The 52-week money challenge entails saving $1 during the first week and subsequently increasing the amount of money you save by $1 each week thereafter. For example, you’d save $2 in the second week, $3 in the third, and so forth. It’s a simple yet powerful money-saving strategy that will leave you $1,378 richer by the end.
Keep reading to learn more about the 52-week money challenge, what makes it unique, and how you can adapt it to suit your financial goals.
An overview of the 52-week money challenge
Here’s a roadmap detailing how your savings rate and account balance would grow throughout the 52-week challenge.
|Week||Amount to add||Total account balance|
Benefits of the 52-week money challenge
Here’s why the 52-week money challenge is deservedly among the most popular savings strategies.
It’s simple and reasonable
The 52-week money challenge is so simple you could explain it to a child within a few minutes. The amounts of money you need to save each week throughout the challenge are also reasonable even if you aren’t a high earner.
It will help you build positive financial habits
The 52-week money challenge is all about incremental progress. In fact, the progress is so incremental (increasing the amount you save by just $1 per week) you may not even notice it. But it’s there; the challenge takes you from saving just $10 during the first month to $202 during the last.
The rules I’ve discussed thus far relate to the classical 52-week money challenge. There are many variations that can tailor the challenge to your financial needs (more on this shortly).
You can also use the 52-week money challenge to save for a variety of financial goals. The money you save each week can go towards retirement, your emergency fund, a vacation, or whatever makes the most sense for you.
Downsides of the 52-week money challenge
While the 52-week money challenge’s benefits outweigh its cons for most people, let’s briefly look at those downsides.
It may not be enough of a challenge
Depending on your willpower and financial situation, the 52-week savings challenge may not be challenging enough. This is especially true if you’re a high earner or the challenge will be your only savings strategy for the entire year.
Leaving the toughest weeks until the end isn’t always smart
Many people start the 52-week money challenge in January. Consequently, they end up facing the toughest part of the challenge in December. This isn’t ideal given the many Christmas-related expenses that tend to pop up around that time. These costs may tempt you to quit the challenge right when it should be having the most significant positive impact on your finances.
It may be easy to forget about the challenge early on
The amounts you need to save each week at the start of the challenge are very small. They’re so small, in fact, that you might forget about the challenge altogether.
How to adjust the 52-week money challenge for your needs
Here are some modifications you can make to get the most out of the 52-week savings challenge.
Change the starting and/or weekly contribution amounts
In its classic form, the 52-week savings challenge was designed for low earners and anyone else who would have a hard time saving greater amounts of money. If you don’t fall into that category, the amounts you need to save may not be enough.
There’s no reason you couldn’t start with $50 or any other number that makes more sense. There’s also no reason you couldn’t increase your contributions by $20 every week. Get creative!
Choose your start date wisely
As I mentioned earlier, starting the 52-week savings challenge in January will leave you facing the toughest weeks right around the Christmas season.
One easy solution is to start the 52-week money challenge sometime other than January. While you’ll miss out on that burst of determination most people feel around New Year’s, it may leave you better positioned for success.
Get the toughest weeks out of the way earlier
Another useful modification entails using irregular influxes of cash to get those tough weeks out of the way as soon as possible. For example, consider putting some of your tax refund towards those December savings targets.
Do the entire challenge in reverse
You could take the previous modification to the extreme and tackle the entire 52-week money challenge in reverse. In other words, you’d start by saving $52 during the first week and subsequently decrease your contributions by $1 each week.
The disadvantage here is that you won’t be build momentum. In fact, you’ll be decelerating the entire time. Nonetheless, this may make sense if you have other priorities that will take precedence later in the year and prefer to complete the savings challenge before then.
Keep the savings challenge going past 52 weeks
You can save an additional $4,082 by continuing the 52-week money challenge for a second year. This is a useful modification if the amount you hope to save is much greater than $1,378.
If you’re saving towards retirement or a house down payment, for example, why not keep the challenge going for as long as possible? Even just one more year will see you save an additional $4,082.
Use the money for whatever you need (not just saving)
You don’t necessarily have to save those weekly contributions during the 52-week money challenge. The idea is to use that money in the most productive manner possible, whatever that means for you.
For example, you could use the weekly contributions to make extra debt repayments. You could also invest it (assuming you have a brokerage that lets you invest smaller amounts, such as Acorns). As long as you end up financially better off at the end of the 52-week money challenge, you’ve won.
Additional tips for completing the 52-week savings challenge successfully
Here are some additional tips to help you make the most of the 52-week savings challenge.
Automate your weekly contributions as much as possible
A quick Google search for “52-week savings challenge app” will reveal many financial products you can use to automate your contributions throughout the challenge. This is a great way to make sure you don’t forget about those weekly deposits.
Set a specific goal for the money
What are you looking to accomplish by completing the 52-week money challenge? If you’re not sure, here are a few ideas to get you thinking:
- boosting your long-term savings (i.e. retirement or home down payment)
- building an emergency fund
- saving up for a vacation or other fun expense
- paying off debt faster
- building a sinking fund
Having a goal in mind should help you stay motivated throughout the challenge. It will also help you gauge whether the amounts you’ll be saving during the challenge are enough.
Choose the correct account to keep your contributions in
Make sure the type of account you’ll be keeping your contributions in is appropriate for your goal. If you live in the United States and plan on using the 52-week money challenge to build your long-term savings, check out this article for a list of investment and savings accounts.
As I mentioned earlier, you could also use the 52-week money challenge as a means of paying off debt more aggressively. If that’s your goal, be strategic in choosing the loan you’ll pay off with those contributions. For example, consider targeting your balances based on the debt snowball or debt avalanche methods.
Don’t withdraw money for any reason other than your goal
Once you have a goal for the money you’ll be saving during the 52-week savings challenge, consider those funds off-limits for any other purpose. Few things will demotivate you more than setting yourself back due to impulsive purchases.
Pay yourself first every week
Your weekly contributions shouldn’t be an afterthought. Instead, get them out of the way as early in the week as possible. This is all about paying yourself first, which means prioritizing your financial goals rather than simply saving what’s left.
The 52-week money challenge is a great strategy for building momentum and saving money throughout the year. I hope this article has helped you understand how the challenge works and how to complete it successfully.
Click here to check out some of my other articles on the topic of saving money.