My Summer Savings Challenge for Families: 10 Ways To Cut Your Spending

Family and Friends Dancing together at the Garden Party Celebration.
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Now that school’s out for a couple of months, you can live life at a more relaxed pace, and it’s the perfect time to get your family involved in a summer savings challenge. Saving money will not only empower you and your family, but it will also help everyone build good financial habits. Plus, the money you save could be used to fund a family vacation or build the emergency fund you’ve been meaning to start. 

To increase your chances of success with a summer savings challenge, it’s imperative to make it fun and motivating. To inspire you, here are 10 fun ways to cut your spending and rack up savings this season. 

1. Pantry Challenge

With the high cost of groceries, a pantry challenge could save you hundreds of dollars. According to the USDA, a moderate-cost food plan for a family of four — two adults between 19-50 and two children, ages 6-11 — costs $299.80 per week at the grocery store. So the next time you need to go grocery shopping, do the pantry challenge for at least a week instead. 

The first step is to search your pantry, refrigerator and freezer to take inventory of the food items you have — and those you might have forgotten about. Next, work together with your family to create a week’s menu from the inventory. SuperCook is a useful app to help plan meals around the ingredients you have.

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2. No-Spend Challenge

A no-spend challenge is exactly what it sounds like — you don’t spend any money beyond paying your monthly bills for a set amount of time, such as 30 days. That means no entertainment purchases, takeout or clothes shopping. You can look for free summer entertainment, such as events at your local park, free movie days at the theater or plan a visit to the library. Eat outdoors, have a picnic at the park or eat on TV trays in the living room as a special treat to keep meals fun. 

Tailor the no-spend challenge to fit your lifestyle. For example, you can do this for a week, two weeks, a month — whatever amount of time works for you.  

3. Stretch-Your-Dollar Challenge

If you are going to spend money during the summer months, you can try the stretch-your-dollar challenge. Whenever you want to spend money on something that’s not a necessity, challenge yourself to stretch your money as far as it will go. For example, when you want to go out to eat, choose a restaurant that offers early bird specials or has special meal deals. If you are planning to take your family to the museum or movies, check if they offer any deals or packages. Spending a few extra minutes checking for deals can make your dollar go even further for your family.

4. Collect-the-Change Challenge

Have everyone in your family save their loose change in a jar or bottle. This savings challenge is easier when you can actually see the savings progress. You can give each family member an identical jar and make it a competition to see who fills up their jar first, or you can have one large jar that everyone contributes to. If your children are younger, you can pay them for chores or their allowance in change, so they can easily participate in the challenge. Make this challenge more interesting by saving for a specific family-oriented goal.

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5. Pay Yourself Challenge

Each time you or a family member wants to spend money on something, see if you can come up with a cheaper alternative. Then, deposit the amount of money you saved into your savings account. For example, instead of spending $35-$40 on movie tickets, watch a movie at home and deposit the $35-$40 in savings. 

6. Cancellation Challenge

If you have several streaming subscriptions for music or movies, or if you pay for various subscription boxes each month, consider canceling at least one. Then, deposit the amount that you’d usually spend on the subscription into your savings each month.

7. 52-Week Savings Challenge

Obviously, you won’t be able to complete this yearlong challenge during the summer, but you can get a great start. The way it works is to save $1 the first week, $2 the second week, $3 the third week and so on for 52 weeks. At the end of 52 weeks, you’ll have saved $1,378. You can find tracking forms online that can use to see your progress.

8. Envelope Challenge

The envelope challenge is great if you want to challenge yourself to save a specific amount of money in a set amount of time. This could be $5,000 in one year, $5,000 in three summer months or a more lofty goal of $10,000 in 100 days.

For example, if you want to save $5,000 in 100 days, label 100 envelopes with consecutive dollar amounts from $1-$100. Then, each day, over the next 100 days, draw an envelope from the pile and put the corresponding amount of money in the envelope. By the end of 100 days, you’ll have saved $5,050. 

To save $10,000 in 100 days, number 100 envelopes in $2 increments, such as $2, $4, $6, $8, $10 and so on, until you label all 100 envelopes. Then, each day, draw a random envelope and contribute the labeled amount. By the end of 100 days, you’ll have saved $10,100.

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9. No-Name-Brands Challenge

This summer savings challenge will take some work. You’ll have to make a list of all the name-brand products you buy each month and find a private label or generic brand for each one. Calculate the amount you’ll save by buying the private label brand and deposit it in savings. 

10. Kick-the-Habit Challenge

This savings challenge works two ways — it can help you save money and also break a not-so-healthy habit, such as drinking soda. Instead of spending money on cases of soda over the summer, opt for cheaper and healthier alternatives, such as iced tea or water. If family members balk at the idea, buy a fruit infusion pitcher and add fresh fruit to flavor the tea or water. 

Cut Your Spending This Summer and Save

One way to motivate your family to participate in these savings challenges is to plan a fun outing or short vacation that can be paid for with part of the money you save. Also, you can make things more interesting and save more money by seeing how many of these savings challenges you can incorporate at one time. 


Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding savings challenges
  • How can you save $5,000 in three months?
    • A great way to save $5,000 in three months is by trying the envelope challenge. With this challenge, you will label 100 envelopes with consecutive dollar amounts from $1-$100. Each day you will pick an envelope and put the corresponding amount of money in the envelope. At the end of 100 days, you will have saved $5,050.
  • What challenge can you use to save $5,000 in a year?
    • A challenge you can use to save $5,000 in a year is the 52-week savings challenge. With this challenge, you will save set amounts each week. You can customize your weekly amounts to reach $5,000 and use a tracking form to keep you on pace.
  • What is the 52-week savings challenge?
    • The 52-week savings challenge is when you save $1 the first week, $2 the second week, $3 the third week and so on. After 52 weeks, you will have saved $1,378. This challenge can also be customized to help you reach a higher savings goal.
  • What challenge can be used to save $10,000 in 100 days?
    • To save $10,000 in 100 days, you can try the envelope challenge. In this challenge, you will number 100 envelopes in $2 increments like $2, $4, $6, $8, etc. Each day you will draw a random envelope and put the corresponding amount of money in the envelope. At the end of 100 days, you will have saved $10,100.
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