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10 Great Alternatives to the Classic 52 Week Money Challenge

By , January 1st, 2015 | 10 Comments »

Ten alternatives to the 52 week money challenge
It’s that time of year when people are looking to better their finances as part of their New Year’s resolutions, and many decide one way to do this is through the 52 week money challenge. The challenge is a simple and effective way to save money that isn’t complicated. All one has to do is save $1 corresponding to the week of the year. For example, during week one, you would save $1. During week two you would save $2 and during week three you would save $3. You continue this every week of the year until the last week when you would save $52. By doing this each week, at the end of the year you will save $1,378.

While the classic challenge can help a lot of people save money, there are some limitations to it. The challenge also doesn’t fit the finances of all people. The result has been that there are a lot of alternatives created to this challenge you can do, one of which is likely to fit nicely with your current finances and financial goals. Below you’ll find ten alternatives to the 52 week money challenge to consider. (Click on the headlines to get more detail about each challenge and to print that specific challenge sheet.)

Modified 52 Week Money Challenge

The modified 52 week money challenge allows you to choose how much you save each week from $1 to $52. Instead of going in order from $1 to $52, you can choose any amount that is still left on your challenge chart. Since it’s difficult to predict when you will have a week where you can’t save as much as you hoped, this modified challenge gives you more flexibility to succeed. The goals should always be to save the highest amount still on your chart, but if you can’t for whatever reason, you can substitute that for a smaller amount.

26 Bi-Weekly Money Challenge

Some people get paid bi-weekly and find it easier to save the money for the challenge when they get paid, rather than each week. They find that when it comes to week 2 after they have been paid, they may not have the money left to save. For them, it’s easier to pay the money for the two weeks as soon as they get paid and they have it available. You can also try the twice a month money challenge if you get paid this way rather than bi-weekly.

Monthly Money Challenge

Much like the issue that people who get paid bi-weekly have, those who get paid monthly also can find it difficult to save the money the week before they’re paid. Many find it easier to pay for the entire month when they get paid and have the money. It’s the classic “you don’t miss what you can’t see” philosophy behind pay yourself first.

Double 52 Week Money Challenge

For those who want a bit more of a challenge than simply $1 a week, they can try the 52 week double challenge. In this challenge all the numbers are doubled, so at the end of the year you end up with $2,756 instead of $1,378. It’s a great challenge for those who believe they can save a little more and want to challenge their savings a bit more.

Mega 52 Week Money Challenge

For those who are really looking to jumpstart their savings, the mega 52 week money challenge might be exactly what they’re looking for. Instead of $1 a week, the mega challenge shoots for $5 a week. For those able to complete the mega challenge, they will find an extra $6,890 in their bank account at the end of the year.

52 Week Mini Money Challenge

Also called the 52 week half challenge, this one uses $0.50 each week instead of $1. This makes it easier to save the money, but it also means you’ll end up with half as much at the end of the year ($674 instead of $1,378). For those who want to take the challenge, but start a bit slower, this can be the perfect alternative.

52 Week Coin Challenge

On the opposite end of the double and mega challenges is the 52 week change challenge. In this challenge, you simply save the number of coins for each week of the year. In week one you save a single coin, while in week fifty-two, you save 52 coins. The amount you save will depend on the value of the coins you save each week. Another option is to save specific coins during the year such as a 52 week challenge for pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

52 Week Bill Challenge

The 52 week bill challenge is like the coin challenge, but uses bills instead. In the first week, you save a single bill (it could be a $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 or $100 bill), week two, 2 bills and week fifty-two, 52 different bills. In this challenge you would save a minimum of $1,378 (if you only used $1 bills), but it could be much more depending on the bill denominations you save each week.

365 Day Money Challenge

Some people find that in order to save money, they need to do it on a daily rather than weekly basis. For those who want to make sure saving money becomes a habit this year, the 365 day money challenge can be a great alternative. In this challenge, you begin with a penny on day one and end with $3.65 on day 365.

Create Your Own 52 Week Money Challenge

None of the above money challenges meet exactly what you’re looking for? That isn’t a problem. You can simply create your own 52 week challenge which meets the exact specifications and needs you want. You know yourself better than anyone else, so creating your own specific challenged will give you the best chance of completing it.

Savings Habits Matter

For all these challenges, it’s important to remember the actual amount you decide to try and save is not nearly as important as creating the habit of saving money on a consistent basis. Once this habit has been formed, you can then increase the amounts you save to meet your current financial situation. While each challenge is an important step to jump-start your savings, it’s the habit of consistency which will help your finances in the long run.

Consider Automating Your Savings

The 52 week savings challenge and its alternatives are ways of actively managing your savings.  If you are hard core about saving money and want both an active approach and a passive approach do two things. First, select one of the challenges here and second, supplement your savings with a “fire and forget” automated approach.  A great way to implement this automated approach is to go with an application like digit.co or acorns.com.

