Saving money is a great thing.
With that being said…
DO NOT PARTICIPATE IN THE “52 WEEK MONEY CHALLENGE”.
Here’s why, and what you should be doing instead…
Every year, somebody with great intentions posts this photo that essentially says “if you save the same dollar according to what week we’re in, you will save $1,300+ in a year.” This looks easy and is a great theory, but only a few people will see their savings reach the ending amount.
Assuming you do not dip into your savings, if you get paid on Fridays, Man Vs Cash can plot on a calendar the exact month that the majority of you will fail the entire challenge.
And I will be correct.
- March 2017
- June 2017
- September 2017
- December 2017
To clarify, you can get paid any day of the week, and your odds are failing will be the same, just during a different four months of the year.
It’s simple math, and I am going to show you what i’m talking about. Stick with me.
Almost no-one budgets an entire household by the week. Our rent/mortgage is due once a month. So let’s count our money that way. I graphed the 52 week challenge by the month.
See any issues?
Let’s break it down…
This graph takes away the blurred lines of “weekly savings” and shows you how much you will save for each month of the year. And we’ve got problems.
Here’s my gripes.
- It increases too rapidly: For starters… you have to more than double your savings between February & March! The months of June, September, and December leaves you with a steep increase in your required savings to keep going. If you don’t plan for these sporadic increases, the temptation to skip saving that week will be intense.
- It decreases!: When you mask your savings by the “week”, you don’t notice that there are two months (July and October) where you actually save LESS than you saved the month before. If you goal is to save as much as possible, why would you leave money on the table?
- The heaviest months are the winter holiday season: Between the many holidays, gifts, and higher utilities, there are so many cash drains on us around the months of November and December. The 52 week plan calls for you to save $182 & $250 in November and December, respectively…one of which is an increase of 72% over the previous month!
- What happens on January 1st?: The temptation to stop saving is massive. Huge. For some, Week 1 means starting the 52 week plan over. For more than a few, this means no more savings, because it will be too easy to quit for the new year.
For me? The 52 week savings challenge is very short sighted, short term, and will never be a tool that I will be using myself.
Here’s what I would do…
If you wanted to save $1,378 by the end of 52 weeks, you could:
- Save $115 each month: This is a stable, predictable, and easy-to-budget savings goal that leaves you with $2 more than the 52 week plan. Knowing what to save each month will leave you with a balanced and simple approach that you don’t even have to think about. The more you think, the more likely you’ll justify not doing it.
- Count backwards: Do the 52 week plan backwards. This way, the heaviest savings is in the beginning of the year, and the lightest savings is around the holidays.
- Kill the step-ladder approach and go for gold: In the highest month, you will save $250. If you saved $250 each month, you would save $3,000 in one year. That’s more than double what the 52 week plan will save, and 3k is a very healthy savings to have.
If none of these options feel logical, or even affordable to you, this is exactly why the 52 week plan is an example of great intentions with unrealistic execution. The moment you begin, the clock starts ticking until you fail the challenge… because you could never reach the end of the race to begin with. That’s not cool.
Man Vs Cash recommends that you evaluate your budget, decide what is the most that you can comfortably save each month, and stick with it!
No two households are the same. Save on your own terms, your own capabilities, and with your own end goal in mind. By staying disciplined, focused, keeping a balanced approach, and making sure this approach works well for you… I can assure you that you’re on the winning side of this equation.
Don’t let the allure of “easy” tips and “savings cheat-sheets” throw your financial world upside down. There is no quick way to becoming financially independent. If there was, we’d ALL be doing it!
As a refresher for those who still haven’t made a budget, find our entry on how to budget HERE. Knowing where your money is going is the first step to staying ahead.