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What Is the 52-Week Money Challenge?

The 52-Week Money Challenge first got a lot of coverage in 2013 when someone posted it on their Facebook page. Today it’s a very popular way for people to build their savings and create good saving habits. It’s common around New Year’s to help people save during the upcoming year, but you could start it any time throughout the year. So what exactly is this challenge and how can it help you save?

What Is the 52-Week Money Challenge?

One of the hardest things about saving money is being consistent. The 52-week Money Challenge helps you get into the habit and mindset of saving each week. It also helps you build on your small successes to save more and more money over time.

The challenge itself is very simple. You save $1 at the end of the first week and then increase that amount by $1 each week. At the end of the second week, you put $2 into savings. Then $3 after week three and so on until week 52, when you save $52. If you stick with it for  the full year, you’ll have saved $1,378 at the end of the challenge.

In an interview with SmartAsset, consumer and money-saving expert Andrea Woroch says the little steps mean “most people won’t feel the pinch in their budgets and it gives consumers a chance to create a healthy savings habit.”

She also says she sees the challenge as “a game and competition, offering a clear objective and concrete steps” that make it easier to stick to your savings goals.

The 52-Week Money Challenge has traditionally been a way to save cash each week by putting the money in a jar where you’ll see it and remember that you’re trying to save. However, you can increase your savings further by putting the money in a savings account, where it will earn interest, which is what Woroch recommends. You can also use the challenge to save for an upcoming purchase, to create an emergency fund or to start a retirement account. The simplicity of the challenge allows you to turn it into whatever you need in order to reach your specific savings goals.

Sticking to the 52-Week Money Challenge

You can build great saving habits by sticking to the 52-Week Money Challenge, but only if you actually follow through with the challenge. A big reason people don’t stick with the challenge is that they simply forget to save the money. Maybe they do well for a month or so but then a busy week pops up and they forget to put the money aside. If you’re concerned this will happen to you, you could consider automating your savings.

If you put your savings in a jar, you’ll need to physically move cash each week. If you put the money in a savings or retirement account, you can automatically move it into the account of your choosing. That means you don’t even have to think about saving. You can focus on other things and your money will still go where you want it. Then there’s the added bonus of compound interest. Depending on your bank, interest might compound as often as each month. That interest would push your savings even higher than $1,378. Plus, as Woroch pointed out placing your savings into an account makes it harder to dip into.

Another way to stay on track is to print out a schedule. You can find schedules for the 52-Week Money Challenge online in a number of styles, colors and sizes. You could also create your own with a spreadsheet. A schedule allows you to check off each week’s saving goal as you complete it. Create a daily reminder for yourself by hanging the schedule somewhere you will see it everyday, like on your fridge or at your desk.

Up the ante further by recruiting a friend. Tell a friend that you’re doing the 52-Week Money Challenge and she can keep you accountable after those weeks when you forget or feel like giving up. If you can get your friend(s) to do the challenge with you, that’s even better. A little competition might even push you to save a few extra dollars.

Make the Challenge Your Own

What Is the 52-Week Money Challenge?

The 52-Week Money Challenge uses a simple idea and you can change it many ways in order to meet your specific goals. One variation of the challenge is starting with $52 and working down to $1. So you’d save $52 after the first week, $51 after the second week and then go all the way down to $1 after week 52.

People who struggle with saving may find it counter-intuitive to start with the highest (and most difficult) amount first. There are some advantages though. One is that you get instant results. After one week you’ll already have $52 saved. Then it will get easier to save each week because you’re putting aside less and less money. Many people would also agree that it’s easier to save $52 in February than during the holiday season at the end of the year.

Another strategy is to follow the normal schedule, but to save a little extra at the start. So instead of starting from zero, you can put in $20 to start. When you save the $1 after week one, you’ll already have $21 saved. If you start the challenge at the beginning of the calendar year, you might be able to use a year-end bonus to help you get started. You could also add secondary goals for yourself like saving an extra $10 at the end of each month.

You can also put your savings wherever you want. As mentioned earlier, a savings account could help you to earn interest throughout the challenge. If you’ve been trying to save for retirement, use the 52-Week Money Challenge to start a retirement account like a Roth IRA. You can also use the challenge to build an emergency fund or to save for a big upcoming purchase like a down payment on a house or that trip to Paris you’ve always dreamed about.

High earners and people who are confident in their saving skills may choose to increase the weekly amount. Instead of starting with $1 and increasing by $1 each week, start with $2 and increase by $2 each week. Conversely, you could start the challenge with 50 cents if you think $1 is too much to start with. The challenge can also go on for as long as you want. Challenge yourself by trying to get up to $104 in 104 weeks (two years).

The Takeaway

What Is the 52-Week Money Challenge?

The 52-Week Money Challenge is a great way to get into the habit and mindset of saving. It starts small, with just $1 after the first week, but leads to $1,378 in savings if you stick with the schedule. The challenge is also very flexible and you can tweak it to meet your specific goals – whether you want to create and emergency fund or save for a summer vacation. No matter how you use the challenge, remember that the objective is to save money. Don’t get discouraged if you miss a week or if you can’t save as much as week as you hoped. Just keep going and do the best that you can.

Tips to Help You Save Money

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Derek Silva, CEPF® Derek Silva is determined to make personal finance accessible to everyone. He writes on a variety of personal finance topics for SmartAsset, serving as a retirement and credit card expert. Derek is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®). He has a degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and has spent time as an English language teacher in the Portuguese autonomous region of the Azores. The message Derek hopes people take away from his writing is, “Don’t forget that money is just a tool to help you reach your goals and live the lifestyle you want.”
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