I have had periods in life when I was a more ardent saver or investor than I am now. I am a strong proponent of automatic savings or investing (I do understand the difference). One friend named John Mark Hansen got me involved in mutual fund investing in the 90s (when it seemed like everything went up).
But the experience I recall about my first savings effort was from when I was 7 years old. My father was going to a conference in San Francisco, and he took the whole family. My sister was in high school and I was in second grade.
Dad gave us enough lead time (3 months or so) for my sister to cook up a savings scheme. We had a goal of saving $100.00. That doesn’t seem like much money in 2012, but in the late 60s that was a small fortune (especially for kids).
My sister had baby sitting jobs that gave her access to a few dollars each time she got to babysit.
For me, however, it was a different story. I was 7 years old. It wasn’t like I had a steady job at that point.
We had a goal. We had one means to save money (my sister’s work), and then there was me.
I did of course have a means to save a bit of money, but it required help from my comrade in savings: I had school lunch money.
Everyday my parents gave me 35 cents (which was the cost of lunch at the elementary school I attended). And everyday I could contribute that much money.
What we did, without my parents knowing it (in fact, I am not sure we ever told them; I am fairly certain my dad would not have been pleased), was for my sister to secretly make me a lunch to take to school. I would then put my 35 cents in to the savings.
We did this for 3 months. I ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (I am a little amazed my mom didn’t wonder where all the bread and peanut butter and jelly went).
The week before we were to fly to SFO we did our count, and we had done it! Actually, we had saved $105! A fortune!
I guess I should tell you that the goal for this hard worked for loot was to have funds for buying souvenirs. Shocking frivolity. But lessons were learned.
Lessons For Saving
1. Have a goal in mind. When you save for a specific goal, you have built in motivators. Each small step toward the goal reinforces the motivation.
2. Assess your resources. My sister’s baby sitting jobs were more lucrative, but they didn’t happen daily. My lunch money was much less, but a real resource.
3. Find accountability. For my sister and I, accountability was each other. We worked toward the goal together. While you may not have someone to actually pool money with, it is still beneficial to have accountability in working toward the goal.
4. Be creative. Making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches allowed us to put my 35 cents a day in to the resource pool. What creative means do you have for generating extra funds toward your goal? A side job? A garage sale? Items for a consignment store? Be creative!
5. Don’t get discouraged. If you have a big goal that is 3 years away, don’t expect to see significant progress in toward that whole goal in the first week. It will take longer.
6. Celebrate when you meet the goal! For a teenager and a 7 year old saving $100 was a huge deal. We were pleased with ourselves. And in truth, in the 60s, that was a very big goal (a BHAG).
What about you? Do you set goals for savings or investing? What story can you tell about reaching the goal? Leave a comment below!