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3 Money Tools to Save You From Yourself

July 7, 2017
Banking, CDs, Checking Accounts, Savings Accounts
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Dipping into your savings is like fast food: It’s convenient and tempting, and it might leave you a little queasy the next morning.

Doing so can also eat into your financial goals, whether that’s a big trip abroad or a simple emergency fund. You can, however, avoid scratching that spending itch with these tools, which can help keep your savings intact.

1. Certificates of deposit

Certificates of deposit typically provide a better return than standard savings accounts, and they rarely charge monthly fees.

More importantly, CDs encourage you to play keep-away with yourself. When opening a certificate, you decide how long the bank gets to hold on to your money. That’s called the term length. If you want access to that cash before the term is up, the bank will likely charge an early withdrawal penalty, which is typically a certain number of months’ worth of interest.

It might not seem like it, but the bank is doing you a favor. In theory, that penalty should make you think twice before withdrawing money early. This, in turn, helps ensure that money continues earning interest at the bank.

» COMPARE: NerdWallet’s CD rates comparison tool

2. Prepaid debit cards

Chasing a savings goal can lead you down a long and winding road, and obstacles like bank fees and mounting debt might knock you off course altogether.

Prepaid debit cards can help you stay on track. They work much like standard debit cards, with one key difference: You can spend only the amount you’ve deposited. This setup cuts down on pricey overdraft fees. Plus, you won’t rack up fresh debt the way you might with a credit card.

You can then redirect those savings to an emergency fund, which you can tap in the event of a sudden dishwasher outage or some other unexpected expense — instead of, say, withdrawing CD funds early and triggering fees.

Like most things, though, prepaid debit cards aren’t perfect. Using one won’t boost your credit score, and there’s typically a monthly fee. Still, they’re a solid option for people whose spending habits regularly eat into their savings goals.

3. Checking and savings accounts at separate banks

Despite mobile banking’s redeeming qualities, it is the ultimate bad-decision enabler. Checking account running low before a big night out? A few swipes are all it takes to dip into that vacation fund.

Having a separate savings account at a different bank should make savings-to-checking transfers slightly more tedious, as they can be slower and might incur fees. That’s a good thing in the long run, because it might dissuade you from making those types of transfers. To further bolster your savings, have a portion of your direct deposit go into that account so that cash is stashed away automatically and regularly.

>> MORE: Need multiple savings accounts? Here’s where to go

Although curbing your spending has a lot to do with the decisions you make, the above tools can alleviate some of the pressure. Taking advantage of one or more can help you keep you financially healthy.

Tony Armstrong is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @tonystrongarm.