Why You Shouldn’t Do the 100 Envelope Challenge (and what to do instead)

The 100 envelope challenge is a money-saving activity. Begin with 100 envelopes. On each envelope, write a number from 1 to 100. Once a day randomly select an envelope. Whatever the number is on the envelope, put that amount of cash inside. When 100 days have passed, each envelope will be filled with cash and you will have saved a total of $5,050.

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looking down on cash in envelope on desk

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Have you heard all the razz about the 100 Envelope Challenge, and now you are thinking about doing it?

If you don’t already have a solid savings plan in place, you shouldn’t do the 100 Envelope Challenge.

If you don’t know what it is, I can fill you in real quick.

The 100 Envelope Challenge is supposed to jump-start your savings and at the end of 100 days, if you follow the challenge exactly as it is laid out you will have a total of $5,050 cash in all your envelopes.

I’m not sure about you, but that would feel amazing to watch my money grow from $0 to $5,050 in just over 3 months!

Just hold on a few minutes before you head to the store to buy a cheap box of envelopes and start numbering them!

Keep reading to learn more about the hundred envelope challenge and why you might want to bypass it and focus on a more practical money-saving challenge.

What Is the 100 Envelope Challenge?

The hundred envelope challenge, also known as the 100 Day Money Challenge, was introduced on the TikTok social media platform as a spin-off of the envelope budgeting method.

However, this challenge does not encompass your whole budget, but instead, it is a challenge to get you focused and push you to start saving money.

how to do the 100 envelope challenge infographic smart mom hq

How does the 100 Envelope Challenge work?

cash in colorful envelope for 100 envelope challengeThis challenge follows the same concept as the envelope budgeting system.

Here is how it works:

  1. Label 100 envelopes with the numbers 1 to 100
  2. Once a day, close your eyes and pull out one envelope
  3. Whatever the number is on the envelope, add that amount of cash to the envelope
  4. Seal the envelope
  5. Repeat for 100 days in a row
  6. Add up the cash in your envelopes and it will be $5,050 money saved

For example, when you draw your daily envelope if you pull out the one that has the number 87 on it, you would put $87 in that envelope and seal it.

If the envelope had the number 15 on it, you would put $15 cash in it and seal it.

It sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it?

Simply pull one envelope out of the stack, add money, and seal.

How hard could that be?

I can give you many reasons why you shouldn’t participate in this so-called fun challenge, and a couple of reasons why you should give it a green light.

Keep reading if you are looking for those answers.

However, this challenge does not encompass your whole budget, but instead, it is a challenge to get you focused and push you to start saving money.

What is the envelope budgeting system?

The envelope budgeting method is a popular technique promoted by financial guru Dave Ramsey that uses envelopes to hold cash for each budget category.

The purpose of using cash to pay every bill is that you cannot spend more than you make. It is designed to get over-spending your income in control so you learn to live on the amount of money you bring home from your job.

Essentially, if there isn’t enough money to put into the envelope, the bill isn’t paid. For this reason, you should focus on paying your essential living expenses first such as rent or your mortgage, your utilities such as electricity, etc.

Once the necessary bills have the required amount of money allocated to them, you can dive into the unnecessary or luxury budget categories such as eating out and any kind of recreation.

For example, if you have a budget category for entertainment, cash could only go into your envelope labeled entertainment if you had enough money left to fund that category.

Does the 100 Envelope Challenge work to increase your savings account balance?

Yes, it works if you follow it and stick to the plan for the entire 100 days.

Just like any challenge or goal, if it is followed it will work.

For example, if I want to lose 25 pounds, I can’t eat the same way I have been eating for the duration of the diet and expect to lose weight. I have to make changes if I truly want to meet the goal and make it work.

The 100 Envelope Challenge works the same way.

For example, if you have a budget category for entertainment, cash could only go into your envelope labeled entertainment if you had enough money left to fund that category.

PRO MONEY TIP

Keep in mind if you decide to do this challenge and you don’t stick to the plan for the full 100 days, the money you do save is still a quick win as long as you leave it in your savings account and don’t withdraw it.

How much money do you save in the 100-day money-saving challenge?

I created a chart so you can see how the money adds up to get to 5,050 dollars when you complete the 100 Envelope Challenge.

