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Posted: February 06, 2014

Chef Laura: The 52 Week Money Challenge

Slow and steady wins

Laura Cook Newman

When I was little, one of my favorite books was a collection of Aesop’s Fables.  The worn pages were filled with magical stories of animals in relatable – yet outlandish – situations:  a golden egg-laying goose, a greedy grape-famished fox, and the ubiquitous story of The Tortoise and the Hare.

That last tale was my least favorite as a child.  I always rooted for the über-confident rabbit and implored him to “Wake up from your nap!”

As a budding chef, I desired the hare’s characteristics to be fast, impulsive and a bit cocky, so the moral of The Tortoise and the Hare was lost on me.  Behaving like a turtle in a professional kitchen gets you nowhere but fired.

Now, as a mother of two with my Line Cook days behind me and a few gray hairs, I’m beginning to change my perspective.  Although there are several traits I hope to pass onto my daughters, my impatience is not one of them.

So it was quite fortuitous that I stumbled upon the 52 Week Money Challenge buzzing around social media last month. I decided to make like Aesop and turn this “game” into a teaching moment.

The beauty is its simplicity. In week one, you set aside one dollar; in week two, two dollars, and so on.  When you ring in 2015, you’ll have squirreled away $1,378.  Not exactly as valuable as owning a goose that lays golden eggs, but a decent end-of-the-year reward. 

While my girls decorated a shoe box with stickers and glitter, I printed out the spreadsheet.  We sealed the bedazzled box, cut a quarter-sized hole on the side and taped the print-out on top to track our progress.

At our breakfast counter, we talk about what we’ll do with our collected loot.  Mom’s vote is to invest it in their 529 (“Lame!”).  They vote to buy yet another loom kit with a gazillion rubber bands (“Cool!”).

Today, in week six, we have a whole $21 saved.  Woo-hoo!

As the kitty grows, so does their excitement.  Their initial desire to spend it on bracelets is replaced with visions of big ticket items – like a trip to Disney World.
But don’t be fooled, this savings plan isn’t just kids’ play. Create a version for your business, that vacation to Europe, for your grandchildren’s tuition, or for a well-deserved holiday office party.

Who knows if the 52 Week Money Challenge will stand the test of time like Aesop’s Fables?  I’m hoping this journey of delayed gratification will set my daughters on the right path towards fiscal responsibility – slowly and steadily. 

Laura Cook Newman is a professional Chef and Training Manager for a Fortune 500 food manufacturer. She earned her chops at Johnson & Wales University, has an MBA in Marketing and hosts a blog for behind-the-scenes insights on the food service industry. Contact her at www.ThreeHotsAndaCot.net

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Readers Respond

At week 7, we're at $28. Or the equivalent of 1 box each of: Samoas, Trefoils, Savanah Smiles, Tagalongs, and Dosidos. Plus 2 boxes of Thin Mints. There's always room in the freezer for a spare box of Thin Mints (in case of emergencies). By Chef Laura on 2014 02 11
Excellent idea. I've been known to squirrel away gold ingot. I decided to do this challenge, but backwards. That way when Christmas comes, I'll be putting in the smaller bills instead of trying to cobble together 50 bucks. I look forward to blowing the whole $1378 on steak for New Year's Eve. By Ron Swanson on 2014 02 07
It's GirlScout cookie time, 5 boxes for $20.00. We have thin Mints. By HarleyMom on 2014 02 07
Why don't you combine this with you annual lemonade stand earnings?!? I bet you would have close to $1500. Split the kitty so have goes into the 529 and half takes you to a cool Colorado destination. That way you keep the money local too! By I read your stuff and remember it too on 2014 02 06
What's your address? I'm visiting in early December. That way I get my Xmas money and you get to teach the naive susie woo hoo's about the grinch! By T. Geisel on 2014 02 06
Great idea! No matter what your stage of life, it's important to conserve, save and plan. By Andi Pearson on 2014 02 06
I'm doing this with my daughter too. It's not too late to start! Also talking with my bank to see if they can set up an automatic withdrawal program to make it easier since I don't often deal in cash. By ted on 2014 02 06
Great strategy for everyone! Nothing like seeing money you don't miss each week grow into something that will bring pleasure later on. Please keep us readers posted. By Minerva on 2014 02 06
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