Disclaimer: I am in no way a financial planner nor adviser. The following post is purely informational, and should only be used as such.
I am a terrible saver when it comes to money. I’ve tried everything that’s been recommended: direct deposit into a savings account from my paycheck, automatic transfers (weekly or monthly) from checking to savings, or even the old-fashioned way — you know, where I have to go inside a physical bank and hand the teller my money, only to earn very little, if any, interest on my money.
Which leads me to my next topic: interest rates. They suck. I hate the fact that banks (local as well as national) pay you very, very little for basically storing your money so they can lend it out to others at high interest rates. It’s not fair, and quite frankly, I don’t blame anyone who doesn’t use a bank for anything other than a way to access their paycheck.
I can’t do anything about interest rates, unfortunately. But I can discipline myself enough to save money if I make it fun, or at the very least, interesting.
Let’s Play A Game, Shall We?
So, in order to get off my ass and start saving, I took an idea that I found online elsewhere called the 52 Week Challenge. It sounds like a diet plan almost, and in a sense, it sort of is.
The basic idea for this challenge is that for 52 weeks, you set aside a dollar amount that corresponds to the week #. For instance, week 1 will have $1 saved, week 2 will have $2 saved, and so on.
The plan is pretty simple and straightforward, and while it may not seem like a lot at first, by the time the challenge is over, my savings account will have $1,378 deposited into it, not including interest earned, as seen below in the screenshot I took of a spreadsheet I created to help myself save.
It’s simple enough: Starting with the month of October 2019, I set up the spreadsheet accordingly so I could keep track of the money I deposited, as well as interest earned. I chose an online savings account through Marcus by Goldman Sachs due to them having a pretty nice interest rate (1.9% APY at the time of this post), although there are others out there with comparative rates, if not a little higher.
Edit: As of 11/18/19, Marcus reduced their APY from 1.9% to 1.7%. Regardless, still a decent return compared to most banks that offer 0.01%.
I chose an online account for 2 reasons:
- The interest rate is way higher than what is seen at local banks. Last time I looked, I believe the banks in my area were giving a “generous” 0.1% (yes, one-tenth of a percent) interest rate. Screw that. At this time, Marcus provides 1.9% interest on deposits.
- Having an online savings account separate from my checking account prevents me from easily transferring the money back into my checking account and using it. It’s all about discipline, and I’m ok with having a transfer take up to 2 business days to complete.
As you can see above, I broke each month down as to what should be in the account by the end of each month. This allows me to keep track of what’s in savings vs. what should be in savings. Since I would rather not have to play catch up, at the beginning of each month, I will set up a schedule to transfer the money so that it’s one less hassle I have to worry about.
I’ve created a generic spreadsheet, broken down by 4-week increments. There’s no specific start/end date, which gives you great flexibility on starting this challenge on your own terms. See screenshot below, along with the direct link to the Google Sheet online, which will allow you to download as an Excel file for your own reference.
52 Week Savings Challenge – Generic Template (Google Sheets link)
There is no right or wrong time to start this challenge. I chose October because the challenge for me will end in September, and will be perfect timing to start shopping for the holidays. Plus, for our family, birthdays fall into this timeline as well so it works out to have the extra money to spend on gifts.
There are many goals to set though, not just the holidays. Vacations, weddings, anything you want to save towards with this challenge can be accomplished. Just remember that it’s a year-long challenge when setting a goal. I wouldn’t recommend trying to complete this sooner than that, otherwise it kind of defeats the purpose of the challenge.
I will more than likely share my progress throughout the year regarding this challenge, even if it’s just for myself to show that I can be disciplined enough to save.