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Make Your Savings Account Untouchable

Have you ever diligently set aside money in a savings account for a few months only to take it out when an unexpected expense came up? I’ve done it more than I care to admit. I don’t have trouble making depositing money to savings, I have trouble keeping it there! Here are some ways to keep your savings in your savings account.

Keep your savings at a different bank. When I first started saving, my savings account was linked to my primary checking account so that I could transfer funds back to savings – or even withdraw them at an ATM – just as easily as I put the money in.

Therefore if I ever found myself short on cash, I would be tempted to tap savings rather than find ways to cut costs until payday.

I recommend keeping your savings in a totally separate online account. Not only will you reduce the ease of which you can access your money (thought it will still be just 2-3 business days away), you’ll also likely earn a higher rate than you could at your local bank.

Cut up your savings debit card. Many savings banks bill a free debit card linked to your account as a perk, but with a savings account, it’s not really a plus. Cut up any debit card you get that is linked exclusively to your savings bank. Or – if you really must hang onto that ability to access some cash from savings – keep your debit card in a safe place at home, not in your wallet.

Set it and forget it. The best way to avoid tapping your savings too often is to forget the money even exists. Especially if you can have your savings contribution directly deposited or automatically transferred to your account, you can pretend the account doesn’t even exist.

If you find yourself tapping savings often, reduce your contributions. Let’s face it, if you deposit $300 to savings each month only to take $100 out almost every month, your budget isn’t working. I would say it’s better to put $200 into savings that you know you will not touch than to put $300 in and constantly be so strapped that you routinely pillage your piggy bank to make ends meet.

Use a credit card instead. What? Why would I recommend paying with credit over cash? The fact is, I usually wouldn’t, and I only recommend you use a credit card in this case if you need to bridge the gap between an unexpected expense and your next paycheck.

That is, when you can and will pay the balance in full within a month. I would say it’s better to do this than to tap your savings for the expense, just because of the precedent using your savings can set. Obviously if the expense is major, like a whopper of a car repair, you may need to use some savings, which would be better than putting the charge on your credit card and paying it offer over several months at XX.XX% interest.

Have you ever found yourself tapping savings too often? How have you stopped?

Next Thursday check out the saving topic to read: “51 Sources of Extra Savings”. Need a reminder? Please subscribe to my RSS Feed.

Published or updated on March 27, 2008

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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.


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  1. I wish I read you post 5 years ago, when my savings and credit were at 0. To get back on my feet, I managed my finance similar to what you have outlined, and luckily I’m just back on my feet. I have some savings.

  2. I have done that quite a few times when I was in my teens. Ugh. I cringe at the very thought of it. Now I’ve stopped by using an online savings account instead. :)

  3. Ryan says:

    I got rid of the debit-card linked to my savings. I have two checking accounts I use for bills and for fun money. My savings accounts are at ING and a bank. The bank savings account I made it so I actually have to go to the bank to take money out. So I never touch it. The ING I use every now and then for something I have been saving for, but it still allows me to think about things before I purchase them.

  4. Sarah says:

    I constantly tap into my savings, only because I deposit my entire paycheck into my money market savings, and transfer money out each month to pay bills. That way, I don’t have money just sitting in my checking account. Now that I’m thinking about finally opening a Roth IRA, I will probably abandon this plan in favor of a more calculated budget.

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