If you’re anything like me then you’ve probably gone on a family vacation, charged the whole shebang on your credit card, and dealt with the fallout after having all of that fun-in-the-sun (or whatever floats-your-boat). Sure there may have been some budgeting involved, but ultimately not taking the more prudent approach of actually having the money to pay for your trip before actually going on it. Then I was introduced to a clever method of saving by a family member and I thought it would be something worthwhile sharing. For lack of a better name we’ll call it the Puzzle Pieces Savings Plan.
Save First, Vacation Later
Alright, let’s dig right into it. The first thing you’ll need is to know what you’re saving for and approximately how much it is going to cost you. We could be talking about a vacation, or a car, or just about anything… but keep in mind that this works best if this is something that a group of people all want to save towards.
Next you’ll want to go buy a puzzle. Any puzzle will do, and how many pieces is up to you, but as you’ll see in a moment we’re going to use individual pieces as denominations. Once you know how much you’re saving for and how many pieces your puzzle has you can do the math to determine how much each puzzle piece is worth. For example if you want to save $5000 for a holiday and you buy a 1000 piece puzzle, each piece would be worth $5 (5000 / 1000 = 5). If you have a target date in mind then you can also rough out how many pieces will need to be gifted on what frequency in order to meet your goal.
The basic premise is that you buy each other puzzle pieces as gifts – for birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, or whatever else you might find yourself celebrating. You can give these pieces in lieu of, or in addition to your regular gifts depending on what you can afford. There is no limit on how many or few pieces you can gift at any one time, it’s entirely up to you. You might choose to take the physical pieces out, and put them into your card or gift. You could even sign or initial the back of each piece if you want to use that as a way to keep track of individual contributions. The method and presentation is really up to you, there’s no right or wrong way and there’s a million ways you could choose to customize the approach.
The key thing is that when you give or receive a puzzle piece as a gift what you’re really doing is giving some money ($5 in our example above) towards the goal. You’re not giving the actual cash and so the recipient won’t be tempted to spend it in the meantime… but we’ll get to the details of handling the pieces in a bit. First though you need to get everyone on board with the plan…
Sell’em on it
Now you’re going to need everyone involved to really buy in to do this, particularly if you’re saving up for a large amount and it could take a long time to get to that goal. It’s recommended to have a discussion with everyone involved before you start to make sure they all understand and are on board. After all if you’re all contributing to a common goal then you probably want those contributions to be somewhat evenly and fairly distributed. Once everyone has committed and is excited to get going you can start gifting pieces.
Keeping Track of it All
So you’ve received a puzzle piece but not the money, how does this part work? Well the way that I’ve done it is to designate one person as the “banker”. When puzzle pieces are bought for someone the purchaser will give the equivalent monetary value to the “banker” who will then set it aside until it’s time to book hotel rooms, flights, or whatever needs to be purchased towards your goal. The banker can open a new bank account specifically for this purpose, which normally is free if you already have a checking or savings account with a financial institution.
If you’re not signing or initialing the back of the pieces it is probably advisable to fire up a spreadsheet, notepad, or similar to keep track of who has bought how many pieces for whom. Even if you’re not worried about things being evenly distributed it will give you an record to verify against, just in case something gets missed along the way. After all we’re all human, and mistakes can happen.
There you have it. Eventually you’ll have saved up all the money needed for your goal before achieving it! Who knew how satisfying it could be to have that money tucked away ahead of time?! Maybe now would be a great time to sit down together and put that puzzle together, just before going on that holiday.
Now we’ve talked about puzzle pieces this whole time but you could really use anything that comes in numbers – say a deck of playing cards, a bag of candy, or a 24 pack of cold ones. Use your imagination and adjust the concept to fit your needs.
If you’ve tried this out and it’s worked for you I’d love to hear about your experience and how you customized it to fit your situation! Good luck and happy saving!