One of the most popular money trends in recent years is the 52-week money challenge. The premise is fairly simple: at the end of week one, you put away just $1 and then gradually increase your savings by one dollar a week.
With this steady, incremental increase, by the final week, you save $52 for a total savings of just under $1,400 for the year.
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While saving little amounts sounds well and good, sometimes you need a little extra help to start saving. Today, I’m offering 12 tips to help you stick to (and maybe even surpass) the 52-week money challenge.
Is the 52-week money saving challenge right for you?
There are several reasons why the 52-week money challenge might be right for you:
Saving up for a rainy day
You never know when an unexpected money crunch will arise. If your car breaks down or your roof needs immediate fixing, not having sufficient savings could plunge you into the red.
Get ahead of chance by getting in on the money-saving challenge and earn peace of mind.
Planning a major purchase or vacation
If you are planning something special down the road that will cost more than you have on hand, the money-saving challenge is a great way to start saving for a new car, a much-needed vacation, or the wedding of your dreams.
Taking out loans will cost you in interest and fees, so try to save in advance rather than getting into debt.
Paying down debt
For people already facing debt, it can feel impossible to make a dent. With interest eating away at your financial security, the best course of action is to save up some cash and pay down debt as quickly as possible. The 52-week money-saving challenge is one way to start climbing out of a financial hole
Becoming more fiscally responsible
The simplicity and low weekly amounts of this challenge make it great for almost any budget, and the consistency can help build your self-accountability. Training yourself to save money and better understand where you are spending develops good financial habits that will last far beyond the 52 weeks.
Top 52-week money saving challenge tips
Getting started with a money-saving challenge can seem daunting, but there are a number of helpful tips to get you moving and put you on the path to savings success.
Audit your subscriptions
From wellness apps to music streaming, the average American spends close to $240 per month on subscription services. Set aside an hour or two to comb through your bills and figure out what you really need and what you can live without. You can also use a service like Trim – which combs through your subscriptions for you and can help you cancel any you no longer want.
Check out free alternatives and make the switch to save a bundle. Do you really need that pricey gym membership? Are you really using that dating app? Chances are you’ll be able to cut out a lot without feeling a pinch.
Put your savings in a high yield savings account
In theory, the 52-week money challenge just means throwing the required weekly amount into a piggy bank on your kitchen counter. But this is a missed opportunity to make your savings work for you. Depositing your weekly amounts into a savings account set up for this purpose will reduce the temptation to dip into the cash for incidentals and will also earn you interest.
The CIT Bank Savings Builder account is a good choice for anyone looking to earn significant interest on their savings. You’ll earn 1.00% APY if you maintain an account balance of at least $25,000 or deposit $100 or more per month. See details here.
It’s unlikely that you’ll be doing the 52-week money challenge if you already have $25,000 in savings, and the $100 per month minimum deposit exceeds the challenge amounts for most of the year, but it’s more motivation to save more.
One thing to keep in mind is the minimum initial deposit to open a CIT Savings Builder account is $100. Aside from that, once you’ve set up your account easily and online, and made the initial deposit, you can set up automatic monthly transfers at no cost to make sure that you’re keeping up with the challenge.CIT Bank. Member FDIC.
Don’t want a savings account – try a high-yield checking account instead
To get your weekly deposits working for you without the need to open a separate savings account, check out Axos Bank Rewards Checking Account. With up to 3.30% APY and unlimited ATM fee reimbursements at the top tier, Axos offers a unique interest-bearing checking account.
The catch is that to qualify for the highest tier of interest, you’ll need to use an Axos Bank debit card at least 15 times per month and meet other goals. If this is something you’ll be able to keep up with, the Axos Bank Rewards Checking Account will earn you more money on your savings – even on smaller amounts at the beginning of the challenge.
Track your spending
If you aren’t sure where your money is going, write down everything you spend for one week. When you take a hard look, chances are you’ll find a lot of places to cut back, leaving you with the cash you need to keep up with the challenge.
Here are some places I found to cut back when I tracked my spending for a week:
- Buying coffee: Brew your own at home and save an estimated $400 this year. Even if you treat yourself to a macchiato once a week, cutting back on coffee shops will give you more money to put towards your savings challenge.
- Ordering-in lunch: Buying food is around 300% more expensive than making it at home. Brown bag it and bank the extra cash.
- Non-essential clothes and cosmetics: In 2018, the average American millennial spent around $2,000 on apparel. Swap clothes with friends if you’re bored with your wardrobe and put the difference towards your money challenge savings.
- Ride-sharing and cabs: Depending on where you live in the US, you might be spending up to $100 per month on ride-sharing alone. Switch to public transit or hoof it to save every month.
Using a budgeting app is a great way to control and track your spending. Here’s a list of our favorites.
Round up your spending to save
While a high yield savings account is a great way to maximize this challenge, another balance booster is putting your challenge money in an online savings program like the one offered by Chime®.
This mobile-only financial app is a convenient alternative to traditional banks*, with no fees2 and great features like Round Up.^ If you already have a Chime Visa® Debit Card, enable the Round Up feature to automatically transfer cash with every purchase. Chime will round up to the nearest dollar and deposit the difference into your savings account.
Chime also offers an automatic savings feature that transfers 10% of direct deposits over $500 into a high-yield Chime savings account. Chime’s automatic savings features offer a great way to get ahead of your 52-Week Money Challenge – but you will need to open both a spending and savings account.1
* Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services and debit card provided by The Bankcorp Bank, N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC.
