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How to save £500 in one month for last minute Christmas shopping

Savings challenges are going viral but do they really work?

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Calendar with 'no spend day' written on the 16th day and a blue circle around it.
This savings challenge is intensive, but it could help someone to reach their goal quicker.

Savings challenges have taken social media by storm in recent years, with influencers garnering millions of hits if they reveal the latest ‘savings hack’. 

Our desire to save is not surprising -  the cost of living crisis has impacted us all and an emergency savings pot has never been more important. 

Back in June, I wrote an article about how to save £1,000 in time for your Christmas shopping and it explored how savings challenges can help to boost cashflow. 

But writing about these challenges is easy, so I decided to put my money where my mouth is. 

I was keen to create my own savings challenge in October, with the aim of saving £500 in just one month. 

According to recent savings statistics, the average person in the UK has £17,365 in their savings and the average savings per month is £450 per UK household. 

So could I match this monthly saving? 

Christmas was fast approaching and my savings pot was a little battered from a busy summer and an upcoming house move. I felt anxious about the inevitable Christmas spend and decided that now was the time to try a savings challenge. 

However, it’s important to note savings challenges aren’t for everyone. Before attempting any challenge, be realistic with your budget and only save within your means.

In the current climate, I feel really lucky to have some disposable income each month, but putting away £500 is a big stretch.

My plan was to save £1 on October 1, then £2 on October 2 and so on, until I reached October 31 and saved £31. If I stuck to this daily plan, my savings pot would reach £496. 

This was inspired by the popular 52-week money challenge, which involves saving £1 on week one, then £2 on week 2 until you reach week 52 and save £52. 

My challenge would be a lot more intensive, but it would help me to reach the goal quicker. 

I also wanted to test it in October, so that if it worked, it could be an option to try in November ahead of the peak Christmas shopping period.

In terms of logistics, my current account is with Chase and I have a linked savings account offering 4.1%. Remember to always compare savings accounts to ensure you are getting the best deal for you.

I planned to send the money from my current account into the savings account each day via a quick transfer on the Chase banking app. 

I decided to do this manually every morning to get myself into the habit of saving. By doing it first thing, it also meant I never forgot to save and it acted as a constant reminder to stick to my goal.

On October 1, I felt apprehensive about the coming days and quickly sent the £1 to my savings. I checked my savings pot and it felt like a mountain to climb. 

To try and bolster my motivation, I set up a savings goal within the Chase account and this helped to track my progress. 

Chase also has a round-up pot which helps you to save any spare change, so I made sure this was up and running prior to the challenge. 

Many providers offer savings goals and round-up pots in their apps, so it’s always worth exploring. 

By day six, I was getting into the groove of saving each day but I was regularly working out how much I would need to save before my next payday. I was concerned I would run out of money by the end of the month. 

However, at the end of the first week, I was feeling a lot more positive as I had £27 in my savings and it hadn’t felt too much of a strain on my finances. 

Of course, this would soon change. 

The turning point was definitely when I started to save more than £10 each day. I soon found myself making small changes to save money. For example, I opted to walk instead of taking the bus or even remembered to take a recyclable bag to the supermarket  - every little bit helps! 

I was also thinking about my future plans, which included a holiday in November. Normally, I would treat myself to a new outfit or two, but instead I shut down my shopping apps and focused on my savings pot instead. 

By day 20, the purse strings were tightened and I found myself spending a lot more time at home. It also forced me to reflect on my spending and I took the time to review my previous bank statements to see where I could save money. For example, I looked at my regular outgoings and removed any miscellaneous direct debits that I didn't need anymore.  

During the challenge, I was also keen to implement some no-spend days as this would help to keep my budget on track. By day 31, I managed a total of six days without spending a penny. I was surprised I hadn’t managed more, especially as I had heavily reduced social plans and non-essential spending. It just highlighted how easy it is to spend.

But by the end of the month - I was thrilled to see my savings goal hit. I had successfully saved £496 and I topped up the remaining £4 using the round-up savings.

With £500 in my savings pot, I now have the money to treat my family during the festive season and I can focus on spending time with them without financial stress. 

Overall, this challenge requires a lot of determination to stick to a tight budget, but if you are looking for a quick way to grow your savings pot before Christmas - this could be the answer…

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About Lucinda O'Brien

As a trained journalist, Lucinda has spent the past 10 years writing and editing content for regional and national titles, including The Mirror, WalesOnline and Manchester Evening News. She is now a personal finance editor and specialises in savings, helping people to make confident financial decisions so they can save for what matters most.

View Lucinda O'Brien's full biography here or visit the money.co.uk press centre for our latest news.