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How to Successfully Complete the 52 Week Savings Challenge

A while back we gave you a Disney Vacation version of the 52-week Savings Challenge.  Our 3 schedules were designed to save up money for a value, moderate, or deluxe Disney vacation.  I’m sure you’ve probably seen some version of this.  You may have even tried one.  But maybe, like us, you didn’t quite manage to stick to the plan.  Well, if at first you don’t succeed…

This year, we’re going to find ways to make it work.  Are you with us?  Here’s how to successfully complete the 52-week Savings Challenge!

Savings Challenges

There are many different versions of Savings Challenge.  Some are weekly, some bi-weekly, others monthly. Some start you off with small amounts and build up as you go.  Others divide the contributions evenly.  The goal of each is to grow your savings from a small pile at the start to the year to a large pile by the end.

One of the most popular ones I’ve seen is the 52-week plan that starts with just $1.  The contribution goes up by $1 each week, and you end up with a grand total of $1378 saved by the end of week 52.  That’s easy to start, as January only requires $10.  December demands $202, which is a time when money gets tight for many of us.  To solve that problem, you can flip it around and start with the big amounts first and get smaller as you go.  You could make the same contribution each week.  Or, you could cross off each one as you go, in any order you wish.  That makes more of a game of it.

Plus, your goal amount might be different from mine or someone else.  You might get paid on a different schedule than I do.  So let’s go over the tricks and strategies to coming up with the right savings challenge for you and how to successfully complete it this year.

What Are You Saving For?

Notice that I didn’t ask how much you want to save yet.  Instead, let’s figure out WHAT you want to save for.  Having a concrete goal that you can visualize is going to be a major factor in keeping you motivated the whole year through.

For us, it’s a cruise. We’d love to save up the money to take another week long family cruise like we did in 2015. Thinking of all the entertainment on the ship, and dipping our toes in clear, warm, tropical waters is going to be great motivation to keep us focused on saving.


How Much Do You Need to Save?

Now that we have a goal in mind, let’s figure out how much we need to save to make that happen.

We’re big fans of Disney Cruise Line, and a stateroom for the 4 of us on a 7-night sailing is going to run us at least $5500. I know that the cruise will be more expensive than just booking our stateroom.  There will be flights, excursions, souvenirs, and splurges to consider as well.  But for now, this plan is going to focus on the main cost of the cruise itself, and maybe just round it up to $6000. That’s a big goal, to be sure.

Not to fear!  If we start saving now, once we have enough for the deposit, we can call our friend Aaron over at Fantastic Memories Travel to help us get our cruise booked.  Then we can contribute to our savings for the remainder of the year.

How Often Can You Contribute?

With our goal in mind, and knowing how much you need to achieve it, we can now create our Savings Challenge.  We can break down our $6,000 like this:

  • Weekly – 52 payments of $115.38
  • Bi-weekly – 26 payments of $230.77
  • Twice a month – 24 payments of $250.00
  • Monthly – 12 payments of $500.00

Yours will look different depending on your goal amount.

Granted, we’re aiming to save A LOT of cash here.  Those payments are bit steep for our budget, especially considering we still want to do things and go a few places this year.

Lisa gets paid twice per month, and I get paid weekly, which gives us a few options.  I like the smaller amounts that a weekly contribution gives us.  If we have the ability to put a little more aside on a given week, we can always do that.

How to Successfully Complete the Savings Challenge

Here’s where we ran into trouble last year.  We got off to a decent start but things happened, contributions were missed, and eventually it became a lost cause.  Like any resolution, this plan can easily fail if we don’t set ourselves up to succeed.  Here are some things we can do to keep on track this time around.

Keep the Savings Separate

Whether you decide to use a piggy bank, gift card, or bank account, you have to keep the money separate from the rest of your funds.  If the money is in a savings account that is linked to your checking, it might be too tempting to just borrow from your savings if a need arises.  Having the money in a different account that requires a couple of business days to make a transfer will make it less likely to impulsively withdraw from it. While life happens and this may become necessary, it shouldn’t be an easy thing.  Glue the lid on the jar, so you’ll have to break it to open it.  Then have the kids decorate it so you’ll feel bad about breaking it.

Make Deposits Automatically

One of the easiest ways to accomplish your goal is to put it on autopilot.  Most banks have a way that you can set up automatic transfers between accounts.  You might even be able to get part of your paycheck deposited into a separate account.  If this is possible, then set it up now!

I use an app called Qapital.  Within 5 minutes, I created a goal of saving $1000 and linked my bank account.  I set up a rule that will automatically round-up my purchases to the nearest $2.00 and then transfer the difference into my FDIC-insured Qapital account.  It even has a rule for the traditional 52-week challenge, transferring $1 in week 1, $2 in week 2, and so on. Sign up now and you can get $5 free cash in your account, plus $5 more for each friend you invite that signs up.

Remind Yourself

We all get busy, and the easiest way to get off track is to simply forget to make your contribution.  You can set reminders using your phone, Google Calendar, or any number of apps. Get the whole family in on the fun and someone may remember when you don’t.  Make a chart and hang it up where you will see it everyday.

Earn Extra Cash

The other culprit that derailed our savings last year was a lack of money.  This year is no different. Getting our savings off to a good start is important, and maintaining cash flow is a close second. We’ve written about ways to kick-start our savings, so what ways can we earn extra cash on a regular basis during the year?

  • Side Job – Beoming an Uber/Lyft driver, delivering newspapers, doing odd jobs in your town… these can all be side jobs where you make your own hours and earn extra cash.
  • Selling stuff –  Got a talent for sewing, stitching, wood-working? Selling what you make can be a consistent side business. I thought these Pressed Penny Bracelets came out nice. Do you think anyone would buy one?
  • Reward Sites/Apps – In the past few months, I earned enough for a $50 gift card by just walking into/scanning stuff in the store using an App called Shopkick. Gift cards may not be the same as cash, but you can sell them or use them toward travel-related expenses.

I’m looking through some ideas that Penny Hoarder has on their site for making some extra cash this year.

Cut Spending

Spending is the opposite of Saving.  Taking a hard look at your expenses and seeing where you can make cuts can be a huge boost to completing your savings challenge.

  • Stop Eating Out – This is a huge expense for us. One of the upsides of me being home more now will be eating dinner at home.
  • Clipping Coupons – It’s tedious, but can be worthwhile.  If you shop online, Honey can search for coupon/promo codes and apply them for you and save you money right before you check out.  We used this for our holiday shopping and it saved us some money a few times.
  • Cut Out Bad Habits – If you smoke, drink coffee, soda, or eat too much junk food (Soda and Junk Food are my vices) you can save money by cutting back.  Not only will you be healthier, you’ll be richer!
  • Shop Around  – You might be able to get a better rate on your TV/Internet Provider, Cell Phone carrier, Home/Car Insurance, or Heating if you shop around.

Sarah Berger at Bankrate has a take on the Savings Challenge where she cuts her spending by eliminating something from her budget each month.


Okay, you’ve got your goal.  You know how much you need to save.  You have a plan.  And you now have some tools to help make it happen. LET’S DO THIS!


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The Mousekatools Mom

Monday 9th of January 2017

I like your plan much better than some of the other ones I've seen out there. Like the one where you start with $1 a week and work up to like $200 a month at the end of the year! That just sounds like asking for trouble to me because I'd never get that done! $75 a week definitely seems more logical to me. And I've never heard of that app, so I'll have to check it out! Great advice!

James Cameron

Monday 9th of January 2017

Thanks. I guess that works for some people, but not for everyone. Like anything in life, I believe in doing it steadily.

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