3 Painless Tips to Save Up for Something Special

by Darwin on September 25, 2009

I was having a conversation with my 5 year old tonight about his piggybank and he said he wasn’t ready to go to the bank yet since he didn’t save enough money yet.  That triggered some memories (and an savings tip article idea!) about different ways I used to save money when I didn’t have much coming in and I wanted to save up for something special.  When I was younger, it was that Commodore 64 (I thought it was so cool back then), then a car, then Christmas money, etc.  While some of these may not work for you and are for smaller savings targets, they worked for me and they may inspire you to revisit an old practice or think of something new so you can pay for your next special outlay out of pocket instead of busting out the credit card if you didn’t budget for it.


Tips on Saving Money in a Painless Fashion

1.  The Checkbook Whole Dollar Method – I actually still use this one today.  I always like to have a buffer in my checkbook for a few reasons.  First, it’s not difficult to make a mistake and a bounced check is extremely embarrassing.  Next, I like to leave most of my money in a higher yielding savings account since checking accounts are notorious for low/no interest rates, so I keep the balance reasonably low in the checking account.  Finally, my wife tends to call me at work and say, “Hi, I’m writing a check for such and such, is that OK?” and without any notice and the hassle of moving money around online constantly, it’s good to have a little buffer in there.

So, what I like to do is for every payment (95% of my payments are through electronic bill pay since it’s so much more convenient), I always round up to the next dollar and balance the checkbook that way.  A bill for $311.11 is recorded as $312 and so on.  Assuming a median cent payment amount of .50 (some will be more, some less, but over a long period of time, .50 is accurate), and say, 20 payments per month, I’m setting aside $10/month.  This is $120 per year I don’t even notice – nice fancy dinner or extra year-end payment in the kids’ 529 or whatever.  So, after a year, while your checkbook may reflect a measly $25 at the end of the month, it’s comforting to know that there’s actually more like $145 in there.

This may bother you a bit if you’re a perfectionist and have to have your checkbook match your online statement to the penny when the checks clear.  Me?  I don’t really care.  I’d rather have more in there than I need.  I’ve gotten to the point where my online balance is showing as several hundred dollars more than my checkbook written balance.  So, I know if something pops up and I’m going to dip below zero, I have plenty of breathing room.

2.  The 5 Dollar Bill Stash – People that pay for most things in cash end up with lots of tens, fives and singles.  A method I heard about that sounds effective is some people will then never break a $5.  They stash every $5 that comes back as change.  It’s another mental trick, if you will (you’re not really “saving” anything, you’re just using different bills to buy things) that forces you so stash $5 at a time.  It’s conceivable that if you’re using cash daily and generating say, 4 $5 bills per week, that $20/week is over $1000 per year! You may not even notice the missing fives, but you’ll sure notice the 4 figure stash at the end of the year.

3.  All Spare Change Method – I used to do this as well, but now my kids derive the benefit by snagging my change each night.  I never use change to buy anything.  When something’s $4.09, I pay with a $5 bill.  When I get home each day, I leave the change on my nightstand and eventually sweep it into a can.  Eventually I make my way over to a TDBank (don’t miss a free $10 per kid with their summer reading program) with the change counter and throw the proceeds in my savings account.  It’s usually well over $100 per year. Now that my kids take it, it’s going into their college account which I’d be paying for anyway, so I guess in a way, it’s a wash.

Do you have any simple and painless savings tips for something special each year?

photo credit

You're Not Following Darwin's RSS? Check out Why You Have to Subscribe to Darwin's Finance!

If you enjoyed this post, you can get free updates through RSS Feed or via Email whenever a new post is published. Rest assured that you can unsubscribe at any time via the automated system and your information will not be sold, archived or utilized for any other "nefarious" purposes.


1 Brad Castro September 26, 2009 at 3:32 am

Some good tips, but my response is about something else. Don’t apologize, Darwin – the Commodore 64 WAS cool!
.-= Brad Castro´s last blog ..CallWriter, John Brasher, Covered Calls =-.

2 My Journey September 28, 2009 at 3:35 pm

I am all about the multiple accounts in ING every week something small like $20 is shifted from my checking to my savings account. I don’t really notice the 20 bucks, but my vacation fund is over $800 for the year! (Wife does it too).

Why do you actually take the time to balance a check book? You seem to like the online account, and rarely write a check so what is to balance?

3 Darwin September 28, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Brad – yeah, the C64 did kind of rock.

Journey – that works too. Annoyingly I do get a fair amount of check queries each month for things that can’t go online pay like stuff for my kids’ school activities, book fairs etc. I also like quick easy access to my real balance since there’s a lag between when you submit payment and when your real balance shows in account ( you know, so banks can make money on the float – which is pretty annoying).

4 Peter October 5, 2009 at 9:40 am

You’re right. Coins and small bills are easily ignored, but you’ll be surprised how much they add up given a certain period of time. And they do not make you flinch either. Little does it. Great stuff here! My Well Of wealth
.-= Peter´s last blog ..“Courage is the discovery that you may not win, and trying when you know you can lose.” =-.

5 SingleGuyMoney October 7, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Some good tips there. Unfortunately, I am one of those that has to have my checkbook balanced to the penny. Since I hardly use cash, the $5 method would not work for me too well.

I do use the spare change method though. For the times that I do use cash, I always save the change. Last time I emptied out my change, I had about $97.00.
.-= SingleGuyMoney´s last blog ..$50,000 Savings Challenge Update =-.

Comments on this entry are closed.