Deconstructing The 52-Week Challenge: Why The Original One Is Not Working At All

If you think you haven’t done anything good this year—especially when it comes to your financial well-being—you may want to go back to the failed resolutions you set before the dawn of the new year. Since the whole 52-week challenge has become viral before 2014 ended, and a lot of people committed to participate in the said challenge.

Looking back, were you able to work on your little 52-week challenge? Or just like most of your new year’s resolutions, did your motivation wither along with your plans? Find out why the 52-week challenge is a losing battle even right from the very beginning, and what you should’ve done instead.


The rules of the game

If you’ve seen the 52-week challenge last year, you may have been fascinated by the idea since the rewards are sweet and the effort is almost a walk in the park. For 52 weeks, you need to do the following:

  1. For 52 weeks, you need to save an increasing amount of money each week. By the time you reach week 52, the amount you need to set aside should be tremendously bigger than the amount you saved on your first week.
  2. Each week, you need to put money in a savings jar. To track your weekly progress, you need to place a sticker on the jar and mark your progress on that jar. It should be in a visible place in your home so you will never forget your year-long goal.

Do these things right, as the challenge promised, and you will get an insane amount of money after a year. Well, it may not be something significant to make you financially independent after a year but at least it’s something more than you can save a certain amount of money after 52 weeks of painstakingly getting a portion of your money for savings.

While this sounds like an amazing feature, what went wrong? Why a lot of people who started this challenge at the start of the year lost their way?

Faulty at best

Fifty two weeks of increasing savings sound really lucrative, especially if it’s not as compelling as saving everyday. Unfortunately, the whole 52-week challenge is flawed right to the very core. Some of the inherent flaws of the said challenge are the following:

  1. The challenge is a very rigid one. Under the 52-week challenge, you need to put aside an increasing but fixed amount of money. One misstep and your whole challenge will come tumbling down. Unfortunately, life isn’t as stiff as the said challenge and there may be expenses that will come along the way that will prevent you from saving for the said week.
  2. It uses a jar as a vessel for your savings. For the 52-week challenge, you need to put your weekly savings in a jar and write on the label how much you’ve put there. In addition, you need to put it in a highly prominent place like the kitchen countertop—which is also unfortunately where other places consumed are placed: cookies, cooking ingredients, and others. Why put yours in the same container where you put your consumables?

Adapt, improvise, and overcome

The 52-week challenge isn’t inherently bad; it’s the mechanics of the challenge that makes it faulty at best. However, there are many ways you can improve this method and still achieve maximum savings for a year. Here are some of the ways on how you can improve it:

  1. If you still want to save the same amount, reverse the equation by starting with the highest and slowly decrementing to the lowest value by the end of year. This way, you can see instant results, which will encourage you to push further while your motivation is high. Over time, you can go easy with your savings slowly and make it an auto-pilot, not a chore.
  2. If you don’t know how to work on the amount you have to save every week, just go with the maximum possible amount you put aside. Without pressure or control over how much you should save, you can go all in with savings and next thing you know, you’ve accumulated a bigger amount than your initial target. There’s no downside in this.
  3. If you really want to make sure that your savings will remain savings and not as pizza or slush fund, keep it in a safe place and not in a cookie jar. When you know you have accessible money somewhere, it is easy to tap those funds and use them whenever you feel like it; that is not the reason why you’re saving. Put it somewhere not visible and just go to it when you’re putting in money.

Let’s face it: there is no such thing as a perfect savings challenge; all of them are marred by challenges and flaws. However, working on these flaws will allow you to make your savings process more efficient and effective. Who knows, maybe by tweaking the 52-week challenge, you can save more than your target amount?