If you need extra motivation to start saving, the 52-week money challenge makes for a good savings challenge. And if you stick with it, you’ll end the year with $1,378.
For people who have a healthy savings account, this challenge is a fun way to test your endurance and discipline. And, I’ve got a bunch of hacks that will make the challenge easier and can help you save even more.
Saving money is already a challenge for many people, but the reason it’s so important to do is because saving money gives you options that empower you.
The more you have saved, the less likely you’ll take on debt if you have a financial emergency. Options mean you’re less likely to stick with a job you hate. And it means the biggest financial goal for many, retirement, becomes more attainable.
If you’ve struggled to save money, the 52-week money challenge teaches you this valuable habit as you watch small amounts of money add up.
Okay, you ready? Let’s save $1,000 or more this year with the 52-week money challenge!
What is the 52-week money challenge?
The 52-week money challenge is super simple in theory – you start on week one by saving $1 and increase your weekly savings by a dollar every week for a year. You put $2 in savings on the second week, $5 on the fifth week, $30 on week 30, and so on.
By the end of the year, you will have saved $1,378.
The first half of the year is going to be easiest because you’re setting aside such small dollar amounts. Your savings won’t even hit $100 until you’re a quarter of the way through the year.
By the middle of the year, you’re saving $100+ every month with the 52-week money challenge. That might sound like a lot, but you’ll be surprised by how motivating it is to track your progress and watch your savings grow.
Where to stash your savings?
Opening a separate account for the money you’re saving with the 52-week challenge will make it easy to see your progress, and there are now lots of reputable online banks offering high-yield savings accounts with $0 minimum balance.
The thing that’s nice about opening an entirely new account for your savings challenge is that you’ll be less likely to sneak into it as the year goes on. And the goal is to let is sit and watch it grow.
9 tips for hacking the 52-week money challenge
1. Automate your savings
Week after week for an entire year you’ll be moving money from one account to another. It’s not hard to do, but might be easy to forget. To avoid this, automate the process by scheduling deposits with your bank.
At the very least, set a reminder on your phone or calendar with the amount you’re supposed to deposit that week.
2. Use a micro-savings app
Micro-savings apps are apps that automate your savings with different rules, triggers, round-ups etc. They work on the idea that no amount is too small to start saving because small things add up. Isn’t that the point of the 52-week money challenge?
One micro-savings app, Qapital, will save a predetermined dollar amount when you do things like:
- Shop at a business you’ve been trying to avoid
- Post a Facebook status update
- Like a YouTube video
- Get paid
- Go under in a budget category
Those are just a few – Qapital has over 200 different ITTT (if this, then this) triggers to automate your savings.
Qapital also lets you make one time and recurring transfers that would make it easy to automate your 52-week money challenge.
Twine is another micro-savings app that’s specifically meant for couples. You can even use Twine to invite your partner to save for the 52-week money challenge with you.
Learn more about these micro-savings apps in Qapital Review 2019: Save Money Without Even Noticing and Twine App Review: Money-Saving Solution for Couples.
3. Flip the challenge
During the last month of the 52-week money challenge, you’ll be putting aside around $200. If that amount intimidates you, you can face that big chunk of cash in the beginning and start the challenge in reverse.
The dollar amount you save will go down by $1 every week. So week one is $52, week two is $51, week 3 is $50, and so on.
4. Challenge a friend to save with you
If you think staying accountable is going to be an issue for you, then try inviting a friend to save for the 52-week money challenge with you. You can do weekly check-ins to make sure you’re moving money over and provide each other with the motivation it takes to follow through on a year-long project like this.
The bonus is that you and your friend will each have $1,378 at the end of the year. Nothing wrong with celebrating together by going out for a nice dinner, drinks, etc.
5. Give yourself a reason to save
Saving to save is an excellent reason, but having a more tangible reason might be a little more motivating. You could be doing the 52-week money challenge to:
- Add to your emergency fund
- Help fund a vacation
- Put towards a large expense, like a new appliance, camera, etc.
- Invest it for retirement
Going back to the idea of saving with a friend, your reason could be that the two of you have been wanting to take a short vacation together, and the 52-week money challenge could make it happen.
No matter what your reason is, repeat that reason to yourself each week as you move money into savings. Your reason is what you’ll lean on when you get to the latter half of the year and are asking yourself why you can’t just skip a week and use the cash to go out to eat.
6. Start investing with a micro-investing app
Similar to micro-savings apps, micro-investing apps are a way to invest small amounts of money in fractional shares of ETFs or stocks. These apps break down the barriers to traditional investing by:
- Letting you invest with spare change instead of a big buy-in
- Automating the process
- Using the robo-advisory model to build a portfolio for you
The apps are pretty similar but Acorns is strictly a Robo-advisor. You answer a few questions when you open an account to determine your risk tolerance and asset allocation. Then, Acorns will select one of five different portfolios and invest your money for you.
With Acorns and Stash, you can set dollar amounts to invest on a recurring schedule, do one time deposits, and use round-ups to move money into your investment account.
If you want a little more control over what you invest in, Stash is a good alternative to Acorns. You choose which stocks and ETFs to invest in, and they make it easy to purchase socially-responsible investments on a micro-level.
Most micro-investing apps need a $5 investment to start, so if you like this idea, you can start after week 3.
Read about the specifics of Acorns and Stash and pricing in:
- Stash Review 2019: Worthwhile Investing App or Waste of Time?
- Acorns Review 2019: Helpful Robo Advisor or Waste of Time?
- Acorns vs. Stash: Which is Better, How Much They Cost, and Should You Use Them?
7. Break down the 52-week money challenge
At the end of the 52-week money challenge you’ll have saved $1,378. There is no reason you can’t break that down into equal amounts that you save each week or month.
That would be approximately $115 a month for 12 months.
Or, $26.50 a week for 52 weeks.
For some people, planning for the 52-week money challenge this way might make it easier to accomplish.
8. Don’t stop after 52 weeks
If the 52-week money challenge gives you just under $1,400, what do you think the 104-week challenge would do?
The second-year would add $4,082 to your savings. That’s $5,460 in two years.
9. Double, triple, quadruple your savings
The 52-week money challenge is a good way to jumpstart the savings routine you’ve always wanted to start. For higher earners who are up for a bigger challenge, there is no rule that says you can’t multiply that dollar amount.
If you multiply the 52-week challenge by two, starting with $2, then $4, $6, $10… and all the way to $104 on week 52, you will have $2,756.
Doing this with increments of $3 would equal $4,134 at the end of the year.
$4 would equal $5,512 by week 52, and $5 increments would add all the way to $6,890.
The final word: is the 52-week money challenge a good way to save?
If you’ve struggled to save in the past, this challenge teaches you some very valuable financial lessons:
- Small amounts of money quickly add up
- You can create a savings habit
- You can follow through on a plan
And while a year isn’t incredibly long-term financial planning, this challenge is training you to make and follow through on those much bigger plans, like retirement savings. I look at it like training for a marathon, most people start with a 5k, not a full marathon and certainly not an ultra marathon.
But, to make those big goals happen, you have to start training now.