Dr. Kestner: Save up your change, be glad that you did

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Did you ever have a piggy bank?

I did and now my daughter does. She loves to “feed the piggy” by inserting quarters into the slot in the pig’s back. (She’s only two, but seems to already get the value of money; she insists on feeding him quarters and won’t mess with dimes, nickels or pennies!)

I recall feeding my piggy bank as a child and looking forward to accumulating enough money to buy a much anticipated object of desire. It might have been a toy, baseball glove or a bicycle.

I loved to count the change from time to time and compare the resulting sum against the amount I would need to make the purchase. My parents would offer to match my savings to help me, but I had to do my part.

As I look back, this was my first lesson in personal finance. This was part of learning to set goals in my life and work toward those goals and mark my progress as I inched along.

Today the loose change in a piggy bank might not seem like much money. However, a pig full of quarters might easily top a hundred dollars.

Big goals are accomplished by taking a lot of little steps. One of my favorite sayings is that you can get anywhere in the world if you take enough small steps!

Even if you are up to your eyeballs in debt it is possible to begin saving for something. In fact, if you are in desperate circumstances financially, starting a savings account might be a great step to begin working your way out of it.

One of the most important aspects of saving for something is to commit to contributing something to the fund each week. Even if all you can find is the change in the sofa, contribute something every single week.

By doing this, you will soon discover that money seems to mysteriously appear that can be saved.

Although there are lots of recommendations for saving for retirement, building emergency funds and other important concepts, this is not intended to meet those needs. This idea is just for fun.

It is intended to create an opportunity for you to have fun planning a weekend trip, buying a new “toy” that you don’t really need or maybe saving up for a gift for someone special. In other words, this is money you intend to spend on something that is meaningful to you.

You will find that this process is infinitely more rewarding that using a credit card to make that purchase and then having to pay it off, along with the exorbitant interest, for months. You will find that there is pleasure in watching the amount grow. You will rediscover the joy of anticipation as you look forward to reaching your goal.

It is also a great idea to save for bigger things. I am saving now for a new vehicle. I grew so frustrated with monthly car payments for six years after my last vehicle purchase that I decided I would keep that truck until I could pay cash for my next one.

So, if you see me driving my now 7-year-old truck for another seven years, you’ll know that I haven’t saved enough yet.

Or maybe, once I have enough, I will decide I like the cash reserve better than a bunch of plastic and sheet metal that starts depreciating as soon as I start the engine. I have developed a liking for my used truck and may learn to like it even more when I visit the dealers!

Saving for something special is a tremendously effective way to start becoming a better goal setter.

This simple act stimulates an appreciation for self-discipline that will soon begin to affect other aspects of your life. It’s easy to get started. Just go find a few dollars and put them in a special place, then start dreaming.

Write down the specific amount that you will need and describe the reward you anticipate.

Next week: Learn how to create happiness for less than $20. (The happiness is free, but the instructions will cost you $11.95!)

Dr. Mark Kestner
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Dr. Mark Kestner, Living Well, Voices
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