52-week money challenge

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I am not in the business of promising magic, or even overnight results.

Building wealth, including a successful business or career, requires time and dedication. But the biggest obstacles to these challenges are bad daily habits and your mindset—things that can turn around with regular, dedicated practice. That’s what this money challenge is all about.

In a year or less, you can tackle every single major part of financial wellness—most critically of all, the way you think and act around money. It’s not all mindset and intention. It’s also about the real, practical steps to getting your financial act together. 

This 52-week money-saving challenge will get you on track to control your spending, start saving and investing and turn around your debt and credit score. 

In short, if you follow these simple steps every week, you will thrust your spending, earning, and saving on a powerful, positive trajectory—which will change your life forever.

Are you ready? Of course you are! Let’s do this:

Before you start this money challenge:

Ready to start this year-long money challenge? Babe, here’s a quick jumpstart to get your money flowing in the right direction:

Commit to a 52-week saving challenge (automatically)

Depending on your level of income and extra money, challenge yourself to save each and every week for a whole year. you will be so addicted to watching your emergency cushion grow, you will find yourself increasing your savings and extending this practice beyond 2022 into a lifetime habit.

Savings challenge Step 1: Designate a savings account ONLY for this purpose. I recommend a savings account at a bank that is separate from your regular checking account, to minimize the ease of transferring your savings into a checking account when you find a good sale online, tc. If you need a new account, I recommend CIT, which offers a competitive interest rate and great customer service.

Savings challenge Step 2: Set up automatic weekly deposits to your new account. This should be a sum that challenges your spending addiction, while also not challenging your ability to pay rent.

Savings challenge Step 3: Assess your savings goal quarterly. Every three months, have a look at that savings account. How good does that feel? Celebrate with a moment of deep gratitude for the security and abundance that account provides — and all the good things that helped you achieve that goal. Now, ask yourself: Can you save more? If yes, bump up that weekly auto-payment, even if it is by $1.

Explore ways to make more money

Need to make more money? Later in the challenge we will explore ways to start a side gig, work-at-home careers, negotiate a higher salary and more.

Short-term: Download the FREE app Steady. More than 2 million workers have used this app to find quality gigs and jobs that pay up to $26/hr., plus earn bonuses. 

Protect your family

Part of repairing and growing your relationship with money is addressing your guilt or worry or stress around money topics. For example, you likely know that you should get life insurance, but have not.

Fix that. Take 5 minutes now to get a free quote online in 5 min. from Bestow, which promises NO MEDICAL or LAB EXAM, and term life insurance up to $1.5 million for premiums starting at $9/mo.

“I love money!” Money Challenge Week 1

Each week of this money challenge has two parts: a battlecry, which is a phrase I want you to shout out loud, to think about, write in your journal and stew on.

Each week will also include one task. This is an action step. Each is small, yet powerful. Do each and every one.

Here we go!

Week 1’s battlecry

“I LOVE MONEY!” Say it at least three times, as loud as you can muster. Public or private, no matter. Own it. Own that money is powerful and you deserve to feel amazing about money. Maybe today you don’t love money. Maybe money makes you squirm or want to turn away and wish it didn’t exist. 

Maybe you tell yourself that money is the construct of the patriarchy, designed to control and manipulate the vulnerable. Maybe that is true, I don’t know. But I do know this: you can’t serve the world if you are broke and worried about paying the rent. So I will help you get over all that and learn to adore money and the power that comes with it.

Week 1’s task

You don’t need an expensive leather-bound notebook. Any scrap of paper will do. You can buy yourself a nice journal on Amazon. Save a polar bear and reuse the back of all that crap they send home in your kid’s school folder, or the margins of the newspaper. The point is to physically write it down. Powerful! 

Write down the number-one aspect of your money that gives you the most grief and stress and sucks away time. Debt? Stuck in your career? Not saved yet for retirement? No cash cushion? Write it down and look at it hard. That is your truth. Neither good nor bad. Huge step. Good work!

“I’m money-honest!” Money Challenge Week 2

Today is the day you have likely been avoiding: looking at the cold, hard numbers.

Week 2’s battlecry

“I am ready to be 100 percent honest with myself about my finances! No more fibs or avoiding facts.” Remember to say this out loud!

Week 2’s task

Embrace technology. 

Use an app like Mint.com (free), Ellevest or YNAB (You Need a Budget, free for 34 days) to connect all your money accounts into one place—checking and savings, investment, credit card, student and car loans, mortgage. 

