SAVINGS challenges are a great way to get into the habit of putting aside cash – and you could save hundreds of pounds a year.
From the Bingo to Monday to Friday savings, the idea is that you set yourself a challenge based on a set of rules to squirrel away your pennies.
The right one for you will depend on how much you want to save and what you can afford to put aside.
The Sun's Money team each took on six challenges to find out how they work and crucially how easy they are to stick to.
Combined we managed to tuck away £371 in one month.
While some challenges claim to save you hundreds of pounds a year
Brits tucked away more than ever during lockdown as coronavirus measures curbed spending, according to the Office For National Statistics.
But as the rules eased and many face income cuts, saving cash became a bit trickier.
There isn’t a right or wrong way to save.
Where to put your savings
NOW isn’t a great time for savers as interest rates are at record low meaning you won’t make much money on your cash.
The Bank of England has even hinted that it could take the base rate – what banks and lenders use to set their own interest rates – below zero.
This could see banks and building societies charge savers a fee to hold their cash. We've put together a guide on how to protect your finances if this happens.
For now, here are some examples of the top paying accounts available today:
- Easy-access – You won't be charged for withdrawing cash from an easy-access account but typically interest rates are lower to reflect this. The top paying account today is 0.96% with Coventry Building Society.
- Notice savings – Good for those who know they'll need to access their cash but not sure when, say for example if you're saving for a house deposit. You will be able to withdraw your money but you have to give set notice first, say 90 days. The top rate today is 1.12% on an account with DF Captial.
- Fixed-rate – These typically offer better rates but you'll have to lock away your cash for the agreed term or face paying a penalty to withdraw it early. Here are some examples of the top-rates:
– One-year fixed – 1.18% with DF Captial
– Two-year fixed – 1.15% with Aldermore
– Five-year fixed – 1.5% with UBL UK
- Cash Isa – These are tax-free savings accounts, meaning you get to keep all of the interest earned on savings set aside in a year. This year, the rate is set at £20,000. Like savings accounts, there are a number of different types available, such as fixed-rates and easy access. Here are some examples of the top-rates:
– Easy-access – 0.96% with Coventry BS
– One-year fixed – 0.82% with Charter Savings Bank
– Two-year fixed – 1% with Cambridge Building Society
– Five-year fixed – 1.4% with UBL UK
- NS&I Premium Bonds – Instead of being paid interest, Premium Bond savers purchase bonds worth £1 each, which are entered into a monthly cash prize draw. Prizes vary from £25 to £1million but the odds of winning have recently been dramatically reduced, meaning you also run a high risk of earning nothing.
Experts recommend setting up a standing order for a fixed amount to leave your account on payday and then taking a challenge on top.
Moneycomms.co.uk personal finance expert Andrew Hagger said: "The main thing to ask yourself is will your actions save a sufficient amount and can you keep your savings challenge going for the long term?
"In some cases I fear that people may lose interest and give up after a few weeks or months."
"Sometimes these less traditional savings methods are important first steps for new savers who eventually grasp the savings habit and then start to save bigger sums to help them achieve their dreams, for example, for a new car, holiday or house deposit."
Thinking of taking on a money challenge? Here's our verdict on some of the most popular ones:
- Yearly estimated saving: £1,200 (if you restart the same card above every month)
- We saved: £100
The 2020 bingo challenge helps you put aside £1,378 a year by saving a certain amount a week and crossing it off on the board.
It was created to help people who struggle to save easily, but also has flexibility for weeks when you don't have a lot of spare cash.
You need to find a Bingo card you like and then each week you save one of the amounts.
Our saver says: As the challenge was only for one month I set myself a goal of £100 and made my own board by picking random numbers, low and high.
Personally, I needed the visual reminder so stuck it up on my wall – it felt satisfying every time I physically crossed off the numbers too.
The perk of this trick is there's no set days that you have to put money aside – just make sure all of the numbers are completed by the end of the month.
It meant on the days I didn't have any cash to spare I didn't feel pressured to put any into my savings account.
I averaged around two payments a week and paired a really low amount with one of the higher numbers so I didn't feel I was being left without.
But I left £18 and the £7 to the last week, which was quite a push at the end of the month.
Seeing the £100 in my bank account was worth it.I would try this again as it turns a chore into a game.
- Yearly estimated saving: Potentially hundreds
- We saved: £95
The idea behind the weather savings challenge is that you put aside an amount equal to whatever the highest temperature is that week.
One degree Celsius is equal to £1, so if the temperature reaches 16C that week you'll need to put £16 into savings.
Our saver says: I never imagined the UK would get soaring temperatures when I picked the weather savings challenge, but there we were in mid-September with a mini-heatwave.
On the upside it did help add extra cash to my savings pot. I set a reminder on my phone to nudge me to save the money, otherwise you could easily forget.
If you do forget (and I did on the last week) you can use a website called timeanddate.com to review temperatures from the previous week.
It would be interesting to do this over a longer period of time and see how it changes seasonally.
I imagine it would be helpful to start in January when the temperatures are low and then build up.
Round up challenge
- Yearly estimated saving: £445
- We saved: £25.79
Rounding up your purchases to the nearest pound and saving the rest could see you put away an average of £1.22 a day – or £445.30 a year – according to Which?.
There are plenty of apps and bank services out there that will automatically do this for you, so you don't have to do the maths.
