Challenges are a great motivator. However, for a challenge to work, I think it needs three things:
- A goal
- Steps to achieve that goal; and
- A reward at the end
Without all three things, you either don't know what you're aiming for, don't know how to get there, or you just don't want to get there because there's no point.
The 52-week money challenge is an example of a good, complete challenge. It has all three elements:
- A goal: Saving money
- Easy steps: You save a certain amount of money each week for 52 weeks
- A reward: You will have saved over $1,000 by the end of 52 weeks
What is the 52-Week Money Challenge?
Let me take a step back. If you've never heard of the 52-week money-saving challenge, here's how it works:
- In week 1, you save $1
- The next week, you save $2
- A week after that, you save $3
- Eventually, you get to week 52 and you save $52
That may not seem like much, but by the end of the 52-week money saving challenge, you'll have saved $1,378. Not too shabby, right?
That's just the classic 52-week money challenge though. It works perfectly well, but there are other ways to do it too. And that's what I'll be showing you in this post.
To be more specific, I'll be showing you 9 different twists you can put on the 52-week challenge.
Benefits of Doing a 52-Week Money-Saving Challenge
- Warms you up to saving regularly – If you're not already saving money on a regular basis, doing a 52-week money-saving challenge will help you build that habit.
- Helps you save for a goal – Doing a 52-week money challenge can help you build your emergency fund, pay off debt, save for a vacation, or something else.
- Every variation is straightforward – Before you even start one of the 52-week money-saving challenges below, you'll get to see how it works, how often you need to save, and how much you'll have saved by the end.
- The 52-week money challenge is fulfilling – After you complete the 52-week money challenge, you can feel good knowing all your hard work and persistence paid off. Sounds corny but seriously, it's a big accomplishment!
What to Do Before Starting Your 52-Week Saving Challenge
The most important thing to do before starting a 52-week money-saving challenge is to figure out where you're going to put your money.
If you want to use cash, do it! You won't earn any interest on your money but that's really the only downside.
If you're going digital, you should try to find an account that offers the highest interest rate possible. Brick and mortar banks typically offer less than 1% interest on savings, but you can find better rates online.
For example, the Wealthsimple Savings Account that I like to use is currently offering a 2% interest rate. That's one of the highest I've seen.
By storing your savings in an account that offers a higher interest rate, your money will be earning money while it sits in the account.
Another benefit of using an online account is that your savings will be separate from your regular bank accounts, making it harder to “accidentally” spend.
Different Ways to Do the 52-Week Challenge
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Just like I explained briefly above, the classic way to do the 52-week challenge is to start by saving $1 in week one, and end by saving $52 in week 52.
This method can work out great, but there are a couple of problems with it:
- If you start at the beginning of the year, you'll have to save the most money right around the holidays, which is usually the hardest time to save.
- If you're on week 36 and you can't afford to save $36, you're kind of screwed.
Not to worry though, these problems can be easily solved with some twists on the challenge.
This method is simple, just do the 52-week challenge in reverse. So, instead of saving $1 in week one, save $52. In week 52, save $1.
By doing this, you'll have to save the least amount of money around the holidays (assuming you start the challenge in January).
This still doesn't solve problem #2 that we listed above though, which is why this next twist exists…
This is my favorite way to do the 52-week money saving challenge because it gives you complete control. Instead of having to knock off the savings milestones in a certain order, pick any order you want!
Here's an example of how this could go:
- Week 1: You get a bit of extra cash this week and decide to knock off the $52 right away.
- Week 2: Pretty average week, you decide to save $20.
- Week 3: Bad week. Car repair. You save just $1.
And on and on. You can basically choose how much to save based on how your week goes. This definitely makes the challenge more interactive.
If you're looking to have a bit more fun with your 52-week challenge, knock off the milestones randomly!
To do this, you could print out sheets of paper with $1 all the way up to $52 written on them. Then just put them in a hat and draw one every week.
OR, you could just go to random.org, set the generator to generate numbers from 1-52, and then generate numbers until you get one you haven't gotten before. That's the easier way to do it.
I like this method because it makes the challenge more like a game, but it probably won't work for everyone.
If you want to try one of the challenges above, you can download this simple (and ink friendly) 52-week money challenge printable:
If you prefer to track your progress from your computer, you can create a copy of the 52-week challenge Google Doc here. Just go to File > Make a copy…
Just like I talked about in my list of money-saving hacks, automation is key if you want to improve your finances effortlessly.
