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Hacking the 52 Week Money Challenge the Smart Way

Hacking the 52 Week Money Challenge the Smart Way
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The financial savings picture in America (and the world) isn’t a good one, at multiple income levels. For example: across people with incomes less than $25,000, 38% have $0 saved. For those with incomes from $100,000 to $149,999, it’s not much better: 18% have $0 saved, and 26% have less than $1,000.[1]

This obviously can create problems in the future. Nearly half of American adults can’t cover an emergency expense of $400 without selling something or borrowing money, and 31% of non-retired adults have no retirement savings or pension at all.[2]

Is there a way to get better at saving money? Yes, here’s a challenge you can take to turn around the situation.

The 52 Week Money Challenge

The 52 Week Money Challenge is fairly simple.

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  • On Week 1, you deposit $1 in savings. Now your total is $1.
  • On Week 2, you deposit $2, for a new total of $3.

If you follow this for 52 weeks, your eventual total for the year will be $1,378.

Here’s a table showcasing it visually:

    The 52-Week Money Challenge works because of habitual momentum. You have a commitment now to do something every single week, and if you achieve it, it will better your financial situation. Charles Duhigg, a leading researcher on habits, has explained that most habit formation takes place as cue, routine, and reward.[3] The 52-Week Money Challenge is the same way:

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    • Cue: Every week, you remember you need to do this.
    • Routine: You keep doing it!
    • Reward: Now you have more savings.

    Hacking the Money Challenge

    How do you make the conscious decision not to spend dollars on fun things?

    For example, you know there’s a good chance you’ll spend more money during the holidays— flights to see family members, gifts for family and co-workers, maybe even New Year’s Eve plans. You might spend more in the summer too: vacations and summer sales.

    How do you make sure you don’t do that and stay on track with your 52-Week Money Challenge? There are three main hacks if you want to get the most out of the 52-Week Money Challenge:

    Automate Money Storing and Transferring

    The whole point of automation is making things simpler, and that can work in the 52-Week Money Challenge too. Just automate out the payments beforehand and you’ll never even think about it. It will just not be there—it’ll be savings. Your bank can help you with this, as can apps like Qapital.

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    Combine the Challenge with Another Goal

    Consider merging the 52-Week Money Challenge with a weight loss challenge— lose 1 pound per week, for example— or a spending challenge. You could reduce the number of times you eat out each week in a given month (8, 6, 4, 2) and start from a smaller number each month (7, 5, 3, 1 the next month; then 6, 4, 2, 0).

    If you’re tying a money-saving challenge (the 52-Week Money Challenge) with another challenge that will directly impacting savings (eating out less or trying to lose weight— or both!), there will be increased motivation to save money.

    Go Beyond the 52 Weeks

    Each year you’d save $1,378. In five years, you’d have $6,890. In 10 years, $13,780. It could lead to some pretty nice vacations, if nothing else.

    Just don’t stop. The 52-Week Money Challenge is a low impact way to save money.

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    Challenge Accepted

    Go do it. Do the 52-Week Money Challenge. And think on some of the hacks, or create your own— for example, if Week 1 is $2 and then Week 2 is $4, you’d double your savings ($2,756) for the year. In 10 years, you’d have over $27,000 in savings.

    That would be impressive given the numbers we initially discussed. Most Americans have less than $1,000 in savings, so even if you just do the basic 52-Week Money Challenge with the hacks discussed, you’ll end the year with more than most people.

    Saving is important, whether the savings leads to leisure pursuits or solving emergencies. Start with the 52-Week Money Challenge and see how easy it can be.

    Featured photo credit: http://money.cnn.com/2017/05/10/retirement/retirement-savings-return/index.html via money.cnn.com

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    Reference

    More by this author

    Brian Lee

    Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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