Photo: 401(K) 2012
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As I dug myself out from under a heap of credit card debt, I realized that I was forgetting one major aspect of financial freedom. My savings account was being neglected. My main focus was to pay down the credit cards, one by one, and then focus on building my savings to a respectable level. We all know how important it is to have a fully funded emergency savings account, but I wasn’t following my own advice. Once I paid off my last credit card, I looked for answers to build up the account that I had torn down.
I have always had a savings account at a large bank along with my checking accounts. As the interest rates fell through the floor and I was earning a meaningless 0.10%, I decided to put my money into a credit union. I opened up two new accounts, a checking and savings, and started funding them with any extra funds.
Every time I received my paycheck, I would handle my regular bills and miscellaneous expenses. After that, and only after that, I would fund my savings account. Each month was different, where some months I would add more than others. There was no consistency, no will power. I needed to find a better way. Then I decided to treat my savings account a little differently.
Changing the way I think about saving
People tend to worry about their expenses, and then figure out if they can “afford” to fund their savings account. I was doing the exact same thing. I have always had my monthly bills written on a whiteboard in my office, so I can keep track of new or recurring bills. This has been my method for years. One day, I was adding another bill to the board and it hit me. I needed to start treating my savings account like another monthly bill.
Time to add another bill
We all hate paying bills, but we continue to do so. We have signed contracts with providers that require us to pay them for a service. I realized that I needed to come up with a contract for myself. Why not fund my savings account in the exact same way that I would pay a monthly bill? All I needed to do was figure out how much I could afford each month without the miscellaneous expenses and then transfer the money into the account. Here comes the internet to the rescue.
Thank you technology
With the expanse of online banking, it made this process even easier for me. With my monthly “fund” figure, I decided to automatically transfer payments twice a month, as dictated by my pay schedule. This would put money into my account without me even lifting a finger and then “hiding” that money, so I didn’t have the desire to spend it.
Ever since I started treating my savings account like a monthly bill, I have surpassed my emergency fund goal and am working on hitting my “6 months of expenses” goal. The best part is, if I ever need the money, I have easy access to it. By switching my mindset, I have taken something that involves some emotion and made it mathematical. If I don’t have to see it, then I won’t have the ability to waste the money on unnecessary purchases. I know exactly how much my savings will have in it in 3 months, 6 months, and beyond. I have taken back control of my savings account.
How do you save money? Have you thought about treating your savings account like a monthly bill?
Author Bio: Grayson is the owner of Debt Roundup, a personal finance blog dedicated to helping everyone get out of debt. Grayson dug himself out of $50,000 worth of credit card debt and has started to gain positive net worth. Check him out at Debt Roundup.