No Touchy.

Today we have a quick, but extremely important, public service announcement to share with y’all.

And that is:


  • All that money sitting in savings? Quit touching it!
  • All that money in your emergency fund? Quit touching it!*
  • All those coins you’ve been collecting from the 1800’s? Oh. You can touch those :)

But you do yourself no good when you stash money away at the beginning of the month, only to dip back into your savings later to pay your bills. We call that the “checking account shuffle” and it sucks ass. All it does is give you hope that you later have to take back and annoy yourself even more.

Fortunately, this PSA comes with a verified solution:

  1. Admit you have a touching problem**
  2. Focus on getting actual money that you can actually save
  3. Put the money somewhere untouchable
  4. Quit touching it

Step #3 is my favorite as it’s what got me started on the right track many a moons ago. After mastering the art of the checking shuffle myself, I finally wised up and took my father’s advice to start contributing to my 401(k) at work. There was a little mishap that was quite embarrassing at first, but once it got going I had my A-Ha moment and I was hooked.


So $100 became $1,000, and then $1,000 became $10,000, and so on and so forth until we reached a cool $350,000+ today. There’s more to it of course than just not touching it (like maxing it out, continuing to hustle, etc etc), but it’s certainly a key part of the game. Anytime you’re trying to build something you’ve got to keep on adding to it and never subtract. That slows down both your momentum AND your motivation!

And the beautiful part about retirement accounts is that they block you from your own temptation! If you pull out you get a fat slap by the government and taxed up the arse so there’s no way you’re gonna do it (crazy emergencies not withstanding). It’s the perfect way to hide money from yourself, while at the same growing your nest egg.

Another trick you can do is to set up automatic transfers from your paycheck directly into a bank account you don’t have easy access too. Like, say, a bank clear across town which you purposely didn’t sign up to get online access. If you want your money you’re gonna have to drive across town and physically go get it! And who has time for that these days? By the time you’re on the road anyways, this blog post will pop in your head and force your sweet little ass to turn around ‘cuz you know I’d give you $hit for it the second I found out… And I WILL find out, believe me. I have people ;)

If you REALLY don’t trust yourself to go either of those routes – which would be pretty cuckoo if you ask me – another option you can do is just to pay down your debt instead. It’s not savings per se, but usually when you pay something off more like your mortgage or auto loan, etc, you can’t go back and take it out again. So it’s forced *future* savings in a way, though don’t try it with credit cards – they happily allow you to dip back in again, those bastards.

Now as far as how to actually get more money to save if you’re stuck on Step #2, well, that comes down to two simple options: earn more or spend less. Obviously you have to live a satisfying life and I’d never – I repeat NEVER – tell you to quit going to Starbucks if that excites you, but you do have to cut out other areas of non-importance if you’re serious about saving at any point. It’s not going to be easy and will require some serious habit changing, but as you’ve read time and time again on finance blogs, it’s most definitely possible. You just have to want it bad enough or you’ll find any number of excuses to halt your progress.

If you like the way you’re spending right now and not up to changing anything, well, that’s fine too but you’ll then have to figure out how to *earn* more. Which will then have to come from either your job (can you shoot or a raise? Promotion? New job altogether?), or your time off (can you take on a side hustle? Sell some crap? Start a biz?). Plenty of options out there for the taking, but you may find it harder than option #1: spending less. Only you will know the answer to that, though.

Regardless, as you can plainly see by this much-longer-than-necessary explanation of the consequences of touching your savings, you should remember just to NOT do it and we can all go on our merry way and pretend this convo never happened… It’s not always cookies and rainbows  up in this piece, but it’s a necessary part of growing your wealth.

So remember: Money In, Phalanges Off! My people are watching you this weekend, you make sure to behave yourselves…

no touching arrested development

* Unless you actually have a real-life emergency that needs your dollars’ attention.

