Have you heard of the 100 envelope challenge?
You probably have. But if not, it’s that viral money-saving hack that blew up on TikTok and other social media platforms. Many users claim it helped them save a lot of cash quickly.
If you finish the challenge, you can save over $5,000 in less than four months. It’s also straightforward, fun, and simple to start. That doesn’t mean it is easy, however.
Read on to find out if the 100 envelope savings challenge is for you.
- What is the 100 Envelope Challenge?
- Why do the 100 envelope challenge?
- How To Do the 100 Envelope Challenge
- Tips for Completing the 100-Day Envelope Challenge Successfully
- Does the 100 Envelope Challenge Work?
- How Does The 100 Envelope Challenge Work?
- How Much Money Do You Save With the 100 Envelope Challenge?
- 100 Envelope Challenge Math
- Flaws with the 100 Envelope Money Challenge
- Pros and Cons of the 100 Envelope Money-Saving Challenge
- 100 Envelope Challenge Variations
- Doing a Money Envelope Challenge Without Physical Envelopes
- Should I do the 100-envelope money challenge?
- Are there any other financial challenges I should try instead?
What is the 100 Envelope Challenge?
The 100 envelope challenge is a money-saving challenge where you save over $5,000 in one hundred days. Label 100 envelopes with the numbers 1 to 100. Each day, pull 1 random envelope. Put the amount of money written on the envelope inside and seal it. When all envelopes are full, you’ll have $5,050.
Why do the 100 envelope challenge?
Do the 100-envelope challenge because it can be fun and motivate you to build a regular saving habit. If you complete the challenge, you’ll have a large sum of money saved in a relatively short period of time. You can use that money to start an emergency fund, take care of your debts, or take a vacation.
How To Do the 100 Envelope Challenge
The 100-envelope challenge is an effective way to save money fast if you can stick to it. Here’s how to do it:
1. Gather 100 envelopes
To do the hundred-envelope challenge, you need a hundred envelopes. It doesn’t matter what color or size they are as long as cash fits in them, and you can write on them.
Letter-sized envelopes work perfectly. You can pick up a box of 100 cheap if you don’t have any.
2. Number each envelope
Grab a pen or marker. Number each envelope from 1 to 100. The numbers represent the dollar amount that goes in each one.
3. Store the envelopes
Any shoe box or storage box will do. You could also pick up this 100-envelope challenge kit (affiliate link) from Amazon, which includes the envelopes, a storage box, a spot to write your saving goal, and a 100-envelope challenge chart for tracking.
Security might be a concern. I wouldn’t make what’s inside the box obvious or leave it somewhere it could be easily found. Consider a cash box, portable safe, or lock box since you will store thousands of dollars in cash.
Shuffle the envelopes before you put the envelopes in the box. Picking a random amount to save every day is the fun and challenging part. Leaving them in order defeats the purpose.
4. Pick one envelope at random every day
Randomly pull a single envelope out of the box each day. Don’t look before you draw, though.
What makes this envelope money-saving challenge exciting is its random nature. That, plus you’ll have over $5,000 saved if you complete it successfully.
5. Put the amount of cash equal to the value on the envelope inside the envelope
The number on the envelope determines how much cash goes inside it. For example, if you draw envelope number 5, you put $5 in the envelope. You can stash your cash envelopes in the box with your empty envelopes.
If having a lot of envelopes with cash lying around makes you uncomfortable, take your envelopes to the bank once a week or when you reach a certain dollar threshold.
6. Keep track of your progress
Keeping track of your progress every day is a fun habit that keeps you focused. It could also provide more motivation to continue.
If you don’t want the full envelope challenge kit (affiliate link), you can make your own challenge sheet or tracking purposes in Excel or Google Sheets. If a DIY 100 envelope challenge chart is not your style, you could download this printable tracker from Etsy for a couple of dollars: 100 Envelope Challenge Tracker.
Tips for Completing the 100-Day Envelope Challenge Successfully
Completing this 100-day challenge is going to be hard for a lot of people. You need a game plan. Here are some tips to help you succeed:
- Keep your savings separate. If you are depositing the money into a bank account, you don’t want to comingle the money you use for purchases and bills with your savings challenge money.
- Draw your envelope in the morning or before you leave the house. You’ll be less likely to skip days or overspend during the day, forcing you to abandon the challenge.
- Review your budget. Review every expense category and review your discretionary expenses for the prior month. You’ll likely find ways to free up extra cash. There could be unnecessary expenses, or you may think of ways to shop smarter, lower your food budget, or reduce other bills.
