How to Beat the 52-Week Savings Challenge

Saving can be difficult for a lot of people.

There’s a reason that more than half of Americans don’t have $500 on hand to cover an emergency expense.

Having the extra cash to put aside, and actually remembering to save, isn’t easy.

To help encourage people to save more and to make saving fun, people have come up with different games or challenges that revolve around saving.

One of the most popular is the 52-Week Saving Challenge.

What is the 52-Week Savings Challenge?

The 52-Week Saving Challenge is a challenge designed to help people get in the habit of saving money by having them constantly increase the amount that they’re saving.

How it works

To complete the challenge, you start by saving $1. In the next week, you save $2. The week after, you save $3, and so on until you save $52 in the final week.

So:

If you succeed at the challenge, you’ll have saved $1,378 over the course of a year.

If you used the right savings account, you’ll have earned some interest on top of that.

Purpose

There are multiple reasons to participate in the 52-Week Savings Challenge.

A savings habit

By starting small, it’s easy to build the habit of setting money aside rather than spending it immediately.

The slow, consistent increase in the amount your saving makes sure that your goal never seems insurmountable, you just have to save a little bit more than you did last time.

Reach a savings goal

You can also combine the challenge with an actual goal that you’re saving toward.

For example, you might want to take a family vacation or save for a down payment on a new car. Taking a year to save $1,378 will get you much closer to your goal and adding the challenge aspect can make saving more fun.

It's fun

Finally, the 52-Week Savings Challenge is supposed to be a fun way to save.

You can work to complete the challenge with your friends and coworkers, and compare your progress.

Turning it into a social game can make completing the challenge and building your savings even more fun.

The Best Account to Help Complete the Challenge

So, once you’ve decided to work on completing the 52-Week Savings Challenge, you’ll need a bank account to hold your savings.

What’s the best account to use?

An online savings account is the obvious choice for the 52-Week Savings Challenge. There are multiple reasons why online accounts are the best choice.

Why?

One is that using an online savings account helps reduce the temptation to spend the money, which is one of the most difficult parts of completing the challenge.

If the money is in an online account, you have to transfer it back to your regular bank before you can spend it.

Adding extra steps makes it harder to spend the money on impulse.

Low fees and low account minimums

Another great reason to use an online savings account is that they tend to have low minimum balance requires and no monthly fees.

If you’re starting by saving just $1, you don’t want to open an account that has a minimum balance of $25, $50, or $100 as it will take weeks before you meet that requirement.

High interest rates

Finally, online savings accounts tend to pay more interest than savings accounts offered by brick and mortar banks.

One of the primary goals of the 52-Week Savings Challenge is to build up a balance that you can use as an emergency fund or for some other purpose.

Augmenting the money that you save with additional interest gets you closer to those goals.

How to Beat the 52-Week Savings Challenge

Once you’ve taken on the challenge, you’ll need some tips to help beat it.

Here are some tricks that you can use to make it easier to beat the challenge.

Schedule your transfers in advance

One of the best tricks for beating the 52-Week Savings Challenge is to schedule your transfers.

That makes the process completely automatic as money will be pulled from your checking account without you having to do anything to initiate the transfer.

Using an online savings account makes this easy as most online banks offer powerful transactions scheduling tools.

Now:

When you’re scheduling the transfers, there are two strategies that you can use.

Batch scheduled transfers

One is to set up 52 individual transfers, one for each week.

This will have you follow the schedule set down for the challenge, saving $1 in the first week, $2 in the second, and so on.

Automatic transfers

If you’d rather make things more uniform, you can set up a single, weekly transfer of $26.50.

If you transfer $26.50 to your savings account each week, you’ll save exactly $1,378 over the course of 52 weeks, which is the same amount that you’d save by following the standard schedule for the challenge.

The other benefit of this strategy is that you get used to having that $26.50 missing from your budget immediately.

The downside, of course, is that you don’t have time to ramp up your savings.

Adjust the schedule

Another trick that you can use to make it easier to beat the 52-Week Savings Challenge is doing the challenge backward.

When you first start the challenge, you’re likely to be motivated and excited about the idea of saving. Getting the hardest weeks out of the way early by saving $52 in the first week, $51 in the second week, and so on, might make beating the challenge easier.

As you get close to the end of the challenge, you might start losing the motivation that you had to beat the challenge. It can be difficult to convince yourself to set aside $30, $40, or more if you’re losing motivation and that amount of money could get you a fun night out to the movies or a nice meal at a restaurant.

You can also try a free-form schedule.

Rather than uniformly increasing or decreasing the amount that you save, set up a check list for every amount from $1 to $52. Each week, set aside an amount that you haven’t saved yet.

You might save $10 the first week, $7 the second week, $43 the third week, $12 the fourth week, $1 the fifth week, and so on. So long as you save each amount once, you’ll finish the challenge with the same amount.

This strategy can be easier for people with irregular incomes or bills as it is easier to adapt the amount that you save to the cash that you have available.

Ways to Make It More Interesting

If you’ve already beaten the 52-Week Savings Challenge, or just want to save even more, you can try these ways to make the challenge more interesting.

Increase the amount by $2 each week

One way to make the 52-Week Savings Challenge more interesting is to adjust the amount that you increase your savings by each week.

You could increase your savings by $2 (or more) each week. For example, in the first week, you’d save $1, then $3, then $5, and so on.

Following this schedule would result in you saving $2,704, which will get you even closer to whatever goal you’re saving toward.

It’s up to you how much you want to adjust your savings by each week. Saving even more will mean you have even more money in the bank at the end of the year.

Increasing the savings by less will make the challenge easier but at the cost of having less at the end of the year.

Start by saving $5

Another thing to try is to increase the amount that you save in the first week and to continue increasing your savings each week as normal.

For example, saving $5, then $6, then $7, and so on. Following this schedule will result in you saving a total of $1,643 over the course of 52 weeks.

You could even combine these two strategies, starting with a higher amount and increasing your savings by more or less than $1 each week.

How you tackle the 52-week Savings Challenge is up to you. The challenge provides a good idea and framework that you can use, but personal finance is just that.

Personal.

If you want to tackle the challenge in a different way or adapt it to fit your personal situation, don’t be afraid to do so.

Conclusion

The 52-Week Savings Challenge is a great way to get into the habit of saving.

By starting small, it makes it easy to build the habit without feeling like your sacrificing a lot.

By the end of the challenge, you’re used to setting aside a good amount of money each week and can clearly see what your efforts have done when you look at the more than $1,300 in your savings account.

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