** Ewww, why would you ever touch a frog?? (get your mind out of the gutter)

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  1. john iii May 30, 2014 at 5:45 AM

    all mine has to be automatic for me to have continued success. i set up 4 $25 automatic transfers from each paycheck, and i truly never miss it. im astonished by how fast my savings, ira, stock account and custodial account grow. i also use the $2 bill trick with dollar coins, and every time i at any cash register making any purchase i ask for them, and i generally am able to save another $60-100 dollars a month without realizing it at all just by swapping out my paper dollars for metal dollars. i dont make a ton, but by automating it i adhere to a 75/25% savings rule and it works out great!

    1. J. Money May 30, 2014 at 8:28 PM

      Way to go – that’s awesome! Whatever does the trick, right?

  2. Debt Busting Chick May 30, 2014 at 7:51 AM

    Hmmm… I used to have a very big touching problem. It’s not as bad now but I still get a little touchy freely and it rather inappropriate I know. Should I see someone about this? Lol.

    I think I’ve allocated more than my budget can handle to my debt so I end up dipping into to back up money to get by. It’s often £10-£20. I think I should readjust the budget slightly.

    1. J. Money May 30, 2014 at 8:30 PM

      I think so too :) Though, on the plus side at least the extra £10-£20/mo is going to your debt yeah? Better than wasted elsewhere!

  3. Dave @ The New York Budget May 30, 2014 at 7:54 AM

    No touching! Always good advice. I still tinker, though. For instance, I am almost done front-loading my 401(k), so in about a week, I am tinkering with my percentage, setting it back down to my company’s match level (instead of the 75% of my paycheck that it’s been at recently). I’ll ride that 6% all the way to the $17.5k max!

    1. J. Money May 30, 2014 at 8:31 PM

      Yeah son!!! I miss front-loading sooo much!! Mine was hiked up to 90% at one point but once you get ‘er done you’re golden :) As long as you’re still getting the monthly match ok and don’t go overboard prematurely (but seems like you’ve got that covered).

  4. Anne @ Unique Gifter May 30, 2014 at 8:10 AM

    It’s stuff like this that keeps me coming back. This had me cracking up!

    1. J. Money May 30, 2014 at 8:33 PM

      Hehe good :) I’m trying to revert to the good ol’ days when I first started blogging and just being super passionate, and people seem to be enjoying it! Not that I wasn’t passionate before, but after 6 years of writing you tend to take yourself a bit too seriously… Feels good being “a kid” again here :)

  5. Amy May 30, 2014 at 8:14 AM

    I love this! You manage to say in one blog post what most personal finance books take chapters to say!

    1. J. Money May 30, 2014 at 8:34 PM

      That’s quite the compliment! Thanks so much!

  6. Shannon @ Financially Blonde May 30, 2014 at 8:46 AM

    Confession – I had my mind in the gutter the whole time I was reading this. And I have clients who have such bad touching problems that they have asked me to set up bank accounts for them and not tell them where they are and how to access them. If only I could…

    1. J. Money May 30, 2014 at 8:36 PM

      HAH! That is bad… but at least they know themselves well enough to bring it up :) (And I said “bring” it up, not “get” it up – stop it!)

  7. Brian@ Debt Discipline May 30, 2014 at 8:48 AM

    May need to adjust the old budget if you keep having a problem with the touchy.

  8. Dave Lalonde May 30, 2014 at 8:55 AM

    This was hilarious! I was seriously cracking up with your references. This was me when I was younger. I used to set aside a certain amount knowing that I would take it back later to pay my bills.

    1. J. Money May 30, 2014 at 8:41 PM

      Isn’t that the worst? And we STILL did it knowing full-well we’d have to just pull it back out! We sucked, haha…

  9. debster ( May 30, 2014 at 8:55 AM

    I had to touch my e-fund recently and it made me sad. Now I’m working hard to get it back where it was and beyond. Yes, this touching experience made me realize I need more in there to feel secure. BTW, your post really touched me.

