There are hundreds of books out there that will give you great information on how to acquire wealth and live comfortably the rest of your life. I’ve even read some of them… Rich Dad Poor Dad, The Millionaire Next Door, and a couple others. There’s nothing bad about these books, and honestly I actually enjoyed all of them that I read. Books like this can help open your mind and give you knew ways to think about your money, how you acquire it, and how you manage it.
The problem I had with these books was that I was looking for this new way of thinking that would help me create wealth and retire early. I say that because at the age of 25 I was already tired of working the 9 to 5 and wanted to find a way to get out of the rat race and live a life doing whatever I wanted. Unfortunately, most of the core values these books were trying to instill in people were things that I had already been doing for years.
I’m obviously not going to give you the exact advice that these books give, because if you’re interested you should pick up a copy of these books at your public library and read them. What I will do is tell you the one thing that has worked for me over the years, which has helped me pay off debt, save money, travel, and even quit my job a couple times. So, what is the big secret? Well, first you should know… there is no big secret. The only thing I’ve done is change the way I think about the money I have and the money I will make over time. I have basically become really good at tricking myself into believing I don’t have money when I actually do.
Where Did This Idea Come from?
Good question. I actually don’t really know. I wouldn’t be surprised if part of it came from the things my mom taught me growing up and the other part is just hard-wired into my brain. Take a look at the picture below. That’s me, at the age of 9… Very happy. Of course, why wouldn’t I be, I’m holding a bunch of cash.
I had just completed an evening of opening the door for high school students attending my sister’s junior prom. I think I had earned something like $13, which doesn’t seem like that much, but there are two things I like to point out:
- I was only 9 years old
- I never expected anyone to even tip me (I mean, they were high school students!)
Thirteen dollars was a lot of money to a 9 year old then… at least it was to me. Unfortunately, I don’t remember what I did with that money, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I saved it so that I could buy something that I really wanted. That’s what I was taught by my mom growing up. If I wanted something, I needed to earn my own money and save it in order to buy something that I really wanted. Unlike Lynn, whose dad taught her about compound interest, I wasn’t quite that lucky. I can only imagine how crazy I would have been about money if I had been taught that. Still, I learned that not everything is just handed to you and if you want something you need to work hard for it.
Working and saving money took time, which is something that I learned in my teens. I had saved a good amount of money to buy one of those fancy new 13″ color TVs for my bedroom. I obviously had different priorities then, compared to now, but I think the fact that I set savings goals for myself at a young age helped me to continue to save as I got older. I still had some things to learn though…
Making My Money Not Easily Accessible
Yes, I said NOT easily accessible. The best way to save money is to not spend it. The easiest way to not spend it is to not have it. But what if you need it? You won’t. Well, maybe you will, and if you do, it’s still there… it’s just not as easy to get to.
When I was younger, my mom used to participate in this savings plan called the Christmas Club. The purpose of the Christmas Club was to have you automatically deposit a certain amount of money each week into a savings account. Over the course of the year, the money would grow and gain interest. Then as Christmas approached you would be able to withdrawal that money and use it for the holidays.
I started doing this in my late teens and loved it. It was perfect. I could put away my money, add to it each week and have it gain interest. Out of site, out of mind as they say. I loved getting that check at the end of the year.
I moved on from that to short term CDs, then to a high interest online savings account, and now I also have a 401k, a Roth IRA, and a brokerage account. These are all places I can put my money, watch it grow and it’s not easily accessible.
The reason I keep the majority of my money in accounts like this is because easily accessible money is too easy to spend. If all of my money was in a checking account and I was thinking of making a big purchase, I could easily make that purchase with my debit card. It’s an impulse purchase! Having my money in an online savings account means that it could take me 3-4 days to withdrawal the money. That gives me extra time to think about my purchase and possibly realize that I don’t actually need it. This has worked for me quite a few times and is the main reason I keep my money in accounts that are not easily accessible.
Believing I Have No Money
This is truly something you have to train yourself to do, but it’s something that I’ve become really good at. There were times while I was living in New York City where I actually believed that I was going to have a hard time paying the bills. At the same time I had close to $20,000 in my online savings account. I know it probably sounds stupid, but to me that money was not available. I had already put it away and saved it, so it was not mine to use.
