Now that you’ve made a life-altering decision, and capitalized on momentum to make huge changes, it’s time to put your new life on auto-pilot.
If you have to revisit these new frugal decisions everyday, you might stop making them, or give up, or cheat. First, set up an online bank account with sub-accounts. I like ING Direct, but there are banks giving somewhat better rates right now. Did you know that your direct deposit can be set up to send your money to more than one account?
Title your new account(s) with the name of your goal. It might say Debt Repayment, Hawaii Trip, Emergency Fund, or maybe all three. After carving your expense sheet in Step 2, you should know how much you’re new lifestyle will be saving you. Have the difference between your income, and the money that you’re saving dumped automatically into your new account(s) with a little cushion left in your main account for any fees due to poor math. You can also set up an automatic transfer to make sure that the money you want dedicated to each account goes there. This gives you a visual process to see how you’re attaining your goals.
What else can you automate? You can use gift cards to preset your monthly grocery spending or to give yourself a Starbucks budget. Using automatic bill-pay can take the stress out of late payments and fees. You can automate your charitable contributions with a monthly transfer. The more you put on auto-pilot, the less choices you will change.
You may also have to revise some personal automation. In Sacramento, CA (where I grew up) there is a rather large shopping area right in the middle of town called Howe ‘Bout Arden with a Nordstrom Rack as an anchor. It would seem that every time I drove by, which was quite often due to the central location, I ended up in Nordstrom Rack. Don’t get me wrong; I love the Rack and got a lot of deals. However, this compulsive drive-by did create a mound of unnecessary receipts.
I had to change my driving routine to make sure I stopped buying things I didn’t need. Do you see the sign that says Nordstrom’s Half Yearly Sale and suddenly remember that you needed something? Don’t drive near the mall. Contrary to yuppie opinion, did you know that Whole Foods is not the only place to get organic foods? Do you “stop by” Whole Foods because it’s “on the way” when Safeway could just as easily be? Seriously, my mother spent $300 one month “stopping by” Trader Joe’s.
Sometimes it’s the choices you don’t even think about, the subtly ingrained habits that will sabotage your new progress. Put as much as you can on a fresh auto-pilot so that you can enjoy the fruits of your new choices.