    1. J. Money May 30, 2014 at 8:41 PM


  10. a terrible husband... May 30, 2014 at 8:59 AM

    So true. Boundaries with money are almost as important as boundaries in relationships. Imagine telling Old J$ you need to work an extra few years because Young J$ needed to “make it rain” in Cancun in 2015? Old Nick keeps me in check quite a bit.

    1. J. Money May 30, 2014 at 8:42 PM

      Oh, I still make it rain… Only in pennies instead – it hurts!

  11. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life May 30, 2014 at 9:05 AM

    I’ve found that the way in which you set up automatic transfers can help out a lot. For instance, my paypal account, which gets all my side hustle income is ONLY connected to my savings. That way if I want to get the money into the more liquid checking account, I need to take an additional step. It doesn’t sound like much, but it actually helps me save more.

    1. J. Money May 30, 2014 at 8:43 PM

      Yes, brilliant. Love that.

  12. John @ Wise Dollar May 30, 2014 at 9:25 AM

    Ok, I admit it. I had my mind in the gutter the second I saw the title. ;) My Mom actually got our 2 year old a book this week titled “Touch, Don’t Touch” and when I saw the book and got my mind out of the gutter my first thought was to money. That’s just another thing I like about having retirement accounts. Not only are we growing our wealth but it forcibly keeps up from spending it on crap we don’t need…double bonus!

    1. J. Money May 30, 2014 at 8:44 PM

      That’s gonna be the title of my book if I ever come up with one :) “Touch, Don’t Touch” haha

  13. Dee @ Color Me Frugal May 30, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    We have our checking account at a different bank than our savings account. So we send money from one bank to another at the beginning of the month and because it’s harder to access we rarely take money from savings these days. Prior to doing that I would say it was a big problem with the “touching.”

  14. Elizabeth May 30, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    I started doing an automatic deposit from part of my paycheck directly into an online savings account. The rate is higher than the bank where my checking account is, so that’s an added bonus. What makes it easy for me not to touch this money (besides seeing how much interest I get each month) is that it takes about a week for funds to become available if I transfer it back to my checking account. Usually after a week, I realize I don’t need that money as bad as I thought I did. Another painless way for me to save a little bit is my Way2Save account with Wells Fargo. Every time I make a bill payment online or use my debit card, a dollar goes into savings automatically. I do touch this money though, but it’s more of a fun money savings account. It paid for our entire vacation one year. It’s amazing how fast that account grows.

    1. J. Money May 30, 2014 at 8:46 PM

      Nice! I love little tricks like that :) And even better those funds take a week to process! That’s so LONG??? Haha… but def. good in this case. Still, are they back in the 1990s?

      1. Elizabeth June 2, 2014 at 9:56 AM

        It’s not always a week, but it has been that long before. Of course, I’m counting number of actual days, not business days, so when it’s over a holiday weekend it can take what seems like forever. If nothing special is going on and I initiate the transfer in the morning at the beginning of the week, I might have access in 3 days – that’s the quickest I’ve been able to get it. Since it’s serving it’s purpose of forcing me to save money, I don’t mind the long transfer time, even if it seems outdated :)

        1. J. Money June 2, 2014 at 2:46 PM

          Agreed :)

  15. Will, First Quarter Finance May 30, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    I switched my desire for a BMW with a desire for an IRA. Works out much better this way. :) Been contributing since I was 11 I believe and haven’t touched a cent. I’m not bragging in any way though. It’s not hard to do. You’re actually not doing anything. It would actually be harder to touch that money.

    1. J. Money May 30, 2014 at 8:47 PM

      I still cant believe you started so long again man – freakin’ brilliant.

  16. Noonan May 30, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    Love the MC Hammer clip!

    Just wondering if you were going for a touch of fiscal irony given that he had one of the most notorious celebrity bankruptcies ever? ;)

      1. J. Money May 30, 2014 at 8:52 PM

        HAH! Forgot all about that!!! Makes this post even better now – thanks guys :)

  17. Jen @ Jen Spends May 30, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    This post reminded me of how far my husband and I have come. Thanks, I needed that.

