Yet another way to psych yourself into saving
One reader's easy, effective tip for avoiding excess expenditures.
Having trouble staying true to your spending plan?
Maybe your downfall is those online shopping specials. Maybe you keep going out with friends even though you've burned through your entertainment budget for the week, or the month. Maybe you regularly stop for takeout meals while leftovers shrivel in the fridge.
A regular reader of the Smart Spending message board who posts as "SC CDF" came up with a budgeting strategy that's both simple and brilliant:
Change your ATM/debit card password and/or the passwords of your online shopping accounts to something that reflects a long-term goal.
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"I might think twice about buying shoes online if I have to type 'CU2012' (name of university and year my daughter will enter) at checkout," she writes. "I might purchase less from Amazon if my password (included) the airport abbreviations of the cities that I would like to visit."
I wish I'd thought of that. As it is, all I can do is stand back and admire her cleverness.
Want to retire in 10 years? Make your password "2020&OUTtaHeRE." Do you and your spouse hope to start a family? How about "U&Me&BABYmks3" as your sign-in? Owe $10,000 in credit card debt? Log in by typing "PayOFF10k&FrEe."
(Those words look weird, I know. But my editor pointed out that a strong password includes both capital and small letters and also symbols like $, % or &.)
Naturally, this won't work for everybody, especially for those who struggle with impulse spending or who haven't identified any major life goals. Behavior modification might help the former group.
As for the latter, well, why not start thinking about where you want to be in two, five or 10 years? Those years will flow by whether or not you have a plan, so it's time to start dreaming -- and making up a password to match that someday scenario. CUL8R.
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ABOUT SMART SPENDING
Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.