We live in an interesting time. On one hand, we’re reminded to be mindful, to slow down, to live intentionally. On the other, the automated life is increasingly gaining traction—from self-regulating thermostats and cars that drive themselves, to apps that can assist us with just about everything.
This dichotomy makes sense. By unburdening ourselves with minutiae, we have more time for the things that really matter, the things that make a difference in our lives. But with all of the choices that we have for outsourcing, it’s easy to lose sight of how, in some cases, actually doing the work might be better (and enjoyable, even).
Take, for example, saving. In the good old days, we had three options: a savings account, a mattress, or a ceramic pig. No matter which one you chose, you had to manually deposit your money in order to build up your savings.
But now? Automated options abound. Simply go about life, spending as you do, and transaction-rounding apps like Acorns or Digit (or a dozen others) will take it from there—rolling money from your checking into your savings account or, better yet, an investment vehicle. Just set it up, and watch your savings grow!
But should you actually leave your saving strategy up to an app? Consider the following.
1. The Notion of ‘Spare Change’
If you’re looking to save money, then I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you’d like to be financially fit—that you’re sold on the notion that having some money in the bank is a good idea, and that life is less stressful when you don’t have to worry about having enough. Well, that’s all true, and the way to whip your finances into shape is through deliberate action.
The problem with rounding apps is that they shuffle your money around while you’re not looking. Even though saving is a good idea, removing yourself from the decision to save isn’t. The key to financial success is to Give Every Dollar A Job, and that requires you to decide exactly what each of your dollars should do before you spend (or save) them.
And, think about it. Once you’ve established your goals and planned exactly how your dollars can help you achieve them, do you want an app moving things around on you? You might actually need all of the dollars that you budgeted for groceries because you already stashed as much as possible into your savings for the month.
2. Rewarding Bad Behavior
Maybe rounding apps appeal to you because you just love to spend money? If automation seems like the best solution to your non-existent savings, then consider that these apps might have the opposite effect than intended. It’s easier to justify splurges if you feel good about saving a little in the process—and I can’t stress the ‘little‘ enough, especially as it relates to the expense of your purchase!
You don’t have to fool yourself into being a saver. Just like building a new habit or learning Mandarin, saving is totally doable—you just have to commit.
3. Overdraft Fees & Budget Confusion
Especially if you’re still living paycheck to paycheck, consider the impact that unsupervised money-moving may have on your balance. The cents you save probably won’t make up for the cost of an overdraft charge if you accidentally spend more than you have in your account.
And, if you’re a YNABer that uses a rounding app, consider that you’ll have to account for not just your transactions, but all of the change that’s automatically moved by the app to your savings. It would be easier to decide what to save ahead of time, and then stick to your plan!
4. You’ll Miss the Best Part
Finally, make saving a fun and meaningful pursuit. It’s a lot easier to stick with your goal when, as they say, you know your why. And that’s what budgeting is all about. Yes, it’ll be more work than a set-it-and-forget-it app, but you’ll get so much more out of it, too. That’s because when you face your situation and analyze the difference between where you are, now, and what you’d like your life to look like, money suddenly gets very tangible.
It’s no longer “no big deal” to spend another fifty bucks because you’re well aware of what you’re sacrificing to spend it. Maybe you want to have zero debt payments. Maybe you’re dreaming of moving to your favorite city. Maybe you just want to retire comfortably. A budget is your plan to make it happen. And, every payday, you get a new set of dollars to bring your plan to life.
… and aren’t your plans worth more than the few cents that are left after you buy your coffee to go? Imagine what you could accomplish if you cut back for a while on those coffees, instead, and just started saving more intentionally. When your savings goals are aligned with your true priorities, you’ll want to just cut to the chase and save because your best life is worth so much more than spare change.
Get Inspired & Take Action
So, forget about those apps that round your transactions up! The only Roundup that you’ll ever need comes out on Mondays—it’s a weekly budgeting pep talk, delivered via email, with a dose of humor for good measure. Get it here, and start saving.