    We used to be experts at the checking account shuffle. It was how we lived. We’d have our tax return deposited into savings, and dip into that throughout the year to pay for what our regular income couldn’t. By the time tax season came around again, we were nearly broke. And we’d repeat the cycle. Emergency fund? What’s that? We were always one big emergency away from being broke. That is, unless I decided to use my 401k, which I did consider many, many times over the years. Glad I never touched that though, because since I left my job in 2008, it has nearly doubled in value without me contributing a dime.

    Back then we had almost $500 per month in debt payments (car, student loans). We finally understood why it was so important to pay it off early. Now we have a nearly fully funded 3-month emergency fund, we have separate “touchable” accounts for special occasions and house projects, and we’re living within our means. I get such a kick out of seeing our “no-touch” accounts increase in value that touching them is absolutely a last resort in my mind.

    1. J. Money May 30, 2014 at 8:56 PM

      Yeah girl!! WORK IT!!! What a turn around!

  18. S L May 30, 2014 at 12:32 PM

    Hey all,
    My savings account pays out relatively little (duh, is a savings account) So what it is for me is my “oh-crap-I-lost-my-job-and-i-know-I-won’t-get-another-for-at-least-six-months-or-more-fund” And, I was in a car accident then lost both ACs on my house (two stories, in the South… yes two ACs) So, my savings account saved my bacon. Now I have to get it back up again.
    whee. As much as it physically pained me. stomach ache, no kidding. I kept telling myself that this was what that account was for. It made me feel a lot better.

    1. J. Money May 30, 2014 at 8:58 PM

      Yup! It’s no fun AT ALL dipping into it, but you’re exactly right – you gotta be okay with using it up when true emergencies happen or else you’ll not only drive yourself batty, but you’ll resort to credit cards or other types of debt making the situation even worse! So good for you for using the e-fund for how it should be used. Not easy to do.

  19. Broke Millennial May 30, 2014 at 12:53 PM

    I’m with Stefanie. Those automatic transfers (especially into a retirement fund) are awesome! A former co-worker of mine hadn’t checked her 401(k) in the year since she set it up. I encouraged her to check it out one day and her first response was, “I’m rich!” And of course, we want to give that money time to let the magic of compound interest work.

    P.S. Love the Arrested Development reference

    1. J. Money May 30, 2014 at 9:00 PM

      I wish I could go even just a few months without logging into my retirement accounts online, haha… I don’t have the patience though cuz I love updating the net worth! :)

      Still, so true that it builds up over time once you get it humming along (and you don’t touch!)

  20. Even Steven May 30, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    I’m good with the no touch on my 401K, personal investments I get a little cabin fever and start going crazy, but eventually I calm down and leave it all untouched.

  21. wes@GenWiseWealth May 30, 2014 at 5:27 PM

    I’d recommend setting up an automatic transfer from your checking account into a low cost Vanguard mutual fund that accepts zero cost purchases over time. Dollar cost averaging is huge in generating long term wealth!

    1. J. Money May 30, 2014 at 9:00 PM

      Yessir! Great point.

  22. Asset-Grinder May 30, 2014 at 7:13 PM

    Many people have problems touching their money> would be best if those people setup automatic withdraws towards their investments or have someone else manage their money via etfs . people got to remember to pay themselves first!!!

  23. Marie @ My Personal Finance Journey May 31, 2014 at 7:00 AM

    I think, starting now I should put my money somewhere untouchable. It’s really one of my problems, I do have a savings, but I can’t stop not to use it.

  24. No Nonsense Landlord May 31, 2014 at 5:46 PM

    Far too many people think money burns a hole in their pocket. They have to spend. When they get a bonus, rather than save it, they have to replace perfectly good furniture, or buy a car.

    Save and you can rely on yourself, not on others.

  25. Done by Forty May 31, 2014 at 7:59 PM

    That gif is too much! The beauty of 401ks, IRAs, and especially extra payments to your mortgage, is that they’re hard to touch. There are barriers to access, which takes advantage of our natural laziness. If money’s easy to get at, in moments of weakness, we will get at it.

    1. J. Money June 2, 2014 at 2:48 PM

      Always easier to spend money than EARN money, eh?

  26. Christine May 31, 2014 at 11:20 PM

    HAHAHA. I literally told this to a customer the other day (in so many words). He kept wondering why his savings account had so little money so I went over all the savings withdrawals he had done recently…needless to say it adds up quickly! As he was leavings my last words were….”and stop touching your savings account!”

    1. J. Money June 2, 2014 at 2:55 PM

      I bet you see this ALL. THE. TIME at the bank. Hopefully this guy – and all others – listen! :)

  27. Eric Gati @ My 4-Hour Workweek June 2, 2014 at 2:17 PM

    Great points here, J. Saving money is one thing, but keeping yourself from touching it is an entirely different challenge.

    And of course.. .”There’s always money in the banana stand.”

    (I’ll be honest – I only commented on this post because I wanted to drop that quote.)

    1. J. Money June 3, 2014 at 12:00 PM

      Haha… good man.

  28. wes@GenWiseWealth June 3, 2014 at 4:38 PM

    I get caught up in the savings account / checking account shuffle all the time. It’s easy to do when you’re constantly transferring money out of your checking accounts to your outside investment accounts. Timing is key…set up regular transfers after you receive your pay check, to insure that you have enough cash!

  29. @freepursue June 5, 2014 at 7:53 AM

    Out of sight (and out of reach), out of mind. That “saved” me when my savings were automated by my employer (matching and share ownership top up program). If it weren’t for those programs, I’d be a lot poorer.

    Now that we manage our own finances without the benefit of a benevolent employer (oh, wait, that’s us now…), we put our savings into “high penalty” accounts, such as taxable accounts when we can — and we reinvest the tax return…duh. I also move $$ from our savings to our investment accounts on a regular basis. Somehow, once it’s in the investment accounts, it feels as though taking back out is just not “allowed”…I guess we’ll have to change that mindset at some point ;).

    1. J. Money June 8, 2014 at 3:11 PM

      For sure! Perfect mindset to have right now, no doubt about it. Whatever gets you to actually SAVE IT and leave it alone is all you need in my books. Exactly why I pour our extra money into retirement accounts too – you can’t dip your hands back in the cookie jar without a firm spanking!

  30. Dividend Mantra November 22, 2014 at 5:37 PM


    If I promise no touchy, can I get a pair of parachute pants? :)

    Best regards!

    1. J. Money November 23, 2014 at 3:19 PM

      You’d be able to afford dozens of parachute pants, good sir :)

  31. Kate@GoodnightDebt November 22, 2014 at 7:42 PM

    I have a problem and this is my problem. Though my problem is more accurately defined as “set up little BS savings accounts, fund them and then drain them for something different.”

    Thankfully, my crappy savings account habits don’t impact my retirement savings. Hopefully, when I shift to major savings like a down payment, that will be safe too. I know it’s possible because I’ve never dipped into my travel account! Priorities, I guess :)

    1. J. Money November 23, 2014 at 3:22 PM

      Priorities, or budgeting problems :) I had to start putting a padding in my checking account that way it prevented me from playing that money xfering game anytime I got low on funds. Maybe that would work for ya?

  32. Free to Pursue November 24, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    “Money In, Phalanges Off!” LMAO!!! Good one!

  33. DealForALiving December 10, 2014 at 6:27 AM

    And here I thought I was getting sick of reading about interest bearing retirement accounts, you change my way of thinking by labeling them untouchable. Bravo.