By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, [email protected]
America Saves Week and Military Saves Week are February 27 to March 4 so now is a good time to discuss savings strategies with service members. What is the best way to “find” money to save? There is no one right answer. Automatic payroll deductions work well for many people. For example, they have deposits into a credit union savings account or the Thrift Savings Plan automatically taken out of their paycheck, before they can spend it. Other people 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. For example, another option is to make a “catch up deposit,” perhaps using tax refund money, in February or March and then complete a calendar year challenge from that point forward until the end of December.
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. Some people have suggested doing the 52-Week Money Challenge in reverse if people have more money in January (e.g., from holiday gifts or a year-end bonus at work) than they do in December, which tends to be a very expensive month for many people with holiday gifts and travel. The “reverse challenge” strategy is also very motivating. After five weeks, you already have $250 saved. A third way to do the 52-Week Money Challenge is to pick an amount each week that you can afford (e.g., $25 one week and $16 the next) and complete the challenge in any order. Tracking forms are available at
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.