How to Do the 52-Week Money Challenge

Save more than $1,000 in a year. Save $1 your first week, $2 your second week and so on.
Margarette Burnette
By Margarette Burnette 
Edited by Alice Holbrook
How to Do the 52-Week Money Challenge

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The 52-week savings plan

If you’re new to the 52-week money challenge, the first month or so you might wonder if it will take 52 years to see progress because you start so small. But know that this savings plan is effective, and it can help you sock away more than a thousand dollars in a year — $1,378 to be exact. You could build up even more if you put the funds in a high-yield savings account. Doing the challenge takes commitment, but it’s easy to start.

How the 52-week money challenge works

Getting started is simple:

  • During your first week, you save $1.

  • The next week, stash away $2.

  • Increase the amount saved by $1 each week for 52 weeks — a full year.

And the money adds up. You can save well over $1,000 before the end of the year. But even more important, you may find that this is a good way to develop consistent savings habits.

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Why it works

Putting away a few dollars per week at the beginning of the challenge is likely less painful than figuring out how to save a whole $500 for emergencies all at once. (Learn why having a savings emergency fund is important.)

The smaller weekly level-ups are manageable, and they encourage you to find ways to slowly cut back on spending or boost income. They also give you time to plan several months ahead, when the goals will be to save $30, $40 and eventually $52 in one week.

With this plan, you’ll save that $500 for emergencies, plus more, but on an easier timeline.

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Where to put your cash

Here’s a pro tip: Maximize every penny by depositing your funds in a high-yield savings account. In an account that earns interest, you’ll accumulate money on top of your savings.

The average savings account earns only 0.46% APY. But high-yield accounts, typically available from online banks, earn several times that.

» Ready to explore more? Compare best savings rates.

Head over to NerdWallet’s savings calculator to determine how much interest you’d earn on your savings at different rates. You can even see how much you’d save if you reversed the savings challenge, putting aside $52 in the first week, and then decreasing your weekly deposits by a dollar until the challenge ends. You would have put away the same amount of money after a year, but your money might have earned a bit more interest because the larger deposits would have more time to grow.

Just choose an account without monthly maintenance fees, which can erode your savings. (See NerdWallet’s list of best savings accounts to find institutions with fee-free options.)

Stay motivated

The 52-week challenge can be tricky as time goes on because you’ll need to save larger amounts of money. But the beauty is that after a few months, you’ll be able to look back with satisfaction at the decent chunk of cash you’ve already put away.

Even if you don’t meet the challenge 100%, try to add whatever amount you can each week. The bottom line is not to give up.

For more motivation, you can tell others about your savings goals. For example, if you’re saving for a new living room furniture set, let your family members know that you plan to pay for it with this savings. (Let’s assume you already have an emergency fund, which is a higher priority.) Your friends and family could offer encouragement along the way.

Once the 52-week time period is over, celebrate! But keep saving. Let it be a springboard for reaching other money goals, such as a college fund and retirement. You will have built a healthy cash reserve and proven to yourself that you can meet a challenge.

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