The "Pa-Doink" Principle of Personal Savings
"Pa-doink" is the sound you hear when something small and heavy hits water. Think about a child throwing a coin into the fountain at a shopping mall: a toss and a pa-doink later, there's one more wish waiting to be granted and one more coin collecting at the bottom of the pool.
I heard a story once about a man whose job it was to clean those coins out of the fountain. None of his supervisors wanted the money. "It's not enough to bother about," they said, and "It's not worth our while," so the man shrugged and took the coins home. He didn't know what to do with them, but he put them in an extra jar his wife had and set them aside for later. Before he knew it (and much sooner than he would ever have predicted), he asked her for another jar, then another and another and another. When the shelf in the closet where he'd stacked the jars fell off the wall because of the weight of all that change, he decided to take it to the bank, where he put it into some simple investments. Twelve years later, the change from the bottom of the mall's fountain put his daughter through college.
Now, I don't know if that story is true, but the man's ideas definitely are.
Recently, my family has had some unexpected financial setbacks. Nothing serious has happened, just life in all its complexity. Things like car repairs and medical bills always add up after a while, but when they all come at once it can be financially frustrating, if not devastating. We haven't had to dip into our savings, but we also haven't had much of anything left over after all the bills get paid. When I look at my checkbook and see that the most I could possibly send to savings this month is $25 or $30, I'm not very motivated. That's what? Maybe a decent meal out at one of the mom-and-pop restaurants we love? A movie or two? What's the point?
But I have sent it to savings, all because of the pa-doink principle.
My $25 from one month isn't going to make us or break us. But the $300 I save in a year might mean the difference between paying the rent and not paying it later on. It might mean we can put a down payment on a new car instead of buying it all on credit. It might even mean a plane ticket somewhere I really want to go. It's still not all that much, but it's also not nothing, which is what I would have if I'd taken the Thai food over the savings.
Hopefully, the day will come soon when I have more than $25 to save every month. But even if it doesn't, I'll save something because even small change adds up.
Do you have a story where lots of something small added up to something big? Share it with us in the comments. We'd love to hear!