During those months where I worried about paying bills, I knew exactly why I set budgets and apparently I had over spent on something. That meant I would have to make other sacrifices in order to pay the bills. Those sacrifices were small things like not going out with friends for a weekend, but they helped me to stay on budget and not tap into my savings.
Lynn and I still believe we have no money. Well, that’s not really true, but I do believe I’m lucky to have found someone that thinks the same way that I do. We set our budget to make sure we keep our spending at a minimum, but we also do more than that to make sure that any additional money we have is put to good use.
5 Ways to Help Trick Yourself into Believing You Have No Money
- Making contributions to your retirement account prior to receiving your pay.
- Pay ALL of your bills first.
- Setting up automatic transfers.
- Set a very strict budget.
- Any money left over gets transferred to savings.
If you work for a company that offers a retirement account, this is the easiest thing. You can set a percentage and it will deposit into your retirement account before you even know it existed. Even better, some companies will even match that amount up to a certain percentage.
As soon as I get a paycheck, I pay all of our bills. This usually pertains to our credit card bills because all of our utilities are on auto pay. This helps because there’s no use seeing money in an account that has already been spent (which is exactly how you should think about credit card bills).
I set up a weekly transfer from my checking account to my higher interest online savings account, and I also have a monthly transfer set up to my Roth IRA to make sure I hit the maximum contribution amount each year. If you’re anything like me, you’ll forget that these are even set up, but you’ll be surprised when you realize how much money you’ve put away without even doing anything.
You should probably know how much you usually spend during a month on groceries and other things that you’ll need to “survive”. I know I’m saying to be very strict here, but don’t forget to leave some money for at least a little fun. Then once you make sure you have enough money in your checking account to cover you budget…
What do I mean left over? Let’s say you keep your checking account at a minimum of $1,000. After you get paid, you pay your bills and set your budget at $400. You realize you have $2,100 in your checking account… $700 over what you actually need to “survive”. First thing I would do is take $500 and transfer it to savings. Done. Out of sight. I would also do the same thing for any additional money that you may get, like tax returns, a bonus, or an additional paycheck in a month.
So, you may be asking, “How do these things help me believe I have no money?” Very simple. If you look in your checking account and you only have enough money to get by, then you should truly feel like you have no money to spend on frivolous things.
What’s Possible If You Use This Method of Saving?
I really believe that anything is possible and it mainly depends on how strict you are with yourself. Here’s what I’ve been able to do over the last 15 years using this method:
- In 2000 I graduated college with just over $20,000 in student loans.
- By 2003 I had paid off all of my student loans.
- By 2006 I had saved an additional $30,000.
- Also in 2006 I quit my job and decided to drive around the U.S. and golf in each of the contiguous states. Which my friends and I referred to as the Summer of Andy. As you can imagine I spent the majority of my money.
- In 2007 I went back to school and accumulated another $18,000 in student loans (Why did I do that?)
- By 2010 I paid off those new student loans.
- Since then I’ve saved even more which is spread out between my 401k, Roth IRA, online savings account, and a brokerage account.
- The money that Lynn and I save is mainly used for travel, because we believe that we would rather spend our money on travel instead of material things.
Before anyone gets on my case about how much money I was making when I saved all that money, I think most people will be surprised to know that I was living in New York City making between $12-16 an hour during my first 3 years. That was when I paid off my first chunk of student loans.
Some of this may sound a little extreme and maybe some people are even asking, “Do you really need to convince yourself you’re broke just to save money?” Probably not, but sometimes I really do feel like it keeps me in check. Hey, if you don’t want to make yourself believe you have no money, and you’re looking for an easier solution, there are a lot of ways to save money out there that don’t require big sacrifices.
I sort of realize sometimes that we’re cut from a different cloth and not everyone is willing to go to the extremes that Lynn and I do to save money and earn miles for travel. My mom once had to remind me to actually spend my birthday money on something and not just put it in savings… which is something I would do from time to time.
With that being said, I hope that you find something helpful in this article, but I also hope you don’t take it too seriously. Even Lynn and I realize that we need to get out and enjoy ourselves sometimes. Go out to dinner and splurge a little. This is life. Enjoy it while you can.