I've always rolled my eyes at the advice to start small with savings, but an employee benefit showed me how quickly $21 from every paycheck adds up.

I’ve always rolled my eyes at the advice to start small with savings, but an employee benefit showed me how quickly $21 from every paycheck adds up.

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  • I always ignored the advice to start small with my savings because I didn’t think it worked.
  • In May, I started allocating $21.27 from every paycheck to my transportation and parking benefits.
  • I was shocked when I saw how quickly it added up. Now I apply the same strategy to my savings.

I’ve tried almost every savings strategy under the sun, and I have to admit, I still roll my eyes when the experts tell me to start small by saving $5 on every paycheck.

I save 10% on every paycheck, and when I have to make budget cuts, I know it’s important to make small, realistic changes in different categories, instead of scrapping my $300 budget to hang out with friends every month.

Personally, I’m the kind of saver motivated by big wins, so I’ve never bothered to follow the tips for saving small amounts of money. That all changed when I started using my work-related benefits.

I’ve been putting less than $25 per paycheck on my transit card since May

Commuter benefits are pre-tax dollars that are placed in a separate checking account that you can spend on buses and trains. I also receive parking allowances which I can use to pay for parking. In some cases, you can also put after-tax dollars on your transit card to have money set aside for public transit and parking.

I go to the office two or three times a month. I love working non-stop in a quiet, empty office, but I hate paying up to $20 a day for parking in LA. Sometimes I park my car at a nearby train station and take the train to the downtown office to save money on gas. I decided to sign up for commuting allowances to try to reduce some of these expenses.

Here’s how much I put on my commuter card every paycheck:

I forgot the money until I took a trip to New York in September

For months, I completely forgot about my benefits. I continued to leave my transit card at home and continued to pay for parking and public transit out of my own pocket.

However, for a trip to New York in September where I would be visiting Insider headquarters, I finally remembered to bring my commuter card so I could use it to buy a new MetroCard. I was going to be in town for three weeks and a one week pass is $33.

I had to log in to the transit card account, but I couldn’t even remember my password. After too many attempts to guess my account password and answer a bunch of security questions, I was shocked to find that I had over $100 in the account for transit and could cover my entire transportation budget for my trip to New York with this money.

For me, saving money usually comes with grumbling and moaning about what I’m going to have to give up. What surprised me the most about my commuter card balance was that I couldn’t even remember that I was putting $21.27 per paycheck into a different account.

I finally started using my parking benefits, and now I will use the same strategy to save for future trips

When I returned to Los Angeles, I was determined to use the rest of my benefits. $73 is only good for three or four days of parking in LA, but it still made a huge difference on the few days I needed to be in the office.

I spent less time on parking apps looking for the cheapest lots and less time browsing around to see if I could get a better deal. I just chose the most convenient option knowing that I had already put some money aside for expenses.

That’s when I finally understood the power of saving small, consistent amounts of money. $21.27 is such a small amount of money on each paycheck that I don’t even miss it. After feeling the effects of a little savings through my commuter benefits, I’m going to set up an automatic transfer of $25 to a separate savings account for future trips.

Saving small is like giving my future self a surprise gift to look forward to at the end of the year – and I look forward to some extra spending money for future dream destinations.

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