Friday, May 15, 2009

Are You A Conscious Saver?

There are different approaches to saving money. Whether it's saving for a short term goal or saving for your retirement, people go about it in a variety of ways.

I admire those who have a set amount which they put aside each week (or each month) before they spend any money. I call these people conscious savers. It's a regular savings plan. The money is normally deducted from their pay or taken out of their bank account at the beginning of each period.

This sort of approach works for these people because there is a risk that if the money is not put aside immediately, it will get spent. It's a smart move and it lends itself to better long term planning, whether that planning relates to reducing debt or investing for the future or saving to buy a house or whatever.

Unfortunately, I'm not that disciplined. In fact my approach is the exact opposite. I tend to pay all of the bills and spend what I need to each month and only at the end of each month does what's left over get added to our savings.

Fortunately, that works for us. We don't have extravagant tastes and lead a fairly middle of the road existence and our income has always been such that we've been able to add enough to our savings each month to pay off all of our debts, including our mortgage and accumulate a reasonable investment portfolio that will someday become the foundation of our financial freedom.

Despite our success in the past at just following a saving what's left over approach, I do wonder whether a more conscious approach would put us further ahead over the long term. Maybe the extra financial discipline would enable us to save that little bit extra and help us reach our financial goals earlier.

The downside, as I see it, is that we may feel more constrained at living this way. There may also be more stress on our relationship if we attempt a more rigid approach to our personal finances.