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How to Use the “Swear Jar Mentality” to Save for the Future

I have always thought the idea of a swear jar was amusing. Believe it or not, it also happens to be an effective savings tool if you actually keep up with it. As you know, I’m always looking for ways to save money, and I strongly support trying to save money for the unexpected. Recently, I have adapted the “swear jar” concept to help me grow a few different funds of mine, and I’m getting much better results than I expected.

Since I have a bit of the potty mouth at times, a swear jar was out of the question. It would just eat up too much money! But there are three other acts I have decided to charge myself for:

My Three Jars

I currently am working on three punishment jars for various offenses.

1. My Smoking Jar. I have been in the process of quitting for too long now. My solution? For every cigarette I smoke (which is not very many nowadays), I pay a quarter. There is currently about $3 in this particular jar. Every day, I hope not to add to this cash, but I pay my dues when I do occasionally give in.

My Laundry Jar. I have absolutely no problem actually washing my clothes, but when it comes time to fold and put them away, I am just awful. In lieu of this laziness on my part, I started a jar that costs me $2 for every day I do not take care of my laundry. Just last week I was forced to pay four dollars due to a bit of weekend malaise. Hopefully, the laundry jar will act as more of a motivator than a savings tool, but either way, I feel good about its existence. I am confident now my clothes won’t sit around for a month waiting to be folded.

My Daily List Jar. Every morning, I make myself a list of things to do that particular day. It could be a small task such as doing the dishes or cleaning the litter box. It could also be a “bigger picture” task where I try to set realistic financial goals that can be accomplished through smaller tasks like applying for a new job. This list usually has 7-15 tasks, most of them relatively menial. For every task I do not complete that day, one dollar gets dropped into the jar. Now, being that I do tend to procrastinate, this jar sees the most action. Some days, I just have no energy left at the end of the day. Things fall by the wayside, you understand. I never try to overextend myself with the list, but I often leave a task or two unfinished. For this, I must pay!

It’s a Win/Win/Win Scenario

By setting up these punishment funds, it’s allowed me to accomplish three awesome things:

1. Set Aside Some Cash

For me, this is not even the number one goal, but it does act as a great motivator. You can go easy and charge yourself a penny per offense, or go all out and charge a dollar or more. Since ultimately you’ll be on the receiving end of this money, it’s a great way to force yourself to save money and not allow you to make bad purchases. For example, one of my favorite things about the punishment funds is that it’s allowed me to save money for the holiday season so that I’m not running up any credit card debt on all those gifts I need to purchase.

2. Kick a Habit

Like with my smoking, if there is something you do regularly (or even occasionally) that you know is not good for you, use a punishment jar to help you stop. Set a predetermined amount to pay per offense, and watch the money pile up as you fight your inclination.

3. Kill Procrastination

If there is something you are putting off, make yourself pay for every day you avoid it. If you feel like being really harsh on yourself, charge for every hour instead of every day. This money coming out of your pocket and into your jar might motivate you to get done whatever is necessary.

I’d love to hear any ideas you may have for punishment jars, especially if it gives me a laugh. And if any of you are interested in the concept, give it a shot and let us know how it works for you.

Matt Breed
You are looking at Matthew Breed. He is a 30 year old sports nerd who lives in North Florida with his fiancee, Sarah. Originally in school for a Business degree that did not work out due to capricious youth and irresponsibility, he is currently "getting past" his Peter Pan syndrome and attends classes for a degree in Information Technology while working full time. His care for personal finance stems from a modest upbringing with fiscally responsible parents who highly value education and frown upon frivolity.

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