Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Behavioral Economics: The Easy Way I Save $200 a Month Without Any Effort At All

By Kathleen Elkins

City life isn't cheap. It'll eat your paycheck up mercilessly if you let it.

I learned this pretty quickly upon moving to New York City a year ago.

After covering my necessities such as food, my fixed costs — rent, internet, and cell phone bill — and directing a chunk of my paycheck to my 401(k) plan, there wasn't much left over for spending on all that this glamorous city has to offer, let alone for savings.

Sure, I was saving for retirement in my 401(k), but there are bound to be bigger purchases down the road — a car, home, and potentially graduate school — that also require savings. Plus, it would be nice to have some extra cash set aside so I can travel at some point and splurge on the occasional vacation.

To force myself to start chipping away at these savings goals, I opened a high-yield online savings account, which will allow my money to grow 100 times more than it would in my traditional savings account. I chose Ally, which offers a generous 1% interest rate (compared to the 0.01% at most traditional "big banks"), but there are a bunch of online bank options out there.

Next, I set up a recurring automatic transfer from my checking account to my Ally savings account — the first day of every month, $200 is automatically sent to my Ally account.

All I had to do was link my Wells Fargo checking account to my Ally account online, then select an amount I wanted to transfer and how frequently I wanted the transfer to occur. Now, I never see that $200, meaning I don't even have the chance to spend it if I wanted to.

By making things automatic, I've essentially finagled my budget so that my savings goals are now a fixed cost. I treat this $200 like I would rent or utilities — I must set it aside every month — which keeps me from skimping on my savings goals.

David Bach, author of "The Automatic Millionaire," calls this "paying yourself first." When most people get their paychecks, they spend it on their necessities, fixed costs, and "wants," and then save whatever is left over. This is a faulty system, he notes, because oftentimes whatever money is left over is not enough.

And if you're wondering, it wasn't as hard as I imagined it would be to part with that $200. If you never see it, you learn to live without it pretty quickly.

The above originally appeared at Business Insider.


  1. "Pay yourself first" is an old and good idea. It was the phrase used in all sales literature of one of my first employers: Investors Diversified Services headquartered in Minneapolis. They began in 1894 with this phrase. The firm was very successful and was acquired and then spun off and restructured as Ameriprise. Not familiar with its current services but glad to see the original idea is still alive.

  2. That's why we have tax withholding. People don't see all the money that's being taken from them so they don't think much about it...until they get a check from their returns, then they are happy. If they didn't withhold money and just made everyone pay their full bill on tax day, there would be a lot more people pissed off about taxes.

  3. And withholding was supposed to be a temporary wartime measure instituted during WWII.

    That the government grabs more of your paycheck and then returns a portion of it to you when you file your taxes is a brilliant scheme to keep people from griping about the current system.

    I work for myself and know the pain of writing a quarterly check. It pisses me off to no end.

  4. Kathleen, If you talk to Business Insider's economics editor he will tell you that the $300 is 'leakage' and causes unemployment.