Looking back over some of my old posts on saving money (whether for the short-term or for retirement), two basic themes seem to bubble up over and over again: automation and separation. I’ve decided that for me, these are the two necessary actionable steps to truly make savings work.
Let me add that there are a lot of good savings concepts out there: spend less than you make, pay yourself first, live within your means, a penny saved, etc. While these are great concepts, they aren’t exactly action steps you can take to help you save more money.
So, I made an attempt to put the automation and separation ideas in picture form. My paint skills aren’t what they used to be, but hopefully you’ll get the point.
Okay, I know it doesn’t look like it, but that is a mountain (or big fire) in the middle, separating the big spender from his or her automatically saved short-term and retirement accounts. Let’s look at these action steps one at a time:
Automation of Savings
To make saving easy, make it automatic. Set it up and forget about it. Inform your HR department that you’d like your check split into different percentages and give them the bank, 401k, IRA accounts to make this happen. They’ll directly deposit the desired percentage into the accounts.
If they’re not willing to work with you, have all the money direct deposited into a bank and then set up the automatic withdrawals to savings accounts from there.
Separation from Savings
Most people get the automatic step and are already doing it. To make savings stay put though, you need to separate it. There are two types of separation you can set up to make it hard to tap into your savings. Think of it as if you’re setting up an imaginary wall between you and your savings accounts.
First, use 401k and IRA accounts to save for your retirement so that you’re discouraged from withdrawing the funds by their strict tax penalties.
Second, use online only savings accounts (like FNBO Direct and Capital One 360) to save up for short-term savings goals. These accounts don’t come with a debit or credit card, and transfers from these accounts to your other bank account take a few days, lessening the chance that you’ll tap into them readily.
A System vs. Self-Discipline
These two actions steps have been working for me for some time now. I’m a good saver now, not because I’m the most disciplined guy in the world, but because I have a system that works. I encourage you to set yourself up for success with your savings by automating and separating today.