Art by Jonan Everett
When I was a teenager, I was mildly obsessed with the movie Ocean's 11. I loved the idea of a highly skilled team knocking over a corrupt casino owner. It’s only now as an adult that I see that the movie had a lesson that can be applied to personal finance. No, it’s not that you should go knock over a casino to boost your savings account. It’s that saving money is part of a long con.
‘Ocean's 11' Money Lessons
See, in Ocean's 11, the con starts months before the actual robbery. Danny Ocean spends time assembling the team, doing research on the casino and the vault that they’re trying to rob, figuring out a plan, and practicing said plan before they ever rob anyone. There’s a lot of up-front work before the actual event.
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It’s the same thing with saving money. I speak with so many people who think that because they can't pull $500 out of thin air to start saving, they might as well not even begin.
Saving money isn't the same thing as magicking it out of thin air. It’s a long con, just like something Danny Ocean would come up with.
You can start saving with $5 — or even $1. If you saved $1 every day, you would end up with $10 after 10 days. If you saved $50 a month, then by the end of the year, you would have $600 in savings.
Small things lead to big things. You don’t just show up at the casino, guns blazing, and try to take them for all they’ve got. You work behind the scenes for a long time, and then you face your challenge knowing that you’re as prepared as you can possibly be.
Saving money works the same way. You start by putting away what you can. Sometimes we save for a specific reason, like a vacation or a coming bill. Sometimes we just build our emergency funds, knowing that life will eventually throw us a curveball.
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What We Can Learn From Danny Ocean: The Bottom Line
By starting to do what we can with what we have, we instill in ourselves the power of habit. We don’t have to be superstars right out of the gate — we can practice and build our skills over time. You don’t need to immediately pull $500 from your budget to jump-start your emergency fund. There’s no shame in starting small.
Over time, that small amount becomes a big amount. It’s just fact: If you keep adding to it, it will grow. Habits develop over time, just like Danny Ocean’s master plan.
Generally speaking, it takes people about 66 days to truly form a habit. Saving $1 over 66 days leaves you with $66 more than you had when you started. That’s enough for a phone bill, or for a new snow tire.
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Start to build your savings habit today, and don’t be ashamed if you need to start small because of budgetary concerns. Small things lead to big things — Danny Ocean didn’t steal himself $150,000,000 by jumping into anything hotheadedly. Build your small savings habit and send more money into those savings accounts as your budget allows.