Paying myself first makes it easy to save more.Emmie Martin/Business Insider
Let’s be real: It was hard — but nowhere close to impossible. Yes, it forced me to stop dining out and get creative with weekend festivities, but I learned better shopping habits and realized that I didn’t even care about giving up the overpriced salads I default to when I’m too lazy to bring a lunch from home.
Prior to September, I thought I was already being fiscally responsible by putting money into my savings account on the first of every month, but the challenge showed me that with a little effort I could contribute much, much more.
But here’s the thing: I didn’t want to make the effort.
As much as I valued saving for future goals, I wanted my social life back. I missed visiting new restaurants with my best friend and not feeling uneasy about splurging on the occasional Uber home after a night out with my roommate. The constant stress of worrying about every dollar wasn’t worth the increased savings.
So I grabbed my calculator (read: iPhone 5) and did some quick math. The arbitrary number I had previously been putting into my savings account each month amounted to around 10% of my disposable income. In a split second, I decided to more than double that to 25%. It was enough to drastically increase my savings, but not so much that I would need to overhaul my entire budget, just retool it in certain areas (eating out less and fewer shopping splurges, for example).
I immediately opened my banking app and set up a recurring automatic transfer for the first of every month. By the time October rolled around, I didn’t even miss the cash. And three months down the line, I still don’t.
By making it automatic, my savings goals become a fixed cost — or as bestselling author David Bach calls it, “paying yourself first.” The money disappears along with my other bills, and I force myself to budget around what’s left.
This simple mindset shift, plus less than five minutes on my phone, will now more than double my savings for 2017 — no extra effort required.