Money-savin’ Mama: No wrong way to start saving

The picture of a coin-and-bill-filled jar started making its way around social media a few weeks back. It accompanied a 52-week money challenge chart that, if followed, would result in $1,378 in savings by the end of the year. The idea is to start by saving $1 in week 1, and then increase that by a dollar every week to gradually ease into the saving habit.

Soon counter-posts criticizing the method filled my Facebook wall. They put a large red X through that challenge chart.

If you don’t have $52 a week to save now, you certainly won’t come next December, they said, advising instead that you start with $52 and taper by $1 a week. That way, you’ll harness the motivation you feel right now, and be rewarded with having saved a couple hundred dollars in a matter of weeks, instead of several singles.

Then there were the even-keeled kind who proposed a different approach. Why don’t you just save $26.50 each week all year long to reach that $1,378 goal? And why not do so through automatic transfers into a bank account, instead of keeping a big, tempting jar of cash in your house?

So, Money-Savin’ Mama, what’s the best way? Answer: Whatever works for you.

Truth is, there’s no bad way to start saving.

A math teacher I once met said he tells his students there are many right ways to solve a problem. Some make the problem quicker to solve, others are roundabout ways to get there. But finding the right answer is what matters.

Even if you choose the most roundabout way to reach your savings goal, it’s better than doing nothing.

For example, most financial experts will tell you, when it comes to paying off debt, you should put more money toward the debt with the highest interest first (then, once paid off, add that payment to the second-highest interest debt). But others, including Dave Ramsey of Financial Peace University, say to pay off the debt with the lowest balance first to earn a sense of accomplishment (and then add that payment to the second-lowest balance).

While I fall in the interest-first camp (it will save you more money), any extra effort to pay off debt more quickly is working to solve the problem.

If you’re motivated by the satisfaction of paying off a bill quickly and it will keep you on the road to being debt-free, pay off that $300 balance first (and then add that payment to the … you get the idea).

The key is to start. Just start. Whether it’s $1, or $52, or $26.50.