Make spending hard, saving easy to be better off

Make spending hard, saving easy to be better off

Recently, I was in a store, and there was a claw machine. I hadn’t played one in years, and I had cash on hand, so I gave the machine a little more attention than normal. What I saw made me stop and think — there was a credit card slide on the claw machine. I did not need cash after all. A debit or credit card would have done. This instance made me think of something I have heard over and over from advice given — automate savings and manualize spending.

Another example that still makes me laugh showing how far we have come to making spending easier was a few years ago at an Ohio State football game. A friend and I were walking around the streets trying to find my uncle, and a Boy Scout approached us asking if we’d like to buy popcorn for a fundraiser. I might have just shot him down right away, but my friend said, “Sorry, I don’t have any cash,” which is a great default if you don’t want to buy something. The advanced Boy Scout pulled out a credit card slider attached to his phone, and my friend was dumbfounded. I guess we can’t use that excuse anymore, but it shows how much easier it is to swipe plastic anywhere including at a street fundraiser.

When I talk about manualizing spending, it can come in many forms, but the principle is to make spending as hard as possible. This excludes putting utilities, et cetera, on automatic payments because those are necessities, and there’s no need putting together a check and mailing it when it can come right out of your bank account.

What I am talking about is needless spending — online shopping, in-person shopping and other activities where spending more comes into play. I know a person who talked about how she is borderline addicted to shopping on Amazon — when she’s bored, when she came for one thing and left with more than she wanted to. Her solution was making herself put in her debit card every time she shopped. She wanted the process to be as cumbersome as possible to help her take a step back and look at what she’s buying. This takes the mindlessness out of plowing through the cart checkout and not thinking about what you’re spending.

The other is in-person shopping — one podcaster said one of his biggest pet peeves is when people say, “I’m going shopping.” To him, that means they don’t need something, and they have no point in going other than spending money on things they probably do not need. What is recommended is to physically write down what you need to buy and stick to it. Grocery stores do an unbelievable job getting you to spend more than you want to — I will probably have an entire article about this — in the way they set up their store. When you go grocery shopping, don’t wander into the hunting or fishing gear or the outdoor furniture. Stick to what you need.

As far as automating savings, it is simple. Set up direct deposits to go to TDAmeritrade or to a financial advisor to invest. Then you aren’t investing what’s leftover; you are investing money you will never see. When I say saving, I don’t mean just investing. Set up direct deposit to go right to a “car fund” or a “house fund” — that way you aren’t ever tempted to spend it because you never had it. When you make saving/investing as easy as possible, it will become second nature. Once done for years and years, you won’t think about it anymore.

Bottom line is make spending hard and saving easy and down the road you will thank yourself for doing so.

Holmes County native BJ Yoder is an insurance agent by day and a finance enthusiast by night. This column is for informational purposes only. He can be emailed at

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