I am more motivated to save when I know exactly what I am saving for. I’ve found that two things help me stay on track with my savings: prioritizing my goals and planning in advance how each paycheck will be split between the goals.
As I mentioned in my post on my financial tracking system, I save a fixed amount each paycheck and split the money into multiple categories to correspond to my savings goals.
I choose to keep all my savings in one account rather than having multiple accounts. But since I am saving for different things, I need a way to see how much money I have saved towards achieving each of my goals. As with my budget tracking system, I use a spreadsheet to list my savings categories, goals (either total saved amount or a fixed regular contribution), and timelines.
As you can see, in this example I’m saving for 6 goals.
When starting a savings plan, the most important thing is to name and prioritize your categories. You can’t reach all savings goals overnight, and it’s easy to get frustrated. So take a deep breath, grab a piece of paper, and dig in. Write down the 5-10 things you want to save for, how much you want to save, and timeframe for completing the goal.
Then figure out how much you are going to save each month or pay period – it can be a set dollar amount or a percentage of your paycheck. Whatever it is, make sure it is realistic or your savings plan won’t work!
I choose to put a fixed amount of money for travel and gifts into a savings account and draw from those accounts as needed. I am also saving for a certification exam, new furniture after a move, a car (far down the line!), and of course building up the ever-important emergency fund.
In order to reach all your goals, you must prioritize – what is the most important thing to you? For me it is my emergency fund. But you also have to consider what needs to be done first – for example, I have to pay for my exam in early October so I have to save all the money for it by the end of September – even if that means decreasing contributions to my emergency fund. Place a priority by each of your savings goals and know that you should save for them roughly in that order.
Now it’s time to actually create your savings plan. Take the total amount of savings you have per paycheck and determine how much of that amount will go to each category. Make sure you fund the categories with a stricter timeline (for me, the exam) before the goals with a looser timeline (for me, a car). Also make sure you focus on the categories that you gave a higher priority, regardless of what the timeline is.
I’ve created a simple spreadsheet to do the subtraction for me, but you can do it by hand just as easily. My spreadsheet also shows the estimated balance by date.
Why it Works
It’s easy to put money in savings and then take it out because you don’t know what you are saving for. It is also easy to just spend money rather than saving it. When you dedicate a specific amount to savings, and plan in advance where every dollar will go, it’s harder to spend the money.
It’s much more fun to watch your savings balance grow and get ever closer to reaching your goals! I challenge each of you to create your own savings plan today. Let me know how it goes!