About this time annually, as I stand in post-Christmas reflection pondering the new year with a substantially lighter wallet, I often ask myself what I would do differently in the year to come. Answers flood my mind: eat more healthfully; exercise more; learn Spanish; save money.
I know the first three items on my mental list will get full attention for about a day or two (Es difícil cuando yo quiero Taco Bell). Sadly, the final item on my list almost never receives the full attention it so mightily deserves. That is, until sometime in mid-December, when my car battery dies, one of the kids needs a new jacket and the dog requires an emergency vet trip — all while Christmas stares me full in the face.
That’s when I usually look across the hill and admire the much greener grass of my efficient ant-like siblings, who, unlike this grasshopper, planned ahead. Excuses flow readily — it’s hard to save money when you have a herd of children, there are too many financial emergencies, the sun is in my eyes — but the fact remains, a little planning does wonders. I know, because I’ve done it before.
Years ago, my pal Bruce Campbell told me about a nifty savings plan called the 52-week challenge. The concept is simple: incrementally stashing away one dollar per week can result in a year-end savings fund of more than $1,300.00. And I know it works because my husband and I did this last year, when planning for a year-end trip.
How it works: Choose a day of the week you will start saving. My savings day was every Saturday.
I then took a quart-sized Mason jar and cut money slot into the lid. My current self then finished off the jar by super gluing the lid onto it, prohibiting my future self from pilfering the jar in times of short-term need (in the face of, say, a lunch money shortage).
Saturday of the first week I put $1 into the jar. Saturday of the second week I put $2 into the jar. Week three? In went $3, and so on. This savings method is fairly simple and painless … perhaps until the later weeks of the year, when stuffing upwards of $30-per-week may become more of a financial challenge.
I also printed out a list that tracked each week’s expected installment and attached it to the jar as a reminder. After depositing my weekly savings, I would cross that date and amount off the list.
However, by week 30, staring at a jar full of diligently saved cash makes commitment to the savings program a matter of habit. Even better, a year of such incremental weekly savings ends with a jar filled with $1,378.00.
It’s easy to get started. A quick internet search of “52 week challenge” brings up a multitude of spreadsheets. Print one out, attach it to a savings jar and in one short year you’ll be ready for next year’s holiday season. Happy savings!