At this point in my life, I’m really well acquainted with my spending habits. For instance, I know I can't carry around cash—if I see it, I’ll inevitably spend it. Credit cards are another danger zone (especially when I have something expensive in mind). It’s way too easy for me to run up those balances without feeling the impact of my spending (until the bills come in, at least).
In fact, I’ve realized that if I want to save any funds at all, let alone pay off my debt, I need to make a portion of my money very hard to access. Here are some tips that keep me from getting my hands on potential savings. Did you miss our first article in our Budget Survival 101 series? You can find how to start your New Year’s budgeting off to a good start here.
1. Unlink your checking and savings accounts.
The main reason I’ve had my checking and savings accounts linked in the past has been to cover my overspending. This isn’t a good thing—it’s like giving myself permission to spend beyond my means.
Instead, I’ve unlinked my checking account from my savings account. I use the threat of overdraft fees (which can cost me $20 or more per transaction!) to keep myself from venturing into my savings account.
2. Deposit extra funds into PayPal or other hard-to-withdraw vehicles.
I like to use PayPal to keep some of my funds at arm's length. It helps me keep to my savings goals since it takes a minimum of two business days (sometimes three to five days) to transfer funds between my PayPal account and my checking account. This gives me the minimum of a 48-hour cooling off period for impulse purchases!
- Open a savings-only account at a different bank (one that takes a while to drive to), and then deposit extra funds into that account.
- Install a safe in your home and let your partner set the combination (but don’t let them tell you what it is).
- Another option is to stash your savings into a safety deposit box.
3. Set up a sub-savings account for a specific reason.
Many banks and credit unions now offer specialty or sub-savings accounts. These accounts function just like regular savings accounts for the most part, but they make it easier to "hide" funds from plain sight.
I find that by opening a sub-savings account and giving it a specific name (such as "My Debt-Free Savings Account"), I am much more reluctant to withdraw those funds for other uses.
4. Put some of your funds in short-term CDs, money market savings accounts, or bonds.
If there are specific funds I really need to save—and I really don't trust myself to keep my hands off of them—I might put them into a short-term interest-bearing CD (certificate of deposit), money market savings account or Treasury bond.
These are all great options since they’re all relatively short-term and since there are restrictions on funds access and penalties for early withdrawal (which makes me much less likely to try to get at them early).
5. Add a co-signer to your account.
When I was still in college, my parents added themselves as co-signers on my checking account. Any amount over a certain dollar figure required one of them to co-sign for the withdrawal.
If you’re really worried you might use your saved funds impulsively, adding a trusted partner, family member or friend as a co-signer on your account(s) is a smart move!