How To Do 52-Week Money Challenges

ByJulija A.
March 18, 2022

If you’re looking to get out of a financial rut, doing one of the many 52-week challenges currently being touted online could be a great place to start. 

The goal of a 52-week money challenge is to save money consistently throughout the year by putting away a predetermined amount each week. Then, at the end of the 12 months, you count up how much you’ve got.

More people than ever before are using the 52-week money challenge because the need for it is growing. According to data from The Atlantic, 47% of Americans can’t come up with $400 in cash in case of an emergency without borrowing. 

Fifty-two-week money challenges are alluring because they promise financial freedom to people who manage to complete them. Once you have savings in the bank, you have a kind of financial “backstop” for your life.

If you lose your job or need to cover a major expense, it’s not the end of the world. You have time, space, and resources to get back on your feet again and thrive. 

People who save and invest effectively can grow their money even faster. Once a person buys income-generating assets, they’re able to boost their annual income way beyond what’s possible working a regular job. 

What Is the 52-Week Money Challenge?

The 52-week money challenge is the term for a range of challenges that revolve around saving a certain amount of money each week for a year. The actual amount can be a percentage of your take-home pay or a fixed dollar amount, say $100. 

How much you can save in a year depends on your savings rate. Let’s demonstrate this with the help of a table: 

Weekly Savings ($)

Year-End Savings ($)

$1

$52

$5

$260

$10

$520

$20

$1040

$50

$2,600

$100

$5,200

$250

$13,000

$500

$26,000

$1,000

$52,000

The reason the 52-week challenge works is because it breaks down your savings goals into smaller chunks. If somebody said to you at the start of the year that you had to save $13,000, you’d probably feel overwhelmed.

However, if they said you need to cobble together $250 per week, you’d likely feel happier about the situation because $250 seems much easier to save than $13,000.

As you can see, small weekly savings amounts can soon add up. Even if you only save $100 a week, you’ll have $5,200 in easily-accessible savings by the end of the year, which is substantially more than most Americans. And that’s after just one year. Imagine how much money you’d have if you did 10 52-week challenges in a row!

How the 52-Week Money Challenge Works

There are actually different ways to embark on the 52-week money challenge. All of them will give you a sizable pot of money by the end of the process, but some may be better than others, based on your psychology. 

Standard 52-Week Money Challenge

The standard 52-week challenge is what we describe above. You consistently put away a set dollar amount (say $50 per week), depending on your budget. 

52-Week Forward Money Challenge

Under this scheme, you increase the amount of money you contribute every week.

For instance, for the first week, you might contribute $1, then the second week, you contribute $2, and so on. 

You can also do it in other ways, too. For example, you might start at $5 for the first week and then try to increase the amount of money you save by $5 every week over the course of the year. By week 52, you’ll be saving $260 per week, which is considerably more than most people. 

Don’t tell yourself you’ll save double each week – the numbers will quickly get crazy. For instance, if you save $1 in the first week, $2 in the second, $4 dollars in the third, and so on, by the time you reach week 52, you’ll need trillions of dollars!

The forward money challenge is ideal for people who are looking to both earn more and save at the same time. 

Even if you don’t have much money to contribute right now, you can work over the coming months to increase your savings capacity by getting a promotion, doing extra work on the side, increasing your working hours, setting up a successful business, or reducing your expenditure. 

If your income rises, you should find that your capacity to save also rises in lockstep, keeping the difficulty of the challenge constant. 

52-Week Reverse Money Challenge

The obverse of this is sometimes called the 52-week reverse money challenge. The idea here is to start the challenge with $52 (or some other multiple) and then subtract $1 every week from the total so that the challenge becomes easier over time. 

In other words, you’d start by saving $52 in week 1 and then put away $51 in week 2, $50 in week 3, and so on. By week 52, you’ll only need to put away $1. 

If you need savings fast and know that you have limited willpower, this version of the 52-week challenge could be for you. As you go through the year, savings targets become progressively easier, helping you reach the finish line. 

Benefits of the 52-Week Savings Challenge

The 52-week savings challenge is more than just a gimmick. It’s actually a clever money-saving strategy that works with human psychology to make saving easier. 

