Money makes money is another thing everybody says, but that is also absolutely true.
Something that I find often gets overlooked in all of these concepts surrounding saving money is actually a very important factor that can, if not considered, eat away and terribly counter a great deal of the effort you put into your savings commitments.
The COST of money.
Where this factor is most encountered, it is when we are dealing with how we manage and use credit. Most people who understand credit also understand that there is a difference between good debt and bad debt. Naturally there are some people who will tell you that there is no such thing as any good debt. I am not in that camp. By my definition good debt is debt which leverages an appreciating asset such as your home. In this instance the cost of the debt is typically negated by the appreciating value of what has been financed. Bad debt is debt that is used to leverage depreciating assets, such as a vehicle. But even I am guilty of making use of this kind of debt—although I do everything I can to minimize the impact. For example when my wife and I purchased our Ford Edge a few years back we put down $10,000 to keep the monthly payments down and reduce the overall interest we would pay. I did the same thing recently when I replaced my old Ford Sport Trac with a newer Ford F-150 and laid out $14,000 cash at the bargaining table.
But the worst debt is the credit card.
Credit cards can be used in ways that actually help you toward your savings goals. For example, I use a Discover card which pays me cash back on every purchase. The trick here is to pay the card as you use it otherwise the cash back rewards are really worthless.
But rather than use credit cards, and finally we're getting to the meat of what I meant when I said let'syour own line of credit? I call this little concept the Credit Savings Account, or CSA. Key here is that if you are following strict savings plans, there should be plenty of money sitting around somewhere that you can allocate to a "credit card" where you are your own bank. My CSA sits in my checking account and when I use it, it is as simple as swiping my debit card.
And by the way, this is a great way to also avoid overdraft fees, and WORSE, paying for overdraft protection which is absolutely a total waste of money.
Here is how I set up my CSA:
- Establish an amount to fund the account with and determine this to be the credit limit.
- Establish a day each month when you will make payments. Mine is on the 20th of each month.
- Establish an interest rate you will charge yourself. This can be whatever you want it to be. I typically charge myself anywhere from 15%-29.9% depending on the balance, but I never pay myself less than 15% interest.
- ALL INTEREST PAYMENTS MUST BE EITHER PUT INTO SAVINGS, OR USED TO INCREASE THE CREDIT LIMIT. THIS SHOULD NOT BE SPENDING MONEY.
- Establish a minimum payment based on at least 3%-5% of the balance. But of course you can repay yourself any way you want.
When I calculate the interest I don't bother with how credit card companies actually do it, using daily periodic rates and average daily balances etcetera. But of course if you want to you can do it this way—but it is naturally much more time consuming. Here is an example of how I will determine my payment and interest:
- Balance ($300) x 15% interest = $45 / 12 months = $3.75 (this is my interest charge). Balance ($300) x 5% minimum payment = $15. In this example I will pay $15 on the 20th (my due date). Of the $15 I will apply $11.25 to the principle (balance) and direct $3.75 to interest (which will be deposited to my savings).
Establishing a CSA takes paying yourself first one step further because it will accomplish two very important things. 1) it will force you to save more money away and 2) it will reduce your cost of money since you are using the CSA in lieu of traditional credit cards.
Perhaps even when I bought my vehicles I should have simply paid cash and set up a loan for myself.