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Uploaded:2019-12-26
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In this episode, one woman describes how she used a year-long weekly challenge to save money. Click here to learn how quitting fast fashion can also save you money in the long run: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNE2BfRNRtY&list=PLD30V46E07RSHo4gWp98WjER6wnrmpfYR&index=15&

Video narration by Phe Caplan

Video by Grace Lee
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After taking a trip to Japan, my adventure savings account was in dire need of refilling. I started to plan a vacation to visit friends in Belgium, and I wanted to be able to do all the exciting things they kept telling me about without succumbing to financial stress.

When the new year rolled around, I decided to come up with a strategy to put extra money away without disrupting my other savings goals. Since I'd never done a savings challenge before, I started searching for something that felt realistic for my income and budget. The one that I kept circling back to was the 52-week money challenge.

There are a ton of variations on it, but the classic version of the challenge is designed to net you $1,378 in 52 weeks by gradually increasing the amount you save each week. The first week, you save $1. The second week, you save $2 and so on, until you're putting away 52 dollars during the final week of the year.

I knew right away that doing the traditional version of the challenge was not going to work for me. Socking away $49, $50, $51, and $52 in December was going to make the end of the year miserable. But doing the reversed version of the challenge, starting with $52 in January and going down to $1 in December, was also off the table because I had several annual bills that needed to be taken care of in January and February.

It was tempting to do another popular variation where you pick what dollar amount you'll put away each week and cross off the numbers as you go. But I could easily see myself putting off the higher numbers and painting myself into a corner by the end of the year. Instead, I decided to throw caution to the wind and did a version of the challenge that left everything up to chance.

I grabbed a Mason jar, paper, pen, and scissors. I cut the paper into small pieces, wrote the numbers one through 52 on them, folded them, and dumped them into the jar. I designated Friday as the day to grab the jar, pick a number, and transfer that amount of money into my savings account, no redraws.

That strategy worked well for me. I ended up being a lot more thoughtful about what items made it with me to the checkout line, and I paid more attention to coupons and sales. For example, I put off buying some items that I didn't need quite yet, like a replacement pair of dress shoes for work.

Did I need new ones? Yes. Did I need them right now?

Not really. So I decided to wait until the store sent me one of their regular coupons before I bought new shoes, and that ensured I had enough money in my checking account for the next week. The random chance aspect of the money challenge was fun for me.

Each time I drew a number, it was a way to stress test my finances. Could I cover a small, unexpected expense on a weekly basis without throwing my budget into chaos? Was I financially healthy enough to weather these hits against my checking account?

Every time I was able to transfer money, it felt like a victory. In January and February, I drew $27, $21, $51, $39, $52, $47, $22, and $17 for a total of $276 safely set aside for my vacation. And while it was a bit stressful-- really, I got both $51 and $52 in the first two months?

I managed to make it work. And then March hit. The way payroll works at my company, pay periods are divided into the 1st through the 15th then the 16th through the end of the month.

As an hourly employee, that meant my first paycheck in March, covering the second half of February, only covered nine days of work instead of the usual 10 or 11 days. This was just fine as far as paying rent and bills went, but it was not an optimal time for transferring extra money out of my checking account. I knew that this was going to make the first half of March difficult.

I briefly considered cheating by redrawing numbers until I got an amount in the single digits, but I was stubborn and determined to do the challenge properly. On the first Friday in March, I ended up drawing $35. It made me wince, but I dutifully transferred the money.

And then on the second Friday, I drew $24. No matter how many times I went over my accounts, I just could not make it work. Once I finally accepted that I did not have the cash to spare, I scheduled a $24 transfer to my savings account for my next payday.

I had to do the same thing for the following Friday as well. I was frustrated to technically fail the challenge on week 10, but I kept going anyway because the challenge had already helped me set aside $276 for my vacation at that point. The challenge was working, even if I'd hit a momentary snag.

Luckily, I was able to catch up on the transfers when my next paycheck arrived, and I got myself back on track by the end of March. There were a few other times during the year when I had to schedule my transfers on the next payday instead of that Friday, but I didn't let those small failures stop me from completing the challenge. After all, I knew I could get back on track since I'd done it already.

By the end of the year, I was able to complete the challenge, and I had an extra $1,378 for my vacation to Belgium. I'm glad I tried this challenge, even though it was stressful sometimes. The ritual of drawing random numbers every Friday was fun.

Plus, I got to watch my savings account grow faster than originally planned. The challenge also help me become more confident with my budgeting skills, since I had proof that I could handle a small, unexpected expense most weeks out of the year. For the weeks I couldn't, I also had proof that I knew how to get my feet back underneath me.

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