America Saves is a national campaign that encourages individuals and families to save money, reduce debt and build wealth. As part of America Saves Week (Feb. 22-27), the Cooperative Extension system is launching a 15-Week America Saves Challenge. This free 15-week program will begin Feb. 21. At the end of the program on June 4, participants who completed the personal savings challenge will be asked to submit a photo and information documenting their results, and will be eligible for prizes.

The 15-Week America Saves Challenge is free. Participants will need to register online at http://bit.ly/15WeekMoneyReg. They will be asked to provide four pieces of information: name, e-mail address, state of residence, and the dollar amount that they plan to save. The next step will include setting  a personal savings goal and deciding the 15-Week America Saves Challenge in which to participate, Basic or “Hard Core” or another personal savings goal.  See http://bit.ly/15WeekMoneyChallenge for details about the challenges.

The Basic Challenge includes five weeks of $10 savings, five weeks of $20 savings, and five weeks of $30 savings, resulting in a total accumulation of $300. The “Hard Core” Challenge starts with a $10 weekly deposit and ramps up the savings deposit by $5 per week for a final deposit of $80, resulting in a total accumulation of $675. These dollar amounts are merely a guideline. Challenge participants can save more or less than the suggested amounts, as desired.

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Participants will be sent a tracking form (spreadsheet) to keep track of their weekly savings as well as a weekly e-mail with motivational messages. At the end of the challenge, participants will email the program sponsor, University of Florida IFAS Extension, a copy of their completed spreadsheet and a photo of themselves with their savings. Specific instructions will be provided to those who register.

Persons completing the steps described above will be entered into a drawing to win three gift cards worth $200, $150, and $100. Challenge winners will be announced and prizes awarded during the week of June 6.

Saving any amount of money as part of the 15-Week America Saves Challenge is a great wayto get started on the path to increased personal wealth and financial security. Any amount of savings is better than none. The 15-Week America Saves Challenge was funded with an America Saves Week mini-grant provided to the University of Florida IFAS Extension and Rutgers Cooperative Extension by the Consumer Federation of America, with funding from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation.