Struggling to save, steep living and lifestyle expenses, and chronic debt are problems that the vast majority of South Africans face year in and year out. The solution? More money. If we had more money, we might be able to put a little aside each month; we might be able to afford the things we need and want; and we’d be able to dig ourselves out of debt. However, short of winning the lottery or inheriting a windfall from some long lost rich relative, more money isn’t going to fall into our laps. Instead, we need to learn to save irrespective of how generous our salaries are or aren’t. The 52-week savings challenge is an excellent place to start and it’s a plan that is accessible to everyone.
The 52-week savings plan was conceived in North America, so the original concept will not be very practical here in South Africa given our weaker currency. So, let’s tweak the challenge to provide you with a very achievable way to save close to R14,000 in one year!
The 52-Week Savings Challenge for South Africans
Look up the term “52-week savings challenge” in Google Images and you’ll find no shortage of spreadsheets that show all 52 weeks in the year and their corresponding savings value. Print this out and put it up somewhere you can view it daily. The first change we’re going to make to this is to multiply every value by 10 so that your savings challenge looks like this:
In week one, you deposit R10 in a savings account
In week two, you deposit R20
In week three, you deposit R30
In week four, you deposit R40
Until, in week 52, you deposit R520
The next tweak we’re going to make is to ignore the chronological order of the savings values. The traditional challenge just isn’t very practical, because some months are unavoidably more expensive than others and it just takes one bad week to throw you off your savings plan and discourage you from continuing. Also, December, being the festive season, is notoriously expensive so having it as the month in which you are supposed to save the most money (R490 + R500 + R510 + R520 = R2020) might set you up for failure.
So, here’s what you do. Every week throughout the year, save the most money you can and at the end of the week, deposit it in your savings account. [If you don’t have one, open one with your bank and make sure it’s separate to your current account so that you’re not tempted to dip into it.] Then, you cross off the value you have managed to save on your “money challenge” spreadsheet. One week, you might manage to save R430, so you cross off week 43’s value; another week, you might only manage to save R120, so you cross off week 12’s value.
This way, you’re eliminating those higher values when you can afford to and during leaner weeks, crossing off the lower values. By the end of the year, you will have crossed off every single value and should be sitting with R13,780. Probably a little more if you’re getting interest. This could go a long way to helping you pay off all your accounts, or start an education fund for your child.
A Good Place to Start
The 52-week savings challenge is an excellent way to slowly grow your commitment to saving, which is something that doesn’t come naturally to us all. Following this challenge provides South Africans with a realistic and achievable way to save money, even in our tough economy and at the leanest times of year.