You are here: Home>Collections

Living check to check? You can still save!

March 29, 2012|By Megan Crepeau, for RedEye

Not to get off on the wrong foot here, but that headline is kind of a lie. I can't tell you how to save. You already know how to save. You know how to save like you know how to lose weight. Hey, just exercise and eat less! Hey, just go to the library instead of Barnes and Noble! Hurrah for common sense!

But if it's that simple, why aren't we all skinny millionaires?

Because we're creatures of habit. Horrible, blow-$100-at-Sephora, Burger King-at-midnight habit. If you try to fight it, you'll drive yourself so crazy with budget spreadsheets and coupon clippings you won't have any fun with the money you do spend.

Besides, if all you do is quit lattes, it will take you ages to put any meaningful amount into savings (most experts recommend you have at least three months' worth of living expenses put away – ugh, I know). And if you aim too high too fast, you're setting yourself up to fail, like that time you said you'd lose 30 pounds in a month. So, the trick is to save money before you realize you're doing it.

The easiest way to do this is through your bank. This can be scary for a broke-ass – "You mean I have to come face to face with the people who know all my financial secrets? They're the only ones who know I took out three cash advances in two weeks!" Yes. Sorry. You really need to do this in person. Talking to a real, live human maximizes the chance you'll understand what you're getting into, and you can talk through your options instead of just frantically clicking on links.

Here's the thing! Your bank wants you. Think of yourself as a customer, not a victim. In general, your money makes them money. That said, keep your head when you go in there. Ask plenty of questions and read thoroughly before you sign anything.

Now then: Savings accounts made easy. Banks have all kinds of bells and whistles to help you out with this. My favorite is an automatic savings transfer. Every payday, my bank takes a little bit out of my direct deposit and dumps it into my savings account. Is there a lot of money in there? Nope. But it's growing steadily, and I'll have a decent rainy-day fund eventually. Most big banks offer perks on top of that, like cash rewards once your balance hits a certain amount, overdraft protection, or better interest rates for bigger balances. So start small - $10 a week, maybe? – and save money before you even have to think about it.

Want to start even smaller? Try this method. Withdraw a set amount of cash every Monday, and spend only that money all week. Use your cards only in emergencies – I'm talking acts of God, not drunken cab adventures. If you have any left over by Sunday, keep it in a box in the back of your closet. Boom. Savings.

That's not so painful, is it?

Megan Crepeau is a RedEye special contributor. She's a twenty-something college grad navigating this dumpy job market just like the rest of us.

RedEye Chicago Articles
|
|
|