Popular Money Saving Tips That Didn't Work For Me

January 17, 2018

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There is tons of information out there about how to save money and generally improve your finances.  Tons.  I'm sure you know that if you've ever started researching.  I believe that you just have to find what works for you, because eventually something will click.  But it might not be one of the 'top tips' that you'll found out there.  There's some very popular financial advice that just didn't work for me at all.


Cash Envelopes.  Cash envelopes, and only using cash in general, did not work for me at all and it's one of the biggest money saving tips out there.  Everyone says that there's multiple studies that have been done that show that people spend less when they use cash because they physically see the money leaving their hand.  I am the exact opposite.  Once the cash is in my hand, it's like it's already spent.  I go by the number that's in my bank account, not the number that's in my wallet.  So to me, that $200 in cash is already gone and spent, and even if I have it earmarked for something like groceries, I'm way more likely to spend it at the bar or on Starbucks coffee and then swipe my debit card at the grocery store.  I don't know why, but it's just how I am.  Cash is nothing to me, like monopoly money or something.  That's not to say I put things on the credit card instead, it's just that I'm much more responsible when I use my debit card than when I use cash, and I like the register of where my money went, for tax purposes.  I am trying to be better about that and have cash on me, but I might only be better because I'm not buying anything at all.  So don't think you need to be tied to cash envelopes like Dave Ramsey says (though his book is great), it's not for everyone.

Multiple Accounts Another popular idea is to have multiple checking and savings accounts.  The concept is that you'll basically budget by physically moving the money into those different accounts and spending accordingly, which would also ensure that the correct amounts are going into savings that you can't touch, marked for things like retirement and travel.  It's almost like a cash envelope system but without the cash in hand.  My life is all about simplicity and there is nothing simple about managing 7 different bank accounts and the debit cards to match.  Hard pass.  If you're really terrible about dipping into savings, this could be a system for you, the 'out of sight, out of mind' sort of method, but I have enough willpower not to touch my Roth IRA as it is (maybe because I don't know how even if I wanted to, so there's that.)

Detailed Budgets.  By detailed I mean where the budgets have every possible category of spending listed: haircuts, clothes, kid's clothes, movies, Netflix, restaurants, bars, takeout, dog grooming, dog food, etc., etc.  It's way too much.  That kind of detail might work for someone who isn't sure where all their money is going but I think 'dog expenses' is enough of a budget line item for me, as is 'entertainment' and 'food.'  Having a separate spot for every transaction made it much more difficult for me to keep up with.  I never wanted to input or account for an expenditure due to the sheer level of effort involved in figuring out where it goes and whether I assigned enough money to each tiny budget line.

Counting on Tax Windfalls.  Or getting tax windfalls in general.  Not that I've ever tried this one because it's stupid on principal.  When people purposefully allow the government to withhold more money than necessary so they get a larger tax refund in April - it's dumb.  I guess if you have no control over your spending at all then try it?  But otherwise, you're letting the government hold your money for 12 months totally interest free and it's dumb, it just is.  You could be investing that money on your own and making a profit, even if it's just a small interest bearing CD, or using it to pay down debts which you're paying interest on... it's just nonsense to not have that money within your control unless you're really that bad with money (in which case, you'll probably do something stupid with the huge refund anyway.)  Getting a refund is better than owing, yes, but having a $0 balance is what you should be striving for.

Are there any other popular financial tips that you've tried without great success?


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