100 Envelope Challenge - Do the Math

Envelope 1

$1

Envelope 26

$26

Envelope 51

$51

Envelope 76

$76

Envelope 2

$2

Envelope 27

$27

Envelope 52

$52

Envelope 77

$77

Envelope 3

$3

Envelope 28

$28

Envelope 53

$53

Envelope 78

$78

Envelope 4

$4

Envelope 29

$29

Envelope 54

$54

Envelope 79

$79

Envelope 5

$5

Envelope 30

$30

Envelope 55

$55

Envelope 80

$80

Envelope 6

$6

Envelope 31

$31

Envelope 56

$56

Envelope 81

$81

Envelope 7

$7

Envelope 32

$32

Envelope 57

$57

Envelope 82

$82

Envelope 8

$8

Envelope 33

$33

Envelope 58

$58

Envelope 83

$83

Envelope 9

$9

Envelope 34

$34

Envelope 59

$59

Envelope 84

$84

Envelope 10

$10

Envelope 35

$35

Envelope 60

$60

Envelope 85

$85

Envelope 11

$11

Envelope 36

$36

Envelope 61

$61

Envelope 86

$86

Envelope 12

$12

Envelope 37

$37

Envelope 62

$62

Envelope 87

$87

Envelope 13

$13

Envelope 38

$38

Envelope 63

$63

Envelope 88

$88

Envelope 14

$14

Envelope 39

$39

Envelope 64

$64

Envelope 89

$89

Envelope 15

$15

Envelope 40

$40

Envelope 65

$65

Envelope 90

$90

Envelope 16

$16

Envelope 41

$41

Envelope 66

$66

Envelope 91

$91

Envelope 17

$17

Envelope 42

$42

Envelope 67

$67

Envelope 92

$92

Envelope 18

$18

Envelope 43

$43

Envelope 68

$68

Envelope 93

$93

Envelope 19

$19

Envelope 44

$44

Envelope 69

$69

Envelope 94

$94

Envelope 20

$20

Envelope 45

$45

Envelope 70

$70

Envelope 95

$95

Envelope 21

$21

Envelope 46

$46

Envelope 71

$71

Envelope 96

$96

Envelope 22

$22

Envelope 47

$47

Envelope 72

$72

Envelope 97

$97

Envelope 23

$23

Envelope 48

$48

Envelope 73

$73

Envelope 98

$98

Envelope 24

$24

Envelope 49

$49

Envelope 74

$74

Envelope 99

$99

Envelope 25

$25

Envelope 50

$50

Envelope 75

$75

Envelope 100

$100

$325

+

$950

+

$1,575

+

$2,200

TOTAL SAVINGS IN 100 DAYS =  $5,050

smart mom hq wells fargo line of credit routing numbers

Here is an additional breakdown of a few of the facts about this money-saving challenge:

  • When you have filled envelopes 1-10, you will have $55 saved
  • When you have filled envelopes 1-25, you will have $325 saved.
  • When you have filled envelopes 1-50, you will have $1,275 saved.
  • When you have filled envelopes 1-75, you will have $2,850 saved.
  • When you have stuffed all 100 envelopes, you will have cash equal to $5,050 to use for a down payment, emergency fund, extra money, etc.

What supplies do you need for the 100-day envelope challenge?

If you decide to move forward and jump into the 100 Envelope Challenge, you will need a few specific items to get started. You may already have these in your office supplies.

Envelopes – a basic white without a privacy interior lining will save you money

Sharpie or marker – needed to write the numbers on your envelopes

The following items are optional but they are a fun way to add a bit of pizzazz:

Stickers – fun to add to the envelope seal after you put cash inside

Colored envelopes – putting money in fun envelopes is an option but far from a necessity

Box or container – a place to keep all your envelopes in one place that is secure with your cash

120 Pack Colored Envelopes #10 for Business, Office, Letters, Standard Mailing
2448 Pcs Teacher Reward Encouraging Confetti Sticker Mega Pack in 48 Designs (Each Measures 1” in Diameter)
2448 Pcs Teacher Reward Encouraging Confetti Sticker Mega Pack in 48 Designs (Each Measures 1” in Diameter)

Free Download – 100 Envelope Challenge Printable Tracking Form

100 envelope challenge plain tracking form
100 envelope challenge numbered tracking form

Stay on track with a visual to monitor your progress through the challenge.

Download the free tracking form below. I included several versions to pick from!

Who should do the 100 Envelope Challenge?