- Increase your income. Cutting discretionary expenses isn’t the only way to free up additional funds. Consider ways to generate additional income. There are plenty of low-cost side hustles you could get started on quickly. Rent out your stuff, make money on Poshmark selling your old clothes, use your skills to freelance, or drive for DoorDash. You could also get a part-time second job, pick up additional shifts, or ask for a raise at work.
- Put aside any windfalls. If you get a bonus, tax refund, or any cash gifts, use them for the challenge or bank them. If you get paid biweekly, two months out of the year, you get three paychecks. During a three-paycheck month, you can budget normally based on two paychecks and bank the entire third check.
Even if you don’t complete the 100-day envelope challenge, if it gets you thinking about ways to spend less money, earn more, and improve your money management, that’s still a win.
Does the 100 Envelope Challenge Work?
The 100-envelope challenge does work. You will save $5,050 if you’re able to complete the challenge. The hundred-envelope challenge is not easy, though. It requires you to save a random amount of money between $1 and $100 daily. Most people will find that hard, but there are easier variations.
How Does The 100 Envelope Challenge Work?
The 100 envelope challenge works by having you label 100 envelopes 1 through 100. Each day, you pick 1 envelope randomly, then put in the amount of cash equal to the number on the envelope. When all 100 envelopes are full, you will have $5,050. It’s a fun but challenging way to quickly save a lot of money.
How Much Money Do You Save With the 100 Envelope Challenge?
You’ll save $5,050 in 100 days with the 100-envelope challenge. You put a random amount of money between $1 and $100 in an envelope every day for 100 days. To start, label 100 envelopes 1 to 100. Each day, pull an envelope randomly and put in the amount of money equal to the number on the envelope.
100 Envelope Challenge Math
Some random facts and numbers pertaining to the hundred-envelope money-saving challenge:
- When you label 100 envelopes 1-100 and fill them with the dollar amount equal to the number written on the envelope, you end up with $5,050 in your cash envelopes.
- If you complete envelopes 1-10, you will have saved $55.
- If you complete envelopes 1-25, you will have saved $325.
- If you complete envelopes 1-50, you will have saved $1,275.
- If you complete envelopes 1-75, you will have saved $2,850.
- When you pull one envelope randomly every day, the most you would have to save in one week is $679.
- When you pull one envelope randomly every day, the least amount you would have to save in a week is $28.
Perhaps the math involved with the 100 envelope saving challenge will help you make it easier on yourself or more challenging, depending on how much you want to save and how much time you want to devote to it.
Flaws with the 100 Envelope Money Challenge
As you can see, when you have to come up with anywhere between $1 and $100 every day, some days will be harder than others. You might have multiple days where you struggle to come up with the money to keep going with the challenge. Having to come up with hundreds of dollars in a single week might present a budgeting challenge, and you might not have enough spare cash available.
If your bank balance isn’t currently where you want it to be and you’re having trouble saving money now, what happens when you pull a high-numbered envelope? Nobody who starts the challenge plans to quit, but it can get difficult fast.
You might get frustrated with the challenge on days when you pull high-value envelopes. Over the next 100 days, you might have to come up with $50 or more to put in your envelopes several days in a row. If that happens, you might feel like there’s no end to the challenge in sight and end up quitting.
Completing the challenge in 100 days might be unreasonable for some people. 100 days is going to seem like a long period of time if you struggle to come up with the money to stay on course.
If you have enough money to complete the challenge in 100 days, you might find a better use for the money. For example, you could get a month ahead on your bills, stash it in an IRA or separate savings account, pay off credit cards, put it in your emergency fund, or put it toward a down payment on a house instead of stuffing an envelope with a chunk of cash.
Savings tricks and clever hacks might be helpful to get you started on building good money habits or getting rid of bad ones. But at the end of the day, the money you save doing this 100 day challenge is going to have to come out of your monthly income. It’s not an extra bundle of cash that appears out of nowhere simply because you use this method.
Suppose you can free up thousands of dollars without blowing up your budget, using credit cards, or falling behind on your bills. In that case, the one hundred envelope challenge might get you to save money regularly, improve your budgeting skills, and help you find ways to put extra cash toward your financial goals.
But you don’t need a difficult savings method to establish good money management habits, lower expenses, or meet your savings goals.
