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You’ve probably seen it via your friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+…maybe even on the news…the “52 Week Money Challenge”. In fact, numerous other financial bloggers are talking about it, listing it’s pros and it’s cons…and there are so many different twists you can take on this challenge. Here’s my 52 week challenge to you: JUST SAVE. Every week. Every pay period.

Step 1: START SMALL…or Start Large…whatever works for you, but TYPICALLY, start with something you KNOW you can maintain and once you’ve done it for a few weeks/few pay periods, you get adjusted and then you can start to see where you may be able to cut back on expenses and add more money to your pot.

Step 2: WRITE IT DOWN. Yes, writing it down is the second step because today is probably pay day (last day of the month, tomorrow is a holiday)…so take a few bucks, put it in savings, write it on your “To-Do List” and then cross it off. Wow, that was pretty cool to get something on there and off there so quickly wasn’t it?!

Step 3: WRITE IT DOWN…AGAIN…just for next pay period and the pay period after that. You should have one budget sheet per pay period that shows how your money gets disburse each pay period. Make sure that whatever you’re going to pay out is WRITTEN DOWN. There are a jillion budget/spending plan forms out there. I have one I can share if you’d like, just let me know. FIND ONE THAT WORKS FOR YOU–AND USE IT!

Step 3.5: You should create a budget sheet for the following two pay periods every time you get paid. Money goes in your account, you sit down to pay bills, you write out your budget sheet for the next two pay periods. Now, this may be as simple as copy and paste–but use your critical thinking skills about what’s coming up. What changes do you need to account for the next time you get paid? Is there a birthday coming? A holiday? A school field trip? Do you need to add an additional line item for ANOTHER savings purpose (car repair, new appliance, furniture, etc.)?

Step 4: HOLD YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE. It is so dang easy to make excuses as to why it can’t be saved this month. Been there done that. Will probably do it again (I’m human). But since we’re starting small and we’re not stretching ourselves thin, why make excuses? Hold yourself accountable and SAVE. I’m not asking you to save the world, the whales, or even a million bucks. I’m asking you to make a small positive change in your savings habits so that you can see that you can, indeed, do it.

Step 5: KEEP MOVING FORWARD! Don’t give up. There will be some months when it will be difficult to get even the smallest amount into savings–life happens and the car never breaks down at the most convenient time, the kids never need new shoes when there’s “money to burn”…I get that. But don’t give up and if you can’t do the whole amount you have pledged to your savings plan, then do at least some of it.

I happen to LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the “52 Week Money Challenge”. I prefer it in reverse ($52 the first week, $51 the second, and so on…) because as I continue to pay myself, my commitment, my requirement, decreases. I like to see what I HAVE to do get smaller and smaller. Besides, who wants to have to put over $200 in savings next Christmas when we’ll be all distracted by the sales and buying of presents for the holiday season?

And, here’s what’s REALLY neat–you can use this “52 Week Money Challenge” to pay down debt too! (ABSOLUTELY get at least $1000 in emergency savings to take that monkey off your back!!) If you have credit cards, or other unsecured debt, on which you are paying a higher interest rate than you are getting in savings, you’re losing money–use this technique to pay down your debt!! If the interest rate on your car is high or you financed it for more than 5 years, use the “52 Week Money Challenge” to pay additional to the principal–which will decrease the overall amount you pay in interest–and will allow you to pay off the vehicle faster!

New Year’s Resolutions can be very difficult to maintain. SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS and start small. If you can do it according to the “52 Week Money Challenge” and you want to, GO FOR IT. If you can’t, or you aren’t sure, DO WHAT YOU CAN and then increase your commitment after you’ve gotten used to the change in your budget.

2015 is going to be an amazing year and I’m excited to share the ride with you!

Please let me know your favorite savings, spending, debt reduction techniques and let’s generate some conversation!

Happy New Year!