The 52-week challenge: supercharge your savings this year
Want to stash away an extra $1,378 this year? You can get started with just one dollar.
The 52-week challenge is a simple — even fun — way to boost your savings, turning it into a kind of game that you can use to challenge your friends, family or just yourself.
Whether you're a savvy saver or new to the world of personal finance, this challenge is designed for everyone, and you can start at any time of the year.
How does the 52-week challenge work?
Typically, the challenge is to save an increasing amount of money each week for a year, starting with just $1 in week one and adding an extra dollar every week. By the end of week 52, if you haven't withdrawn any of your savings, you'll have $1,378 in your savings account — not including interest earned. While most people start with $1, you can choose whichever small, manageable amount you want and gradually build it up over time. It's like a financial game that turns small steps into a substantial reward.
Do a quick search on TikTok, Pinterest and Instagram, and you'll find many variations of the game, including scorecards you can print off and use to save $5,000, $7,000 or more in a year. Tangerine Clients, on the other hand, can set up a Money Rule based on the 52-week challenge that automatically moves the correct amount every week into a Savings Account. No paper required!
The 52-week challenge across Canada
Across the country, individuals from all walks of life embrace the challenge in unique and inspiring ways. Let's find out how they're doing it and what they're saving for.
Method 1: Stuffing cash into envelopes
Sasha, who goes by @cdngirlcashstuffer on TikTok and Instagram, uses a fun scorecard to encourage her followers to complete the 52-week savings challenge. In her TikTok video, she outlines her process and encourages participants to create 52 envelopes and label them from 1 to 52. In 2023, her fun twist was to have savers stash away $2,023. She uses a bingo card-like tracker with 52 amounts, and then to finish the challenge, you need to have saved each amount on the card. The amounts range from $10 to $75 in value. So during any pay periods when you don't have the extra cash, you can fill a lower amount envelope, and when you have a little more wiggle room in your monthly budget, you can fill a higher amount envelope.
Method 2: The spreadsheet/chart method
Saver: Tom Drake
Prolific Alberta-based blogger and personal finance expert Tom Drake encourages his challengers to represent their progress with a visual aid. He writes that the easiest way to do this is by using a printable 52-week chart you can fill in each week as you make deposits. His version follows the original 52-week challenge rules, and he cheers readers on to save $1,378 in a year. He also notes that following the challenge is a great mindful money exercise that may help you keep track of your finances in general.
Method 3: The one-month marathon
Saver: Elizabeth & Freddy White Socks
Elizabeth Naumovski, a Toronto-based financial literacy content creator and female empowerment advocate, has a different take on the challenge. She condenses it into a month-long game where participants save $5 a day during November, which is Financial Literacy Month. She features her pet cat, Freddy White Socks, in posts encouraging participants to commit to the 30-day challenge. At the end of the month, they have $150 to top up or start their emergency fund. According to her Instagram account, "The savings challenge was created to make people think about their future savings and emergency funds. The premise is to start small and realize that you can make a huge difference in your future life just by saving $5 per day. If you save $5 per day for one month, you will save $150. Save for one year, and you will save $1,825. Keep up the habit for 10 years, and you will save $18,250."
Method 4: A bigger goal every year
Aimie Genoux (otherwise known as the Extreme Couponing Mom) of Richmond Hill, Ontario, is a 52-week challenge veteran. In a blog post, she says, “There's nothing more exciting for me than saving money and a challenge to save money. Each year, I push myself to save more than I did the year before." She goes on to explain that she's saving for a house, retirement and going on a vacation every year.
Ways to approach the 52-week challenge
Ready to dive into the challenge? Here are some variations to choose from:
1. Start small, finish strong: Kick off your savings adventure by beginning with just a small sum in the first week, then increase your savings by a fixed amount each week afterwards. This classic method is easy to manage in the early months but can get more difficult as time goes on.
For instance, if you're starting with $1, you only need to save $10 in the first four weeks, yet in the final four, you're looking at $202. Quite the difference!
2. Reverse the game: If you prefer to front-load your savings, flip the challenge by starting with the highest amount in week one and decreasing it a little every week. This way, you'll tackle the heavy lifting early and breeze through the rest.
3. Make a savings squad: Turn this challenge into a group effort by involving your friends or family. Make it a group challenge where each member saves a specific amount every week. You can even introduce friendly competitions to keep everyone motivated.
4. Automate it: While there's a certain satisfaction to using a paper scorecard and a highlighter, or stuffing cash into 52 colour-coded envelopes, there are online tools that automate the challenge for you, including Tangerine's 52-Week Challenge Money Rule.
Why participate in the challenge?
The 52-week challenge can be an excellent strategy for saving towards specific goals. Maybe you have a big vacation planned for next year and want to set aside at least $1,000 for it. Or perhaps you're near your goals for your emergency fund, but you need that extra push. This challenge can keep you on track and motivated to save without the pressure of putting away a large sum all at once.
Beyond the financial benefits, the challenge helps you develop savings habits that can last well beyond the 52 weeks.
Ready, set, save!
While many people kick off this challenge as a New Year's resolution, you can start it anytime. Whether it's your birthday, the beginning of a new month, or just a regular Monday, you can embark on this savings adventure whenever it suits you best.
The 52-week challenge empowers you to achieve your financial goals in a fun and manageable way. Whether you're saving for a dream vacation, building an emergency fund, or just striving to establish better money habits, this challenge offers a clear path to success. So, why wait? Start your savings adventure now and watch your financial dreams become a reality.