Pros and Cons of the 100 Envelope Money-Saving Challenge
Here is a quick summary of the pros and cons so you can decide for yourself whether to take on the 100-day envelope challenge or pass:
|You’ll save over $5,000 quickly||You might need to come up with hundreds of dollars to stay on track|
|You can reduce debt, start an emergency fund, or make a large purchase in cash||Your budget may not allow it without significant lifestyle changes|
|You build better money habits||You lose out on interest if you keep your savings in envelopes|
|The challenge adds an element of fun to saving money||Could cause financial and emotional stress|
100 Envelope Challenge Variations
One challenge variation you might find easier is to make it a weekly saving challenge rather than daily. Pull two envelopes per week instead of pulling one envelope per day.
You’ll still have your $5,050 in cash at the end, but at two envelopes per week, it will take you almost a year if you make it a weekly savings challenge. If a 50 or 52-week savings challenge is more your speed, go for it.
If you feel 100 days is good, but coming up with the money is the problem, change the 100-day challenge money amount. Number the 100 envelopes 1-50 twice or 1-20 five times.
Other variations include pulling an envelope or two every payday, extending the challenge out to a little over six months by grabbing an envelope every other day, or simply labeling less than 100 envelopes. Do a 50-envelope challenge if that means you’ll stick with it.
With these variations, you could be doing the challenge a lot longer, doing the challenge for less than 100 days, or saving less money. But these options might be more attainable than trying to complete the 100-day money challenge. If the 100-day money-saving challenge goes from being fun to stressing you out, try something else.
Remember, the point is to put aside some money and get into the habit of saving regularly. The 100 envelope savings challenge isn’t supposed to make us feel bad, cause a lot of stress, or mess up our financial lives. It’s not worth trying some aggressive money-saving hack or new budgeting technique if it makes you miserable or worse off than when you started.
All that said, you can also make it more difficult. If you want to try saving 10k in 100 days, you can double the amount written on the envelopes. Completing a $10,000 envelope challenge in 100 days is probably a tall order for most people, though.
Doing a Money Envelope Challenge Without Physical Envelopes
You don’t necessarily need to do the challenge with envelopes and actual cash. I think a tactile method is more helpful with sticking to it, but you might find it a pain. Or maybe you don’t have access to cash on a daily basis.
You can turn it into a 100-day money challenge without envelopes, regardless of your reasons. Pull an envelope every day but use your banking app, online banking, or cash apps for automatic transfers. That way, you won’t have to keep a steady supply of cash handy.
Should I do the 100-envelope money challenge?
You should do the 100-envelope challenge if you want to start saving money, and it won’t cause you any stress or burden. Putting money away for a rainy day or a financial goal is good. Building a savings habit is also good. The 100 envelope savings challenge can help, but it’s not easy.
It’s not the budgeting hack or saving trick it’s often made out to be by video creators on TikTok. Saving $5,050 in 100 days isn’t a miracle money hack. It’s going to be very hard for a lot of people to bank that kind of money so quickly.
Are there any other financial challenges I should try instead?
Money-saving challenges do make saving fun. And when you’re finding some fun in it, you’re more likely to stick with it. But you don’t have to do a 100-day envelope challenge. You can find another effective money challenge that will get you to save money regularly on your way toward financial freedom.
Plenty of money challenges won’t be as difficult as the hundred-envelope challenge.
You can do an easier 52-week money-saving challenge like the 365-day nickel savings challenge, a monthly savings challenge, or a 30-day challenge if a 100-day money-saving challenge feels too long.
If you’re looking for a fun challenge you can do with your kids, try the Penny Savings Challenge. It’s another 52-week challenge you can start right now with one penny and a piggy bank.
Or you can do a spare change challenge where you round up your purchases and transfer the difference into a deposit account or empty your pockets into a jar or piggy bank every night.
If overspending is a problem or you want to get rid of bad spending habits, try a no-spend challenge. For the no-spend challenge, you pay your bills and buy only your bare necessities. You eliminate all discretionary spending for 30 days.
Here are some more fun money challenges you can start today: 12 Fun Money Savings Challenges.
Whatever you decide to do, set a saving goal, like paying off your high-interest debt or padding your vacation fund. Then choose a daily or weekly money challenge that appeals to you.
You don’t need clever money-saving hacks or to save cash stuffing envelopes with money every day. It just has to be something you can stick to over time. Challenges are motivating, however, and they do make saving more like a fun activity than a chore.
Image Credits: Pexels
Jerry is a personal finance enthusiast, side hustler, and freelance web developer who began his career in financial services. He co-founded KindaFrugal.com, a personal finance and frugal living blog. His insights have appeared on MSN, Newsweek.com, HerCampus.com, Mashed.com, and many others.