Saving money can be really hard. It’s also really important.
If you don't, it can be impossible to reach your financial goals, whether purchasing a house or paying for your child’s college education. Saved money also helps pay for sudden, unexpected expenses, like a car repair or an surprise doctor’s bill. However, if you’re stuck in the trap of living paycheck to paycheck, saving money may seem totally out of the question.
That’s where the penny challenge comes in! Designed to help you save nearly $700 in one year, the penny challenge makes saving money manageable and fun by breaking your goal into tiny daily payments.
In this article, I’ll talk about how the penny challenge works, whether or not it’s a good way to save money, and offer tips to help you succeed if you try it.
What’s the Penny Challenge?
The 365 day penny challenge (or penny-a-day challenge) makes saving money easier and more manageable by having people deposit a small amount of money every day into a savings account or small jar.
Basically, you start by depositing one penny into your savings on the first day of the challenge. The next day, you deposit two pennies. On the third day, you deposit three pennies. You keep increasing the amount of money you deposit by one penny every day, until you deposit $3.65 into the account on the final day. After a year of doing this, you’ll have saved $667.95.
The penny challenge helps you save money in manageable small increments. Instead of struggling to put 20% of your paycheck into your savings account, or paying a larger amount of money into your account on a less regular basis, the 365 day penny challenge gets you into the habit of saving a small amount of money very regularly.
Penny Challenge Printout
Use this printout to keep track of how much money you should deposit into your savings account every day of the 365 day penny challenge.
You can also download a larger, PDF version of this chart here: Penny Challenge PDF.
Tips and Tricks for the Penny-a-Day Challenge
Use these tips and tricks to make following the 365 day penny challenge easier and more fun.
#1: Make Saving Easy and Fun
Looking for extra motivation to make your savings exciting? Use a fun jar or piggy bank!
Find a safe place in your house to put your makeshift savings account. Using a fun jar can incentivize saving money by making it fun and more game-like to deposit your pennies. You can also visualize your progress and see the physical fruits of your savings labor every day.
If you'd rather deposit money into an online savings account or an account at your bank, you should try to minimize the frequency of your transactions. If you're depositing the money into a physical savings account, collect all the money from each day of the week in one place and designate a specific day of the week that you'll deposit that into your savings account at the bank. If you'd rather make online transactions, tally the money that you're supposed to deposit each week and transfer it from your checking to savings account in one transaction. You can schedule those online transactions ahead of time if you're worried about forgetting them.
I'd highly recommend using a fun jar or piggy bank to save your money during the penny-a-day challenge. Depositing your money that way will make saving money more easy and automatic, since you won't have to make weekly trips to the bank or remind yourself to transfer funds online.
#2: Deposit Your Money First Thing in the Morning
One of the best things you can do to make the penny challenge easier for you is to get into the habit of depositing your money first thing in the morning.
If you get into the habit of depositing money first thing in the morning, it’ll be easier for you to remember to do it every day. Turn saving money into a part of your morning routine, just like brushing your teeth or washing your face. That way, you’ll never forget to do it!
It’s better to deposit money in the morning, rather than at night, because when you deposit money first thing in the morning, you won’t have encountered any opportunity to spend that money. If you wait until the end of the day to deposit your money, you may have already spent it on a movie ticket or dinner or other purchase. Depositing money first thing in the morning prioritizes saving over spending.
#3: Track Your Progress
A great way to motivate yourself is to track your progress. You can track your progress by watching your savings account online, or by updating a small card or placard near your piggy bank. You’ll be surprised how quickly the saved pennies add up, and tracking your progress can also motivate you to continue saving if you're struggling.
#4: Place the Chart Somewhere Easy to See
Worried about forgetting about the penny challenge? Print out our penny challenge print-out and paste it somewhere you’ll see it every day, like your refrigerator or your bathroom mirror. If you see the challenge every time you reach for a snack, you’ll be less likely to forget about it.
Does the Penny Challenge Work?
So, is the penny challenge actually effective at helping you save money?
If you’ve failed at larger savings challenges, like the 52 week challenge or the bi-monthly challenge, the penny challenge is a solid way to save a bit of money every day, leading up to a decent savings account at the end of the year.
Because the 365 day penny challenge requires depositing only a small amount of money every day, it’s a great way for people who struggle with money to start saving. Even if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you can likely find several pennies every day to put into your savings account. Many people who do the penny challenge are absolute beginners at saving money - which is okay! The penny challenge helps you form a consistent habit of saving money by getting you into the practice of saving money everyday.
The biggest con of the 365 day penny challenge is that it doesn’t ultimately save that much money. While $667.95 is a decent amount of savings, it won’t go very far in helping you pay for larger purchases, like a house or a car, or facing unexpected costs, like a hospital bill. You’ll need to eventually start putting away more money in order to fund any larger purchases.
Review: How the Penny Challenge Can Help You Save Money
The penny challenge is a great way for people who struggle with saving money to get into the habit of putting away a small amount of money each day. By saving pennies every day, you’ll build your savings account and develop smart habits about saving money.
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Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.