See, all the methods above work great, but they only work if you actually stick to the program. That means you have to remember to transfer money from one account to another every single week.
If you want to make failure impossible, automate your 52-week challenge with Qapital.
If you've never heard of Qapital before, it's a fintech app that helps you meet your savings goals and stay on track with your spending.
Because Qapital is hip with the times, they created their own twist on the 52-week challenge. How it works is simple:
- Set up a goal in your Qapital account
- Add the 52-week saving challenge rule to that goal
- Select whether you want to do the classic version or the reverse version (as mentioned above)
After that, you're all set. Qapital will automatically transfer money from your checking account every week and at the end of the year, you'll have a cool $1,378 in your account.
This is sort of similar to the Qapital method mentioned above in that it's automated, but it's not really a true 52-week challenge. All you have to do for this one is set up an auto-deposit of $115 every month to your savings account.
As I said, this isn't a true 52-week money challenge, but if you do this for 52-weeks you'll still have saved $1,380 by the end of the year. That's two extra dollars than the regular challenge and you don't even have to think about it.
There are a couple of added benefits to this too:
- If you get paid monthly, it works out perfectly.
- If you can do this method for 52-weeks, you can easily do it for longer, just keep that auto-deposit going. You've now developed a consistent savings habit.
Note: If you get paid bi-weekly and you want the money to be automatically taken off your paycheck, set up an auto-deposit for $53 every 2-weeks. By the end of 52-weeks, you'll still have $1,378.
Saving $1,378 in 52-weeks is awesome, but if you want to ball even harder, why not double it? Instead of saving $1 in week one, save $2. Week two, save $4, and on and on.
By doubling every number on the 52-week challenge template, you'll save $2,756 by the end of the challenge.
Here's a printable for the doubled 52-week money challenge:
Copy the Google Doc here for online tracking (File > Make a Copy…)
If you don't feel comfortable doing the classic 52-week challenge, this method will allow you to ease yourself into saving. This is just like the Double challenge, except instead of doubling the original numbers, cut them in half.
So, for example, week one you'd save $0.50. Week two you'd save $1, and on and on. By the end of the challenge, you'll have saved $689.
Note: Just like the regular 52-week challenge, you could do this version or the doubled version above in reverse, random, or selective order.
Here's a printable for the halved 52-week challenge:
Copy the Google Doc here for online tracking (File > Make a Copy…)
If you successfully complete the Classic, Double, or Half challenges above and you want to save even more money, keep going! Make it a 104-week challenge. Just keep increasing the savings every week.
Or, just keep going until you reach an amount that you feel you can comfortably save each week. Once you reach that amount, try to stick with it consistently. Build that habit!
Tips to Help You Beat the Challenge
If you're living paycheck to paycheck or you have a very tight budget, the 52-week challenge can be, well, challenging.
Ways to Save Extra Money
It's a lot easier to spend less than it is to make extra money, so we'll start with that. Here are some things you can try:
- Start tracking your spending with a personal finance app and a budget – These are basic but they'll help a lot if you actually use them.
- Cut your grocery bill with these tips – Food makes up a huge part of our expenses so this is one of the best categories to cut back on.
- Check out these money-saving hacks – Yeah that's right, you can hack your wallet.
Ways to Make Extra Money
If you feel like you've optimized your spending as much as you can and it's still not enough, making more money is the next best option. Here are some ways to do that:
- Check out these easy ways to make money online and offline – Anyone can do these and some of them can help you start earning pretty quickly too.
- Learn how to make extra cash in your spare time – Some of these will require more time and skills, but the payoff can be pretty big and you can work on them on the side of your day job.
- Find real work from home jobs – These things require a LOT more time and dedication, but they could allow you to eventually quit your job and work completely from home.
Other Money-Saving Challenges
Here are some other money-saving challenges to try if you don't feel like doing the 52-week challenge:
- 100 Envelope Challenge – This one can help you save over $5,000!
So, there you have it. A handful of different 52-week money-saving challenges to choose from, but will you actually take the leap?
I bet you won't.
…Will you accept the challenge? *dramatic music plays*
On a real note, if you decide to take one of the challenges above, good luck! I bet you'll own it.
Just think… 52-weeks from now, you'll have a nice sum of money sitting in your bank account. Use it to pay off debt, start your emergency fund, invest, buy something for yourself, go on a vacation, or whatever else!
Before you go, leave a comment below telling me which 52-week challenge variation you plan on trying. Or, if you have your own variation, let me know how it works!
Also, let me know what you plan to do with your money once you complete the challenge!