After people learn about the money jars system, I get a few who say, “I like the idea of dividing my money up into different jars but I hate using cash.
I’m not a big fan of using cash either. To be honest, I don’t.
After the first two years of using cash, I changed my jars to digital jars. I opened up a few bank accounts when I was 18 years old (it was more like six), but it has been extremely effective in helping me reach my goals. The banker was probably like, “what is this 18-year old doing opening up a bunch of bank accounts? This can’t be good.”
Here’s how to get started.
OPEN ONE CHECKING ACCOUNT
I encourage you to first start out using actual jars — even if you don’t like using cash. You can get started dividing up $100 or less. Physically doing the act is very powerful.
I also encourage you to get the jars if you have kids to teach them how to be smart with money. This is such a simple thing to teach your kids that when they understand it, you’ll be doing a great job as a parent raising money-savvy kids.
After you’ve mastered the physical jars go to your bank and open up a checking account. I imagine most of you reading this will already have a checking account so you really don’t need to do anything here.
OPEN FIVE SAVINGS ACCOUNTS
If you don’t like using cash, it’s time to transition everything online. You need at least five savings accounts (not checking accounts). Most people only have one saving account so you’re most likely going to have to speak to your bank about this.
Most people are terrible savers because they try to keep a running tab in their head and then at the end of the month they tell themselves that whatever is leftover they will transfer it to savings. And guess which account never grows? Yep, you guessed it. You have to learn how to pay yourself first!
Think of your checking account like the hub and everything else stems from it. The checking account is like the trunk of a tree and the savings accounts are like branches. Your money comes into your checking account and the first thing you do is divide 10% here and 10% there.
I’ve never run into an issue of having to withdraw money from a savings account more than six times in one month. But it’s worth mentioning.
FIND A BANK THAT DOESN’T CHARGE FEES
This next idea is extremely important. If you have a bank that will let you open five savings accounts with no problems, you’ve got a great bank. But if you’re bank tells you, “sorry, we’re going to have to charge you to open up more than one bank,” I want you to switch banks.
What you might be thinking:
“First Scott tells me to use this budgeting system for the rest of my life, and now he’s telling me I need to change banks, is this guy crazy?” Yes, most of the “BIG” banks, Wells Fargo, Chase, Bank of America may charge you additional fees for having additional savings accounts if you don’t maintain a minimum balance, or set up automatic transfers.
Here’s your script when you go to sit down with your banker and they tell you they have to charge you a fee for more than one savings account:
Mr. Banker: We will have to charge you a fee for more than one savings account.
You: Thank you mister banker, but it’s important that I have five savings accounts and pay no fees. A bank down the road said they would do it so I guess I will have to take my business there.
Mr. Banker: I will see what I can do.
THE BANK WANTS YOUR BUSINESS
The bank wants to keep your business and I’ve heard they will wave the fees in many cases. But, if they say, “sorry we cannot change that,” I promise there are hundreds of other banks that will. I’ve never heard of a credit union not willing to do that for you.
I asked my credit union how many bank accounts I could open without paying fees, and they said, “as many as you would like.” I said, “really?” She said, “we have a customer who has 63 bank accounts with us and that’s totally fine.”
My bank is USAA and I’ve had a great experience paying no fees and having multiple savings accounts. I would highly encourage you to open your accounts with them if you have access to them. Most people don’t unless you or a family member is or has been in the military.
The bottom line is DO NOT PAY FEES.
THIS WORKS IF YOU SPEND LESS
I already know many of you are thinking, “this isn’t possible in my situation because I don’t make enough money.” You can read ways to make more money here. However, the most overlooked way to make this system work is by spending less.
If you’re serious about financial independence, not only do you need to make more money, you need to keep as much of it in your wallet as possible.
We’re constantly bombarded with marketing messages telling us we need to spend money to be happy. This is not true! Live simply and be grateful for what you have and you’ll be amazed how much you can save.
Each dollar of yours is like an employee. If you let them sit around and do nothing, it will hurt your business. If you “employ” them, which means to put to work or make use of, it will benefit your company. Is every dollar of yours benefiting your personal finances the or are there lazy dollars sitting around doing nothing for you?
Below I’m going to show you 5 places to stash your cash based on goals that are one to five years away to get the maximum value from each of your green employees.
Depending on your financial goals, where you stash your cash will determine if you reach those goals. If you plan to spend the money within one year, be safe with it. If you plan to spend it in one to five years, go for a higher rate of return.
Where I save my money depends on the goal. I’m willing to invest my savings for something like a vacation fund because the cost of a vacation varies and when we go is flexible. On the other hand, if I’m going to put money down on a house soon I don’t want to lose any of that money.
SHORT-TERM VS. LONG-TERM GOALS
Let’s use three examples of goals:
Saving for a vacation
A down payment on a house
And building an emergency fund
Using these three examples, where is the best place to stash your cash if your goal is one to five years out for each of these?
When it comes to long-term goals like saving for retirement I would look at different options than what is mentioned below.
Some people suggest you keep cash somewhere in your house. Other than the internet disappearing or banks seizing to exist, it doesn’t do you good to have cash under your mattress because those are lazy dollars that need to wake up!
Some people like cash because it’s tangible. If you’re new to budgeting or teaching your kids to manage money, using cash is powerful!
