So I don’t know if you could tell by my total downer introduction that I’m not exactly happy with my job. One of the things I’ve found that gets me through the thing that pays my rent is looking forward to my next trip or vacation and generally being able to take time off occasionally. That shit takes money though.
Last year I saw a post on a different blog site about the 52 week savings challenge and decided to try it out with pretty positive results. If you haven’t heard of it before, the 52 week savings challenge involves saving $1 on the first week, $2 on the second week, and so on until the last week of the year, when you put aside $52. At the end of 52 weeks, you’ll have $1,378. This went really well for me up until the last couple weeks. I ended up with over $1000 without ever feeling too much of a strain on my budget so I’m going to try it again and this time I’m going to finish with the full $1,378!
I totally recommend this challenge and here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Use a tracker. I’m the type of person who loves to physically check things off. It’s both highly motivating and great for keeping track of where you’re at in case you get behind. All you have to do is google “52 week savings,” and you’ll find tons of images to choose from. I imagine there are also tons of pins on Pinterest that have the tracker as a printable.
Cash or electronic money? I saved in cash last year because I wasn’t sure I would be able to differentiate my 52 weeks money from actual, spendable money and watching all that cash build up was awesome, but that is a lot of money to have lying around. Make sure that you trust the environment you’re keeping it in. Also ask yourself, if you see it will you spend it? I knew I wouldn’t be tempted to use that money unless I encountered a financial emergency that my savings account couldn’t handle, but everyone is different. Maybe keeping it in cash isn’t a good idea for you.
This is a guideline. I think it does more harm than good to stick to the $1 on week 1, $2 on week 2 schedule too closely. Putting aside a dollar is easy but weeks of putting aside $40+ is much more difficult. I responded to that problem by putting in $20 a week from the beginning in order to make those later weeks easier and to create a buffer in case I had to skip a week or two. If $20 is too much for you, stick with the schedule or save what you can. The important part is to keep track of how much you save and when so you’re never surprised by how much you need to save the next week. Another strategy that I’ve been told is to do it in reverse. Save $52 on the first week, $51 on the second, and $1 on the last. That way you get the hard part out of the way in the beginning when you’re motivated. No matter what you choose or what ends up working for you, the important thing is that you try to get in the habit of saving.
Something I feel is really important to acknowledge in any discussion about saving is my own privilege. I’ve noticed that a lot of advice posts about saving money assume that you have money to save, but you lack motivation or that you just need to just sacrifice a luxury. There’s a lot of that “imagine how much you would save if you cut out your daily $6 coffee!”* That kind of advice makes sense in cases like mine. I grew up with lower middle class parents who were able to save money and, thanks to their generosity and foresight, I graduated college with minimal debt which my mom helped me pay off so I could establish good credit. I came into adulthood with a savings account and now that I’m on my own, and in spite of my less than stellar job, I’m still in a position to pay all of my bills and contribute to multiple small savings projects. Not everyone is in that position.
Saving money is a privilege. Or rather, something easy for the privileged. Before anyone gets too mad at me, let me remind everyone that by being privileged, that doesn’t mean that you haven’t experienced obstacles or had to work very hard. We just don’t all start on equal footing. I have no idea what it’s like to be poor and I wouldn’t presume to give advice like I do.
I don’t really have the time or knowledge to go into this point in greater detail but I do want to pick apart something I mentioned early. As I said, a lot of the savings advice I’ve read appears to work on the assumption that all people have luxuries to cut out of their lives. This, mixed with disdain for poor people who have smartphones** or new shoes or insert “luxury” here, shows that as a culture we don’t think it’s okay for people who are poor to enjoy things. Or, to be more direct (read: brutal), if you’re poor, you must be miserable. And that’s bullshit. That is a cruel way to feel about other humans. So maybe next time you (the general you; not you lovely ladies of Op264) want to judge someone for their purchases, maybe you can just remember that we’re all just doing the best that we can.
Now to circle back to the tone of the beginning of this post (and before I risk making actual social commentary). To all of you who are starting new savings projects or are hard at work at ones, I wish you the best of luck! And, you know, send some luck my way if you’ve got some to spare
*Everyone get off my Starbucks addiction. My $3 iced teas before work are one of the best parts of my day. Leave me alone.
**Let’s be honest. Smartphones are not a luxury at this point. They’re tiny computers and everyone needs the internet these days. Fight me.