Last March, a cousin of Carson's got married. The day before her wedding was my birthday, so since people were running around doing wedding things, she was kind enough to ask me if I'd like to join her for wedding errands. We got our nails done, ran to Target three times, and I helped (read: watched) her pack for the honeymoon. We had a really fun time, but one of the things that she did that I found interesting was to save cash from the time she was engaged until the wedding for them to use on their honeymoon. She was really intentional about it, and in a five month time period saved a few hundred dollars.
Rainy Day Jar
So thanks to Savannah, the rainy day jar was born. It was thus titled because we didn't have a real goal in mind when saving money. We thought about saving it for Christmases, or our anniversary, or paying a card off or something (we think we save more than we do) but in reality, we were saving it for an unknown adventure or circumstance, just saving until the bottle (it was a prickly pear soda bottle) was full or until we got curious and decided to count it.
The jar began its life last summer before we moved. We're glad that it did, and that it was tucked away behind my seat where it was, because as we were driving through Illinois, we suddenly came to a toll station. Neither of us had the right amount of money for the toll, so we panicked for a moment before I looked out of the corner of my eye and noticed the bottle. A few dollars were wedged in the neck (thank goodness) so I got those out with my finger and a rogue pencil and the day was saved!
That was the only time that we've taken money out of it (I think we paid over $25 in tolls between Illinois and Ohio - crazy, right?) and I think that we took out more than we needed because we were afraid of more pop-up tolls.
Anyway, we added to it for awhile, but kept it in a coat we rarely open so it didn't get to the point where it was overflowing. One day, I opened the closet, spotted the bottle, and got really curious, so I suggested to Carson that we open the bottle and use the money for our anniversary trip. I handed him a little hammer, but he made a smarter decision and smacked it against a piece of concrete next to the garage.
I'm not going to lie; I wish we'd waited. There wasn't as much as we'd assumed. Still, it was exciting to see what we'd saved, and an encouragement to continue saving surprise money for later. Since we shattered that bottle, we can't continue to use it, but the next rainy day bottle is in the works.
52 Week Savings Plan
In case you're wondering, this is another thing I do to save money: I follow this savings plan. Instead of using cash and putting it in a jar, I deposit the money weekly from my checking account to a little savings account. I deposit instead of using cash because I would forget to have that much cash on hand each week and because I have a feeling that we'd try to use the money if we saw it sitting there. This way, we set a little aside each week, and we can track what's going in. I have the amount to transfer written on the corner of the page for every Monday of the year, so that I calculate correctly. Though to be honest, it wouldn't hurt anything to double up once in awhile.
I know several people who have tried Dave Ramsey's envelope plan to great success. We tried this for a little while and it was more frustrating than successful. Basically, you set aside one envelope for each category in your budget and use only cash to make purchases, tracking it on the envelope. Maybe we needed a better way to carry the envelopes around, we needed to divide them differently, or have a better understanding of the system, but we gave this idea the boot very quickly. Now that I'm thinking about it though, I'd like to give it another shot someday. Anyone used it successfully?