Is that a C-Note in Your Pocket?

Are you broke? Have you been broke in the last year? If so, here’s a simple tip anybody can do to start building financial security. Do this and, at the very least, you won’t be broke again. It can also psych you up to save more, spend less, and get rich. This tip is so simple you will probably laugh, but it works. Trust me!

What you’re going to do is start an emergency fund for yourself. That is, savings you will not touch unless your health or safety depends on it. E-M-E-R-G-E-N-C-Y. Get it?

Now, I know, if you’re in thousands of dollars of debt and you’ve been reading finance blogs before, you’re going to say, but Dave, I can’t save money when I’m paying 18% interest on these debts! And you’re right, you shouldn’t save a bunch of cash at 3% when you’re paying 18% on credit cards. But for this particular emergency fund, I’m talking small. Let’s say $100.

What I want you to do, the next time you get paid — before you spend a single penny — is go to the bank and ask for a single one hundred dollar bill. Now, fold it up, and tuck it in a safe, hidden spot in your wallet. If you definitely can’t afford $100, start with $20, then $50, then $100.

That’s it. Leave that C-note there forever. Do not spend it! Emergencies are the only exception, of course. For example: a storm hits, knocks out ATMs and credit card machines, and you need food. Barring an emergency, however, do NOT spend that hundred!

That bill is your short-term emergency fund, but it’s also there as a reminder. A reminder that it is possible to save. That it is possible not to spend everything you earn.

Your hundred dollar bill is also a test of your willpower. Can you resist the temptation to spend it? There will be times when you want something and remember that your $100 is there in your pocket. Fighting the urge to break it out to buy something will help with your overall spending. If you do slip, just replace the bill as soon as possible.

Finally, it feels good to walk around with a hundred dollar bill. It gives you confidence. And it means you’re not broke! If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed by your finances, just take the hundred out and look at it. There are few problems Ben Franklin’s smiling face can’t fix.

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


  1. This idea is so bizarre it might actually work!