Want to Save Money? Hide it from Yourself!

(Guest Post by Victoria Reitano, on a similar idea I once blogged about ;))

You know the feeling when you take out a winter coat after a year in the closet and find 20 bucks in the side pocket? Imagine doing that all the time.

Saving money is hard, but essential, so I hide money from myself. For a while, I used to put all the dollar bills I had into different jars around my apartment and then when I needed money (usually between paychecks) I’d scramble around to find it. Now, I’m older and wiser — I add it to my Google calendar.

As I’m sure many of you do, I get paid on the 15th and 30th of every month. After figuring out my budget, I determined that my 30th check goes to all my expenses (Rent, credit cards, electricity, etc) and my 15th is more of my food/spending money. That means that on the 15th I have a little more to play with, so what I’ve recently started doing is taking out a specific amount of cash and hiding at least $100 in a specific location, in an envelope.

I change the location each month so that I never really remember (and go for it too early), then I add it to my Google calendar as a reminder for the last week of the month, when I usually need it.

I also try to auto-deposit money into my ING Direct account each month and then every 2-3 months make a note in my Google calendar of that. The best way to do this is to create the alert, have it email you, and then “hide” the calendar so you don’t see the reminder every time you log in.

How do you trick yourself into saving? Share your tips below!

Victoria Reitano is a multimedia journalist and social media strategist who writes about technology, advice for 20-something women, fashion, yoga and gluten-free living. Reitano is a graduate of Quinnipiac University and lives in Long Island, New York. Connect with her via her website, victoriareitano.com or follow her on Twitter, @giornalista515.

PS: Another place to hide your cash? In one of these awesome diversion safes ;)

(Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography)

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  1. Gina January 12, 2012 at 7:14 AM

    Great idea! We do this with the cash we need to go see football games, stick it in a change purse inside football bag (the one with the binoculars) so we have cash for drinks and food without hurting the budget, starts up again in August so I need to start stashing away again!
    I have never used Google calendar so thanks for the tip!

  2. CityFlips January 12, 2012 at 7:28 AM

    When I first opened my bank account, I set up a monthly transfer to savings to keep my account free of fees. I usually try to see if I can make it through the month without that $25. Usually it works pretty well!

  3. Stephanie January 12, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    Automatic transfers. If I never see the money, I don’t miss it. I don’t have to physically hide money from myself, but as far as I’m concerned, the money in the savings account is off-limits for everyday needs. It’s there for emergencies and/or big-ticket items that we are specifically saving for, but when I log in to the bank’s website to balance the checking account, the stuff in savings just doesn’t register as potential spending money.

  4. Money Beagle January 12, 2012 at 9:28 AM

    Good idea. I’ve actually gotten so detailed in my finances that I can’t actually hide things from myself anymore. But making things automatic is a great strategy no matter how much ‘knowledge’ you have of the balance. Never getting an opportunity to touch it (or at least having it a multi-step process to get the money ‘back’ into spending form) is a big obstacle that encourages savings.

  5. Heather January 12, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    I don’t think I could ever do this successfully. Great idea for those who could!

    When my husband and I get paid (he’s every 15th and 1st, I’m every other Friday), I pay our bills that same day (usually first thing in the morning) and transfer money to our savings. This means there is only a minimum amount in our checking for groceries, gas, and a little entertainment. I am never tempted to go into my savings account, so as long as it’s not in our checking account, we don’t use it.

    My husband, on the other hand, would spend every dime he could and think of bills and gas later. So he is under strict instructions not to touch our emergency savings. He has his own checking and savings for his spending and play money and that’s what he’s allowed to work with. I know it sounds bad to say he’s not “allowed” to touch our money — money he works hard for, but if I didn’t put “rules” on it, we’d be broke all the time (which is why I handle the finances).

    I have my own little checking account (for my allowance) separate from our joint accounts and his accounts (at a different bank). I also keep our Christmas savings and our Gift savings separate as well. In 2010, my husband took a good chunk of our Christmas savings and spent it on a Wii (which we’ve used maybe 6 six times), so after that, I had to take away his access to the Christmas money we save all year. I do keep our Emergency savings where we can both access it because God forbid something happens to me and he needs it, but he knows he will lose a finger if he touches it.

    Sorry to go on and on. I guess I meant to show how different people are; I can put money aside and never think about touching it, where as my husband can’t. :)

  6. SmartAssetTeam January 12, 2012 at 11:03 AM

    It is a little silly, but I think a good old-fashioned piggy bank could really work here. I read somewhere in a blog that you can try to save more by no longer spending 5 dollar bills. So I have a ceramic piggy bank without a plug, just a slot on the top. I put all my 5 dollar bills in it. The great thing about it is I have to break it to get it open, so I am not as tempted to take a 5 out willy nilly. My goal is to wait till it is stuffed, till I can’t put any more bills in it, and then I get to smash it and end up with a pile of cash!

  7. Mal January 12, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    @SmartAssetTeam: I love that piggy bank idea! I might try that out myself.

    Personally, when I am at a grocery store, or any other place that gives cash back, I will randomly get ten bucks or so, then put it in a drawer. Having cash tucked away and not in my wallet makes me less likely to spend.

