When it comes to keeping my hand out of the cookie jar that is my savings, I follow a similar approach to one I use for dieting. I rarely eat cookies that I store in a cookie jar on the top shelf hidden behind the cans of rarely-eaten soups.
I'm less tempted to spend money that is out of sight.
A few years ago, I discovered I'm really good at putting money aside, but I'm also good at dipping into my savings when I want to go shopping.
I decided to come up with a strategy to stop myself from diving into my savings and finally win the battle to save money for the future.
Throwing away the key
My first step was to eliminate the easy access to my savings. I didn't lock it up in a safe and throw away the key, but something like that. I opened a money market account at a bank. I chose not to have an ATM card or Internet access to this particular account. I also set up automatic deductions from my paycheck to fund my 401(k) account.
Spacing out my bills
I used to space out when it came time to pay my bills because I was so overwhelmed by what was due. I decided to space out my payment due dates so that an equal amount of money has to be paid each week. I made a few calls my insurance company, electric company and various loan processing centers to see how I could "spread out the pain." Once my bills were easier to manage, I could get better handle on how much money could be saved each week.
Switching to bi-weekly mortgage
My mortgage company helped me set it up so that I paid them every two weeks instead of once a month. They said I'd pay my mortgage off more quickly with a bi-weekly mortgage. Instead of making 12 payments a year, I'd be making 26 half-payments or the equivalent of 13 mortgage payments. Sure, I could just make an extra payment myself every year, but my goal was to make saving more money carefree. I look at my house as a forced savings account.
Getting rid of excuses
Instead of telling myself I can't afford to save more money, I "penalize" myself every time I make frivolous purchase. If I go out to eat or purchase a new outfit, I save an equal amount of money into my savings account. I figure if I can afford to spend $50 on a new Jason Wu Daphne designer pocketbook, I can afford to save $50 to avoid becoming a bag lady lugging around her life possessions in a worn-out leather satchel. Thinking about the hardships of being poor keeps me from touching my savings.
After a few years of building up my savings, I'm not terribly impressed by the amount of money I've saved as much as I'm excited about the number of times I withdrew money from savings. In two years, I've made zero withdrawals from my savings account. And, in another three years, I hope to have a fully-funded 9 months emergency fund.
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- Banking & Budgeting
- savings account
- money market account