We’ve all been told to save money. But for what? For that proverbial rainy day? (It always rains where I live, by the way. Seattle.) Can we ever touch our savings? When? I find that many people have a hard time saving because they are not sure what they are saving for, and then they feel really bad if they ever touch their savings.
So let me demystify something for you. There are three TYPES of savings, with different purposes, and we need all three. In this article, I will describe the first type—it’s called “Periodic savings” and it will alleviate your stress faster than you can say “periodic savings.” (And since you’re curious, the second kind of savings is your safety net and the third kind is your long term investments.)
Periodic savings is my favorite savings. It’s the most gloriously boring and powerful. What? Boring and powerful?? Well, this is simply a savings account that is ideally connected to your checking account. And this is where you save money every month for all those things that inevitably end up on credit cards or cause a cash flow crunch.
Imagine saving $300 every month into an attached savings account. Every month. Every month. (That’s the boring part. Set up an automatic transfer.) Now imagine your car breaking down and being able to pay for it with your debit card. You just transfer the amount you need back into your checking account from your savings account and voila! You did not increase your credit card debt. And you don’t have to be afraid of a larger than life credit card bill coming next month. That is the powerful part.
Here is what I recommend people do: list out all the “irregular” non-monthly expenses that you can think of, on a piece of paper. You may think of these as “sporadic” expenses. Or unpredictable expenses. The key is that they are NOT monthly. Shoot for expenses that are greater than $200-$300- or your list will get too long.
Examples from my own periodic expense list: Dental work, Christmas gifts, car insurance (paid twice a year), my son’s summer camp, car repair, august airplane trip, new glasses, back to school clothes for my son, tree removal in my front yard, landscaping…. Getting the idea?
I find that many times we can absorb these costs. Life is life, and there’s not a lot new here. But we can’t always absorb theses costs. That’s when we get into trouble- often credit card trouble.
So here is a money ninja trick for you: Add up all these costs and then divide by twelve months. Don’t freak out! You don’t have to save this much money every month. Take this number and cut it in half. Save that amount each month into your gloriously boring savings account. And simply transfer the money back in when you need it. (Example: If you add up this list and get $8,000 then this is $666 a month. Half of this is $333. Save that each month.)
Developing a periodic savings habit is the absolute foundation to feeling in control with your money. It can change everything. It is not your safety net or your long term investment money. This is money that is meant to be spent. How gloriously powerful, and a little boring, is that!