At this point it is fairly safe to assume that all of you have seen the study conducted by GoBanking stating 69% of Americans having less than $1000 in savings. When I read that study I was absolutely appalled. I’m sure there was a small group of respondents in the study who we could all agree have “legitimate” reasons for not having that kind of money in the bank. If you work 2 jobs, live a frugal life, and barely make ends meet then no one blames you. If you just went through a life crisis or spent the last penny of your savings on medical expenses to help a sick child, obviously no one blames you.
But the tone of the study, and subsequent articles about it, were that the findings indicated most Americans live above their means. They are doing this either unknowingly or with willful ignorance, both of which are very dangerous. I’ll spend some time in another post diving into how the collective wealth of the lower and middle classes have a massive impact on the overall health of our economy in America (snore). For now, I want to try to help those of you who struggle with money management with a small trick. I call it Random Rounding.
This isn’t just for young people, either. The most alarming part of this study was the age breakdown. The 2 lowest responses someone could choose were $0 in savings or less than $1000. The results are broken down into 6 age groups and all of them are frighteningly proportional, which goes against what you may expect. 33% of older millenials (25-34) claimed $0 in savings and 34% claimed less than $1000. Seniors (65+) had similar results with 33% claiming 0$ and 29% claiming less than $1000. Scary.
Anywho, onto the helpful part. We all know people who make decent money but still struggle month to month because they’re ballin’ out of control. The key is realistic budgeting and if you’re income outweighs your expenses then you should be alright, but many people are not. So either they cannot figure out how to budget (common) or they can’t maintain the discipline it takes to stick to it (more common).
First, figure out a budget. Second, add in Random Rounding. If you’re electric bill is usually $80-$100, budget $110. If your cell phone is $125, budget $150. Add a miscellaneous line and really ask yourself what is realistic, maybe it’s only $50. I’ve used up to $250 in the past. This is money that’s not assigned to shopping, dinner, “fun”, savings, none of it. Just money to forget about. The extra $10 or $15 that you are rounding add up. Even if you only give yourself $30 of miscellaneous money plus some rounding, then you unknowingly give yourself an extra $50 to get the oil change you weren’t expecting to need or $90 for concert tickets that your splurged on. It allows you some freedom to be both spontaneous and undisciplined. Because, let’s face it, if you could be disciplined we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I blame Amazon but everyone has their vices. This way, you don’t need to look at your budget as a strict money management tool, it’s an infographic. It’s telling you that you can cover all your expenses and have a few hundred dollars left over that you should save. And now you can save that money because some of your random splurges are hidden amongst the numbers. Essentially, you’re hiding a $20 in a random pants pocket. One day you’ll find it and be happy so buy lunch and don’t feel guilty.
Understand that this tip is only for a select group. Older people should have their business in order, grow up. Younger people may have wiped out their savings to go on a European trip, that’s cool and I think shouldn’t count for the purposes of this study. If you can’t cover your expenses, or barely can, then you need to take a deep look at what you can control. If you can control it, you can change it. But for those of you who have some money and just can’t manage it, this is for you. It’s a baby step and hopefully it helps you out one day.