A couple of years ago, my sister asked me to help her pack her apartment as she was going to be moving. There were a few boxes in the back of her closet that she had never actually UN-packed in the several years living in her apartment. In going through these boxes, full of items that are clearly useless, (since she did not unpack them in over three years!), I came across an old wallet, stuffed in the bottom of the box. I pulled it out and opened it. There, right in the dollar bills section of the wallet, was a crisp 50$ dollar bill!
I immediately told my sister and she said “No! No! Leave it where it is! That is my emergency money.” Hunh? Why would you keep your emergency money in an unwanted wallet, at the bottom of an unpacked box full of discarded junk? “Because,” she responded, “I keep it where I never think to go so that I don’t spend it. That way, if I am ever in REALLY big trouble and need it, I will wrack my brain and I will find it.”
While this type of logic might sound quite skewed (sorry sis), it actually has some merit. How many times have you tried to save money for an emergency, and end up using that emergency money on non-emergency things? Having access to some rainy-day money is a very useful and important life lesson. Here are a few ways to save some emergency money and actually keep it saved.
1. Make it difficult to access
Putting your money in a difficult-to-access location is a great way to avoid unnecessary spending. For example, put some savings in a separate bank account to which you do not have a debit card or credit card. This way, the only way to access those funds is to physically go to the bank. Or even, on a smaller scale, keep dropping your loose change at the end of the day into a piggy bank that does not have a hole at the bottom. The only way to then access your emergency change is to smash and break the piggy bank.
2. Pay yourself first
There is a concept in personal finance that states that you should always pay yourself first. A clear and easy example of this would be to set up automatic transfers, on your payday, from your bank account to a savings account. And, ideally, this would be coupled with our first tip which means you would not have a debit card for this savings account. Week after week, you could watch your savings account increase!
3. Sleep on it
Determining what is considered an “emergency” and what is therefore worthy of smashing that piggy bank or heading to the bank to make a withdrawal is very subjective. Finding the very thin line between something that is “important” and something that is an “emergency” is sometimes blurry. The best advice: sleep on it! And emergency will still be an emergency in the morning. But a problem that is important, but not urgent, will seem smaller and more manageable after a good night’s sleep.
Always remember that you are not alone. Most Canadians have a hard time saving money. But, with good habits and lots of practice, saving because almost second nature. And, of course, if all else fails, you can always try sticking a 50$ dollar bill in the bottom of a box in your closet.