At the beginning of 2016, we gave you our version of the 52-week Savings Challenge. Our 3 schedules were designed to save up money for a value, moderate, or deluxe Disney vacation. I’m sure you’ve probably seen some version of this. You may have even tried one. But maybe, like us, you didn’t quite manage to stick to the plan. Well, if at first you don’t succeed…
For 2017, we’re not just going to start saving… We’re going to find ways to make it work. Are you with us? Here’s how to successfully complete the 2017 Savings Challenge.
There are many different versions of Savings Challenge. Some are weekly, some bi-weekly, others monthly. Some start you off with small amounts and build up as you go. Others divide the contributions evenly. The goal of each is to grow your savings from a small pile at the start to the year to a large pile by the end.
One of the most popular ones I’ve seen is the 52-week plan that starts with just $1. The contribution goes up by $1 each week, and you end up with a grand total of $1378 saved by the end of week 52. That’s easy to start, as January only requires $10. December demands $202, which is a time when money gets tight for many of us. To solve that problem, you can flip it around and start with the big amounts first and get smaller as you go. You could make the same contribution each week. Or, you could cross off each one as you go, in any order you wish. That makes more of a game of it.
Plus, your goal amount might be different from mine or someone else. You might get paid on a different schedule than I do. So let’s go over the tricks and strategies to coming up with the right savings challenge for you and how to successfully complete it this year.
What Are You Saving For?
Notice that I didn’t ask how much you want to save yet. Instead, let’s figure out WHAT you want to save for. Having a concrete goal that you can visualize is going to be a major factor in keeping you motivated the whole year through.
We’re thinking of taking a cruise for Christmas. This holiday season was so stressful and we spent a lot of money on things that we are still struggling to find room for. So, we figured, “why not spend that money on an experience instead?” We loved every Disney Cruise we’ve been on, and we can only imagine how special it would be to celebrate Christmas on board a Disney Cruise!
I’m already excited about this. I’m literally watching YouTube videos of Disney Cruise Line Very Merry Time events in another window as I write this.
How Much Do You Need to Save?
Now that we have a goal in mind, let’s figure out how much we need to save to make that happen.
Lisa found a cruise on the Disney Magic that leaves on December 24, 2017. A Stateroom for the 4 of us on a 5-night sailing is going to run us about $5800 with a deposit of $1060. That’s a big goal, and it has a big problem. The balance is due in September, which gives us only 9 months to save. Unless we hit the lottery, it’s not going to happen this year.
Not to fear! We can use the numbers as an estimate of what we need to save for booking a similar cruise for Christmas of 2018. If we start saving now, we can get the deposit together and call our friend Aaron over at Fantastic Memories Travel to get it all booked when those sailings are announced. Then we can contribute to our savings for the remainder of the year.
I know that the cruise will be more expensive than just booking our stateroom. There will be flights, excursions, souvenirs, and splurges to consider as well. But for now, this plan is going to focus on the main cost of the cruise itself.
How Often Can You Contribute?
With our goal in mind, and knowing how much you need to achieve it, we can now create our Savings Challenge. We can break down our $5,800 like this:
- Weekly – 52 payments of $111.54
- Bi-weekly – 26 payments of $223.08
- Twice a month – 24 payments of $241.66
- Monthly – 12 payments of $483.33
Yours will look different depending on your goal amount.
Granted, we’re aiming to save A LOT of cash here. Those payments are bit steep for our budget, especially considering we still want to do things and go a few places this year. It helps we don’t have to pay the full balance until September of 2018. That means we can do weekly payments of about $67 if we wanted to. (That would make the goal for the end of this year about $3,500).
Lisa gets paid twice per month, and I get paid weekly, which gives us a few options. I like the smaller amounts that a weekly contribution gives us. If I round-up to a nice even number like $75, that will even help us build in some extra savings toward the extras for our trip.
So here’s what our 2017 Savings Challenge looks like.
