Playing ‘Find the Money’ to Achieve Your Big Goals, Faster

You know you want to get out of debt and save more money, faster. Here’s a little game called “find the money” that will help you accelerate your financial goals by $30 to $100 per month – without affecting your quality of life.

Step 1: Find Your Discretionary Categories with Nice, Round “Budgeted Numbers”

For example:

Pets: $50
Restaurants: $150
Groceries: $600
Fun Money: $40

Step 2: Shave a Small Percentage Off the Budgeted Amount

Pets: $44
Restaurants: $136
Groceries: $588
Fun Money $37

Big impact on any individual category? Nope. Freed up cash? $35.

Step 3: Allocate Freed Cash to a Big Goal

Add it to your monthly mortgage, credit card, or retirement savings category. Then give yourself a big pat on the back.

Will Category Shavings Make a Difference to Your Goals?

A win is a win. Check it out:

  • On a $300,000 mortgage at 4% interest, and extra $35 payment each month saves over $11,000 in interest over the life of the loan – not to mention cutting 16 months off the life of the loan.
  • On a $10,000 credit card balance at 18% interest, an extra $35 per month saves $1,000 in interest and gets rid of the debt eleven months earlier.
  • Adding $35 to your monthly retirement account at 8% interest for 20 years adds an extra $20,600 to your nest egg.

Life-changing amounts? Probably not, but  a win is a win. You’re adding efficiency to your budget, employing a small percentage of your dollars in higher paying positions.

If your income is stable-to-growing (cost of living raises, bonsues, etc), go through this exercise every six months, gradually increasing your “get ahead” number. Be constantly on the lookout for ways to sneak your dollars into more productive categories.

(If your income isn’t “stable-to-growing”, I’m sure you’re used to this game – minus the fun part where you allocate freed-up cash to a big goal. I feel for you – hang in there.)

*Thanks to YNAB education lead, Erin, for the post idea.


10 Responses to “Playing ‘Find the Money’ to Achieve Your Big Goals, Faster”

    • mark

      Are you sure I wasn’t referring to the subsequent egg? :-)

      Thanks for the heads up.

  1. V

    This is exactly the kind of tip I find really helpful as someone new to budgeting. Thank you!

  2. passagesbrink

    What a great idea! Thanks! Next time I’m playing the allocating game (it really is fun for me), I’ll do this.

  3. Saahil

    Very useful advice there. Small things like these add up to big things quickly!

  4. Rolo

    An extension of this idea is to effectively “ignore” promotions/pay-raises: keep living on your current income and only apply the raise to your savings goals.

    • Gina

      I’m working towards exactly that.. Ignore any extras or increases.

  5. Marissa

    I try to do that each time we get paid for categories like that…

    For example:
    If I allocate $75/paycheck for fuel and we only spend $68 for gas during that pay period, the remaining $7 goes towards car maintenance or towards a new car rather than rolling over into the next pay period or month. If I find we need a little extra for gas one pay period, I take it from the car maintenance fund.

    I do this with all of our everyday expenses, so that they are emptied into different categories before putting the new check in. It adds up quickly!

  6. Lisa

    Great advice. It’s not painful to take a few dollars from a few categories.

  7. adabelle

    Thanks for the great tip. I’m brand new to this whole budgeting thing and was kinda clueless as to how to increase our savings. Our monthly expenses are almost equal to our monthly income which doesn’t leave a whole lot to put into savings. But I think if I put this into practice it could really help.

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