Here’s what’s happening:

  • It turns saving into a game. All too often, saving money feels like a chore, but with the 52-week savings challenge, it’s more like a game. Once you see it from this perspective, it stops being so difficult and turns into something fun. 
  • It’s flexible. The 52-week challenge doesn’t demand that you save a fixed amount each week, either. Instead, it gives you flexibility. Even if you’re strapped for cash, you can still get started. Begin with just $1 a week if you have to. 
  • It lets you save as you go. People tend to save in a haphazard fashion. If they have money, they’ll put it away; if they don’t, they won’t. Money-saving challenges add some much-needed structure to the process. Once you commit, you know that you have to put away a certain amount each week, which changes your behavior and what you buy.
  • It gives you momentum. Working toward financial goals takes time. For most savers, it’s at least 10 years before they start to see life-changing sums of money in their bank accounts. Even so, a shorter 52-week challenge gives you momentum. It’s much easier to save $5 a week than it is to commit to $260 per year.
  • You can start small. Trying to save $200 a month is unrealistic for many people. However, putting away just $1 a week is something that anyone can do, and it gets the ball rolling. Once you start saving, you get into the habit and begin to see results. After a year, your financial situation could look very different indeed. 
  • It motivates you to set bigger goals. Once you realize that you can easily save money for a year, you start wondering if you could take on bigger goals. If you saved $5 a week this year, you wonder if you could put away $20 a week next year and so on. After several years, you could be saving truly spectacular sums of money. 

Tips for Completing the 52-Week Savings Challenge

Fifty-two-week challenges can be hard to stick to, so here are some tips for seeing you through:

Save Automatically

Don’t wait until the end of the month before you put money away. Instead, set up a direct debit from the account your salary gets paid into that automatically takes out your weekly savings on the day you get paid. Build it into your budget as a line item instead of just winging it, and see how much you have left over. 

Sell Items You No Longer Need

If you have old things lying around the house that you don’t need, sell them and use the proceeds to contribute to your 52-week challenge. Remember, you don’t just have to save out of earned income. You can also turn your physical wealth into cash. 

Reward Yourself When You Reach Certain Milestones

Saving your money week after week is hard. However, you can help yourself stay on track by rewarding yourself when you reach certain milestones. For instance, for every 13 weeks that you save (a quarter of the year), you might treat yourself to a meal out. 

Set Reminders

If you’re a forgetful person or you don’t pay much attention to your finances, you’ll want to set saving reminders on your phone. These can be simple messages that you type into your calendar telling you that you need to transfer funds to your savings account, perhaps on Mondays. 

Cut Back on Unnecessary Expenses

Lastly, cut back on unnecessary expenses. This way, you can free up funds that you can plow right back into your savings. 

Take a look at your lifestyle and ask what’s essential and what isn’t. You'll want to keep things that support your health, like fitness classes and gym membership. But meals out to restaurants or entertainment subscriptions could be items you could scrap.

How To Use Your Emergency Fund Cash

Saving money is great, but its ultimate purpose is to improve your quality of life, so how should you use it? 

Pay Off Debt

Your top priority should be to pay off any debts you owe. Because they incur interest, debts can cause you to quickly spiral into poverty if you don’t get control of them in a timely manner. 

Boost Your Emergency Fund

Just having a pile of cash waiting in the wings ready to go when disaster strikes is a benefit in itself. It gives you peace of mind that if something were to go wrong, you’d be covered. 

Investing in Stocks and Real Estate

Another option is to invest in an income-generating asset, like stocks and real estate. This way, you can grow your savings without putting in any extra effort. 

A Fun Activity

If you’ve been working hard all year, it’s often nice to indulge yourself. You could use the extra money you’ve saved to finance something you’ve been dreaming about, such as a trip to a foreign country or buying an item that’s been on your wishlist for months.

Achieving a Financial Goal

Lastly, you might use a 52-week challenge to achieve a financial goal, such as putting a down payment on a house, adding extra money to your retirement account, or buying a car. Having a large chunk of cash readily available gives you substantial freedom in your financial life. 

The Bottom Line 

Fifty-two-week challenges are a great tool for anyone who has tried saving in the past but hasn’t achieved their goals. From a psychological perspective, they are compelling: Not only do they turn saving into a game (and make it feel less like a hardship), but they are also finite – you don’t have to do them forever.

FAQ

How much do you save with the 52-week rule?

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How much you save with the 52-week rule is entirely up to you. Part of the appeal of 52-week challenges is that you get to decide what you want to put away based on what you can afford. Savings can range from as little as $52 all the way up to $52,000. 

What is the 100 envelope challenge?

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The 100 envelope challenge is a money-saving activity where you label 100 envelopes from one to 100. You then choose one envelope at random every day for 100 days and put an equivalent amount of money inside for a total saving of $5,050.

How much is $5 a week for a year?

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Five dollars a week for a year works out as a total saving of $260. 

About author

Albert Einstein is said to have identified compound interest as mankind’s greatest invention. That story’s probably apocryphal, but it conveys a deep truth about the power of fiscal policy to change the world along with our daily lives. Civilization became possible only when Sumerians of the Bronze Age invented money. Today, economic issues influence every aspect of daily life. My job at Fortunly is an opportunity to analyze government policies and banking practices, sharing the results of my research in articles that can help you make better, smarter decisions for yourself and your family.

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