Advertising
Advertising

You Can Save a Ton of Money With Financial Compartmentalization

You Can Save a Ton of Money With Financial Compartmentalization

Using Only One Account Doesn’t Save

Many people were fortunate enough to take a vacation this summer, and some of them probably even journeyed to the islands: now it’s time to take your personal finances there using a method known as the Island Approach. But unlike a real vacation, this trip to the islands can actually save you a ton of money!

You see, the Island Approach is a compartmentalization-based personal finance strategy that entails using individual accounts for specified purposes in order to:

  1. accrue the best possible collection of terms for each type of transaction you’ll make, and
  2. garner a better perspective on your spending and payment habits.

No single financial account beats the rest of the market in every single category, after all. For example, a certain credit card may offer the most lucrative rewards, but won’t provide the longest 0% introductory period. Likewise, a particular checking account may waive all ATM fees, but isn’t likely to have the highest interest rates.

Advertising

What’s more, if you use a single credit card for carrying revolving debt and making ongoing purchases, or use a lone checking account for savings and everyday cash management, it can be difficult to determine what’s what and ultimately track your progress.

The Island Approach can solve all of that. It can also apply to any one segment of your personal finances, or to the full breadth – from credit cards and everyday cash management tools to investments and loans.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll limit the following example of how the Island Approach could work in a practical sense just to credit cards.

Advertising

The Island Approach in Practice

Let’s say that you make the majority of your everyday purchases with plastic and currently have $6,600 in credit card debt (the national household average).

If you prefer the ease of using a single credit card, you’ll be forced to choose between:

  1. the most lucrative rewards your credit standing will allow you to get
  2. the most attractive financing deal, or
  3. average terms across the board.

You may also find it difficult to budget since your ongoing expenses are jumbled up with your revolving debt, which generally leads to higher interest payments. Interest is assessed on the average daily balance held on accounts with a revolving balance. When you use the same card to both revolve debt and make new purchases, your average daily balance will equal the sum of your debt and the new purchases.

Advertising

Interest will apply only to your revolving balance when you isolate debt and ongoing expenses. You’ll also give yourself built-in protection against overspending. We should all be able to pay off gas, groceries and other recurring expenses each and every month, so the presence of finance charges on the card designated for everyday spending will be a clear signal to cut back.

Then there are the improved terms. Rather than being stuck with one average card, you’ll be able to strategically take advantage of different market-best credit card offers. For instance, you could get:

  • The Slate Card from Chase (to lower the cost of existing debt): This balance transfer credit card offers 0% on transferred debt for the first 15 months and doesn’t charge either a balance transfer fee or an annual fee.  Assuming that you allocate $200 to paying down your balance each month, the Slate Card will save you nearly $1,800 in fees and finance charges while helping you become debt free nine months faster, compared to a regular card with a 17% interest rate.
  • The Blue Cash Preferred card from American Express (to maximize your everyday rewards earning): This card offers 6% cash back at supermarkets, 3% at gas stations and department stores, and 1% on everything else, in addition to a $150 initial rewards bonus for spending $1,000 in the first three months. Such rewards are not only worth the $75 annual fee for most consumers, but they’ll also enable you to effectively subsidize some of your most prominent recurring expenses.

You may even decide to get a bit fancy with the Island Approach and supplement your base cards with attractive one-time offers as they pop up. Issuers have made it a practice in the post-recession environment to offer lucrative sign-up rewards bonuses and financing deals. With the current offers in mind, you could get $400 in free money just by opening a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Barclaycard Arrival and meeting initial spending requirements.

Advertising

Bottom Line

The Island Approach is a personal finance strategy that entails using individual accounts to meet specific needs. It enables you to maximize your product terms, save money on interest, and keep better track of spending and payment habits.

However, there’s a reason it’s called ‘personal’ finance, and if you don’t think that keeping tabs on a number of different accounts will work for you, by all means opt for a more comfortable strategy. Just make sure to adhere to a budget and pay off debts as quickly as possible and you’ll be fine.

More by this author

The Simplest Ways To Save Money In Your Next Trip You Can Save a Ton of Money With Financial Compartmentalization

Trending in Money

1 How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success 2 17 Practical Money Skills that Will Set You Up for Early Retirement 3 25 Things to Sell to Make Extra Money Easily 4 How to Pay off Debt Fast Using the Stack Method (A Step-By-Step Guide) 5 30 Fun Things To Do With Your Friends Without Spending Much

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Published on September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

Advertising

So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

Advertising

Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

Advertising

You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

Advertising

Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Read Next