How does it start – the “feel good” of saving money? It’s a tough question to answer. Maybe it happens all at once and you wake up and say “oh, I’m going to start saving money today” and then you proceed to do it flawlessly, wisely and consistently and you reach your goals perfectly. But probably not that easy in reality.
I recall as a young single mother wondering how I could begin ever so slightly to impart the value and the “feel good” of saving to my little boy. Like many children, he was “awarded” money for various successes and for chores he did. In addition, he received gifts from grandparents and others who adored him. So he had some money of his own to use. Often we’d go to the toy store and he’d relish the opportunity to buy one small item that might take a two-dollar chunk out of his small savings of ten dollars. With sales tax, he’d often have change left over. One day I decided to place two change jars in an easy to spot place in our home. The deal was, if you came home with change, you drop it in your change jar.
We talked about how we might use the change and decided together that we’d reward ourselves once a month based on the amount of change we’d collected. We didn’t eat out often in those days so sometimes our treat was a fast food night out together. On other occasions, we’d both get a treat at our favorite store – mom a small new piece of clothing or jewelry and him a toy or book. We also decided that we’d put away some of the money for holiday shopping for others.
It wasn’t long after we started this practice that my son got the “feel good” of saving money. I could tell. He’d anticipate the day we could count our change jars for the month and start figuring out how much we’d put away and what we could get as a reward for our good effort. And he stood pretty tall when he got to use his own saved cash to participate in providing gifts for others to enjoy, too.
Whether it’s saving change in a jar or signing on to your company’s 401K for the first time (all the time wondering if you can really spare those dollars from your budget), the first time you see a growing investment for something you value for your future, you will stand taller too. And you’ll be a bit less anxious about increasing that contribution as time goes by. This is just the beginning of developing positive financial habits that your future-self will thank you for.