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

Unreported employment.
igor_kell / 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.

See: 3 Things You Must Do When Your Savings Reach $50,000

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 to save $5,000 in three months. There’s no need to cut out all extra expenses or live off the grid. For this 100-day money challenge, all you need are 100 empty envelopes and some determination.

Summary

  1. Get 100 empty envelopes.
  2. Number each envelope from 1 to 100.
  3. Store your envelopes in a container.
  4. Shuffle the envelopes in random order.
  5. Pick an envelope at random each day.
  6. Insert the day’s money amount in the envelope.
  7. Put the filled envelope aside.
  8. Track your savings progress.
  9. Finish the challenge.

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.

How Does the 100 Envelope Challenge Work?

Imagine saving $5,000 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 into the envelope.

Make Your Money Work for You

Using 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: 

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

How To Save $5,000 in 100 Days

  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. Number each envelope from 1 to 100. Keep them 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 or by 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.

Pros and Cons of the 100 Envelope Challenge

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.
  • If your financial situation changes, you can stop the challenge and restart it when you can.
  • It can help you create a money-saving habit.

Cons

  • It takes some motivation to finish the challenge.
  • On some days, you may not have the cash to save.
  • Having thousands of dollars in cash lying around could be risky.

How To Customize the 100 Envelope Challenge

The 100 envelope challenge requires a significant amount of disposable income, especially in the later weeks. However, you can customize the program for more realistic savings goals.

Make Your Money Work for You

Start with a goal and a timeline — say $1,200 in six months. Then decide how to break that down. Saving a consistent amount each time and coordinating the savings schedule with your paychecks might be the easiest way to go. Here’s what that might look like:

  • $100 per biweekly check (12 envelopes)
  • $50 per weekly check (24 envelopes)

Alternatively, you can keep the element of fun and surprise by assigning each envelope a different dollar value. There’s no need to number them consecutively — just make sure they add up to the goal amount.

Other Ways To Save $5,000 in 3 Months

By following these steps and tricks to get your finances on track, you can set yourself up to save $5,000 in three months. 

Pay Down Debt

Before you can start saving money, you must first pay off your debts. Here are two methods you can use:

  • Snowball method: The debt snowball method focuses on paying off your smallest debts first. You would do this while simultaneously making minimum payments on other debts. Once the smallest debt is paid off, you move to the next smallest debt, then on to the larger ones, and it snowballs from there until you have crossed all payments off of your list.
  • Avalanche method: The debt avalanche method focuses on paying off your debts in order of the highest interest rate to the lowest interest rate. This can feel like a lot at once, but it does save you money in the long run.
Make Your Money Work for You

Evaluate and Limit Spending

Cutting down on unnecessary spending will help build your savings quickly. Here are some ways to do so:

  • Do your own hair or nails instead of going to salons.
  • Cancel your gym membership and work out at home.
  • Cook at home and meal prep instead of eating out or paying for meal delivery services.
  • Switch from name brands to generics.
  • Rotate streaming subscriptions instead of subscribing to multiple services at the same time.
  • Call your cable/internet and wireless providers to see if you can negotiate a better deal.

Lifestyle Edits

Changes to how you make and spend your money could mean bigger savings in the future. Here are a few examples:

  • Sell your car and take public transportation. 
  • Move to a less expensive neighborhood.
  • Get a roommate.
  • Get a side hustle.
  • Ask for a raise — or better yet, trade up to a higher-paying job.

Final Take

If you have tried other ways of saving money and haven’t been successful, 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.

FAQ

  • How much money do you get from the 100 envelope challenge?
    • If you follow the 100 envelope challenge, you can save $5,050 in just over three months.
  • How long does it take to do the 100 envelope challenge?
    • The 100 envelope challenge takes 100 days to complete as it is one envelope per day.
  • How can I save $5,000 in six months with 100 envelopes?
    • The standard 100 envelope challenge takes about three months. If you select an envelope every other day instead of every day, you'll stretch it to about six months.
  • How can I save $10,000 in six months of envelopes?
    • Saving $10,000 in six months essentially doubles the original 100-day challenge, so you would stick to the same savings protocol but do so with 200 envelopes over 200 days.
    Make Your Money Work for You

    Daria Uhlig and Caitlyn Moorhead contributed to the reporting for this article.

    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.

    BEFORE YOU GO

    See Today's Best
    Banking Offers