This post was originally published in January 2016. I am still following this simple system, still saving up and giving. I edited this post for formatting, but didn’t edit it for content. So the numbers saved and the numbers given have increased greatly in the intervening period.
Do you ever just get a hankering for something new? Something shiny? Something with lots of bells and whistles? Then you look at the price tag for that shiny, new thing and you think, “Well, that is definitely not in the budget for this month. Or any month for that matter!”
I have a tendency to love the items in my home well, to work with the quirks they develop as they get older. To consider the scratches and dents they get to be signs of good use in a home with lots of small children. But every now and then, I start to think, “Man it would be nice to purchase a NEW one of those!”
Most of the time the items I am hoping to purchase are just not in the budget. So, I came up with a way to save up for big purchases. And it has surprised me just how FAST I have been able to get those much wanted new items.
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Over the years since I implemented my plan for saving big we have been able to purchase some big-ticket items for our home. First we bought a French door Refrigerator! A few months later, we bought a new dishwasher (ours broke!). Then a little bit later we purchased a custom leather sofa for our newly remodeled living room. And then I kind of couldn’t figure out what to do with all the cash we were saving. Until this weekend. We went and purchased a beautiful new set of laundry appliances – a steam washer and a steam dryer!
Since the original publication of this article, we also saved up money and went on an amazing Disney vacation. You can read more about how we specifically saved up for Disney here.
My plan for saving is a little bit unconventional and it involves some sacrifice and a great deal of commitment, but it WORKS and it works FAST!
Wanna hear it?
Background on Saving
First let me give you a little bit of background. A number of years ago I decided to put all our money for household purchases into envelopes each month. This – the much talked-about “envelope system” – is recommended by lots of financially smart people.
Each month I go to the bank and ask for a very specific amount of money and I divide the cash into each envelope. I don’t go back to the bank to get more cash until the next month. And I only use cash when I am running errands – like going to the grocery store or having fun with my kids. We only use cash if we go out to eat. We only use cash for pretty much everything.
And since I only use cash my tip for saving up for big purchases works really well.
[This will not work if you are not on a cash budget!]
Still interested in my save up big, save up fast plan?
My Simple Cash Saving Plan
Never spend $5 bills.
That’s it! Every single $5 bill that comes into my hand goes into a specific place in my wallet and then is transferred to our cash savings at home. Every. Single. One.
In fact, I have become so used to spotting and saving $5 bills when I see one in someone else’s hand, I have to resist the urge to tell them not to spend it. To save it for something really special!
So how does this work for me?
Let me tell you more about it. Here are the things which make my savings plan work:
As I said before, you must be on a cash budget for this to work. I have seen some apps that will skim off of your purchases when you use your credit card, but this is a way more organic way to save (in my opinion). If you are not on a cash budget, the $5 bills will not be part of your change when you make your purchases.
First: cash budget – check.
Let me tell you: the temptation to not save EVERY $5 bill that comes through my hands is immense! Especially when I pay for a small item with a relatively large bill and get back change in mostly $5 bills. And I can’t go to the bank again until next month.
This will eat into your budget – obviously. But if you stick with it and tell yourself, “I am NOT going to spend these $5 bills;” you will see the savings pile up fast!
OK, why trust? Well, I believe that God (the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe) is interested in my money situation. I have read too many verses in the Bible to believe otherwise.
I believe He is also sovereign. He is indeed so interested in my money situation and sovereign, He knows when I need my change back in all $5 bills. And I trust He can sustain me through on to the next month with my budget diminished by that amount. I have made a commitment to save those $5 bills and I believe God has blessed our family through it (and maybe in spite of it!).
Why do I believe that God is specifically in favor of my commitment to saving $5 bills for my family to purchase big-ticket items? I feel like He confirmed it by giving me an opportunity to give using $5 bills. I won’t go into the whole long story (I did here if you are interested), but I found out that $5 can get a Bible into the hands of a persecuted Christian – a BIBLE in his language, in his hands FOR $5!
And guess what. I was already setting aside $5 bills when I got this opportunity. Since that time I have been able to give over 150 $5 bills to turn them into Bibles for people who are desperate for God’s Word.
Here’s the thing about giving while saving: I think God has blessed that immensely. In fact, I think I get a little more excited about the Bibles than I do the big-ticket things. He has made it possible, by His sovereignty over my finances and my commitment to trust Him and tuck those $5 bills away.
And He has multiplied $5 bills in my life (almost comically, at times). He has made my saving for big-ticket items possible!
By the way, my husband does think I am a little bit crazy. And, yes, I can be a little neurotic about saving those $5 bills. But I have found it to be worth it! And I have been able to save up for big purchases FAST, blessing our household by not putting anything on a credit card.