Part 3: Save it, Then Keep Your Filthy Paws Out of It! (or, Too Much Month at the end of the Money)
Well now, saving the money is just half of the battle, isn’t it? Let me give you an example. There’s this couple I know, and the husband had a pretty good job. Now, this couple was horrible at managing their finances, and they decided one day to save some money. The husband’s paycheck was direct deposited, so they opened a savings account and had some money automatically put in that savings account out of each check. Not a lot, mind you, just enough so that there would be a little cushion to fall on if necessary. Now, this couple had great intentions, but every single month, without fail, they ended up transferring the money out of the savings account and into the checking account and subsequently spent it. Oh, and it wasn’t on anything important like car repairs or food for starving family members or cable, oh no, it was just because we, um, I mean they, had totally mismanaged their money all month long and then came up short between paydays.
Sad story, right? All of my hoity toity advice really comes to nothing if you can’t leave the money alone once you go through the trouble of saving it, doesn’t it?
Ultimately, saving money is a lifestyle chance, no different from losing weight, quitting smoking, or anything else. Anything that is a quick fix will not last in the long-term. If you are serious about turning over a new leaf, then you have to evaluate your life and undoubtedly change some long-standing habits. For example, I think you would be shocked at how much money I can save by staying out of convenient stores and fast food restaurants. Sure, it is so easy just to run through the drive-through, especially when you have been out all day and don’t feel like cooking. You have to plan. If you know in advance that you going to be gone, then you could put something in the crock pot that morning, or make up a casserole or lasagna in advance and put it in the freezer for a busy day. Good, old-fashioned pasta and sauce is quick and easy, and kids are usually pleased. Put some butter and garlic on bread, toast it, and there you go! Make sure you shopping trips include some of these easy essentials. Furthermore, not only will you be saving money, you’ll be so much healthier, and you’ll feel so much better knowing you’ve made a much better decision for your family.
As far as leaving the money alone, some people don’t have that particular problem. Lucky them. If you are like the couple I talked about before, then it can be a little more challenging.
The thing that has converted me is having an actual goal for the money I am saving. Like I said, we plan to build a house, and our previous lifestyle could never support that goal. I keep that goal forefront in my mind. When I’m tempted, I ask myself, is this thing worth more to me than my own home? Towards the end of the pay period, it is especially tempting to swipe fifty or a hundred bucks out of the savings account to buy some convenience foods or even fast food. I make myself dig around and see what I can come up with for dinner, and if I do say so myself, I’ve made some pretty tasty creations out of “cheap” food!
If you are a perpetual savings thief, you can always take a more desperate measures. Check with you bank or credit union about an “add-on” CD. Most people use accounts like this for Christmas clubs. You can deposit money into the account throughout the year, but you can’t withdraw the money without paying a penalty.
The bottom line is that you have to make up your mind that you are going to do things differently. Try looking back over your life and think for a while about all of the money you’ve wasted. It’s a sobering experience. However, don’t berate yourself. “There’s no use crying over spilled milk” might be a cliché, but it’s very apt. Stephen King says (well, one of his characters) “Fun is fun and done is done,” and that one works, too. The best thing about mistakes is that they exist so we can learn from them. You have to be willing to face them, though, and acknowledge your reckless past habits.
So that’s it (don’t cheer in front of me, it’ll hurt my feelings.) I hope some of my stupidity, and my attempts to become un-stupid, can be of some help to you. Good luck in turning over your new leaf—–say, has anyone seen my leaf??!!!??