Completing the 26 Week Money Challenge builds savings habits through incremental increases. Automate, track, stay accountable to complete it successfully.
Saving money consistently is something many of us aspire to do, but have trouble following through on. Life gets busy, other expenses pop up, and suddenly that transfer to your savings account gets pushed off yet again.
This is why a structured savings challenge can be just what you need to finally make saving a habit. The sense of accomplishment as you check off each milestone can become motivating. Saving feels easier when you have a plan to follow.
The 26 Week Money Challenge is one great option for building up your savings over a 6 month period. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of this savings challenge.
What is the 26 Week Money Challenge?
The 26 Week Money Challenge provides a structured plan for saving over the course of 26 pay periods (typically every 2 weeks). You simply save the amount of money that corresponds to the pay period you are on.
For example, in pay period 1 you would save $1, in pay period 2 you save $2, and so on until the last pay period you save $26. At the end of the 26 weeks, you have saved a total of $351!
It’s a simple, incremental way of saving that is achievable. The amounts start small and then gradually increase, so you likely won’t even notice the money being set aside. But those small amounts add up over time.
The great thing about the 26 Week Money Challenge is that it can be started at any point in the year. You don’t have to wait until January 1st. Just start whenever it best aligns with your pay schedule.
Why Complete a 26 Week Money Challenge?
What are some of the key benefits of committing to a structured savings challenge like this?
- Reach savings goals faster – By making savings an intentional priority, you speed up your ability to reach goals like an emergency fund or down payment on a house.
- Build lasting habits – The challenge helps you get into the rhythm and routine of saving every paycheck. After 6 months, it becomes a habit you can continue.
- Provides motivation – Having a plan to follow and milestones to hit can encourage you to stick with saving consistently.
- Sense of accomplishment – Checking off each pay period on your tracking chart gives you a sense of progress.
- Easy to budget – Knowing how much you need to save each pay period makes it easy to budget for.
Whether you are starting an emergency fund, saving up for a vacation, or just want to save more, a 26 Week Money Challenge is a simple way to get started. The keys are sticking with it, building the habit, and making it fun!
5 Tips for Successfully Completing the 26 Week Money Challenge
Want to maximize your success with completing the 26 Week Money Challenge? Follow these proven tips and tricks to help you stay on track:
1 – Set a Specific Savings Goal
When you know what exactly you are saving for, it’s easier to stay motivated. Before starting the challenge, determine what your savings goal is.
Maybe you want to save for a dream trip to Ireland or build up a down payment on a home. Perhaps you need to grow your emergency fund or want to pay off lingering credit card debt.
Having a purpose behind your savings will remind you why the challenge matters whenever you feel like skipping a transfer. Write your goal down somewhere visible like your bathroom mirror or dashboard.
Getting specific about the amount needed for your goal also helps. Crunch the numbers so you know exactly how much total money you need to have saved.
For example, if your dream trip costs $5,000, use that number as motivation to fill up your Dream Trip Fund each paycheck.
2 – Automate Your Savings
One of the easiest ways to ensure success with the 26 Week Money Challenge is to automate your savings.
Take the human effort out of having to manually move money into your savings account each paycheck. When it happens automatically, the temptation to skip or “forget” goes away.
Here are some options for automating:
- Set up automatic transfers from checking to savings on payday
- Ask payroll to send a portion of your check straight to savings before you see it
- Use apps like Digit that use algorithms to transfer small “unnoticeable” amounts
When the transfers happen in the background without any effort on your part, sticking to the challenge becomes much simpler. The money is safely stashed in savings before you can spend it.
3 – Make Saving a Habit
Use the 26 week timeframe to ingrain regular saving into your financial habits. The more you turn saving into an automatic behavior that happens no matter what, the easier it becomes.
Some ways to make saving a habit include:
- Save on the same day of each pay period – like every other Friday
- Build the transfers into your regular money management system – treat it like any other bill to pay
- Keep your savings chart visible as a reminder
- Celebrate or post on social media after each successful transfer
The first few weeks take conscious effort. But over time, saving every payday becomes second nature. By the end of the challenge, you have developed a habit that can continue.
