Charles Lamb said there were two races of men: the borrowers and the lenders. But I believe the fundamental division is between the savers and the spenders.
Savers tend to see the world as a dangerous, uncertain place. They foresee the possibility of many disasters and try to prepare for them. (Savers are frequently the eldest child in the family, as I am.)
Spenders see the world as a giant recreation park, placed here for their entertainment. They also have an innate belief that someone will always be there to take care of them. Spenders are frequently the youngest child in the family — the baby.
I’m not saying that one is better than the other, but I believe that one of the most delightful pleasures in life is looking at the bank statement and seeing the balance increase every month. And one of the most distressing sorrows is to see that balance disappear.
Experts recommend disciplining yourself to save a fixed amount each month. That is like saying to quit cigarette smoking, just quit. Here’s a way to save that actually makes your life a little easier. Whenever you write a check, enter the correct amount in your check register but round the amount up to the next whole ten-dollar amount when you subtract it from your balance. Say your balance is $1,000 and you write a check for $245.43. Enter the correct amount, so you can identify the check when you get your bank statement, but subtract $250 from your checkbook balance, giving you a new (indicated) balance of $750.
On average, you will save five dollars per check, so if you write 30 checks a month, you will have $150 more in your account at the end of the month than your checkbook shows. You don’t see that money (until you balance your checkbook) so you are not tempted to spend it. It’s like the bank slips a little extra into your account each month. And here’s another benefit: it’s easier to keep your checkbook neat. I don’t usually try to peek at other people’s checkbooks, but whenever I happen to see one, I am amazed at the chaos: scratched-out numbers, corrections, notations on the side — just overall disorder. It’s easier to subtract $10 from $30. Your checkbook will be a model of neatness.
Here’s another hint: whenever you make a purchase on your credit card, enter that amount in your checkbook as if it were a check and subtract it from your checkbook balance. It’s going to come out when you pay the credit card company anyway, so do it immediately. The benefit is that when you get your credit card bill, everything has already been paid. You still have to write a check for the full amount, but you won’t subtract anything from your balance because it has already been subtracted. Talk about a nice feeling. You write a check to the credit card company for $500 and your indicated checkbook balance goes down only $10 (because you round up 10 dollars from zero and subtract that).
I’m sure Warren Buffet would approve. And I have been using these techniques for years and years, so I know they work. Hey - I retired at 55; I’m doing something right.
Willis Cook is a retired electrical engineer who was born in New Orleans and grew up in the Mississippi Delta. He lives on Varner Road in Franklin County.