  8. Joy January 12, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    We put change in a left-over jar. Once, I saved up over $50 in change…and I had no idea until I converted it to cash. It’s more difficult to spend a lot of change, so I guess this is ONE way I hide money from myself!

  9. Heather January 12, 2012 at 1:37 PM

    I have piggy bank for change that I count every New Years Day. It usually ends up being 30-40 bucks. Once that’s turned into cash, I put it into a different type of piggy bank (actually an old-timey post office box turned into back). That’s my free/found money bank. Things like rebate checks and money people pay me back go into. I use it to make change for myself (break a $20 for going out or something), but I don’t spend it until there’s something I need/want. Currently, the money is being saved to visit my sister in Seoul.

    It is a bit like a game: I know the money’s there, but it’s not really there.

  10. Andrew from FabulousSavings January 12, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    I’m the same as Joy – I’ll usually accumulate so much change that by the time my change jar is heavy enough to seriously injure someone, I end up cashing a pretty good amount. So, definitely keep your change in one place! Every cent literally counts.

  11. Nick January 12, 2012 at 2:46 PM

    I’m a HUGE fan of automating saving and investing. It’s absolutely the easiest way to save money. No doubt. Great post.

    I have one investment account pick at my checking account once a week, another once a month and max out my 401(k) automatically with my first money of the year (I literally don’t get paid until there’s $17,000 in my 401(k) first). Once we live within those means we then make sure we are also “savers” who save intentionally as well, so we don’t automate our IRAs, but make sure we manually put them in. We try and make sure these are done by the 4th of July each year. Now every time I think of the 4th I think of IRAs (i.e. financial freedom…).


    two cents

  12. Weirdo January 12, 2012 at 3:01 PM

    My wife and I hide cash from each other. I think she things I don’t know… but I totally do. I hope she doesn’t know. My stash isn’t getting lower, so I think I’m good.

  13. Mike Doffer January 12, 2012 at 3:58 PM

    My friend played a game with envelopes and stored all his budgets for different categories, it really helped him. Hiding it works too!

  14. mints January 12, 2012 at 4:18 PM

    I do that *all* the time
    I usually hide it in my dvd cases (I don’t watch dvds anymore) but after a while I knew where the money was so I started to hide it somewhere else.

    Now *I know* I have $150 hidden somewhere around the house for a month now, but I truly I can’t find it :(
    I already emptied all the dvd cases, all the summer clothe’s pockets, all the shelves in the kitchen… pff I think I lost it. I’ll just go back to my dvd cases and I just won’t put it anymore in the “sick love” nor “sleepy hollow” dvds ¬¬’

  15. mints January 12, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    And I forgot to mention
    I also have a piggy bank, I put all the change there and it doesn’t have a “hole” to pull out the coins, so if I ever want the money I’ll have to break it and it’s such a piece of art that I really just keep pouring dimes in it…
    One day it’ll be its day

  16. J. Money January 12, 2012 at 7:17 PM

    @Gina – Hah! That is awesome. And I take it your team is out of the playoffs then? Maybe they’re chillin’ on the sidelines w/ my Redskins ;)
    @CityFlips – That’s a good idea. Maybe every 6 months you should try and increase it by another $25 and make it a challenge :)
    @Stephanie – You’ve got some good strength, my friend. That’s a great way to do things!
    @Money Beagle – Yep. Though I wouldn’t advise automating *everything*, esp the debts and bills. It’s annoying, but checking them before paying ’em each time is key so nothing f’d up is going on. I catch someone doing some nonsense a few times a year, everyone makes mistakes!
    @Heather – HAH! That is awesome that the two of you can agree on that stuff though, since y’all know how you work ;) It’s actually gonna be the topic of a future blog post of mine – the difference on how two people can be in a marriage, and what tends to work or not. Your idea of separating some accounts for you guys to do whatever you want with (the “allowance” accounts) are huge. I’m a very big fan of that, and glad it’s working for you both :)
    @SmartAssetTeam – That is awesome!! Haha… I like that. Esp when it’s time to break it – you get to relieve a little stress! When it’s time, will you tell me? Maybe you can guest post about it and send in pics of the broken bank and all ;) That would be awesome. Great idea!
    @Mal – For sure. Oddly enough, I literally have $300+ in my desk drawer right now ;) We sold a couch on Craigslist, and now waiting to pick up another newer one – but I leave it in my desk so I don’t touch it!
    @Joy – That works :) I just cashed in $84 the other month!
    @Heather – Nice! Did you know I used to live in Seoul? Sooooo beautiful. I hope you get to go out there soon! :)
    @Andrew from FabulousSavings – Haha, amen on that brotha.
    @Nick – AWESOME.AS.HELL. That is one bitchin’ plan yo! I’ve only been able to do that once – 2 years ago before I got laid off, and it was suuuuuch a good feeling! You get a huge rush for a few months straight, it’s awesome. Well done! Just make sure you’re still getting all your appropriate matches in there too with this game plan. I’m sure you’ve already thought of that, but just in case – a friend did that before too, but she lost a lot of the match cuz she maxed out too early instead of spreading it over time. I had to double check that I’d still get mine before doing it, and when I got the go ahead I hit the pedal ;) Either way, good for you on being able to “survive” during this incredible investment process.
    @Weirdo – Haha…. zing!
    @Mike Doffer – I’ve heard good things about that envelope system actually. I’m too “online” to try that, and it takes a lot of patience, but I admire those who can pull it off ;)
    @mints – HAH! I hope you find it all! That’s the only downfall w/ that plan ;) But one day you’ll get a nice surprise, I’m sure of it. Tell us when you break the bank open too! Take lots of pictures :)

