Over the past year, I completed the 52 Week Money Challenge because I wanted to try something different for the start of 2016. I've spent years of my life before discovering fat positivity on New Year's resolutions related to hating my body and doing everything I could to change it. And while I've ditched any type of body image related New Year's resolution, I still like to use the New Year to start a new goal. Last year, I took savings offline and took on the 52 Week Money Challenge. And I am happy to report that I was able to save more than I needed to half of my deposit for a two-week trip to Italy in summer of 2017!
I was inspired to take the 52 Week Money Challenge when I read a post on Tumblr about how the person had completed it: what worked for them and what didn't. For the purposes of accountability, I invited my best friend and roommate, Kristen, to do the challenge with me. I knew it would be a challenge for both of us but for different reasons: I am a natural saver but at the beginning of 2016, my client load for freelancing wasn't where I needed it to be so I didn't have a lot of extra money coming in to save and well Kristen will be the first to admit that saving isn't necessarily her forte.
If you haven't heard of the 52 Week Money Challenge, I'll give you the gist. For each week of the year, you put aside a dollar amount that corresponds to that week number. So for the first week of January, you put aside $1 in cash and for the last week in December, you pull aside $52 in cash. If you pull aside the exact amount from the challenge and nothing more, you save $1,378!
Saving $1,378 is totally great but I started the challenge hoping to save closer to $2000. I tried to put aside more than the required amount each week. This was obviously much easier to do in January than November or December. By the end of 2016, I ended up saving $1,522.
My best guess as to why I didn't reach my $2000 goal was that the extra dollar amount I saved in the beginning when the required amount was in the single digits was pretty low. I recommend put more extra aside January - May if you can. But also, I still saved $200 more than the required amount so I will take it!
I think it's important to note again that I don't have steady or consistent income as a full-time freelancer. The amount that I earn each month varies. I never know exactly when I will be paid or if I will be paid and I was still able to make this challenge work for me.
For me, the 52 Week Money Challenge didn't necessarily come natural to me but it worked! I never carry cash so the challenge forced me to consciously take out cash and pull it aside. I got creative with the ways I got cash - sometimes I paid for friends meals on my debit card and took their cash. I did cash back whenever I couldn't get to an ATM and I would even be strategic with how and what I spent cash on so that I would have the amount I needed for my jar. I even counted out change one week.
One of the major tips that I took away from the Tumblr post that inspired me to do the 52 Week Money Challenge was to put the money in the jar and not take it out at all even to count it. Each week, I stuffed more and more cash in the jar and then I pretended the money in that jar did not exist. As far as I was concerned, that money wasn't mine. I think this was the major difference between why I finished the 52 Week Money Challenge and why Kristen quit halfway through.
For the first half of the year, Kristen and I were pretty neck and neck in terms of total saved. She took her money out each week and counted out because she wanted her money to look organized in the jar itself and know for sure that her math was right. But starting around May when the weekly cash deposit reached $20, Kristen started struggling to put the cash in each week AND stop taking it out when she found herself low on funds.
Kristen borrowed from her jar because she needed it and I totally get. This is where I think my mindset that the money in the jar didn't exist was beneficial to me. Kristen worked hard to always put back the amount she took out but eventually she just stopped putting any specific weekly amount in the jar and just pulled aside extra cash when she had it. She estimates that the total she saved was close to $1000 which I think is awesome!
Kristen and I found the chart itself online. We printed it off and glued it to glass jars we got at the craft store. The print-off we had found required us to put money in each Saturday but if you have a 9-5 or get a paycheck on Fridays, that's probably the best day to do it! Lucky for you, I created one for 2017 with the dates being every Friday this year.
The chart lists the date you put the deposit aside, the amount required each week, the total amount you pulled aside and the running total saved. The one that I used had a column called "Extra $" but I found that to be confusing because you had to add the deposit and the extra $ numbers up to get the running total whereas the total deposit will be the total dollar amount you put in the jar every week (basically the deposit + extra). I've included a filled out example below.
AND the best news of all for me is that because Kristen and I did the 52 Week Money Challenge together, she made her deposit for Italy too! I am so excited that my best friend will get to experience Italy (and her first trip out of North America) with me!!!