^ Round Ups automatically round up debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and transfer the round up from your Chime Checking Account to your savings account.
1 Save When I Get Paid automatically transfers 10% of your direct deposits of $500 or more from your Checking Account into your savings account.
2 There’s no fee for the Chime Savings Account. Cash withdrawal and Third-party fees may apply to Chime Checking Accounts. You must have a Chime Checking Account to open a Chime Savings Account.
Work some odd jobs
If you have a couple of hours a day to spare, consider taking on some side gigs to supplement your income and keep you on top of your weekly savings. Peruse classified ads, take on babysitting or dog walking jobs, or set up a part-time freelance business.
The best thing is that you may be able to earn more than you have to save, propelling your savings beyond the money challenge amounts. Completing the challenge also doesn’t mean you need to give up your gigs. Keep working and saving long after the year is up and enjoy the ongoing savings.
Deposit more when you can
Even if you’ve set up automatic deposits, this doesn’t mean you can’t transfer money into your savings whenever you want. One of the big benefits of modern mobile banking is the ease of transferring money using convenient apps.
Chime’s mobile app lets you move between Chime Spending and Savings Accounts as needed and for free, so if you’re feeling flush one week, you can boost your balance at no extra cost.
Cash in on cash back bonuses
Many credit cards offer rewards points on spending that can be used to make purchases or cashed in for gift cards. If you already have one of these cards, use your points to pay and set aside the cash you would have used for your savings challenge.
Don’t have a card that offers cash back bonuses? Check out some of these top picks to decide if these cards are right for you.
Get the full picture
Before you get started on the challenge, take the opportunity to get the full picture of your finances with convenient and easy-to-use budgeting tools. These platforms will aggregate all of your financial data in one place, so you can better understand what money is going in, what money is going out, and where you can save. Once you have a better idea of your finances, it will be easier to set aside cash for the 52-week money saving challenge.
PocketSmith is a financial planning app that helps you manage and budget your money conveniently and receive predictive financial forecasting to guide spending decisions. Once you have joined the platform, you’ll be able to import data from over 12,000 financial institutions worldwide at the touch of a finger.
PocketSmith offers three levels of subscription, including a basic free version that delivers limited data import, budgeting, six-month financial projections, and multiple budgets. The Premium and Super subscription packages offer comprehensive financial planning and automatic data collections, but the monthly fee will undermine your 52-week savings, so for this challenge, it might be best to just use the free version.
Have a no-spending weekend every month
One weekend a month, commit to spending nothing and put that money towards your challenge savings. Being frugal can still be fun and there are plenty of activities to do without having to spend a dime.
Get outside for a hike and a picnic, have a board game night with friends or family, or just kick back with a movie and popcorn at home.
While the 52-week money challenge starts with a weekly savings of $1 and climbs to $52 in the final week, this doesn’t need to be set in stone. Saving a little more if you have the cash to spare will get you closer to your financial goals, and if you’re picking up extra work or selling off unwanted items, you may surpass your weekly savings requirement.
If you can, consider doubling up the entire challenge. This may be a bit harder to keep up with, but the rewards are worth it. Begin with an initial deposit of $2 and add $2 to the total every week. Instead of finishing the challenge with $1,378, you’ll save $2,756, not including interest. Of course, if it’s feasible, you can triple the challenge as well, or just add a little extra to your challenge savings whenever the funds are available.
Go mobile for easy money management
Dealing with brick and mortar banking isn’t always convenient, especially if you are often on the go. A growing number of online-only banks let customers schedule deposits easily using a convenient app, without any costly fees. Without extra charges on transactions, you can free up extra cash to put towards your 52-week money savings challenge.
The Axos Mobile Banking App is a convenient mobile-banking offering to help keep you on top of the 52-week money saving challenge. Delivering a fast and secure way to manage deposits and savings, even letting users authorize deposits via SMS, Axos puts the power to save into the palm of your hand.
Tap into this tech to make sure your money challenge transfers are free and that you can move more money into savings whenever possible.
Empower – an all-in-one banking tool* – makes life even easier, automatically tracking your spending throughout the month. Simply set your savings goals and let the app do the rest. As your checking account balance grows, Empower will automatically move small amounts into savings. If your expenses are high, Empower will scale down, moving less money into savings.
If the time ever comes that you need a little extra money, Empower can help with that, as well. You can get a no-interest advance on your paycheck (from $25 to $250^), as long as you connect an account that has direct deposit. The funds will be automatically deducted from your next direct deposit. You don’t need to worry about a credit check or late payment fees, either.
Sign up with Empower to overcome your money challenges and automate your savings. You can withdraw money at any time.*Empower is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by nbkc bank, Member FDIC. Empower Disclosure - * Eligibility requirements apply.
Negotiate your bills
Chances are you can lower your bills by just calling up your service provider and haggling a bit. From utilities to cable, do some research before you call and explain that you’re looking to switch to a competitor if the company can’t save you money. You could save 20% or more just by calling.
Cut the cord
Swap out cable or satellite subscriptions for an on-demand streaming service like Netflix or Hulu and you could save hundreds of dollars per year. Another cord to cut? Your landline. If you still have one, consider disconnecting it to save every month and put that cash into savings.
If you’re doing the 52-week money challenge, there are a number of ways to make the challenge easier and more lucrative.
Figure out where you can cut costs with easy-to-use apps, set up a side hustle, cash in on your credit cards, or sell off your old collectibles.