America Saves Week is a great idea to help us focus more on saving for both short-term goals (summer vacation) and long-term goals (retirement). In fact, you can join over 350,000 others to pledge to save more this year. Sign up on the online pledge-to-save form and enter how much you can save. It’s a fun app that will even send you text messages if you want to receive savings tips and advice.
By nature, I tend to be a saver. But, with all of the monthly expenses (It really costs that much to heat our house in the winter?!), all the things we must have (i-Phones. Are they really a must-have?), and all the things we want to do (I’ve been bitten by the travel bug!), I was finding it challenging to save ahead of spending. It is just so easy to pull out that credit card on vacation, then be shocked a month later when the bill comes due.
Any ideas I had heard related to trading off expenses just weren’t sustainable. If I stopped buying coffee and made my own, I could save $2.50 a day. Or if I packed my lunch just 2 days a week I could save from $10 – $20 a week. These are good ideas and not too painful. But, they were hard to implement because it caused a change in my routine. And, even if I did skip coffee one or two days a week, I never moved $2.50 into the “vacation account.”
Saving for retirement has been a top priority for years and we have a disciplined approach for that. But, spending for vacations and the holidays was, frankly, out of control. I needed something more effective. That’s when I thought about techniques that worked with children: rewards and bribery. Why not give it a try? I decided to try bribing myself to save in advance for future travel. Here’s the scoop:
• I love to order out for dinner. In fact, “dining out” is the largest category of our monthly spending.
• I used to love to cook, but after 30 years of making dinners I was tired of the planning, shopping, cooking and clean up, especially after a long day in the office.
• But, I really want to travel more than eat out.
• What if I bribe myself with cash to cook again?
And so, the idea was born. For every night that I make a homemade meal, I would pay myself $20. That seems like a good estimate for how much extra I would have paid to grab take-out for the family. I use my big family calendar to mark the days that I make dinner at home – “d@h” gets penciled in each day that I cook. At the end of the month, I count up the days I’ve cooked and reward myself with the total savings for the month. Literally, I transfer several hundred dollars from my checking account into the savings account “travel” bucket. Money that I would have spent at my favorite Chinese restaurant, I now spend it on me!
My best month so far earned $480 toward travel. That was 24 homemade dinners! By the end of the year, it is highly possible that I’ll have saved $5,000. That will be a really nice amount for a summer vacation…all because I got back into the kitchen again.
Find where you can make a change that you can stick with – and pay yourself. Create your own bribery and reward system. Most important, you must actually move the money into your reward bucket! Let me know what you come up with…