Household savings is one of your first lines of defense against debt, but most people have more experience with credit than they do with saving cash. If you’re having trouble putting money away, use a little psychology and your bank account to help you out. Remember: it takes longer than a day or two to settle into new habits, and though resolving to save more and spend less is a good start, you’ll have to find a way to endure after enthusiasm starts to dry up. That’s where “Keep the Change” comes in.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind – And Into Your Bank Account
Several banks offer programs like “Keep the Change” which allow you to save an extra few cents from every purchase on your debit card; that is, the leftover “change”, rounded up. This amount is deposited into a savings account and you’re never aware of it; some banks even match it to some extent or offer extra incentives over time for leaving that money where it lies. Over a few months, this can amount to hundreds of dollars: enough to reach a small savings goal every year or find “extra” money for a vacation.
Big Things Come in Small Packages
Though this is only one savings tool, it is a powerful one. Since you never “see” that money, you can’t miss it, and it starts working for you right away. It may not seem like much, but think about this: every year the Treasury Department spends millions of dollars minting pennies and nickels – for, on average, more than their face value. Every time a coin is minted, that money adds up; and as taxpayers, we’re well aware of it. You won’t be making millions of debit transactions, of course, but there’s no reason the same principle shouldn’t help you reduce your debt.
Is Your Bank Working For You?
In a world of mounting bills and rabid debt collectors, this might seem like a strange question. But if you want to start saving from scratch, it’s an important one to ask. Take time to re-assess your bank and what it has to offer you. Value-added features like “Keep the Change” are useful, but they’re only one part of ensuring that a bank is really right for you. Look at your account features and things like overdraft fees, maintenance fees, and the quality of customer service. At a time when big banks are often re-instating monthly maintenance fees, smaller regional and local banks, as well as credit unions, are hunting for more business. You’re always entitled to move your money.
A Journey of a Thousand Miles …
Big, sudden changes in spending habits are like New Year’s resolutions: they start with a bang, but they’re not likely to stick. If saving is new to you, look for small things that add up to reasonable, but valuable goals. Most importantly, take action. Reading this blog is a good start, and there are two other things you can do right now: take a hard look at your bank, and take a hard look at the “other guy.” You might be glad you did.