If you're devoting 2017 to getting out of debt, saving for a new home, paying for school, amping up your retirement or any other money-oriented goal you could possibly make for your financial well-being, you won't get there without a game plan. You'll need to find creative ways to save every extra cent you can stand.
Big deposits are keen, of course, but if you're already feeling stretched thin and don't know where to start, I'd like to suggest your first baby step, right here in the very first week of the new year.
The 52-Week Money Saving Challenge
You might have heard of the 52-week challenge concept before—it's a simple plan that makes saving money feel all the ways it's not supposed to feel: Fun, easy and relatively painless. Here's how it works, according to an article on Bankrate, which has tracked down the origin of the challenge to a Facebook group:
If your target savings amount increased every week, could you handle it?
That's the purpose of another 52-week challenge, the money challenge, believed to have been originated in 2013 through a Facebook group called "Kassondra's 52-Week Money Challenge," created by personal finance enthusiast Kassondra Perry-Moreland.
You start off Week One by saving $1; then Week Two you save $2; Week Three you save $3, etc., until you reach the last week of the year, Week 52, when you'd save $52. Your savings would add up to $1,378
The 52-week challenge makes your savings habitual—you sock away a small amount at the end of every single week—and ramps up very slowly, adding one dollar every week until you're saving more than $200 in December. The grand total of your simple savings plan at the end of 2017? Almost $1,400—a not insignificant amount you can throw into your down payment fund or use to pay off a credit card.
Tip: Need something visual to keep you on track? Check out the Google Image search results for "52-week money challenge" and choose your flavor.
The challenge is almost standard fare for finance-minded folks these days (if you're a Qapital user, there's a rule that automatically deducts the right amounts from your checking account every week), but it's not a perfect system. In January, you only need to put away $10 from your paycheck, but in December, the monthly total debit is $202. We just got through December, and my wallet is still feeling the effects of holiday travel and buying all those presents—I'd have an easier time finding an extra $200 to sock away in literally any other month of the year.
Try One of These 52-Week Challenge Alternatives
If you dig the idea of the challenge, but find the specifics a little curious, like me, there's good news: The 52-week concept is almost infinitely hackable. Here are three of my favorite twists.
For those who like to jump right in to the deep end when the water's cold, turn the challenge on its head and do the whole thing backwards. Save $52 in the first week of January, then lower the amount by $1 each week, until you're putting only $4, then $3, then $2, then $1 in the final four weeks of December. That should help with holiday spending. And you'll get to see the immediate impact of your efforts as your total grows big right away.
Check Off Weeks Instead
Financial windfalls never stick to a schedule, so why should you? Instead of slowly increasing or decreasing your weekly deposits, put all the amounts—from $1 to $52—on a checklist and make the deposits in whatever order you can. When a particularly tight week rolls around in the fall, you might make that your $2 week. But it's OK, because you made $52, $51, $48 and $46 deposits right after you got your tax return and some birthday money in March. (If you're going a bit cross-eyed trying to keep track, Local Government Federal Credit Union made a handy checklist printout that you can use.)
Even it Out, and Automate It
Does all this week-counting tomfoolery feel silly to you? Your version of the challenge might look like this: An automatic transfer of $26.50 per week to savings. That's the weekly amount you need to save the same total—$1,378—as your other 52-week counterparts.
Have you ever tackled the 52-week money challenge before?