When I left for my freshman year of college, I brought the graduation gift money I’d received with me. It was about $1,000, and I was carrying it in cash, intending to open a checking account. The cash never made it to the bank, however.
It wasn’t stolen, nor did I lose it. In fact, I tucked the envelope of twenties away in a secure location in my dorm room — but I neglected to protect the money from myself.
From trips to the coffee shop to late night pizza delivery, I let that money flow through my fingers without paying any attention to where it was going or how quickly I was spending it. By the time I finally decided to open an account, there was less than $100 left.
My experience is hardly unique. Most people have a similar story of squandering money because it was too easy to access the cash.
The trick to being more careful with money is finding ways to make it harder to spend. If I had placed that cash in a checking account as soon as I got to campus, I would have had to walk to the ATM to make my unnecessary purchases — which would have been more than enough to prevent most of my spending.
These days, simply depositing cash in the bank is not enough to make money harder to spend. The availability of mobile banking, debit and credit cards, and one-click online shopping makes money even easier to spend than it was when I was a first-year college student. That’s why it is so important to productively reduce access to your money. Here are five ways you can protect your money from your own worst spending impulses. (See also: 7 Bizarre Ways to Stay on Budget (That Actually Work))
1. Stop carrying credit or debit cards
Going out sans credit or debit card can feel weirder than going about your day naked, but it can be a very effective way to curb your spending. On most days, you probably don’t actually need to have a card with you — it’s just there in case you need it. Unfortunately, we then often “need” to stop for lunch, or in a favorite store, or meet everyone after work for happy hour rather than save the card for a legitimate need.
To make sure you are covered in case you need to fill up your tank on the way to work, or you encounter another true spending need, get in the habit of carrying $20 or so while leaving your plastic at home. This helps limit your ability to buy things while still giving you access…