As you stare at your debts and assets, you will see some patterns and some truths. Write these truths down. The good, the bad, the nasty-ass. 

One mom completed this step and emailed me: “I was really surprised to see that I have a six-figure net worth. I feel so broke all the time, and this helped me realize I’m doing better than I thought.” 

You may also be disgusted by how much debt you have, or how much more you owe on your old car. Avoid judgment on these feelings and facts. Embrace the pain as a necessary step in positive change.

Ready to dream big? Money challenge Week 3

Let’s set some goals now.

Week 3’s battlecry

“I’m ready to dream big!”

Week 3’s task

Use a goal calculator to be very real with yourself about how far you are from your saving and investing goals. Ellevest has a free financial planning tool to help you set and meet whatever your personal finance goal is: pay off debt, retirement, buy a home, start a business, go back to school, save for a vacation or a home remodel. It takes fewer than 10 minutes, and is very easy to use.

Make it a family affair: Money Challenge Week 4

Today’s mission is fun and easy: talk to your kids about your money goals, and make them a family goal. 

I don’t care how old your kids are, it’s your job to teach them about money and to have a positive, healthy relationship with personal finance. I know that might sound really hard if you’re working through your own issues around money, but this is such an important part of your journey. 

When you tell your child that as a family, you have created a money goal and explain what you will all do together to reach that goal, so many positive things are happening:

  • you hold yourself accountable;
  • you are transparent and honest about money; 
  • you take a step in financial education for your kids, which is something you know you break the cycle of money taboo!

Week 4’s battlecry

“I am the single most powerful source of financial information and habit-building for my kids. I have a moral obligation to be the best money management role model for everyone who is watching—especially my children!”

Week 4’s task

Communicate your new financial goals with your kids. The key here is to be honest and specific. Tell your kids: “It is important that we live within our income, live frugally, and appreciate what we have, which is a lot. That way, we will have money in the bank in case of an emergency, so we are secure in the future, and we can save for special things like vacations. 

To reach our savings/debt/car/home goal, we are going to make some changes. This includes . . .” Tell them that you will eat out just once per month, will cut cable, and will stop hanging out at the mall on weekends. Then, as a family, keep track of your goal progress in a community place— like using a paper thermometer on the kitchen fridge that they can color in.

Click through the slideshow for Money Challenges for weeks 5-7

Click through the slideshow for Money Challenges for weeks 8-11:

Budgeting: Money Challenge Week 12

Now that you have started crunching numbers, seeing how much you actually spend each month, and realizing how far you actually are from your goals, it’s time to shake up your life by creating a budget.

Budgets aren’t sexy and they’re rarely fun, but they are empowering and necessary. Plus, you know you need one, and by simply doing this one thing, you relieve yourself of so much guilt and stress. Trust me, you will feel incredible after this task.

If you took my advice and signed up for an app like Mint.com (free), Ellevest or YNAB (You Need a Budget, free for 34 days), you can set up your budget right now, for free. Didn’t sign up yet? Go back to week 2 and get started now.

Week 12’s battlecry

“I am a grown-ass woman and I am ready to do the work it takes to achieve my goals!”

Week 12’s task

Next, make your budget: 

1. Write down your net income. This includes money that goes into your bank account, net of taxes, insurance, and other deductions that come from a job, side gigs, and child support and alimony. YNAB keeps track of this for you if you have already connected your accounts, so log in to see your total income.

2. Write down your core expenses—what you are actually spending today on rent or mortgage, basic utilities, insurances, car payments, food, and taxes if you are self-employed and pay those directly. Again, YNAB or Mint.com will be helpful here.

3. Write down the rest of your expenses. 

Total all of your expenses from steps 2 and 3 and that’s how much you spend in a month. Ideally, your expenses should be less than your income from step 1 so that you can start setting aside money for those goals you identified earlier in this money-saving challenge.

If your expenses are greater than your income or there is very little difference, then the next step is to slash those expenses.

More on creating a budget here.

Click through the slideshow for Money Challenges for weeks 13-29:

Click through the slideshow for Money Challenges for weeks 30-31:

Click through the slideshow for Money Challenges for weeks 32-36:

Click through the slideshow for Money Challenges for weeks 37-38:

Click through the slideshow for Money Challenges for weeks 39-44:

Click through the slideshow for Money Challenges for weeks 45-47:

Click through the slideshow for Money Challenges for weeks 48-50:

Click through the slideshow for Money Challenges for weeks 51-52:

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist, author and expert. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. As an expert on divorce and gender, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality and multiple state legislature hearings. More about Emma's credentials.

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