The 52 Week Savings Challenge is a simple method for saving a large amount. Making smaller deposits each week will help you reach your savings goal amount by the end of the year-long challenge period.
Print out one of the trackers included in this article for monitoring your savings progress. You don’t have to start your challenge at the beginning of the year, but the $1000 and $5000 Savings trackers are set up to accumulate those amounts before Christmas.
Why participate in a 52 Week Savings Challenge?
Do you have a big savings goal you need help achieving? Do you just need to get started with saving money? If you answered yes to either of these questions, the 52 Week Savings Challenge is for you!
52 Week Savings Challenges have the advantage of serving as a long-term goal that may appeal more than short-term savings goals like “saving for a car” or “college tuition.”
The 52 Week Savings Challenge can be used to help people save for anything: vacations, retirement, debts, or emergencies. Participants can choose to have their contributions go into a savings account that they will access only in case of emergency or to a separate saving account earmarked for the 52 weeks’ worth of savings they are working toward.
What to do with all the money you save
What you do with your savings depends on where you are in the Financial Security Steps & what your goals are.
Step 2: Save a Mini Emergency Fund + Begin Retirement Savings
At the beginning of your financial journey, you have SO many ways to spend/save this money…. But what’s the best option?
If you don’t already have one, absolutely put the money in a savings account to establish your mini emergency fund. This is one of the most important steps to take before tackling your debt; a mini emergency fund helps you avoid more debt when an emergency pops up.
Some believe $1000 is a large enough emergency fund, but I recommend saving $500 + $500 per person in your family. Having a larger family (especially kids who don’t contribute financially) means your emergencies can cost more.
You could also use the savings as a contribution to your retirement account, but that’s less ideal. This early in your financial transformation journey, you should only be contributing the minimum to your retirement account. You don’t want to lose out on the compound interest benefits of investing early, but you also need more in your budget to throw at debt.
Retirement contributions should be factored into your ongoing budget, rather than as a lump sum deposit at the end of the challenge. You’re going to have to invest in retirement for decades, so get used to it.
Step 3: Save for Recurring Expenses
The Balanced FI method for making money easy revolves around saving for monthly & annual expenses from every paycheck. You get a month ahead on your bills to reduce budget stresses, then save a portion of next month’s bills from each paycheck.
Saving for recurring expenses means that you don’t have to time your payments with your paydays, because you have a little cushion built up. You can use the money saved from the 52 Week Savings Challenge to create that cushion.
If you want to walk through this process in more detail & stop stressing about when to pay your bills, you need to enroll in the Bill-Balancing Bootcamp. This digital course walks you through all the steps in detail & breaks down the math, so you’ll understand exactly how much you need to save from each paycheck.
Step 7: Pay Off Debt
Paying off debt is essential to changing your financial future. Paying interest on debts is just throwing money away.
This step often takes years; your savings from the challenge can be used as a nice boost to speed up your progress. While you’re on Step 7, I recommend throwing all your extra money at principal payments… after spending a little bit on fun things to stay motivated.
Step 8: Save an Emergency Fund of 6 Months Expenses
A larger emergency fund keeps you out of additional debt during so many situations. When you’re saving up such a large amount, add your 52 Week Savings Challenge savings to your emergency fund.
An extra, larger deposit will help speed up your progress. The sooner you have a fully-funded emergency fund, the sooner you can move on to more long-term goals
Step 9: Increase Retirement Contributions
At this point, increasing your retirement contributions to at least 15% of your income is your priority. Starting earlier gives you a better chance of saving enough by the time you retire.
If you have enough budgeted for retirement, you might want to put your savings toward a different goal (see Step 10). You can obviously invest the extra in retirement, but you’ll see more immediate results putting your savings to work in a different way.
Step 10: Choose Your Next Financial Goal
Your next financial goal depends on your life & priorities. Some examples are:
- Increase emergency fund to 12 months’ expenses
- Save for your children’s college education
- Pay off your mortgage
- Max out retirement contributions
- Save up for a large purchase – new vehicle, down payment on a home, home improvements, vacation, etc.
- Pursue financial independence
Any of those goals can benefit from an extra contribution.
You can also use the saved money to buy gifts, for Christmas, birthdays or other holidays. I like to contribute to a sinking fund from every paycheck, but that gets boring.
The $1000 and $5000 savings challenges are set up to get you to the goal before Christmas. You’ll have enough for a carefully budgeted holiday and not have to worry about depositing your savings in the last 2 weeks of the year.
How does the 52 Week Savings Challenge work?
The basic 52 Week Savings Challenge requires you to deposit one dollar in week one and add an extra dollar each week. By the end of the year, you’ll have saved $1,378.
This layout is nice because it eases you into saving money. It doesn’t get any easier than saving $1 that first week. The drawback to the increasing weekly deposit is the larger deposits at the end of the year.
In the last 4 weeks of the year, you’ll save $202 and December is the worst time to save that much. Christmas gifts and holiday parties often mean you don’t have any extra money in your budget.
How do you reverse the 52 Week Savings Challenge?
Instead of saving $1 in week one, deposit $52. In week two, save $51, and so on. You’ll still save $1,378 throughout the year, but the burden of higher savings happens at the beginning of the year.
With the reversed 52 Week Savings Challenge, you’ll only need to save $10 total during the last 4 weeks. That is a much easier amount to save while you’re planning for Christmas.
How can I save $1000 in a year?
The $1000 Saved 52 Week Savings Challenge makes it very easy to automate your weekly savings.
You save $20 per week, except for the last 2 weeks of the year. That allows you to save $1000 before Christmas, theoretically to be used on gifts or a holiday trip.
Of course, you could also set up a Christmas gift sinking fund that you contribute to all year long. That would free up the savings from the 52 Week Savings Challenge for another financial goal.
How can I save $5000 in a year?
This variation is more hardcore – you need to save $100 per week for weeks 1-50.
Again, you get the last 2 weeks off so you have the whole amount saved before Christmas, in case that’s your goal.
You could alternatively skip 2 other weeks during the year if your budget is tight at different times of the year.
How much do you save with the 52 Week Savings Challenge?
It depends on which variation you choose, but you can save between $1000 and $5000.
Obviously, your budget has a great impact on how much you can actually save each week too. No matter your good intentions, you can’t save $100 per week if you just don’t have that much extra in your budget.
Committing to a saving challenge should also help you stay on track with your monthly budget and spending. Having a bigger goal (the challenge) lurking in your subconscious is a motivator to stick to your budget.
Stay on Track
When you’re starting a new financial habit, it’s hard to stick to your goal. Whether you’re saving money, paying off debt, or following a budget, new routines are difficult to follow day in & day out.
A 30 Day Challenge is a great kick in the pants to jump-start a new habit, but it’s a short-term solution. You just can’t save as much in 30 days, and the restrictions of a shorter challenge are not sustainable long term.
Participating in a year-long challenge, on the other hand, allows you to save more money with less sacrifice, due to the longer time period.
52 Week Savings Challenges can be a powerful way to save money. It is an excellent option for people who are looking for long-term goals or have difficulty saving small amounts of money each day. 52 weeks may seem daunting, but remember that it’s only 52 times you need to set aside one dollar per week in order to meet your goal! You could also try reversing the 52 Week Savings Challenge and see how much easier it becomes when you start at the end of the year instead of waiting until January 1st.