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Hacking the 52 Week Money Challenge the Smart Way

Hacking the 52 Week Money Challenge the Smart Way

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

    Reference

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    Brian Lee

    Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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    Last Updated on September 17, 2020

    5 Practical Ways to Get Over a Mental Block

    5 Practical Ways to Get Over a Mental Block

    There’s nothing quite like a state of “flow” when you’re working. The rare moments when your inspiration aligns with your motivation likely lead to some of your most creative work. Plus, it feels great to actually check a task or project off the list so you can move on to the next thing. Meanwhile, a mental block — its opposite — can cause work to feel laborious and uninspired. Forget creativity when you have a mental block — it makes it difficult even to start working on what you need to do.

    A mental block can manifest in several ways. Perhaps your imposter syndrome is squelching your creative ideas, for instance, or you’re overwhelmed by the breadth of a project and its impending deadline. Maybe you’re just tired or stressed.

    Either way, having a mental block feels like being trapped in your own head, and it can seriously dampen your ability to think outside the box. The problem is, you’re so locked into your own perspective that you don’t see more innovative approaches to your problems.[1]

    Luckily, jumping over these mental hurdles is simpler than you think. You just need the right strategies to get your flow back.

    Try these five practical ways to overcome a mental block.

    1. Break Your Project Down

    A few years ago, I was working on changing a company product that I believed would hugely benefit our customers. Sounds great, right?

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    As inspired as I was to make people’s lives easier, though, the sheer magnitude of the task at hand felt overwhelming. Every morning, I cracked open my laptop to work and felt totally paralyzed. I loved the idea, yes, but actualizing it felt risky. What if it didn’t turn out the way I pictured in my mind? More importantly, where would I even begin?

    A former colleague gave me great advice over coffee:

    Change how you think. Start by breaking the big project down into small tasks.

    When a major project overwhelms you, you only see the entire forest instead of the individual trees. And as you stare it down, you start to feel discouraged by your own lack of progress, thus slowing you down further.

    Breaking down a massive task into smaller chunks makes the work feel more manageable. You’ll have multiple clear places to start and end with, which will lend a motivating sense of productivity and mastery to your process. Learn more about it here: The Motivation Flowchart: The Mental Process of Successful People

    Think of it as accumulating small wins. When you realize you’re more capable than you have once thought, you’ll develop the momentum and confidence needed to get your big job done little by little.[2]

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    2. Change Up Your Scenery

    Of course, there’s a time and place for sitting down to get things done. But if you’re experiencing a mental block, switching up your surroundings can make a big difference in your output.

    Have you ever noticed how your environment directly impacts your performance and mood?

    Your brain associates your physical surroundings with certain feelings and activities. So, if you feel mentally stuck, your mind may need some new sensory stimuli.

    During this time in your life, it may not be possible to set up shop at a cafe or move from your cubicle to a conference room, so you may need to think outside the box. If you’re working remotely in a home office, try going to your dining table or couch. If the weather cooperates, sit outside for a bit with your computer or take a walk around the block.

    You can also simply rearrange your workspace. Not sure where to begin? Try decluttering. Some studies show that an organized desk enhances productivity.[3]

    The point is to stimulate your brain with new sounds and sights. You may find a much-needed dose of inspiration when you work while breathing in the fresh air, listening to city sounds, or staying in the comfort of your own living space.

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    3. Do an Unrelated Activity

    When it comes to productivity, a bit of distraction isn’t always a bad thing. That’s especially true if your chosen distraction helps you get things done in the long run.

    Have you realized how your most creative thoughts tend to bubble up when you’re, say, lying in bed or taking a shower? In their research of the “incubation period,” scientists have discovered that people’s best ideas seem to surface when they aren’t actively trying to solve a problem.[4]

    In a 2010 study, participants needed to look for a roommate or new employee based on the profiles that the researchers gave. The people who had a brief “incubation period” — in this case, working on an anagram — consistently made better choices than those who spent more time weighing their options.

    If you can’t seem to prime your brain for a project, try doing something completely unrelated to work, such as washing your dishes, working out, or calling a friend. Some experts say finding another low-stake project to work on can help jump-start the creative part of your brain and activate your flow.[5]

    The key is to allow your unconscious mind to do its best work: eliciting the new knowledge your conscious mind may be ignoring or suppressing.[6]

    4. Be Physical

    Feeling antsy? When your mind won’t seem to settle into a state of flow, it may help to swap out your mental activity for a physical one and see how it impacts your perspective.

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    While any physical activity is beneficial for your body — and getting up to move can serve as a helpful form of distraction — certain forms of exercise can more directly impact the mind. To be specific, relaxing, flow-based exercises like dance, yoga, or tai chi can create a gentle sense of momentum in your body, which can prime your brain for the same state.

    Stress-reducing activities may also be necessary. Meditating or taking slow, deep breaths will also calm your nervous system if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Evidence shows that the logical, creative part of your brain essentially shuts off when you’re stressed.[7]

    On the flip side, when your mind and body are relaxed, you can think more clearly, be more creative, and focus for longer periods — all of which will help you overcome a mental block.

    5. Don’t Force It

    It can be frustrating to fight against your own mind. If your mental block won’t go away after some effort, it may be time to take a break. Forcing creative thoughts only adds to your stress levels, which in turn inhibits your ability to think creatively. And if you sit and stare at a project for too long, you’ll not only waste valuable time but also begin to associate this specific work with frustration and produce work you’re not proud of.

    “I know that forcing something is not going to create anything beyond mediocre, so I step aside and work on a different project until it hits me,” the artist Ben Skinner said about his creative process.[8]

    If your work isn’t time-sensitive, then it may make sense to step away for a while to focus on something else, be it an administrative task that requires less creativity or a project that you feel motivated to work on.

    When the time is right, you’ll find your way back to the original task with a fresh, creative perspective (hopefully).

    More on Getting Rid of a Mental Block

    Featured photo credit: Jonas Leupe via unsplash.com

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