Whatever you want to call it, it's on my mind today. Mr. Scribbles and I have been spending a lot of time lately trying to define what financial security looks like. This has included discussions of how much should be in checking and savings at any given time. How much should be in retirement accounts? What sorts of things do we want to do?
These are conversations guaranteed to make you feel very adult and cure your insomnia.
Don't get me wrong: I love crunching numbers. I have stated before that I love reconciling my checkbook. This has not changed. But the amorphous blob that we are calling the future is very stressful for me. How do you plan for that? I have found that for now I can only plan in small chunks. I can start out planning that I want one car payment in savings. Then one car payment plus one rent payment Then two car payments plus a rent payment. See what I mean there? Of course I'm building up to the three to six month expense safety net (yeah, I'm not adult enough to have achieved that yet), but I'm doing it in small manageable chunks.
The next challenge is always budgeting for that. I have a certain amount that is automatically moved from my checking to savings each month. I write that down on my list of bills for the month and budget it in just like that. But I like to build that nest egg up a little bit faster.
One way I tried to build it up was the 52 Week Challenge. This one reminds me of building up your athletic endurance. A trainer will tell you to try to do one more rep or hold a pose just a little bit longer than last time. This time, you're doing it with money. Every week you transfer a little bit more into savings (Week 1 is one dollar, Week 2 is two dollars, and so on). I just do an electronic transfer, but if that makes the money too accessible for you and you just want to pull out the cash every week and put it in your piggy bank, then go for it!
When I did this, I added my own spin. I noticed that doing just that even amount gave me a wacky number at the end ($1378). For some reason, this was not a number I could keep in my head and therefore I had trouble getting excited about it. "I'll have almost $1400 in there at the end of the year!" Screw that! What about working toward $1400 exactly instead of "almost"? Well with an extra 44 cents a week (except for the last two weeks), you can hit an even $1400.
This year, though, I'd like to put a spin on it again. You see, every year I find myself getting tight on money and therefore a bit less eager to squirrel some away. It also takes a while to actually see significant progress (one month in and you've only managed to save $10? Definitely not the makings of high finance). So maybe my savings endurance isn't all that great after all. Or maybe it's just harder for me to put bigger and bigger chunks into savings when the holidays are at the end of the year and, darn it, I want a tinsel tree forest on my patio. Who can spare money for savings when I can choose to have a shiny woodland haven just outside my door? This year, I'm starting it in reverse. Week one will see me transferring $52, Week 2 only $51, etc. until I've hit the last week and my goal! My impatient soul will get that big kick that it apparently needs (two weeks and I've already saved over $100? Look at me being an adult!) I will, of course, be adding that extra .44 every week (except for the first two weeks this time).
If you think I've completely covered how I'm saving this year, though, you're wrong. I have one more trick up my sleeve. I will (once again) fill out my monthly change table. Every day (or every few days), I will write down how much money I spent on each transaction that particular day and how much change I would have gotten from each one. If I didn't spend any money that day, I'll add a dollar to the total (and maybe give myself a cookie). I'll keep a running total and at the end of the month, I will transfer that amount. It usually comes out to being a bit more that $20. Now before you tell me: yes, I know there's an app for that. There's an app for everything. But I love sitting down with pen and paper and crunching numbers. Furthermore, this makes me even more conscious of my spending habits. And who couldn't be well served from being a little more aware of where their money is going?
Are you interested in doing any of these challenges with me? Then lucky you: I've provided free printables of each and every one of these (including the backwards 52 week challenge without the .44 added to each week). Let me know if you're doing this with me! Or at least drop me a few words of encouragement!