If you’ve ever run from one point to another, you’re probably aware that there is a limit to your speed. With “analog” equipment like the bones, muscles, joints and tendons in your legs and feet, there are physical limitations that prevent you from going too fast. Don’t worry. Thanks to recent inventions, it’s quite easy to get around this problem. Bicycles and cars allow your muscles to exert much less effort while resulting in faster movement. Sometimes machines and computers are required to break through limitations.
As you might imagine, saving money follows the same concepts. Picking up your paycheck from your mailbox, endorsing the back, and bringing it to your bank is like walking from one point to another. (Even if you drive to the bank, for the purpose of this metaphor, you’re a walker.) Once the teller confirms your identity and the validity of the check, he or she might give you the sum of the check in cash. Perhaps you cash only a portion of your check — the money you’ll need for the upcoming week — and deposit the rest into your checking or savings account at the bank. Congratulations, you’re now moving at 25 miles per hour.
You’ll still need better equipment to make the jump to hyperspace.
3. Automate Your Savings. With your savings on autopilot, you have less to worry about. While you’re not looking, money is transferred to your bank account — a high-yield savings account is best but a checking account may be a necessary intermediary — and begins earning interest. There is no need to waste gasoline on trips to the bank. There are several parts to automating your savings.
Direct Deposit is one of the most positive developments in saving. Rather than cashing your pay check and depositing only what is left over, you can instruct your employer to transfer your after tax salary each payday directly into your checking or savings account. Large companies usually make this an option when you first accept the job. Otherwise, you may need to get in touch with your human resources department. Smaller companies may not offer this feature, but it wouldn’t hurt to suggest to those whose make these decision that the company implement the service.
There are a number of benefits. Most immediately, you don’t have to worry about finding time for traveling to your bank. You reduce the risk of losing your paycheck in transit. In most cases when you receive your funds via Direct Deposit, the money is made available to you on the date the check is deposited rather than being subject to a holding period as you would be for other deposits. Direct Deposit also allows you to split your paycheck among a number of accounts, so you can immediately designate a portion for savings and begin earning interest on the day of deposit.
What are the drawbacks of Direct Deposit? If you still use cash for transactions throughout the week, you’ll need a way to get the cash out of the bank. These withdrawals should be done from checking accounts rather than savings accounts. Savings accounts are limited to six withdrawals or outgoing transfers per month — so most of your transactions should take place in a checking account. You can use an ATM card to get the cash you need. You should be the last entity to touch your money — let the interbank technology take care of as much of these transactions as possible.
In most cases, your paycheck is best deposited into a checking account, and from there, you can set up automatic transfers into savings and cash withdrawals. The best high-yield savings accounts can be linked to your checking account. This will let you transfer money directly within the same bank or from one bank to another without writing checks. For example, if you choose to open accounts at ING Direct, you could set up a link to your local checking account into which your paycheck is Directly Deposited.
You can then create automatic savings plans, instructions to periodically transfer money from your checking account to the high-interest savings account. Set it and forget it. While I am citing ING Direct as an example, they are not the only bank that allows customers to create automatic periodic deposits. Find a bank you like and review the options they offer.
With all your money moving behind the scenes, from your employer to your checking account to your savings, you are earning interest without knowing it. When the money is not passing through your hands, there’s less temptation to spend it right away. More money ends up in your savings, accruing interest for the future. Effectively, each time you feel you need cash, there is an obstacle of going to the bank or ATM. Some may decide that the expense is not worth the hassle and simply leave the money in savings.
Automation allows more of your money to find its way to your savings account quicker and remain there, earning interest.
Image credit: PPDIGITAL
Updated December 20, 2011 and originally published January 16, 2008.