Sunday, January 18, 2015

The "Bill" Jar

Last year, my New Year's Resolution was to save more money.  I don't know about you, but for me money has always been an elusive concept to truly master.  I've always just tried to live by the edict, "Don't spend more than you have coming in." This is a good rule of thumb, but it's not as highly effective as I'd like it to be.  If there's one thing I can tell you that I've learned for sure about money, it's that it's all about adjusting.  Adjustments I've had to make in the past include but are not limited to: being a full time graduate student and living on $5000 for a year, being single and learning to live on my first "professional" salary, living with my husband and managing two incomes, not working for 12 weeks after the birth of my daughter, stepping up to a bigger mortgage and two children.  Alterations had to be made along the way. It's a constant balancing act.  And although I've never found myself in serious debt or trouble, I've always found consistently saving for extras a little tricky. 

Enter this 52 week savings plan found on Pinterest.  I liked this idea because it was so concrete.  Increase the amount you save by $1 every week.  Have $1378 saved by the end of the year.
I did it!  Yay me!

I'm happy to report, I kept my resolution.  It started out very painlessly.  Then it got a little tricky until I had enough in there to make change because there were weeks when I didn't have exactly $13 or $37 on hand in cash.  There were some weeks I got behind, but I liked the way the paper kept me on track.  I could cross off the weeks.  If I got behind on weeks 23 and 24, I knew I owed the jar $47.  I could catch up by checking the paper. 

And yes, I did save it as CASH.  This probably wasn't the safest thing to do since it was just stored in a jar in my house, but it did go into the bank at the end of the year. There were times I considered putting it in our existing savings account, but I didn't because I really wanted to keep track of it as a separate amount. I didn't want it to be part of the regular savings.  I wanted to have it for something special.  It would be too easy for me not to be accountable for it if it were lumped in with the other, regular savings. There were also times when I considered opening a separate account for it.  I don't really have a good reason for why I didn't do that, other than I just never got around to it.  It definitely would have been easier to transfer the odd $17 online and safer than having the actual cash in my house.  But I do think using actual money was a constant reminder to me to keep up with the plan.

Here's the other thing I didn't do.  I didn't earmark this money for a particular purpose.  But guess what?  I had the perfect thing come up just as I finished the plan.  Several weeks before Christmas, I tried to get tickets to a concert in Nashville for my husband and I as a Christmas gift to him.  The website the tickets were selling on crashed due to an overwhelming response, and I wasn't able to get them using my phone.  But then an e-mail came the week before Christmas saying there were tickets still available. I had gone on the waitlist and could still get them if I wanted to!  I secretively did so and surprised him with a two day getaway between Christmas and New Year's.  I knew we could afford it (especially important right around the holidays when money is going out right and left) because I had twice the amount of money saved in the jar for the travel, tickets, and accommodations!  Half of it is saved for some other purpose that has yet to present itself.

On our way to a little vacay!

So this year, I'm trying something different. No more jar or trying to make change - just $50 a week into a separate account.  I made up a similar sheet to keep myself on track. If that works, I should have $2600 by 2016.  And I'm not sure what I'm saving for, but I know it will have to wait until 2017 to figure it out.  That is a lovely feeling.


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