If we stick to this plan, we’ll have saved a total of $3,900 by the end of 2017. Some of that will be used to put our deposit down sometime this Spring or Summer. We’ll save up the rest as part of our 2018 Savings Challenge. The other reason I rounded up to $75 was that I can make those contributions using Disney Gift Cards. I’ll save $195 on my contributions by purchasing my Gift Cards at Target.
How to Successfully Complete the Savings Challenge
Here’s where we ran into trouble last year. We got off to a decent start but things happened, contributions were missed, and eventually it became a lost cause. Like any resolution, this plan can easily fail if we don’t set ourselves up to succeed. Here are some things we can do to keep on track this time around.
Keep the Savings Separate
Whether you decide to use a piggy bank, gift card, or bank account, you have to keep the money separate from the rest of your funds. If the money is in a savings account that is linked to your checking, it might be too tempting to just borrow from your savings if a need arises. While life happens and this may become necessary, it shouldn’t be an easy thing. Glue the lid on the jar, so you’ll have to break it to open it. Then have the kids decorate it so you’ll feel bad about breaking it.
Make Deposits Automatically
One of the easiest ways to accomplish your goal is to put it on autopilot. Most banks have a way that you can set up automatic transfers between accounts. You might even be able to get part of your paycheck deposited into a separate account. If this is possible, then set it up now!
I just downloaded an app called Qapital. Within 5 minutes, I created a goal of saving $1000 and linked my bank account. I set up a rule that will automatically round-up my purchases to the nearest $2.00 and then transfer the difference into my FDIC-insured Qapital account. It even has a rule for the traditional 52 week challenge, transferring $1 in week 1, $2 in week 2, and so on. Sign up now and you can get $5 free cash in your account, plus $5 more for each friend you invite that signs up.
We all get busy, and the easiest way to get off track is to simply forget to make your contribution. You can set reminders using your phone, Google Calendar, or any number of apps. Get the whole family in on the fun and someone may remember when you don’t. Make a chart and hang it up where you will see it everyday. Sign up for our weekly email newsletter and we’ll send you a reminder each week.
Earn Extra Cash
The other culprit that derailed our savings last year was a lack of money. This year is no different.
Right after Thanksgiving, I lost one of my two part-time jobs. Half of my income is gone. Now I’m looking for ways to replace that money. I haven’t had any luck with a new job that fits my schedule or that would be worth completely changing up our schedule for. In the meantime, I have to find ways to bring home some extra dough. I’ve come up with these ideas so far:
- Opening a new bank account – I keep getting offers from Chase to open and account and get money for doing it. It seems like a no-brainer if I can meet the requirements and maybe split my paycheck between the accounts.
- Selling stuff – I see lots of people selling stuff locally through Facebook groups. This can also help my goal of decluttering the house in 2017! I could even make stuff to sell too. I thought these Pressed Penny Bracelets came out nice. Do you think anyone would buy one?
- Reward Sites/Apps – In the past few months, I earned enough for a $50 gift card by just walking into/scanning stuff in the store using an App called Shopkick.
I’m looking through some ideas that Penny Hoarder has on their site for making some extra cash this year.
Spending is the opposite of Saving. Taking a hard look at your expenses and seeing where you can make cuts can be a huge boost to completing your savings challenge.
- Stop Eating Out – This is a huge expense for us. One of the upsides of me being home more now will be eating dinner at home.
- Clipping Coupons – It’s tedious, but can be worthwhile. If you shop online, Honey can search for coupon/promo codes and apply them for you and save you money right before you check out. We used this for our holiday shopping and it saved us some money a few times.
- Cut Out Bad Habits – If you smoke, drink coffee, soda, or eat too much junk food (Soda and Junk Food are my vices) you can save money by cutting back. Not only will you be healthier, you’ll be richer!
- Shop Around – You might be able to get a better rate on your TV/Internet Provider, Cell Phone carrier, Home/Car Insurance, or Heating if you shop around.
Sarah Berger at Bankrate has a take on the Savings Challenge where she cuts her spending by eliminating something from her budget each month.
Okay, you’ve got your goal. You know how much you need to save. You have a plan. And you now have some tools to help make it happen. Alright, 2017.. LET”S DO THIS!