For example, high street banks, like Halifax, Lloyds, Bank of Scotland, and digital banks, such as Starling and Monzo, let customers switch on this feature within the app.
Our saver says: I used my existing bank account with Starling to do the round-up challenge.
It was easy to do given the app has a tool that automatically rounds up your transactions and transfers the cash to a separate savings pot.
You don’t really notice the extra pennies on top of each transaction, so it’s a handy way to boost your savings.
Over the course of just over a month, I saved £25.79.
It’s definitely something I’ll consider carrying on with, although the challenge alone isn’t enough for me to reach my savings targets.
I’d recommend it as an extra way to save cash or as a test if you feel like you can’t afford to save.
But if you’re saving for something big, such as a property, you’ll need to do more than just round up your purchases or it’ll take a very long time to get a deposit together.
Money saving challenges
IF you’ll struggle to save a fiver a day for 100 days before Christmas, why not give a different savings challenge a try instead?
Here's a rundown of some of the most popular schemes:
- Weather saving challenge – Save the amount equal to whatever the highest temperature was that week. £1 = 1C.
- 1p challenge – save 1p a day for everyday of the year, but it increase the amount by 1p each day. So day one you save 1p, 2p on day two and 3p on day three. When you reach 100 days you start adding a £1 coin each day too, while this increases to a £2 coin each day plus pennies at 200 days, and £3 each day on top of pennies at day 300.
- 20p a day challenge – Start by putting 20p in savings, then increase the amount by 20p every day. For example, the first week will look like this: 20p, 40p, 60p, 80p, £1, £1.20, £1.40.
- £5 a week challenge – Like the 20p challenge, put aside £5 a week and increase it by a fiver each week. Eg £5, £10, £15, £20
- Round-up challenge – Every time you buy something, round up the purchase to the nearest £1 and put the difference in a savings account. Eg. You pay £2.60, so you put 40p in savings. You can use an app such as Monzo or Starling to do this.
- Bingo challenge – Here you have a bingo card with different numbers on it and you tick them off when you’ve put that amount in your savings account. It can be ad hoc but you have to tick them all off by the end of the month.
- Monday to Sunday challenge – With this challenge, you simply save £1 on Monday, £2 on Tuesday and so on until the weekend where you don't save on Saturday or Sunday.
- 365 day challenge – Every Sunday you put aside £1, followed by £2 on Monday, £3 on Wednesday and so on. On Saturday you’ll put away £7, and then the process repeats and you’ll put aside £1 on Sunday as the new week begins.
Monday to Friday challenge
- Yearly estimated saving: £780
- We saved: £60
If you like having weekends off then the Monday to Friday challenge could be the one for you.
You kick the week off by putting £1 into savings and then increasing the amount you put in by £1 every day, for example, on Tuesday it's £2 and Wednesday it's £3.
By the end of the week you will have put aside £15 in total – then you get Saturday and Sunday off.
Our saver says: I’m terrible at carrying cash, so I ended up setting up a pot on Monzo after one week when I ran out of physical money.
I wish I could say I remembered to save daily, but I usually ended up forgetting and would make a transfer once a week of how much I should have put away, so £15.
I think that's quite a lot to put away weekly and I'm not sure I'd have been able to keep up with it over a year.
But over four weeks, I ended up building up £60 in my Monzo pot, which I was pretty pleased with.
Give something up challenge
- Yearly estimated saving: £489.60
- We saved: £40.80
You'd be surprised at how much those small every day spends add up to – and how much you'd save if you gave them up.
This can be anything from your daily coffee, weekly takeaway or a TV subscription.
We've previously spoken to first-time buyers who've used this method to save hundreds towards the mortgage deposit – but how did it work out for our saver?
Our saver says: Instead of popping in for my morning coffee at the station on the way to work, I made one at home and took it with me in a reusable cup.
Wearing a mask makes it awkward to drink a cup of coffee on the train so sipping my own homemade fix on the walk to the station was simple to adjust to.
Giving up takeaway coffee was also easier because I had already gotten out of the habit of buying them during lockdown.
At £2.55 a pop for my usual takeaway Costa coffee – a flat white with almond milk and a 25p discount for bringing my own cup – I saved £40.80 this month.
I didn’t squirrel away the money I saved each time but that would be a good idea for anyone struggling to stick to it so they can see the money building up.
I knew I was saving money but adding it up at the end I was surprised just how much because it felt like small amounts each time.
Add £5 a week challenge
- Yearly estimated saving: £650
- We saved: £50
Stick to the add £5 a week challenge and you could end up with a tidy £50 in your savings account – that's if you manage to keep with it.
Like the Monday to Friday challenge, you increase the amount that goes into savings as time goes on, in this case you add a fiver on every week.
Starting at £5 in the first week, increase it to £10 in the second, £15 in the third and £20 in the final week.
You then reset it every month to keep the amount you put into savings affordable.
Our saver says: This savings challenge really didn’t work for me.
Because the amount you squirrel away increases each week it means you can’t set-up a weekly direct debit to siphon off the money directly into your savings account to stop you spending it and I would never remember to do this manually.
I also rarely carry cash so it wasn’t simply a case of putting aside the money into a piggy bank each week.
I’ve instead set-up a monthly direct debit to add an affordable set amount to a Stocks and Shares Isa each month.
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