The 100 Envelope Challenge: Save $5,000 in 100 Days

Male hand opening a white envelope full of American Dollars (USD, US Dollars) on the wooden table as a symbol of cash transfer, money laundering or bribery.
MartinPrague / Getty Images/iStockphoto

No matter what your income is, saving money can be challenging. For some people, staying afloat to pay monthly bills like rent, groceries and utilities requires effort. Saving extra money on top of regular expenses could seem like an impossible task.

There’s good news, however — there’s a popular way to take the hassle out of saving money. It’s called the 100 Envelope Challenge and is perfect for those wondering “How can I save $5k in three months?” There’s no need to cut out all extra expenses or live like a minimalist. For this 100-day money challenge, all you need are 100 empty envelopes and some determination.

Keep reading to learn how you can save $5,000 in 100 days.

What Is the 100 Envelope Challenge?

The 100 envelope challenge is a motivational way to save just over $5,000 in 100 days. This savings tool is a fun way to put some extra cash aside for future financial goals. Not many of us have thousands of dollars lying around, so the 100-day money challenge adds a twist to the concept of saving money.

Make Your Money Work for You

The 100-day money challenge began on TikTok as an easy approach, or hack, to saving money. TikToker Invest with Mon explained to followers that this effective money-saving method could be done in 100 days or could even be extended over a year. 

The 100 envelope challenge continues to be popular across various social media platforms. Search the hashtag #100envelopechallenge and you’ll see several examples of how people document their 100-day money challenges to hold themselves accountable for saving $5,000.

How the 100 Envelope Challenge Works

Imagine saving $5,050 in only 100 days. It’s called a challenge, but the process is quite simple. You get 100 empty envelopes and write the numbers 1 to 100 on them. Then each day, for 100 days, randomly choose an envelope. Whatever number is on the front of the envelope you select for a given day, you put that amount of money equivalent to the number in the envelope. At the end of 100 days, you will have saved $5,050.

How To Get Started Saving $5,000 in 100 Days

Follow these 9 easy steps to jump-start your savings with the 100 envelope challenge.

Step-By-Step Guide

  1. Get 100 empty envelopes. Use an envelope size that cash bills can easily fit into. Coins are fine to use but they can be a hassle to keep in the envelopes.
  2. Write a number on each envelope. Number each envelope from 1 to 100 in order for now. You will shuffle the order in the fourth step.
  3. Store your envelopes in a container. Choose a container that works easiest for you. It can be a box, a basket or something else. An empty shoebox is a good option. 
  4. Shuffle the envelopes in random order. The idea is to be surprised by the amount you save each day.
  5. Pick an envelope at random each day. Without looking, take an envelope from the box. Try not to cheat and select an envelope with the amount you think that you can safely save that day.
  6. Insert the day’s money amount in the envelope. Whatever number is on the envelope you pick, place that cash value inside. For example, if you pull the envelope with the number 50 on it, put $50 inside that envelope and seal it.
  7. Put the filled envelope aside. You can place the filled and sealed envelopes in the back of the box or in a separate secure location until the 100-day money challenge is complete. If you use the same box, try putting a divider between the empty and filled envelopes or placing the filled envelopes upside down.
  8. Track your savings progress. To motivate yourself not to quit the challenge, consider keeping a ledger of your savings either on paper, using a spreadsheet or a free mobile app.
  9. Finish the challenge. When your box of envelopes is either empty or replaced with cash-filled envelopes, you will have saved $5,050 and completed the 100 envelope challenge.
Make Your Money Work for You

Different Ways To Do the 100 Day Money Challenge

Although it’s called the 100 envelope challenge where you save $5,000 in 100 days using one envelope per day, some modifications can be made on how to do the challenge successfully. 

  • You can adjust the number of days per week that you fill the envelopes. For example, you can save money five days a week and take the weekends off. At this rate, it would take you around five months to save $5,050 instead of around three months.
  • Change the variables to suit your financial situation or make it more interesting. For example, lower the amount in each envelope to less-than-dollar equivalents — for example, cents — and increase the required number of envelopes to reach $5,000.

Use Digital Envelopes

Instead of using 100 physical envelopes, a more practical way of doing the 100-day money challenge is to do it digitally. Here’s how. 

  1. Download a 100 envelope challenge printable tracker with numbers 1 to 100 on them. 
  2. Use an online random number generator to pick the daily random numbers that equate to the amount of money to save.
  3. Open a separate savings account to manually deposit or use direct deposit to automatically transfer the money during the 100 envelope challenge.

Why the 100 Envelope Challenge Works

Filling one envelope per day with a random amount of money between $1 and $100 in 100 days is a great accomplishment.

How Much Money Do You Get from the 100 Envelope Challenge?

In just over three months, you can save over $5,000. A major advantage of the 100 envelope challenge is its flexibility. The challenge can be very forgiving if you mess up or forget to save on a day or two along the way.

If you don’t already have a traditional, solid savings plan in place, then the 100 envelope challenge might be the perfect tool to get you started. Following the challenge as prescribed can jump-start your savings and get you into the habit of saving regularly.

Pros and Cons

Although fun, the 100-day money challenge has its pros and cons. Here are a few to consider before deciding to participate in this TikTok spinoff of the envelope method of budgeting.

Pros

  • The challenge is an easy way to save cash quickly.
  • It’s also easy access to cash when you need it.
  • If your financial situation changes, you can stop and restart the challenge when you can.
  • The 100 envelope challenge can help saving money become a habit.

Cons

  • It takes some motivation to finish the challenge.
  • The box can be overlooked if it’s in a place you wouldn’t normally check.
  • On some days you may not have the cash to save in an envelope number.
  • Having thousands of dollars in cash laying around could be risky.
  • If you don’t already have 100 envelopes on hand, you will have to buy them.

Interesting Fact

The concept of the 100 envelope challenge has a bit of history attached to it. At a young age, famous mathematician and physics scholar Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855) invented a new method of summing sequences. The story is told that his math teacher assigned his class to add the numbers 1 to 100, which would normally take some time. However, Gauss quickly figured out that the answer was 5,050 by grouping the numbers into different patterns.

One final thing to think about before diving into the 100 envelope challenge — if you withdraw money from your bank account to put into the envelopes, then you might be better off transferring it into a savings account. At least your savings will earn interest.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

About the Author

Kathy Evans is a personal finance freelance writer and entrepreneur with a technical writing and instructional systems design background. She holds an MS in technical writing and informational design and is currently a doctoral student in instructional technology at Towson University. Through work experience in the federal government as well as commercial and nonprofit industries, she has focused her freelance writing on finance, investing and economic content with a specialization in budget coaching.  

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