The blank slate of a new year is something I always look forward to.
Many of us — myself included — try to commit to financial goals as we make our New Year’s resolutions. We have grand visions of saving more money… but we don’t always have a plan mapped out to make it happen.
That’s where the 52-Week Money Challenge comes in.
You may have caught wind of this challenge on social media around the beginning of January in years past. The premise is simple, but this savings endeavor gets more difficult as the year goes along.
The first week, you save $1. The second week, you save $2. The third week, you save $3…
The idea is to increase the amount you deposit by $1 each week until you eventually save $52 in week 52, the last week of the year. Stay disciplined and stick to the plan, and you’ll have $1,378 in your account at the end of the year.
Can you imagine what you could do with an extra $1,378? Go ahead, I’ll give you a second to dream.
Now let’s get back to reality. While saving over $1,000 in one year is wonderful, the classic 52-week challenge isn’t ideal for everyone. It’s good for those who love to raise the bar higher after each goal they reach. But others shudder at the thought of saving over $200 in the month of December. (You’d need to save $49, $50, $51 and $52 in the last four weeks of the year.)
The good news is that the 52-week challenge can be customized to work for your financial life.
5 Alternative 52-Week Money Challenge Hacks
We’ve come up with five new ways to complete the 52-Week Money Challenge. You’ll still make weekly deposits into your savings account, and you’ll still end up with $1,378 by year’s end. These options just have you going about the savings plan in different ways.
Method No. 1 — Odd Numbers Up, Even Numbers Down
This approach is for those who’d like the challenge to get easier as the year winds down.
Here’s how it works:
Start the year saving money on an odd-number basis, increasing the amount each week by $2. So in week one, you’ll save $1. In week two, you’ll save $3. In week three, you’ll save $5. Keep the pattern going until week 26, when you’ll save $51.
Once you hit week 27 (halfway through the year), you’ll switch your savings amounts to even numbers, starting with $52. From there, you’ll decrease the amount you’re saving each week by $2. So you’ll save $52 in week 27, $50 in week 28, $48 in week 29 and so on. Once you hit the last week of the year, you’ll only be depositing $2 into your account to reach that $1,378 total.
While you’ll need to put away large sums of money in the months of June and July, you’ll stress less about saving money at the end of the year.
Method No. 2 — Quarterly Breakdowns
Maybe you like the idea of saving more money each week, but you’d rather break up the time frame into smaller chunks. With this approach, you’ll save incrementally each quarter, which is every 13 weeks.
Here’s how it works:
Deposit $1 into your savings account the first week. For the following weeks in the quarter, you’ll add $4 to the amount you deposited the previous week. So for the second week, you’ll deposit $5. For the third week, you’ll deposit $9. Keep up the pattern until you’ve reached week 13, when you’ll deposit $49.
Start the second quarter of the year by depositing $2. You’ll be in week 14 at this point. Start the pattern of adding $4 to each subsequent deposit amount until you get through week 26. So you’ll deposit $6 in week 15, $10 in week 16 and so on until week 26, when you’ll deposit $50.
Start the third quarter of the year by depositing $3. You’re now in week 27. Start up the pattern of adding $4 to the amount you deposit each week. In week 28, you’ll deposit $7. In week 29, you’ll deposit $11. Continue this pattern through week 39, when you’ll deposit $51.
Week 40 will be the first week of the last quarter of the year. You’ll start off by depositing $4 that week, and then you’ll jump back into the pattern you established in the previous quarters. You’ll need to deposit $8 in week 41 and $12 in week 42. You’ll keep at it until you’ve deposited $52 in week 52, resulting in a total yearly savings of $1,378.
Method No. 3 — Random Lottery
This method is for those who like to mix things up and not follow a predictable path. You’ll choose a different dollar amount at random each week to reach the savings goal.
Here’s how it works:
Get 52 slips of paper, and write an amount from $1 to $52 on each piece. Fold each slip of paper and put them in a jar.
Blindly select a slip of paper each week. The amount on the paper you pull will be the amount you deposit that week. Discard each slip of paper after you select it. Instead of doing weekly drawings, you could also create a chart or spreadsheet that outlines how much you’ll deposit each week. At the beginning of the year, you can draw slips of paper for all 52 weeks and write down on your spreadsheet how much you’ll save each week.
This approach to saving is completely arbitrary. You might deposit $5 one week and then $50 the next.
Method No. 4 — Semicontrolled Lottery
This method is a hybrid between completely random selection and incremental savings deposits.
Here’s how it works:
Write deposit amounts from $1 to $52 on slips of paper.
Separate the paper slips into four piles: $1 to $13 in one group, $14 to $26 in the next group, $27 to $39 in another group and $40 to $52 in the last group.
Fold the paper slips and put each group into its own jar. Label them Jar One, Jar Two, Jar Three and Jar Four.
Blindly select a slip of paper from Jar One in the first week. Pull from Jar Two the second week, then Jar Three in the third week and Jar Four in the fourth week. Discard each slip of paper after you select it for the week. Go back to Jar One in week five, and repeat that pattern through the end of the year. You can also choose to do the selection for the entire year at the beginning of the year, using a chart or spreadsheet to record which amounts you picked from the jars for each week.
With this method, you’re guaranteed to be depositing a mix of dollar amounts each month — some on the lower end and some on the higher end. Although you’re still incorporating some random selection, you won’t ever run into the possibility of making four deposits over $40 in one month.
Method No. 5 — Steady Savings
If you thrive on consistency, this option is perfect for you.
Instead of varying the amount of money you save weekly, you can deposit $26.50 into your savings account each week for 52 weeks to reach that $1,378 goal by year’s end.
This is a simple, uniform approach to meeting this money-saving challenge. Sure, it may not be as fun (for those of us who think saving is fun in the first place), but it gets the job done.
You don’t have to think twice about how much you need to save each week. In fact, you can automate your deposits at the beginning of the year and not think about them at all.
The Most Lesson: Just Start Saving
Now that we showed you it’s possible to save over $1,000 in one year, the question is: Which method will you choose?
We’ve highlighted several options, but keep in mind there are many other ways to customize a money-saving challenge to your liking.
Maybe you get paid every other week, and you want to make your deposits biweekly so they fall on payday. Perhaps you’d rather commit to depositing money in your savings account once a month. Or maybe the bulk of your income comes from tips, and you prefer to save your cash on a daily basis.
You also don’t have to constrict yourself to saving $1,378. (I have to admit, it’s a pretty odd amount to stick with.) If your budget is tight and saving $52 in one week seems impossible at any time of the year, you could cut the suggested weekly deposits in half. You’ll still net $689 by the end of the year. Or maybe you have a bit of wiggle room in your budget and you want to double the weekly deposits, which will give you $2,756 in savings at the end of the year.
No matter how you choose to do it, the important thing is that you’re consciously making the effort to save. Get in the habit of regularly putting money aside so that when 2021 rolls around, saving money won’t even seem like a challenge to you.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’ll probably go with method No. 5.