I came across the 100 envelope challenge on social media recently, and based on the comments I saw, some people seem a bit confused about how this money-saving challenge works.
So, I decided to write up a quick guide.
Below, I’ll break down what the 100 envelope challenge is, how it works, some ways you can modify it to better fit your needs/finances, and I'll also talk about some of the pros and cons of this challenge.
Oh, and I'll show you how you can do this challenge digitally — with free printables — if you don't want to use physical envelopes and cash!
Table of Contents
- What Is the 100 Envelope Challenge?
- How Does the 100 Envelope Challenge Work?
- Variations of the 100 Day Money Challenge
- How to Do the 100 Envelope Challenge Digitally
- Free Envelope Challenge Printables
- Who Should Do the 100 Envelope Challenge?
- Pros and Cons
- Ways to Increase Savings Potential
- Other Money-Saving Challenges
- Final Thoughts
What Is the 100 Envelope Challenge?
The 100 envelope challenge — also known as the 100-day money challenge — is a money-saving challenge that has gained a lot of steam on TikTok. It involves 100 numbered envelopes, 100 days, and a hefty end savings goal of $5,050!
If you're thinking saving $5,050 in 100 days sounds crazy, you're not wrong. Doing the original version of this challenge is no easy task.
Luckily, there are variations and modifications you can make to better tailor things to your unique financial situation and goals. More on these below.
For now, let's look at how the original version of the challenge works…
How Does the 100 Envelope Challenge Work?
Here's how the original 100 day money challenge version works:
- Step 1: Buy 100 envelopes (yep, you have to spend money to get this challenge started…unless you follow my digital spin-off version below)
- Step 2: On each envelope, write a number from 1-100 (e.g. write 1 on envelope #1, 2 on envelope #2…100 on envelope #100)
- Step 3: Each day, pick an envelope at random. Whatever number is on the envelope, put that amount of cash inside of it, and stash it away. For example, if you pull envelope #50, you have to save $50 (or 50€, £, etc.).
- Step 4: Repeat Step 3 every day for 100 days until you’ve filled every envelope.
- Step 5: Congrats! If you completed the challenge successfully, you'll have saved $5,050.
That's it! Pretty simple stuff.
As mentioned, there are many ways to customize this challenge, and many reasons why you may want to customize it. One of the main reasons is that saving $5,050 in 100 days is quite a high savings goal. That's about $50.50 saved every single day on average.
Not to mention, with random envelope drawing, if you managed to somehow pull the highest number envelopes multiple days in a row, you could be required to save up to $679 in a single week! Not an easy task.
Let's take a look at some variations and optional rules to make things more personalized…
Variations of the 100 Day Money Challenge
There are plenty of ways to adjust the 100 day money challenge to better fit your lifestyle, income, and financial goals.
Here are some challenge variation and rule modification ideas:
- 52-week money challenge version – This TikToker started with 104 envelopes with numbers 1-104. She opens 2 envelopes every week. This works out to $5,460 saved in 52 weeks (around 1 year). That's about $105 saved each week on average.
- Weekly version – Similar to the above, instead of drawing an envelope each day, draw 1+ envelopes each week. (Do at least 2 a week if you want to finish in around a year.)
- Bi-weekly version – Draw 1+ envelopes every 2 weeks.
- Monthly version – Draw 1+ envelopes every month.
- Custom numbers – Instead of labeling your envelopes from 1-100, change things up! You could halve the numbers (0.50-50), double them (2-200), or something else!
- Add more envelopes – This is a good way to extend the challenge. I've seen people do a 200 envelope challenge.
- Take envelopes away – This is good for quick savings, or smaller goals. For example, you could do the 50 envelope challenge. Number 50 envelopes from 1-50 and you'll save $1,275 once you fill them all up!
- Pick your own envelope – Instead of choosing randomly, pick the envelope you want to fill. This is helpful for times when you maybe went over budget or can't afford to stash away too much.
- Do it with a friend – This is a good way to make the challenge more fun and motivating.
With these ideas and a bit of mix-and-matching, you should be able to create your own custom 100 envelope challenge to perfectly fit your budget and savings goals.
And if physical cash and envelopes isn't your deal, check this out:
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How to Do the 100 Envelope Challenge Digitally
Personally, this is how I plan on doing the 100 envelope challenge. Doing things digitally eliminates the need to buy envelopes (bam, money saved) and you don't have to worry about having cash on hand.
Here's how it works:
- Step 1: Download my free 100 envelope challenge printable tracker chart (pictured below) and decide which variation of the challenge you're going to do. There's a printable for the classic 1-100 challenge and a blank version you can customize.
