'52 Week Money Challenge': Smart strategy or flawed fad?


Have you heard about the 52 Week Money Challenge? It's sort of a fad diet for finance, a simple way to save almost $1,400 in the next year.

The money-saving plan has swept across social media since the first of the year. The challenge promises participants a relatively painless way to build a nest egg in just one annum.

The 52 Week Money Challenge asks participants to up the amount they tuck away by $1 every week. During week one, you put $1 in a jar. Week two – $2. Jump ahead to week 21 – you're socking away $21. (See? We told you it was simple.) Do the math. In the final week, when you stuff $52 in the jar, you will have accumulated $1,378.

There's a Facebook page for savers to share their triumphs, charts and templates where they can track their cash, an app to provide weekly reminders and Pinterest jars to prettify the project.

In a debt-ridden, savings-starved world, what's not to like? A story on the challenge by the Gannett News Service reminds us that financial experts say we should all have savings to cover six months to a year of expenses. "Saving that amount can be overwhelming for a lot of Americans who don't by nature save money for the future. The 52-week savings plan is less intimidating and is fairly easy to do," the story said.

But a Minnesota consumer blogger says there's a better way to accomplish the same goals. Carrie Rocha's Pocket Your Dollars website advises using the gimmick in reverse. Rocha, a penny-pincher who offers readers loads of money-savings strategies, is the author of Pocket Your Dollars: 5 Attitude Changes That Will Help You Pay Down Debt, Avoid Financial Stress, and Keep More of What You Make.

She said she plans to do the challenge, but will start by setting aside $52 in the first week and decrease the amount by a buck each week. (Let's dumb that down: Week 52 – $1.)

How come? Rocha says newbie savers will be more powerfully motivated by quicker results. "After four weeks I’ll have an extra $202 in the bank. Under the rules of their challenge you would have saved a measly $10," she writes, and adds that it may be easier to start with the bigger amount than to end with it. "If $202 seems like a lot of money to save in January, then trust me, it’d be an impossible amount for you in December," she concludes. "Let’s do the hard work right now, when our motivation is highest. Then, come next Christmastime we only need to find an extra $10 in our budget. Nice."

Rocha also thinks it's dumb to stash the cash in a jar. "Consumable products come in jars. This challenge is about saving. It’s not about consuming, so a jar is the wrong tool," she insists. To say nothing of the temptation of the cash sitting where you can get it. She advises setting up a free savings account and automate deposits.

Regardless of the method used, Rocha urges consumers to build their savings. "Commit yourself to the cause," she advises. She also suggests it is helpful to have a purpose for the savings. "I’d recommend you save toward an emergency fund, unless you already have 3 months of living expenses set aside. Personally, we have an emergency fund so I’m earmarking this money toward my family’s $2,000 medical deductible," she volunteers.

Next Up

PD Shimmers closeup

Man with Parkinson's lights up Plymouth with synchronized light show

"The best medicine I have for my disease is what I try to do with the light show," Mike Justak said.

Screen Shot 2020-11-25 at 7.34.43 AM

Watch: Drunk squirrel in Minnesota captures the world's attention

The squirrel was immediately cut off after nearly tipping over.

Screen Shot 2020-11-25 at 7.15.09 PM

Small town gym refusing to close facing lawsuit from attorney general

The gym is facing a lawsuit and a temporary restraining order to halt their operations.

credit card, payment

Money Gal Coaching: Bouncing back after living your best life

Kelly Blodgett started Money Gal Coaching after paying down nearly $50K in debt in 18 months.


When do stores open on Black Friday this year?

Many major retailers will be open Black Friday, some for extended hours.

police tape, crime scene

Man found dead outside home near Cass Lake

The man was reportedly shot outside the property.


Gov. Walz announces $1M in grants to boost Minnesota tourism

The money will be used for marketing efforts to attract people to Minnesota's hard-hit tourist spots.

coronavirus, ICU

Nov. 25 COVID-19 update: 72 deaths ties Minnesota's single-day high

A COVID-19 update will not be provided on Thanksgiving Day.


Revival to open its fourth Twin Cities location

The fried chicken and smoked meat maestros are moving to St. Louis Park.