Digit.co is a favorite because its super easy to use.  All you need to do is sign up and let the program analyze your checking account.  Once the program is completed, it makes automated withdrawals which don’t impact your spending and sweeps them to an account you control.  It is a super easy way to save money without a lot of effort.  Click here to check it out.

(Photo courtesy of Sami Keinanen)

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  • joe says:

    Thank you for the biweekly challenge. I was looking for something exactly like this.

  • moneystepper says:

    I’m personally not a fan of the 52 week challenge for a few reasons:

    1) The amount is arbitrary and therefore will not be the “optimal” savings amount for ANYONE! For many, it will be too much of a stretch and for others it will mean that they aren’t saving as much as they could.

    2) There is no end game. If the “savings” are just used for a more expensive holiday than you’d usually go on, then this has no long term benefit.

    3) It assumes that life is regular. If you can save that exact amount each week without fail, then you probably aren’t saving enough if you always have enough aside to deal with emergencies and save a fixed amount each month.

    However, some of these alternatives address some of these issues nicely.

    Personally, due to the simplicity and weakness in this challenge, I wanted to create something more. Therefore, if you too aren’t impressed by the 52 week savings challenge, come and check out our Moneystepper 2015 Savings Challenge…

    • F. D. Bryant III says:

      You are looking the 52-week challenge the wrong way or perhaps more accurately the goals of it isn’t for you. The fact of the matter is the most people don’t save money because they don’t know how and are not of doing so. The point of the 52-week challenge is to help people build the habit and show how you can do it. Lets take a look at your complaints though:

      “1) The amount is arbitrary and therefore will not be the “optimal” savings amount for ANYONE! For many, it will be too much of a stretch and for others it will mean that they aren’t saving as much as they could.”

      It isn’t meant to be optimal. Most people don’t feel they can save the money they should be – so they just don’t. This gives them an easy way to start saving and hopefully by the end of the year they are “invested” enough in the challenge to see through and make sacrifices to meet the goals. Even if they don’t make it they at least have some savings. For those who are not saving as much as they it is about getting them into the habit of saving to begin with.

      Yes, the ideal would be for people to go see a financial adviser and come up with optimal savings plan – but that isn’t going to happen. The 52-week challenge gives them an avenue to start saving and build the habit. Remember it is important not let perfect become the enemy of the good.

      “2) There is no end game. If the “savings” are just used for a more expensive holiday than you’d usually go on, then this has no long term benefit.”

      No blogger can tell you what to use your savings for. You have to set the goals for yourself. Yeah it would be great if people put it toward an emergency fund or retirement account (presuming that is what it you need) but if your goal is a more expensive vacation then that is good too. At the very least your learning to save for a goal instead of doing what a lot people do and spend it on credit.

      “3)It assumes that life is regular. If you can save that exact amount each week without fail, then you probably aren’t saving enough if you always have enough aside to deal with emergencies and save a fixed amount each month.”

      Actually it assumes that you aren’t saving at all. Again you have to take into account the fact that as a society we don’t value the idea of saving money. Most people would rather spend their money than save and are not taught the skill and discipline to do so. Then when they start realizing they need to save they are overwhelm with “you have to save 3 to 6 months of expenses”, “you have to save 20% of your income for retirement” and you can’t go in debt etc etc etc. In other words they are told huge goals which seems insurmountable. So they don’t even start. They go back to spending what they want because it is easy, makes them happy, and they have things they can see and touch that doesn’t make them feel like they are not doing enough.

      The 52-week challenge doesn’t give you your optimal saving amount. What it does do is give you an achievable goal. It starts easy and it builds something you can see against your goal of completing the challenge. It is something that looks achievable as opposed to something that doesn’t (even if it isn’t).

      No life isn’t regular but that is part of the challenge – to figure out where you are going to save instead of spend even when life gets tough.

      Saving is a skill. The point of the 52-week challenge is to develop and build that skill. To make the choice to save when you want to spend. It is meant to be easy and give people an achievable starting point.

      I am glad you’ve come up with system that works for you. Kudos to you for sharing it. However just briefly looking at it I can see points that would turn people off from it. I’m not interested in going through that but just point out that different things work for different people. For some the 52-week challenge is what they need. For others something like your system is going to it. Regardless of the approach the goal is to get people to save in whatever way works for them, so lets not put down whatever achieves that.

      • denise says:

        Thanks for stating the obvious. I am so sick of people complaining about the 52 week challenge. The whole conversation should be about saving (period)!!! No matter how you do it

  • Michelle says:

    I really appreciate this collection of variations on the traditional 52 week challenge. I particularly like the Mega Savings and Penny Challenges. I like the challenge of the Mega Savings and it makes saving feel both more fun and more rewarding. I’m currently working through a joint savings plan incorporating both of these plans. Using this strategy I was highly motivated to complete a No Spend Month in January (even though it was completely unintentional). Thank you!

  • James says:

    Ah…I find it challenging to save any amount of money at all.

  • Tom says:

    My new goal this year is to save $1 for every hour I work.
    With part time, varying hours, job, I budget based on percentage of what I make rather than fixed amounts.


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