I had a bit of an epiphany as I was setting out new goals for myself (because, as I said before, September always feels like the beginning of a new year to me). For the first time, I realized that I cannot 'budget' my savings. To do so is to virtually guarantee that I will fail to save anything.
Usually, I try to 'give every dollar a name' as Dave Ramsey famously tells us
when following his budget instructions. I set out all my expenses and whatever is left over is labeled 'Savings.' The trouble is, somewhere between paying the bills, putting money into the envelopes and seeing what remains, those remains, the 'savings' portion, gets smaller and smaller.
But I do know there's a better way.
Two years ago, as a way to get a 'free' savings account from Bank of America (by which I mean, an account that does not need to have any particular minimum balance in it to avoid an annoying $3 per month charge), I agreed to have $50 a month transferred from my checking account into the savings account.
There was no penalty for immediately transferring the money back to checking, so I figured this was a no-brainer method to get a fee-free savings account. But a funny thing happened on my way to transferring the money back--I often forgot to do it. $50 was a small enough amount that I didn't really miss it in my budget, yet it was a large enough amount to give me $600 a year for my Christmas account.
So Grace's particular epiphany? The way to save money is to take it off the top and get it out of my checking account. If it stays in my checking account it WILL get spent, and that's irrespective of all my good intentions NOT to spend it. The surprise is that once I do get the money out of my checking account, a certain inertia sets in, and even though I could easily move the money back, I tend not to.
So my first September resolution is to up that transfer to $75. It may be a mind game but for me, it's one that works.