You Don’t Have to Feel Deprived
We all know that we’re supposed to save money — for emergencies, so we can make big purchases without credit cards, and for “the future” in general.
But saving money doesn’t usually feel fun or glamorous. Usually it means forgoing glamorous experiences so instead you can feel adult and responsible.
It’s time to flip that thinking. Here are five ways to make saving feel fun, empowering, and even a little glam.
[Editor's note: This was originally published May 14th 2015.]
App It Up
I’m sure you’ve heard the stock advice to “pay yourself first” — that is, have money automatically sucked into a savings account before you ever see it.
That’s fine advice, but I feel like I could enjoy the process more.
There are plenty of savings apps out there, but you probably already use some kind of to-do list software, right? (Or a notebook and a pen will work just fine.)
You know how sometimes you’re feeling overloaded and you put something on your to-do list like “Eat lunch” or “Keep breathing,” just so you can cross it off? There is, obviously, great pleasure in checking off to-do list items. For certain personality types, it’s the greatest pleasure there is.
So set up that automatic savings plan — maybe it’s just $30 a week right now. Now create a recurring to-do. Maybe put it on a Wednesday, when you tend to feel the most bogged down with tasks. Now every Wednesday, you get to check off that to-do — you saved $30! Done! You get to check that box every time you save.
That said, you might also try a savings-specific app like Simple. The online bank deducts your bills — and savings! — from your balance and tells you how much it’s safe to spend.
Simple also allows you to automatically save money as often as every day (in case $4 a day sounds better than $120 a month). It’s great for freelancers and others with irregular incomes; instead of a big debt hitting your account when you might not have the cash, your account just constantly leaks into your savings.
Practice Numerology and/or Set Some Arbitrary Goals
A lot of general savings advice suggests you save for a trip or some other large purchase. But that’s just spending, albeit more slowly. Your brain knows that. It’s not really more virtuous to save $1,500 and spend it on one fun thing than to spend the same money, slowly, on 30 $50 fun things.
Instead of saving “for a trip,” pick an arbitrary dollar goal and try to imbue it with some ritual power — kind of like how people are always posting cute graphics on Facebook about how 3/14 is Pi Day and 3/14 at 1:59 is Pi Minute and 5/14/15 is the same backwards, etc.
Pick a number, save up to that number, and then leave that account alone, like a beautiful object you have acquired. (Some bank accounts let you create numerous sub-accounts for exactly this purpose.) Or leave it alone for a little while, and then pick a higher number.
For instance, start with your age! Do you have 28 (or whatever) dollars? YOU WIN THIS ONE.
How about one month’s rent, just in case?
How about the year? $2,015 is a nice little emergency fund. Once you get to $2,015 you won’t want to mess that up by buying shoes or something. Leave the $2,015 alone! It’s so pretty!
Think of Your Money as Security and Power — and Don’t Let It Go
A lot of the value of savings is security — being able to bounce back from landlord troubles, medical crises, iPhones that fell in the toilet, getting laid off, and romantic partners who steal your shit. If your laptop suddenly died, how much would it destroy your month to get a new one?
Instead of thinking of money you save as just a number, or as mere currency you can use to buy things, think of money as a get-out-of-trouble card. The more you have, the more invincible you become. Like a superhero. That’s very satisfying. You are a different and more powerful person walking around all day when you have backup in the form of savings.
Even a small amount of money can have this effect. In fact, perhaps more so — the difference between $0 and $200 in savings is arguably much greater, mentally, than the difference between $10,000 and $20,000.
For instance, sometimes you go on an awful date. If you let someone take you out to a place you can’t really afford (assuming they’ll pay, since they asked), well, you might feel kind of stuck there, as well as beholden to them, which is not a good dynamic. If you have reasonable access to emergency funds at all times, you can end a bad date with panache — throw down more than enough cash and walk out.
Of course, we hope that doesn’t happen often. But keeping a cushion of cash for security is a way to enjoy the same money over and over. Having $100 in the bank lets you feel less stress during every could-have-cost-$100 potential crisis, over and over, until you finally do have a real emergency.
Strategically Stock Up on Necessary Goods
Are you a reasonably organized person with a bit of shelf space?
If so — and if you really have trouble being in possession of money without spending it — consider stocking up.
Don’t get me wrong. You don’t want to buy in bulk just because marketers are telling you it’s a deal (usually on something you don’t need). I’m not even necessarily talking about buying in bulk to get a discount, although of course that’s nice.
I’m saying that if you have a spending problem, one way to make sure that money doesn’t get spent on clothes or cocktails is to buy another six months’ worth of contact lenses and lens solution. Ideally, stock up on items that are small (so it’s not a big deal to store them), fairly expensive, nonperishable, and necessary.
What is so annoying to run out of because it costs $15 or more to replace and then your grocery bill looks ridiculous? Go buy three bottles of olive oil (olive oil lasts two years). A shelf full of Illy coffee makes your kitchen look like an Italian cafe (unopened Illy coffee also lasts two years). Bonus points for organizing your storeroom with pretty little bins of all your goods. You want to come to my house and see my tubes of Sensodent shelved beautifully next to the Brita filters and SodaStream refills? I’ll bet you do.
Set up your future self with things you know she’s going to need. No one likes making a midnight run for tampons. Or pregnancy tests. Or printer ink.
Represent Your Savings With Luxury Items … on Pinterest
Do you covet a genuine Chanel handbag? This “authentic CHANEL Calfskin Quilted In the Business Flap Bag Black” costs $3,195.
Start a Pinterest board called “My Savings.” Pin the bag. JUST THE BAG. Make the board private if you want. Save up $3,195. It might take awhile.
When you have $3,195, ask if you really want to buy that bag. Probably not that much, right? Because a lot of the value of the bag is knowing that you’re the kind of person who could buy a Chanel handbag if she wanted to. And you could! But you have grown wise, and instead of actually buying it, you’re going to keep Pinterest in one tab and your bank balance in another tab and toggle back and forth and maybe open a $16 bottle of champagne.
Then pin something else. Repeat.
Eventually, you’ll have, say, $20,000 in that account, and then you can look at that Pinterest board and see what $20,000 looks like for someone with your excellent taste. Except you still have the $20,000. You can have your Chanel and eat it, too.