4 – Hold Yourself Accountable
We all need help staying on track sometimes. Find ways to hold yourself accountable throughout the 26 weeks.
Enlist a partner like your spouse or close friend to do the challenge with you. Check in with each other at the end of each pay period. Celebrate your small wins together. Friendly competition can raise motivation.
Share your progress on social media and cheer each other on. Post photos of hitting milestones in your tracking chart. Seeing others’ engagement on your progress posts can inspire you.
Use the printable tracking chart to monitor your own progress. Don’t skip entering an amount – seeing the blank spot will nudge you to get back on pace.
5 – Make Saving Fun!
Saving money doesn’t have to feel restrictive or boring. Look for ways to add a little fun into the process:
- Give your savings jar a fun name like Fiji Fund or Post-Pandemic Trip Account
- Decorate the jar to match the purpose
- Calculate interest earned and watch your money grow
- Treat yourself to a reward every $100 saved or half-way point
- Celebrate milestones on social media and with friends/family
- Have a goal celebration party when you complete the challenge!
Adding a creative spin and element of fun keeps the motivation strong. Don’t let the routine of saving make it feel like a chore.
How to Stay Motivated to Keep Saving
Life happens. Unexpected expenses pop up or your determination starts lagging. How do you stay motivated to keep up with the 26 Week Money Challenge when you feel like giving up?
Use these tips to stay focused when the going gets tough:
- Pause and remember why you are saving – your goal. Visualize what hitting that target will allow you to do.
- Focus on how far you’ve come rather than how far you have to go. Note your progress and celebrate small wins.
- If you get off track, take a deep breath and restart or adjust the amounts if needed. Any progress is still progress.
- Change things up to stay engaged – add a visual progress tracker or get an accountability buddy.
- Remind yourself that sticking it out for 26 weeks will build lifelong habits. Keep your eyes on the long-term prize.
- Reward yourself periodically for staying on track. Use some of the savings to treat yourself to dinner, a massage, or something else special.
Saving consistently for 6 months requires commitment and determination when life is busy. But staying focused on your big picture goal and reminding yourself of the progress you’ve made goes a long way.
Maintaining Good Savings Habits After completing the 26 week Money Challenge
The 26 Week Money Challenge provides the initial structure and routine to establish regular saving habits. But how do you maintain that motivation after reaching the end?
Here are some tips for continuing your savings success after completing the challenge:
- Celebrate hitting your savings target – take a vacation or splurge on a goal-related purchase
- Continue saving the $26 amount each pay period or add savings by $1 until you reach $52 per paycheck
- Start a new savings challenge like the 52 Week Money Challenge or 100 Envelope Challenge
- Use sinking funds to save for upcoming expenses like car maintenance, gifts, etc.
- Automate your prior challenge amount to continue transferring it each payday
- Treat savings as any other fixed expense in your budget going forward
The key is to keep up the habits you built. With the systems and routines established, ongoing saving becomes much easier.
The 26 Week Challenge: Start Your Savings Success Journey
Are you ready to take control of your finances and start building wealth? Committing to a savings challenge like the 26 Week Money Challenge provides the structure, motivation and accountability you need.
Follow the tips above and turn saving into a habit over the 6 month timeframe. Take pride in your progress and celebrate your success. Use the momentum to establish lifelong financial habits.
Saving consistently allows you to reach your goals faster, whether it’s becoming debt-free, starting a business or retiring early. The journey begins with a single paycheck.
Why wait for the “right time” that never comes? Start where you are, begin small, and let the 26 Week Money Challenge jumpstart your savings success. You’ve got this!
Michelle D. Garrett is the founder of Divas With A Purpose.
She focuses on sharing resources for being purposely productive; setting personal and professional goals and achieving them through daily action; and successfully running a business while focusing on your mental health. Michelle is a full-time entrepreneur who specializes in teaching female entrepreneurs how to show up consistently in their business – online and off.