- Step 2: Have a separate bank account set up for your challenge savings. You'll be transferring money into this account as you “pull” digital envelopes.
- Don't have a bank account that would work? Try contacting your bank for a fee-free account. If that doesn't work, try Wealthsimple.
- Step 3 (Version A): When you're ready to make a contribution to the challenge, head over to this random number generator (unless you're planning on picking your envelopes manually). You can set up the number generator to roll a number between 1-100, or you can customize it if you're doing a different version of the hundred envelope challenge.
- Step 3 (Version B): Download and print out the tracker chart, then cut each individual envelope out. Place them in a hat. Draw randomly.
- Step 4: Transfer the money to your challenge savings account and color in the envelope you “filled” on the printable tracker.
- Step 5: Repeat until you've colored in all your envelopes!
Another benefit to this digital version of the challenge is that you can see all your savings at once, in one place, rather than spread out across a bunch of envelopes.
The downside is that you miss that feeling of physically putting money into envelopes, which is extra motivating for some. Luckily, coloring the printable 100 envelope chart (whether physically or on an iPad or something) remedies this a bit.
Free 100 Envelope Challenge Printable Tracker
Here's a preview of the original 100 envelope challenge chart tracker:
And here's a preview of the version with 100 blank envelopes that you can customize for different savings goals:
Get the free printables here (you can just put in a price of $0 — or more if you're feeling generous!) If you have any problems with these printable trackers, let me know.
Who Should Do the 100 Envelope Challenge?
- People with zero high-interest (10%+ APR) debt – If you have high-interest debt, you should be using your excess cash to pay it off instead of putting it in envelopes.
- Those looking to build good savings habits
- Anyone without an emergency fund – The 100 envelope challenge is perfect for building a nice-sized starter emergency fund.
Pros and Cons of the Challenge
- You’ll save a lot of money and build good habits – This is the most obvious benefit of doing the 100 envelope challenge, or any money-saving challenge for that matter. Saving money is a skill, and challenges like this help build it. And when you save over $5k, that’s pretty motivating!
- Prevents you from spending your savings – That is, as long as you don’t raid your envelopes before finishing! If you're doing the digital version, make sure you save the money in a separate bank account (as recommended above) so you don't accidentally spend it.
- Highly customizable – As seen above, you can adjust this challenge in many different ways to meet your needs.
- It’s fun – Pulling random envelopes to see how much you need to save turns the boring task of saving money into a fun game.
- Can be difficult or impossible for some – If you follow the original 100-day money challenge, you’ll need to save around $50.50/day ($5,050/100). That’s quite a lot of money. Luckily, the variations above can help fix this problem.
- Money in envelopes doesn’t earn anything – $5,050 is a good chunk of change that'll be earning nothing in a bunch of envelopes. If you're not planning on using the money right away, you're better off doing the digital challenge and saving the cash in a high-interest savings account, investment account, or robo-advisor.
Ways to Increase Your Savings Potential
Even though 100 day envelope challenge will help you save, it's not going to make money magically appear in your bank account or wallet. You still need to have the money in order to save it.
To get started, learn how to create a budget. That'll help you visualize your income and expenses so you can start looking for ways to cut back (if needed). Try these articles for ideas:
- How to Use the Cash Envelope System to Stop Overspending (if you like envelopes, this system might be a great fit!)
- How to Stop Wasting Money (9 Eye-Opening Tips)
- Clever Money-Saving Hacks That You Need to Try
- How to Save Money: Top Money-Saving Tips and Tricks
- How to Save Money Fast on a Low Income or Tight Budget
If you've already exhausted all your expense cutting abilities, your next option is to earn more. Learning how to make more money is typically harder than saving, but it's well worth the effort. Try these articles for ideas:
- All the Best Ways to Make Extra Money on the Side
- All of the Best Ways for Teens to Make Money
- Easy Ways to Make Money Fast (Make $100+)
- How to Become a Proofreader and Make Money Online
- Transcription Jobs from Home No Experience
Other Money-Saving Challenges to Try
If the 100 envelope challenge doesn't sound like your cup of tea, try these other money-saving challenges:
- 52-Week Money Challenge – This article includes 9 different variations of the challenge! The original version will help you save $1,378.
Money-saving challenges are a nice, fun way to build up the habit of consistently saving money. They can help you save for important things (like an emergency fund or credit card debt payments) and fun things (like a vacation or fancy restaurant visit).
When it comes to the 100 envelope challenge, just make sure you keep it realistic. The original 100-day money challenge version might be a bit unrealistic for some, and the last thing you want to do is set yourself up for failure.
Start small, start easy, and ramp things up as you gain more confidence.
Oh, and once you finish the challenge, don't stop saving! Keep working on putting money aside every week/month.