Pay yourself first.
Solid personal finance advice. Advice that’s been preached by some of the most reputable personal finance bloggers and money management experts. It sounds nice and all, but I bet many 20-somethings are thinking: what’s pay yourself first all about? Why should I care about paying myself first?
How can you apply the pay yourself tactic and why should you bother?
Savings are neglected until it’s too late.
It’s easy to say that you’ll go out/make a few purchases and then save the rest of your income as your paycheck day fades into the dust. The reality is that the extra cash in your checking account ends up getting spent long before you have the opportunity to save it or transfer it into another account of yours.
Screw paycheck to paycheck life.
Living paycheck to paycheck creates way too much stress. If you save even $50 when your paycheck comes in, you’ll be on the right track and be slowly but surely getting ahead of your friends. The reason that many folks live paycheck to paycheck is because savings come last. Bills are paid, main expenses are covered, and then the entertainment comes in. The problem is that by the time the thought of saving money comes into play, it’s usually too late and the wait for the next paycheck begins. Don’t let this happen to you. Pay yourself first (even if it’s a minuscule amount, who cares).
This really does work. This money saving strategy isn’t iffy or subjective at all. You save your set amount of cash first and then you spend money on whatever else you want to.
Okay enough hype. Time to get into the details…
How can you try it?
In my opinion, the only way that the pay yourself first tactic can work is if you have separate bank accounts. Keeping all of your money in one checking account will not work, trust me. The money needs to be as far away as possible from you. As soon as you receive your paycheck the goal is to set aside a specific amount for bills and to “pay yourself” a portion (I hate percentages and rules of thumbs) into either a separate savings account or any other investment vehicle that you use.
I personally prefer high interest online savings accounts (ING Direct). These online accounts create an automatic barrier- transfer time. If you have $100 in your checking account and your buddies call you to go to the strip club, you’ll go. If the money is locked up in your online savings account, you’re going to have to wait 3-5 days to access this money. Sorry strip club. Sorry buddies.
How much do you save?
This depends 100% on your income vs expenses. First thing you need to take care of is to ensure you’ll have enough cash on hand to pay your bills. If you have more expenses than income, you may have a slight problem. Then after you’re bills/expenses (i.e. cell phone, gym) are accounted for, you need to consciously plan how much money you want to save and how much you want to spend on yourself for the pay period. There will be times where you want to save everything because you don’t have anything coming up. There will also be times where you have many purchases coming up and you can only pay yourself first a small amount.
The key ingredients of the pay yourself first tactic are flexibility and conscious planning. You need to be flexible because your income vs expenses will always be shifting. There is no set amount that you can spend in a 1-2 week period because that’s just now how life works. You need to plan consciously because if you pay yourself first your whole paycheck, you’ll only lie to yourself and deprive yourself out of all of the fun in your life.
Give the pay yourself first tip a try. What do you have to lose? If you do try it or have tried it, then please share some thoughts with us below…