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It’s not hard to save money. What’s hard is keeping money saved.
It’s too easy to cut expenses in one area only to spend more somewhere else. Sticking cash into savings won’t help if it comes right back out again. What you need are some ways to trick yourself into saving money that lasts. Such as:
Willpower is overrated. Set up automatic transfers, and you likely won’t miss the money as it’s whisked from your paycheck to your retirement fund (for example) or from your checking account to savings.
Set up savings accounts at a separate institution from the one that has your checking account, so you’re not seeing your savings balance every time you log on. Sign up for paperless statements for retirement accounts, and then don’t check them more than once or twice a year. (But don’t ignore these accounts entirely — set up text or email alerts for any withdrawals or unusual activity so you can catch fraud.)
Labeling an account with its purpose can be a powerful deterrent to tapping the money for other uses. Online banks allow you to set up multiple sub-accounts at no extra cost, and each one can be given a name: vacation, property taxes, new car fund, holidays, and so on. It’s a lot easier to dip into a nameless savings account than one that says “Dream Trip to Bora Bora.” The names make you think about what you’re sacrificing when you spend the money thoughtlessly. You may not be able to rename your employer retirement fund, but you often can input nicknames for IRAs and other brokerage accounts. How about the “Freedom Fund”?
Digit analyzes your checking account transactions, then transfers money you won’t miss into a Digit savings account. Acorns do something similar but look across all your accounts and invest the spare money. Bank of America has a program called Keep the Change that rounds up debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and transfers the change into your savings account.
You should keep at least $500 cash easily accessible for small emergencies. Beyond that, consider creating some barriers to accessing the money. Certificates of deposit can be a good option for savings accounts since you pay a small penalty if you break into them early.
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