If this challenge aligns with your financial goals, and the following holds true, you should hop on board!

If…

  • You have extra cash left over each month after the essential bills are paid
  • You consistently save money every single month and are ready to start saving more aggressively
  • Money management is a personal challenge and you want to get it under control
  • You don’t set savings goals, or if you do, you fail to follow them, even when you have money left over each month that could be saved
  • You have no debt
    • High-interest debt should be paid off with excess cash

Who should not do the 100 Envelope Challenge?

A challenge variation (a version with smaller dollar amounts) is best for people that are:

  • Living paycheck to paycheck because the budget is genuinely tight (not just from reckless spending)
  • Going through or getting ready to go through a major life change that will impact finances
  • Feeling anxiety over money because their budget isn’t balanced (typically this means there are more expenses than income)
  • Not in a permanent job so income varies day to day, week to week, or month to month

Example: If you start the 100 Envelope Challenge and the first day you draw the #96 envelope, the second day you draw the #82 envelope, and the third day you draw the #99 envelope, how are you going to feel?

Are you going to:

  1. Have a meltdown but still scramble to figure out how to get cash in the envelopes because you don’t want to fail
  2. Say to yourself, “I knew I couldn’t do this, I didn’t really want to do it anyway”
  3. Go to the bank and get the cash to stuff the envelope

If you answered #1 or #2, it is not the right time in your life to start this challenge. Start a challenge that is less stressful so you can start saving a smaller amount and still build a good habit.

Other fun (smaller) ways to start saving money consistently

illustrated money bag and money in envelope for the 100 envelope challenge
  • Stop spending your loose change
  • Keep any change you get while shopping in a jar and don’t touch it. At the end of each month, count what you have saved
  • Match what you spend on treats for yourself
    • Buy a coffee for $1.50, put $1.50 in a jar to save
  • Join a round-up program at your bank or credit union
    • Every time you use your debit card your financial institution rounds up the amount to the nearest dollar and adds it to a savings account for you

Is the 100-day money challenge a good way to save money fast?

Yes, you can save money fast with this challenge if you have the daily cash available to follow it.

If you have never saved this much money before in this amount of time because it wasn’t available for you to save (because you needed it for living expenses), it isn’t a good way for you to try to get on the spending train.

There are better ways that will be much less stressful for you!

What are variations of the 100 Envelope Challenge?

This money-saving challenge is fun and a great visual to get more money in a place where it isn’t as easily accessible to spend.

If the original plan is too tough right now, one of the variations may fit your circumstances.

What is the 200 Envelope Challenge?

The 200 Envelope Challenge follows the same concept as the 100 Envelope challenge.

However, it is a more realistic way to save $5,000 because you save this amount over 200 days instead of 100 days.

Follow the same guidelines and add an extra 100 numbered envelopes to start filling with cash!

How much money do you save with the 200 Envelope Challenge?

If you follow the 200 Envelope Challenge each day, at the end of 200 days you will have accrued $5,100.

How can I save $5,000 in 6 months with 100 envelopes?

This is a great variation to start the habit of saving money with a little bit more flexibility.

Get 100 envelopes and label them #1-100.

Randomly select two envelopes a week and add the amount of cash to the envelope with the number on it.

What is the 50 Envelope Challenge?

Number 50 envelopes #1-50, mix them up, pull one out each day, and place the amount of cash in the envelope that corresponds with the number.

When all 50 envelopes are completed, you will have accrued $1,275 in cash to add to your vacation budget, bank account, etc.

Other money-saving challenges to consider

piggy bank with coin stack and calculatorThere are dozens of other money-saving challenges to boost your effort in building up your cash reserves and save extra money.

You could choose one of the variations of the 100-day money challenge, or even create your own variation that fits into your life.

Keep in mind as long as you are saving any amount, it will all add up and help you in the long run.

Final thoughts

The 100 Envelope Challenge can be helpful to save money but it may not work for everyone, depending on the circumstances surrounding their financial situation.

For example, one problem may be not having at least $100 cash to start.

Typically, when people begin the 100 envelope challenge, they need an allotment of cash in order to have enough envelopes for each day’s activities. If you don’t have any spare cash lying around, then it might be tough to save quickly using this method.

If it isn’t something you think you could do, try one of the variations to see what fits into your life.

Take control of your spending and saving habits by being mindful each time you spend or save money!

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