A Better 52 Week Money Challenge

Like me you may have seen a sheet posted on the lunch room bulletin board since the beginning of January promoting a saving plan called the 52 Week Money Challenge. It goes something like this:

52 week money challenge

  • Begin in week one and deposit $1.
  • Week 2 save $2
  • Week 3 save $3
  • And so on, until week 52 when you save $52.

The upside of all this weekly activity is that you end the year with $1,378 in savings with apparently little effort. That sounds great, but there are a few flaws in this program.

First starting out is too small.  After 10 weeks of savings, that’s basically 2 and a half months, you have a whopping $55 in the bank (or jar depending on what you use). That doesn’t seem very motivating to me. Given the lack of initial progress I think it’s probably too easy to fail because you just don’t see the point in continuing.

Problem number 2. Success is back end loaded. Almost half of the total savings happen in the last 15 weeks. If you do manage to keep motivated through the ‘easy parts’ but fall off the rails when the savings get a little tougher, you may be disappointed with your results. Let’s put some dates in to give it some perspective. If you make it until the kids return to school, so let’s say September 5, you’ve been saving for 36 weeks and you have a total of $666.  Not bad, but less than half your goal and you are 70% of the way through the program.

Another possible downside is that the highest savings happen at the end of the year — just in time for Christmas. This is true if you assume you started on January 1 but there really is no reason you can’t start saving any time so perhaps this may not apply to you. However it’s a valid question — will you have $52 a week spare at the end of the program when you could only generate $1 at the beginning?

I love the idea of saving a little bit each and every month. I also think having a weekly checklist that you can cross off is a great idea. However savings should really be based on your personal finances, not the number of weeks in a year.

I’d suggest instead that you set yourself TWO numbers each week:

  1. A minimum savings amount
  2. A bull’s eye savings amount.

Assuming you want to at least accomplish the 52 week challenge target, then your minimum savings amount each week should be $26.50 ($1,378 divided by 52 weeks).

Your bull’s eye is your stretch goal. How much do you think you can save each week with a little effort?  Is the $26.50 a tough go right now — then no problem, stick with that. If you can do more, up the ante.  If you make your weekly bull’s eye savings the average of $51 a week it assumes in the last month of the 52 week money challenge you will have $2,652 by the end of the year!

Whatever challenge you choose, know that deciding to actively save money each and every week is a good way to begin building a stronger financial future.

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