Every now and then we all need a jumpstart to our financial goals and what better way to do it than to take on a new challenge. More specifically a 52-week challenge! The 52-week money challenge is quite a popular and effective way to save some extra cash for a variety of different goals.
Given the fact that 47% of Americans can't come up with $400 if they had to without borrowing money, finding easy ways to ramp your savings is super important if you happen to fall into this category. Not only does having money in the bank help you navigate unplanned life situations, but it also gives you peace of mind about your finances. A great way to change this narrative is by taking on a challenge.
Money challenges make pursuing your savings goals fun and can provide that extra boost of motivation if you've fallen behind or even fallen off completely. And so if you are in the space where you need to save some extra cash or build up your money savings habit, keep reading. This is a great way to get started!
What is the 52-week savings challenge?
The 52-week challenge is basically when you strategically save a certain amount of money each week over a period of 52 weeks which amounts to 1 year. If you keep up with it and follow-through, at the end of the 52 weeks you will have saved a good chunk of money. Based on the standard 52-week savings challenge, at the very minimum, you would end up with $1,378 in savings (or even more!). Now, how nice is that? I mean who doesn't want an extra chunk of change! It's also a great way to improve your self-discipline when it comes to your finances.
When is the best time to start a money challenge?
A lot of people start a new money challenge at the beginning of the new year. Typically, this is tied into their new year's resolutions and the optimism around the beginning of a new year. However, you can start a money challenge at any time. There's no rule that states when you can start working on your financial goals. So really, the best time to start a new challenge is whenever you are ready to get started.
That being said, the beginning of a new week or new month, is a great time to start. This is because psychologically, starting with a new week or new month gives you the sense of having a fresh start. It's also known as the "fresh start effect". When you feel like you are starting fresh, you are more inclined to make the necessary effort to succeed.
You do, however, have to be willing to commit to the process. It's a great idea to do your money challenge with a friend who can keep you accountable and motivated while you pursue your financial goals.
How does the 52-week challenge work?
There are three main ways in which you can do the 52-week money challenge, all of which are equally effective. What's most important here is that you pick the one that you like the most and think will work best for you. Consistency is also key.
1. The 52-week forward money challenge (Saving from the lowest to the highest amount)
This approach involves saving money incrementally each week. You start by saving $1 in the first week and then by adding an extra dollar to the amount you save every week going forward. For example, in week one you save $1, week 2 you save $2, week 3 you save $3, and so on until the very last week where you save $52. These incremental savings will add up to $1,378.
Who this method is good for: If you are just building up the habit of saving money or have limited funds and are working on increasing your income, then this approach is great for you. It starts out in such a way that you can save really easily and over time will get slightly more difficult.
2. The 52-week reverse money challenge (Saving from the highest to the lowest amount)
The second way is by starting with $52 dollars and then subtracting an extra dollar from the amount you save for every week. For example, in week 1 you save $52, week 2 you save $51, week 3 you save $50 and so on until you get to week 52 where you save just $1. Again, your savings amount will add up to $1,378.
Who this method is good for: This method is good for you if you want to accelerate how much you are saving at the top end of the 52 weeks and prefer to slow down as time goes by to focus on other things as the 52 weeks comes to a close.
Tips to free up more cash for the 52-week savings challenge
1. Build it into your budget
When it comes to saving money, it's all about doing it strategically. Your budget is essentially you creating a plan and telling your money what to do without you overthinking it. Building your savings plans into your monthly budget ensures you have an actionable plan to actually save rather than just winging it. Create a line item specifically for this challenge and break it down according to how you are paid. i.e. weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.
Clever Girl Tip: Don't like the name "budget"? Call it something else! There's nothing that says you have to call your budget a budget. Call it something fun that will inspire you to use it towards achieving your financial goals.
2. Sell things you don't need
So many of us have things sitting around our homes that we don't need. Kitchen cabinets. closets and kids' toys are a great place to start to declutter and get rid of things you don't need.
Clever Girl Tip: Places like eBay, Etsy, Facebook marketplace and Poshmark are great places to offload these things for some extra cash. You can then take this extra money and use it to amplify your savings contributions.
3. Find expenses you can cut back on
Cutting back on expenses tied to things you don't need or use can free up additional funds that you can put towards saving more. Ask yourself, what are you paying for that is not essential? Is it the gym membership that you hardly use? Can you work out at home instead? Is it going out to eat multiple times a week with friends and co-workers? Can you cut it back to just a couple of days? Or, is that streaming service you haven't logged into in for months? Maybe it's time to cancel it and repurpose the funds?
Clever Girl Tip: Start by taking a look at your last 3 months of bank and credit card statements to find areas you can cut back. Also, review your recurring bills. The idea here is to get creative in the ways in which you can cut back. When you do this exercise, you might very likely find a few areas where you were spending money you didn't really need to spend.
Where to keep the money you save with the 52-week challenge
I highly recommend opening a brand new bank account (ideally in a different bank from the one you currently bank at). An online bank with a competitive savings interest rate is not a bad idea. You can then schedule your transfers a week in advance or pick a recurring date when you go into the bank or when you make a mobile deposit.
It's also a good idea not to get any checks or debit cards associated with this savings account. This way you can avoid the temptation of spending your savings before you actually complete this money challenge. If you don't make it convenient to spend the money, you are more likely to keep it where it needs it to be; In your bank account!
What to do with your savings from this money challenge
Once you have your savings from this challenge in place, you can put it towards:
For a short-term, mid-term, or long-term financial goal
For instance, if saving money for a trip, a side hustle, a move, new furniture, back to school season, or something else you need a good chunk of money for. This could also be put towards other financial goals like a home downpayment, contributing to your retirement account, contributing to your kid's college account, etc.
Boosting your emergency fund
Emergency savings are key to have in the event that life throws a curveball. The money you save from this challenge can fund any last-minute emergency travel, doctor's office, or ER visits or even contribute to rent or mortgage payments.
Saving in your sinking fund
Your sinking fund is essentially a fund for the expenses you know are coming up in the near future like car repairs and home repairs.
Paying off debt
Accelerate your debt repayment and reduce how much interest you pay long term by putting a healthy chunk of money on any student debt, credit card or medical debt you might have racked up. Once your high-interest debt is paid off, you'll have even more money to put towards your savings goals.
Investing in the stock market
A great way to put the money you save to work for you where it can continue to grow is by investing long-term in the stock market.
It could be that girls trip, family vacation, or much needed "me time" that you've been dreaming about. The money you save could even go towards an item you've really wanted to purchase from your wishlist.
Benefits of the 52-week savings challenge
1. You'll become a consistent saver
This money savings challenge is a great way to get into the habit of saving consistently especially if saving money is something that you struggle to do. You get to watch your balance grow over time and build a neat little sum of money as well.
2. You'll be challenged to save even more money
For extra credit and to save more, once you get into the swing of things, challenge yourself to double or triple up on your weekly deposits. Alternatively, anytime you have some money to spare, you can put it towards your savings challenge.
3. You'll get motivated to achieve even bigger financial goals
The progress you make will motivate you to want to do bigger and better as you pick up steam with this savings challenge. Sometimes a small boost from doing a money challenge can cascade into all sorts of different avenues in which you can improve your personal finances.
The 52-week challenge is a great way to start saving money. You have the opportunity to improve your money mindset, build good money management habits, and set the foundation of how quickly you accomplish your financial goals. Over time and with commitment, your bank account balance will grow and you'll gain financial peace of mind. It becomes a win-win experience for you!
Ready to take on a challenge? Check out one of our completely free money savings challenges which include free worksheets as well!