When creating a budget, it’s important to set specific, achievable goals. Then, you’ll want to prioritize those goals to determine how much you’ll contribute to each one. It’s not enough to just name your goals — you’ve got to fund them as well.
This is where savvy, but simple, money moves come in. Here are some things to think about as you start saving your money for multiple goals:
Think about both the short- and long-term goals you want to achieve. They should be a mix of the serious, like retirement and emergency savings, and the fun, like vacations and new tech. Anything you value or enjoy can and should be planned for.
You’ll want to take the different time horizons into account. In other words, when will you need the money to accomplish each goal? How much you value your individual goals and the urgency with which they need to be funded will determine how high a priority they are. Consider the example about how to build a budget for tips on doing this.
Saving for goals with different budgets and time horizons can pose a challenge. What’s important is knowing what will help you feel financially secure. You can then prioritize based on what you determine. Write out your financial goals, when you want to achieve them, and assign them all a percentage of importance. All your goals added together should equal 100%. You can see an example of this later.
Having enough money for a large down payment on a home is a worthwhile goal, and the earlier you start saving for it the better. But if you’re young, the longer your time horizon may be, so you may allocate less toward that for now until you can shore up some of your short-term goals, like building up your emergency savings.
Traditionally, checking accounts are used for your day-to-day purchases. Savings accounts are a place to store money you don’t need right away, but want the flexibility to withdraw when you need to.
If you only have a checking account, you may find yourself doing a lot of mental accounting. You’re manually keeping track of what money can be used for spending, which funds are for saving and then how much is for each individual savings goal. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a savings account in addition to your checking account. Note that these are in addition to a separate, long-term savings account for your retirement.
Yet, just like bunching your daily spending and savings money together in one account, bunching money for different goals into one savings account can get messy as well. You’ll have to remember how much money in that single account is to be used for what purpose.
If you find yourself in a position to save more than one goal at a time, you may consider opening multiple savings accounts. For example, perhaps you have a few relatively small, fun plans like saving for travel, concerts and entertainment and find it easier to group these similar goals together. But larger goals, like saving for a car or home, may work best in their own account. Separate accounts can make it easier to track your progress for those major milestones. You can even have accounts with different banks, credit unions or brokerages.
Note that this will mean you have multiple accounts to track and manage. You have to find a balance that works for you. You may find that it’s no problem mingling funds for two savings goals in one account.
When opening a savings account, you’ll want to look for accounts with terms that fit your needs. There are several banks offering savings accounts with no minimum balances, which are great options if you’re just getting started. Make sure to check if there are any monthly maintenance fees or other charges before signing up. You can open up an account and manage it completely online through many banks and credit unions.
One of the best ways to make sure you save consistently is to automate the process. An easy way to do this is to automatically transfer money for your various goals to your dedicated accounts every payday. If you’re paid twice a month, this means setting up bi-weekly transfers from your checking account to your other accounts.
If you’re able to save an extra $150 for your goals each month, for example, you’d schedule $75 each payday to be spread across your savings accounts in the amount you’ve prioritized them.
Here’s how it would work for the following sample savings goals:
This person would set up transfers of those amounts to the accounts dedicated for those specific goals. Through this bi-weekly money saving method, they’re making incremental progress to their goals, without extra effort. This is only meant as an example, not a suggestion of what your goals should be. Everyone is different. Your goals and how you prioritize them will depend on where you are today, and where you want to go on your financial journey.
Putting your savings on autopilot can lessen the stress of having to think about how much you’re saving and when to do so. When you automate, it’s good to check in with the accounts regularly to keep tabs on your progress and monitor for signs of fraud, but you don’t necessarily have to be looking at them daily.
You likely have a lot going on, so taking time out of each day for money management may not be possible. Creating clear goals and automating your savings through bi-weekly money saving puts you on the right track — without the need for excessive work. You’ll simply need to make the occasional check-in to monitor your accounts, adjusting your goals as needed and moving money when you have to.
No matter what saving and spending strategy you adopt, putting good habits to work consistently will serve your financial health well. If you’re currently managing debt, it doesn’t have to stop you from thinking about and working toward your other financial goals. Read our blog for tips on how to save money while paying down debt.