Pro tip: You could go to the dollar store and buy the supplies for $5 and save the rest to actually put in the envelopes.

Whether you want to save for a vacation, down payment for a car, or an emergency fund, the idea is simple. This financial envelope hack promises you can save exactly $5,050 in just over 3 months (100 days).

What Is The 100 Envelopes Challenge?

The directions are fairly simple. You take 100 envelopes and number them from 1 to 100. Then, you shuffle them and place them in a bin or basket.

Each day you pick an envelope from the bin. Whatever number is on the envelope, that's how much you put in the envelope and seal it. You do this each day until all the envelopes are filled.

For example, on the first day you draw the number 50, you put $50 in that envelope. On the second day, if you draw the envelope with the number 3, you put $3 in that envelope. If you do that each day, at the end of 100 days, you'll have $5,050!

For the challenge you will need:

  • 100 envelopes
  • cash
  • a black sharpie
  • a bin, box, or basket

It sounds like a great idea. It's simple, takes minimal effort, supplies, and in the end you have a pile of money. Not so fast.

Does The 100 Envelopes Challenge Work?

The challenge can absolutely work. People have indeed successfully completed it. However, it takes a few vital ingredients:

  • motivation
  • dedication
  • cash

To be successful at this challenge, you really have to want to do it. The process needs to be committed to each day or you will not have the $5,050 at the end of the 100 days.

A suggestion would be to do it at the same time each day so you get into the habit. Also, consider keeping a chart to cross out the numbers of the envelopes you choose. This can help keep you motivated. The last item, cash, is what makes the difference in succeeding, or even being able to try it in the first place.

Many people are on a budget and simply have no disposable income. After rent, other bills, and food, a lot of folks have very little money to play with. So this challenge will not work for you if:

  • you are living paycheck to paycheck
  • have more expenses than income
  • do not have a permanent job or source of income
  • are experiencing a big life change, such as a move, new baby, etc.

This challenge is supposed to be a fun and simple way to save some money. The irony is, that you need to have some money to save to be able to do it. It should not cause you stress and anxiety.

So if it's not for you, no worries. There are plenty of other money-saving challenges out there that may suit your needs.

What Are Some More Realistic Challenges I Could Try To Save Some Money?

If the 100 envelopes challenge is not for you, there are plenty of other ways and means to save money.

Challenges like this have been around since banks started sponsoring Christmas clubs. Where you got a little book and each week you took it and deposited $5 or whatever amount you chose and they'd stamp the book. Then, about a month or so before Christmas, you went to the bank and took out your "club" money to do your gift shopping.

These money-saving ideas are much easier than your grandma's Christmas club.

1. The One Dollar Bill Challenge

This is a fairly painless challenge. Each time you get a dollar bill (or two) as change, put it in an envelope or jar. You can set your own timeline, 6 months, a year, it's up to you. At the end, sit down and count your new-found riches.

2. Keep The Change Challenge

This challenge is perhaps the easiest and the oldest. Grab a jar or a coffee can and set it on a counter. Whenever you have extra coins, drop them in. You won't become a millionaire, but once the jar is full, you'll certainly have more than if you let it sit in your car or fall into the abyss of the couch.

3. The 52-week Money Challenge

If the spare change challenge isn't meaty enough for you, this one gives you a good chunk of change at the end. But it's not as intense as the 100 envelope challenge. It's also great if you don't have a lot of disposable income.

You start this challenge with $1 the first week. Store it wherever you like; jar, envelope, etc. Week two, you put aside $2, week three put aside $3, and so on. When you get to week 52 and put your $52 in the money pile, you'll have $1,378. That could be anything from a rent payment to a year of car insurance.

4. 365 A Day Nickel Challenge

Get yourself a big old jar for this one. This one is easy, but requires a small daily commitment. Begin by putting a nickel in the jar. On day two, place two nickels (or a dime) in the jar. For each day you put that number of nickels in the jar. Now, obviously, don't be afraid to put a quarter in on day 5 or 3 dimes on day six.

Don't let your lack of nickels deter you. Because if you're able to follow through on this one, you will have saved a whopping $3,339.75. That's anything from a down payment on a car to a nice vacation.

4. Kick The Habit Challenge

Are you currently caught up in a habit you want to break? Why not make it more enticing by promising yourself to take the money from it and put it aside.

Whether it's cigarettes, soda, candy, or that extra cup of coffee, you'll be surprised at how much extra money you'll have at the end of the year.

For example, if you give up that daily $1.50 a day candy habit, after 365 days you'll have a spare $547.50. Looking to give up some caffeine. A cup of coffee at a shop can be around $3.00. After a year, you'll be looking at an extra $1,095 in your pocket.