  17. Long January 12, 2012 at 8:12 PM

    I’m currently working on The Total Money Makeover baby steps and currently working on paying down debt. Automatic transfers sounds like a great idea to save money. I will do that when we start beefing up the emergency fund. Thanks!

  18. Ann January 13, 2012 at 12:06 AM

    I currently save all my $1 bills and track monthly. At the end of 2011, I had $397 saved! This just goes to show small amounts add up over time

  19. Simon January 13, 2012 at 1:30 AM

    I’m not sure how much you’ll recognise Swedish income tax policy, but my last employer failed in his obligation to pay income tax out of my wage. Instead, every month when I received my full wage, I had to reserve the tax amount myself.

    That doesnt sound awful, I’m sure, but when you’re used to disposing what money is in your account as you wish, it’s hard to be strictly forced to save. I’ve had savings targets before but it’s different, because you can always say to yourself, this month I can save a little less so that I can do X. With the IRS breathing down your neck, that savings account was non-negotiable. So every month, my wage would come in, and I was forced to shave off 30%.

    Then I phoned the IRS last week to find out that with all applicable discounts, my tax rate was nearer 12%. After a few months of part-time work I suddenly had thousands of kronors (or hundreds of dollars) disciplinedly squirreled away that could be fed straight into my proper savings account.

    So next time I need to reinforce my savings account? Hire someone to break my legs if I don’t.

  20. J. Money January 13, 2012 at 4:47 PM

    @Long – Yeah man, it’ll def. help! EXCELLENT book too. I haven’t read it entirely, but people *swear* by it. Good for you on taking charge!
    @Ann – Nice! That’s a sexy pile of change ;) Err… bills.
    @Simon – HAH! That’s a pretty interesting dilemma you had there – glad it worked out in your favor though!! Pretty cool :) Thanks for sharing, my friend. All the way from Sweden too – woo!

  21. Leigh January 28, 2012 at 2:14 PM

    I’m finding that my 401(k) and IRAs are the best places to hide my cash – since I can’t get it back out for a very long time, I hardly notice that the money is gone each month. Having an online savings account is also AWESOME for hiding money, since then I can’t see it when I sign into online banking to make sure nothing fishy happened in my checking account – I only check on my online savings accounts once a month to record the interest transactions.

  22. J. Money January 28, 2012 at 9:27 PM

    Haha, I like that too :) And totally true with your 401k and IRA! Once money goes in there it’s THERE FOR GOOD and you don’t get tempted to mess with it (unless you’re in retirement years, of course). It’s a great method to follow indeed.

  23. skelly August 11, 2012 at 5:18 AM

    I have always had trouble saving money because I really like to shop. If I don’t have money in my wallet then it’s not as hard. I decided to try something different recently, I have these individual small envelopes and I put cash in each one and seal it up. Once their sealed up I put them someplace I don’t usually look in or think about. So far so good, I haven’t touched it! : D

  24. J. Money August 11, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    Nice!! There you go! Something new I’ve started doing is cashing in money for $2.00 bills whenever I go to the bank :) I’ve found it’s MUCH harder to spend those than other bills, so I end up just storing and storing them for one big stack of money, haha… and although they’re only worth $2.00, it feels like they’re worth a lot more and you could probably sell them for $3.00 if you ever wanted anyways ;) Ya gotta do whatever works!

  25. Amy September 18, 2013 at 8:58 PM

    I am terrible with fast purchases. See something online, paid for and in the post. I have auto transactions, but when i run low on my wage account, I debit the others. BAD IDEA! So, from todays paycheck, I get paid every week on a thursday. Which is also hard, as weekends I compete with my horses. So I am now going to set up an account maybe with another bank, where i DD every week, and do not have access to it.. maybe. My other idea, is to completely limit my spending.
    But the major thing I am paying, and I don’t need to, is too many transactions. I have an accoutn which allows 6 free transactions per month. So I am going to try to not spend anything each month except the things I need to, so maybe transfer once from my wage accountper week (4 / month) , and then once in that new account, into another accout (fuel), another accout, rent/board/living 4 x /mnth, horse shoes are only 1nc a month, so can let money build up in another account. This seems really confusing, but have had it work before… just have to get back into having dollars rather than cents.

    1. J. Money September 19, 2013 at 9:28 AM

      It does sound confusing, but if it works for you then def. get back to it! :) I know a friend who opened up an account way across town so it would be annoying to go to on purpose (and he didn’t get access to online stuff) so that way he wasn’t tempted to touch it. And then every paycheck he had a portion automatically xfered there which forced him to save :) So that could be another route too.


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