Is Spending More Fun Than Saving?

Gail Cunningham, Vice President of Public Relations, National Foundation for Credit Counseling 

Spending is more fun than saving.  Or is it?  Without a well-funded savings account you’re living on a slippery financial slope that can very quickly wreck havoc on your financial life.  After all, it’s not if, but when, the next unplanned expense is going to occur. 

Does one of the following represent how you paid for your last emergency?

  • Charged the expense.
  • Borrowed money from friends or family.
  • Used money committed to an existing priority payment such as rent.

These are all poor resolution options.  Charging the expense adds to your debt load.  Borrowing money from family and friends is at best awkward.  And, juggling payments often starts a snowball of debt that is hard to recover from.

I’ve now built the case that having a savings account is better than not having one, but you already knew that.  Maybe you’re like the 34 percent of people in the National Foundation for Credit Counseling™ (NFCC) 2014 Financial Literacy Survey who revealed they have zero non-retirement savings.  Perhaps you can identify with the 34 percent of survey respondents who carry credit card debt over from month-to-month.  Or maybe you can relate to the majority of people who said not enough savings was the area of personal finance that worries them most. 

You agree that you should save money, but feel you can’t afford to.  I say you can’t afford not to.  Below are two very doable tips that will help you get started on the road to financial stability:

  • If you receive an income tax refund, jumpstart your savings account by earmarking this year’s refund check for savings.  Next, adjust your W-4 to more accurately reflect the number of withholding allowances to be deducted from your paycheck.  Your paycheck will now be larger, and moving forward you can have the extra money automatically deposited directly into your savings account each month.  This plan is better than a once-per-year windfall because instead of waiting on Uncle Sam to return your money, it gives you access to your savings whenever you need it, as unexpected expenses don’t just come around once each April.
  • Here’s a painless way to find $100. Try shaving $10 off of each spending category.  Admittedly, some obligations are fixed payments, but others aren’t.  Saving just $10 per month on ten spending categories such as groceries, eating out, clothing, utilities and so on will painlessly net you $100 per month for savings.  At the end of a year, you’ll have enough money to sustain you through most short-term emergencies.

Once you begin contributing to your rainy day fund, you may discover that saving is indeed more fun than spending.  It’s an exercise the entire family can participate in, and you’ll be building financial security instead of debt.  At the very least you’ll be getting a better night’s sleep.

For more consumer tips, budget worksheets and calculators, or to find an NFCC member agency near you, visit the NFCC website at www.DebtAdvice.org.  

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