Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®
Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management
Rutgers Cooperative Extension
What is the best way to save money? There is no one right answer. Automatic payroll deductions work well for many people. Others do well by saving loose change in a jar and depositing it periodically in a savings account as the jar fills up. A third way to save money is to complete a savings challenge that gradually ramps up (or down) weekly deposits.
While many people start these challenges during the first full week of January, as a New Year's resolution, they can be started at any time. Some people like to give savings challenges a “jump start” with money from holiday gifts or end-of year work bonus. Below is a description of six different savings challenges and how they operate:
The 52-Week Money Challenge: This challenge begins with a $1 deposit during Week #1. The weekly deposit rises by $1 per week and reaches $52 during the final week of the Challenge (Week #52), with total savings of $1,378. Tracking forms are available at http://walton.ifas.ufl.edu/fcs/files/2014/01/52-Week-Money-Challenge.pdf and https://www.affinityplus.org/Portals/0/Documents/Blog/52Week.pdf
The 365-Day Penny Challenge: With this challenge, people make a daily savings deposit and increase their deposit by a penny a day. At the end of a year, they have $667.95 of savings. A description and tracking form are available at http://funhappyhome.com/2016/01/365-day-penny-saving-challenge-save-667-in-one-year/. Like the 52-Week Money Challenge, the 365-Day Penny Challenge can be done forward, backward, or in any order that works for savers.
The 52-Week Youth Money Challenge: This challenge is for parents to use to encourage their children to save. See http://www.slideshare.net/BarbaraONeill/52-week-money-challenge-for-youth0315. Weekly savings deposits are 10 weeks each of $1, $2, $3, $4, and $5, resulting in $150 of savings. Week #51 is an optional $25 from birthday gifts and Week #52 is an optional $25 from holiday gifts ($200 total). There is also an option for parents to provide a 50% ($100) match of their child';s savings, resulting in total annual savings of $300.
The 15-Week Money Challenge: This challenge is for high school and college students and adults with short-term financial goals. See http://www.slideshare.net/BarbaraONeill/15-week-college-student-money-challenge0715. The Basic Challenge includes five weeks of $10 savings, five weeks of $20 savings, and five weeks of $30 savings, resulting in a total accumulation of $300. The “Hard Core” Challenge starts with a $10 weekly deposit and ramps up the savings deposit by $5 per week for a final deposit of $80, resulting in a total accumulation of $675.
The $2,500 Savings Challenge: This challenge begins with a $2 deposit during Week #1. The weekly deposit rises by $2 per week and reaches a high of $98. There are two weeks “off” at a saver';s discretion and a $50 deposit is made during the final week of the Challenge (Week #50), with total savings of $2,500. Like the 52-Week Money Challenge and the 365-Day Penny Challenge, the $2,500 Savings Challenge can be done forward, backward, or in any order that works for individual savers. See http://www.slideshare.net/BarbaraONeill/50-week-2500-savings-challenge
The 30-Day $100 Savings Challenge: This challenge is for small dollar amounts and short-term financial goals. The challenge format is saving $1 for five days, $2 for five days, $3 for five days, $4 for five days, and $5 for ten days, resulting in $100 of savings on Day #30: http://www.slideshare.net/BarbaraONeill/30-day-100-savings-challenge-0416. Like several other challenges, deposits can be made in any order throughout the month. For example, some people may have more money to save at the beginning of a month than the end.
The savings challenges listed above can be adapted to fit your cash flow needs. For example, the longer 52-Week Money Challenge, 365-Day Penny Challenge, and $2,500 Savings Challenge can be done forward (lowest savings deposit to highest), backward (highest savings deposit to lowest), or in any order that works for individual savers.
Some people have more money in January (e.g., from holiday gifts) than they do in December, which tends to be an expensive month with holiday expenses and travel. Another way to do the year-long challenges is to pick an amount each week that you can afford (e.g., $24 one week and $16 the next) and complete a challenge in any order.
Want to save more money? Challenge yourself and/or your children to save money. There is a challenge for just about any goal amount and time frame. Visualize yourself achieving the goal(s) that you are saving for. Doing this will provide motivation to save.