5. Roll The Dice Challenge

This challenge has some fun peppered in it and it can be a family activity. All you need are some dice and rules that you make up to match your comfort level. You can use one or two dice. Play everyday or once a week. You just roll the dice and whatever comes up is what you put aside.

So if you roll a 3, you will put $3 in a container. You can include kids by modifying it to cents. So roll a 5, put a nickel in the container. Obviously, the amount will vary, but it's sure to be a nice surprise at the end.

6. 365 Day Penny Challenge

Probably one of the easiest of the challenges. Get a jar and a chart would be helpful for this one. On day one, drop a penny into the jar, mark it off on the chart. The second day will see you drop 2 pennies into the jar. On day three there will be three pennies and so on.

It seems almost a waste of time. They're just pennies, right? Well, if you complete it, you'll have almost $668 for the time it took you to chuck a few coins into a jar. Again, you can combine your coins. For instance, on day twenty-five, you can deposit a quarter instead of searching for twenty-five pennies. On day one hundred you can put a paper dollar in the jar.

You could also make it a family activity where everyone has their own jar. If a family of 4 did this, at the end of the year, they'd end up with $2,672. That's enough for a nice weekend away or a much needed emergency fund.

What Are Some Other Ways To Save Money?

Maybe you're just not the challenge type. That's ok. Here are some ways on how to save money by performing simple tasks or making small changes.

1. Pantry Night

Pick one night a week to cook dinner using items that are just sitting in your pantry. Combine them with some veggies or meat that is close to its due date. It can be a fun and creative alternative to eating out or running to the grocery store for something quick.

2. Buy Store Brands

Some people never stray from their name-brand items to give the store brands a chance. The truth is, store brands are often just as good as name brands. Many times they are made by the same companies. It's just the difference in packaging and design that makes the price vary. Depending on the item, you can save up to 50%.

3. Plant A Garden

Produce is expensive and sometimes hard to come by. A garden is a great way to reduce your food bill. If you're short on space, you can plant herbs in pots. Garlic, thyme, and rosemary come back year after year, so you'll save a ton on your spice supply.

4. Vacation Off Season

Consider going on vacation during the fall or winter months. Many places offer seasonal discounts. Consider taking that "weekend" away on a Wednesday and Thursday. It could save you 40% off hotels and attractions.

5. Make Your Own Products

Things like window cleaner, oven cleaner, moisturizing bath oil can easily be made with things you have on hand. Some vinegar, baking soda, water and baby oil can clean your windows, stove, and even your body.

6. Unplug

The Department of Energy estimates that unplugging your device chargers could save you $100 a year. Actually, it's a good idea to unplug any appliance when not in use. You're still being charged if something is plugged in, even if you're not using it.

7. Rotate Streaming Services

We all do it. There's a great show on ( insert stream here) so we pay anywhere from $10 to $20 a month for that one show. Then we end up subscribing to 3,4, even 5 services for a handful of shows. Consider paring it down.

Wait til your show(s) are all available to binge watch. Subscribe for the month and enjoy Cobra Kai and The Crown. Then put it on hold and subscribe to another one and repeat the process.

Streaming services were meant to be an alternative to cable prices. If you're paying $200 a month for a handful of shows, cable companies are getting the last laugh.

8. Get It Used Or Free

Thrift stores are a great place to find bargains, but the internet can be even better. There's no need to leave your house and sometimes you can find better stuff.

Facebook, for instance, has a ton of community pages for online "garage sales", give/ask, and free stuff. There you can find everything from baby items and clothing to furniture and home decor. All you need is a way to pay online and then go pick up your discount/free stuff.

9. Coupons

These are not your mom's coupons anymore. As fun as sitting and clipping was, nowadays it's much more efficient. You can download apps that will automatically take off coupons and discounts when you make a purchase.

There are also sites that offer digital coupons you can save on your phone and scan when you're at the checkout counter or shopping online.

Let's not forget the good, not so old-fashioned value packs that come in the mail. There are often a few useful bargains among the gutter and carpet cleaning services. But if you need that, then that's great too.

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Allen Lee

Written by Allen Lee

Allen Lee is a Toronto-based freelance writer who studied business in school but has since turned to other pursuits. He spends more time than is perhaps wise with his eyes fixed on a screen either reading history books, keeping up with international news, or playing the latest releases on the Steam platform, which serve as the subject matter for much of his writing output. Currently, Lee is practicing the smidgen of Chinese that he picked up while visiting the Chinese mainland in hopes of someday being able to read certain historical texts in their original language.

Read more posts by Allen Lee

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