Cash is good for teaching. It’s a powerful tool because you can hold it and feel it. And let’s be honest who doesn’t love holding a wad of cash! We live in a world where money is more of an abstract idea than a physical object.
Cash is good for changing behavior. I used cash for years as a teenager to manage my money. Now, I don’t have more than $5 – $10 of cash on me unless I am traveling (No thief would be happy to rob me).
Some people don’t like having their money sit in a savings account because most banks pay an interest rate of 0.000Nothing%. I don’t blame them with the average interest rate on savings being 0.06%. But, having money in your savings accounts could be good for a few reasons:
Safety – Essentially no risk (except for one major risk below)
Although the peace of mind of having your money in a savings account is nice, you run a risk of leaving it there. That risk is called purchasing power risk. $100 today will buy you less in 10 years due to inflation. Inflation can fall between 2-4% per year. So if you’re not earning at least enough interest to keep up with inflation, the value of your dollar decreases over time. It’s not a good idea to leave too much money in a savings account.
3. HIGH-YIELD ONLINE SAVINGS ACCOUNT
Many online banks now are willing to pay a higher interest rate to keep up with inflation. Online banks have lower overhead costs because they don’t have to pay for physical branches. That means they can pass the savings to the consumer by offering higher rates. The interest rate is important when you’re looking for a place to keep your money, but it’s not the most important thing. Other things to consider are:
Your savings rate
The credibility of the bank
Terms and conditions
One of the downsides of a high-yield savings account is not having all of your money in one place. If you need to transfer money into your primary bank quickly it could take a couple of days. Don’t put your everyday spending money in one of these accounts. I’ve looked into savings accounts that offer up to 3% APY (Annual Percentage Yield) which is changing all the time. Let me know if you know of any good ones!
BANKS VS. CREDIT UNIONS
When deciding where to stash your cash should you use a bank or a credit union? There are pros and cons to both.
Banks are for-profit enterprises, while credit unions are nonprofits. Credit unions also offer higher interest rates on deposits, lower rates on loans and lower fees.
WHY CHOOSE A BANK?
More branches in the region or across the country
Typically quicker to roll out new apps and new tech
WHY CHOOSE A CREDIT UNION?
Typically has lower fees and higher interest rates on deposits
Emphasis on customer service
I go for the best of both worlds and use USAA for my personal banking and Wells Fargo for my business banking. I’m happy with USAA and would recommend them to anyone. Think of it as an online credit union with low fees, great customer service and always at the front of technology. They were the first bank to introduce biometric sign in. I was using my face to log in to my account back in 2014.
Although I’m happy with USAA, I’m always looking for something better.
4. MONEY MARKET ACCOUNTS (MMA)
Money market accounts are federally insured short-term interest-bearing instruments that generate a variable yield while preserving principal. They tend to have interest rates that are higher than savings accounts, but they often require a higher minimum deposit.
The difference between a savings account and an MMA is what the bank can do with your money. The bank is restricted in how they can loan your money. With an MMA the bank may put your money in a CD, low-risk mutual fund or government securities. Many people have an MMA already and don’t realize it. That’s because in your investment account there is typically cash waiting to be invested that is stored in an MMA. I wouldn’t be too concerned about these accounts for your goals.
5. CERTIFICATE OF DEPOSIT (CD)
A certificate of deposit (CD) acts as a savings account and has a fixed interest rate. It also has a fixed date of withdrawal, known as the maturity date. I call these certificates depression:). If you want to invest your money for the long run the interest rate is measly. Although it’s higher than a typical savings account or money market account your money is going to be locked up for a period of time. For example, at my local credit union the terms of a CD are:
2.00% 1-year CD
2.50% 4-year CD
3.15% 5-year CD
I don’t use CDs anymore because I had a bad experience. I deposited $5,000 into a 2.5 year CD back when I was 19 and made $50 in interest after two years. My car broke down and I needed to access the money early and paid a $25 fee. Then, I had to pay taxes on that $50 which was $7.50. So my $50 return went to $17.50 which is a 0.0035% return. Basically the same as if I would have left it in the bank.
I could have found a better CD and I could not have pulled it out early but either way, I’m not a fan of CDs. I want control over my money and I’m willing to take more risk if I’m going to be saving that money for a few years.
However, CDs seem to fit some people very well and there are many reasons why they may make sense for you. Something that seems to be effective with CDs is called a CD ladder. You open multiple CDs to have access to your money at different times in the future without locking all of your money into one long-term account. I still think there is better places to stash your cash.
To be honest I don’t use high-yield savings accounts (I may if I find a good one), money market accounts or CDs. I use traditional savings accounts and any other amount of money above that I invest it.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to take away information from this article and apply it to your situation. I didn’t talk about investing. If you would like to read an article I wrote about that:
These are simply a few ways you can employ your dollars and stash your cash. But, more important than getting the highest interest on your savings is how much money you save.
If you’re having trouble saving money I recommend you set it up automatically. You can set this up with your bank or you could use a tool like Qapital or Digit to do it automatically for you. They don’t have a high APY but they can help you consistently save. I love personal finance technology that helps change behavior!
Where do you stash your cash!?
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Hi, I’m Scott. Welcome to my website! I’m an Accredited Financial Counselor, husband, and father. I hope you’ll join me on the journey of reaching financial independence through simplifying how you manage your money.