Today, people rarely see their money. Our paychecks are deposited directly into our checking account, we automatically transfer money into our investment or savings account, and we pay our mortgage and other bills online. We use debit or credit cards to buy gasoline, food, restaurant meals, or DVD’s. When the funds run low, we get an email alert and log on to transfer the appropriate amount to cover the next few days. We give gift cards instead of cash and receive bonuses from employers on plastic. We’re losing our connection money as a real commodity.
A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money. –Everett Dirkson
Today, our government bandies about billions (even trillions) of dollars like they were nothing.
We’re losing our connection with real money.
In 1980, my family moved across town so my little brother and I could attend a private school. I remember one occasion when a friend from a wealthy family lost a five dollar bill. To me, five dollars was an immense sum (especially in 1980). His mother thought it was no big deal because that amount had no real meaning to her. Her husband, a prominent physician, probably earned more than that every minute of an 8 hour work day.
How can re regain our connection with money?
Here are 7 ways to reconnect with your money and make it real to you again.
1. Associate money with something tangible.
When’s the last time you paid for anything in potatoes or cattle or bookkeeping services? Yeah, me neither. Learn to associate your money goals with something else other than just cash. If your goal is to save an additional $50/month, you could equate that to brown-bagging your lunch about 5 times per month, giving up a night or two out on the town, or finally canceling that phone land line.
2. Hours for Dollars
Do you get paid what you’re worth? How many work hours does that daily latte cost you? Convert your spending into working and you’ll be better able to connect the dots between your money and reality.
3. Remember the Tradeoff
The real question is why are you doing this? What’s your motivation? If we can connect our personal money issues to our motivations, we’ll be better able to achieve our goals. Brown-bagging without a good reason won’t keep you motivated. The next time you’re out and that new electronic gizmo or new pair of shoes catches your eye, pause for a moment and rethink the trade-offs and WHY you’re saving money. When you understand why you need your savings cushion, you’ll probably end up putting the money into your savings account instead.
4. The Envelope System
Nothing can get you reconnected to your cash like using the old fashioned envelope system. Under the envelope system, you track your money each month by using envelopes and reconnects your budget from an on-paper concept to something you can literally grasp. Gather some blank envelopes. Label one envelope “rent” or “mortgage payment,” another “utilities” and another “food.” Create as many envelopes as your budget requires and fill them with the money you’ve budgeted for that item. Then, if you take money from food to pay rent, put an IOU in the food envelope so you know how much money you need to replace. Unless you pay that envelope back, the whole exercise becomes a shell game and falls apart.
5. Paper or Plastic?
People who use credit cards tend to spend from 12 to 50 percent more than when they use cash, according to various spending surveys. It makes sense to limit your use of credit cards as much as possible. If you’re in bad enough financial shape that you need credit cards to make it through the month, restrict their use to the absolute essentials. Even if you’re using the card for groceries, reconsider. Unless you pay off your balance in full at the end of the month, you’ll pay interest on that box of pasta long after it’s gone.
6. Go On A Cash Crash Diet
As an experiment, go the the ATM and withdraw all the cash you’ll need to meet your needs for the next week. Put the credit and even the debit cards away and test your ability to live on a “cash crash diet.” Make sure you consider eating out, gum, DVD rentals, gasoline, late night runs to the store for milk, and allowances for the kids. All week, carry a notebook and write down where and how you spent your cash. If you can make it one week, you’ve successfully reconnected to your money. If not, where did you go wrong?
7. What’s the Future?
Even at a ZERO percent interest rate, saving $50/month will be $3,000 in 5 years. Add some interest in the mix and you’ll earn more. So what will that extra vacation this year cost you in retirement savings 25 years down the road? Admittedly, this tactic doesn’t reconnect you with your money in a tangible sense, but it does make you pause a moment before spending that $50 bucks on a meal that will soon be forgotten.
Money is a limited resource but by reconnecting to it and converting it into something tangible, losing a five dollar bill actually means something.