7/6/17

Unconventional Ways to Save Money

If you haven't noticed yet, Alex and I think saving money is pretty important. We love spending our money and having fun, but we always strive to live within our means and save as much as we can. But becoming a money saver is not just a choice you make from time to time. Saving doesn't mean that you once talked yourself out of a purchase at the store. Saving is a lifestyle. Saving is the constant, recurring decision to live frugally. Saving means that not all of your wants are going to be satisfied.

Like with anything else, practice makes perfect. You can't just wake up one day and decide, "I'm going to start saving money." In fact, a plan like that is almost certain for failure. Saving is a tricky bastard to handle, and if you want to succeed in this game, you're going to need a sharply executed plan.

Before you commit, you might want to know...

Before you begin devising your saving gameplan, there are two things you need to know:
  • Saving is hard and sometimes you will fail
  • There is no "one size fits all" saving technique that will work for you
Those are a little harsh, I know, but they are also very true. Saving isn't a game that has a 100% success rate; sometimes even the best savers are going to spend money on things they don't need. The good news is that's okay. Like Grandma Bloom said, "Save what you can, but don't be a tight wad." In other words, don't be afraid to go on that vacation or go to the bars every now and then. The important thing is to keep your spending splurges and failures in check. When in doubt, take Alex's advice to Think, Analyze, and Act.

Unfortunately becoming a good saver does not come with a secret formula. What works for Alex probably won't work for me, and what works for me might not work for you. A smart ass would tell you the best way to save is to spend less, put more money in your saving account, blah blah blah. Thanks for the wonderful advice, but that's like telling a golfer the best way to get a lower score is to hit the ball straight. Easier said than done.

Unconventional Options

Although you're going to need to execute a carefully thought out saving gameplan, your method doesn't have to be fancy or complex. All too often the word saving is associated with formal options like 401k's, Roth IRA's, and Saving's Bonds; while these options are all great,  there are many other unconventional saving techniques that can help you stash cash away in a hurry.

Change how your paycheck is deposited

This is probably the easiest method to increase your savings, and it worked for me. Most paychecks these days come in the form of direct deposit, and many companies will let you split up this deposit among multiple bank accounts. I used to have 100% of my paycheck deposited into my checking account, and from time to time I would manually move money over to my savings account. This turned out to be pretty dangerous because each month my entire paycheck was at my fingertips with the swipe of a debit card. To help combat the urge to swipe my card on all the cool gadgets in Field & Stream or Dick's Sporting Goods (that store combo is seriously dangerous for someone who loves fishing and golf),  I now have 15-25% of my paycheck automatically deposited into my savings account, and it's almost like that money "doesn't exist". Even though I could easily transfer that money back over to my checking account, I'm pretty lazy and that additional step is a great roadblock.

Give yourself a cash allowance

Back to the debit card thing - sometimes swiping a card is really easy; maybe too easy. For some reason, swiping a card for a $50 purchase feels way better than forking over $50 cash. If you're trying to save more, let this play into your favor. Take a second to think about your weekly expenses, and trying giving yourself a cash budget for the week. Not only will this help you think twice about that extra purchase at the store, but you might even discover that you don't need some of your bad habit purchases such as coffee or soda.



Establish a swear jar

This wouldn't work for Alex and me because we never swear (Cindy and Beth raised us better than that), but start a swear jar with your roommates or friends. Every time someone curses, he or she must deposit a certain amount of money into the jar. This technique probably isn't going to catapult you into early retirement (unless you live with a bunch of sailors), but I bet over the course of a few months you'll be able to buy a few cases of beer or some pizzas. Plus you'll end up having some interesting debates over if a word is considered a curse word or not. Some friends of mine did this in college, and it is probably the most fun method to save up a few extra bucks.



Set a Goal and Talk About It

Just like Alex said, start with something small and don't be afraid to talk about it. First, think about your weekly spending habits and set a small goal that will allow you save a few extra bucks. For example, maybe you're going to forego eating out and you will take the money you normally would have spent and instead stash that money away in your savings. Smaller, short-term goals like this are great ways to save some cash, but don't forget about a crucial step; tell someone about it. The second you tell someone about your goal, you're going to be motivated to keep your word. This accountability booster is key, and it might be the extra edge you need to fight off that Chipotle craving.

Honorable Mention

There are as many unconventional saving methods as there are number of times that I've beaten Alex in video games (a lot); these are just a few of my favorites. To round out my list, here are a few other honorable mention methods that might work for you:
  • Adhere to a weekly saving routine
    • One method I saw recently was a simple plan to save over $1,300 in a year by saving $1 in week one, $2 in week two, and so on for the remainder of the year. I'll let you devise your own rules, but following a plan similar to this might help you save up the money you need to take that trip you've been wanting to go on or buy that gadget you can't live without.
  • Pick a certain bill (i.e. $5 or $10) and save that bill every time you get one
    • I have to confess - I've tried this method before and failed, but that doesn't mean it won't work for you. This is a great way to trick yourself into saving, and if you don't use cash very often, you probably won't even notice it. I ended up failing due to two primary reasons:
      • I admittedly go in debt with my friends (usually baseball tickets and beer)
      • Cash is my primary vehicle to pay those friends back
    • I typically don't recommend going in debt, but if you must, I definitely recommend friend debt - their interest rates are pretty low
  • Fill a container up with coins
    • A 2-liter container of dimes is roughly $550-700, and a gallon of quarters could get you close to $1,000. As simple as this old piggy bank method may seem, it's a surefire way to convert your spare change into real money.

Saving (Saving) is a Habit 

Saving, is a lifestyle, but it doesn't have to been a hard one. There are endless gameplans that will help transform you into a saver; the important thing is to pick a plan that works for you. Find what you're good at and stick to it. Remember, Bartolo Colon was a pitcher, not a hitter.

Are there other saving methods that work for you? What did we miss? Let us know in the comments below!

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