Do you have big daunting savings goals? Does it feel impossible to save for them? It’s hard to figure out how to save money without a solid strategy.
I have a few big savings goals:
- Harp (roughly $15,000 – I MAY be able to find it around $12-13,000 private party sale when the time comes to purchase, but I’m a bit picky about what I want).
- Replacement car for me (probably $12,000-$15,000, will look for less – I’m picky cause it needs to be able to hold a harp, so I will be looking for a Honda CR-V or something comparable in size).
- Replacement car for Joe (probably in the $5000-10,000 range, Joe isn’t AS specific in his car needs as me; he paid $3000 for his last car from Craigslist, and it’s lasted him 6 years).
- House (yes, our life in a high cost of living area means it’s going to be between $400,000-600,000 probably).
Imagining saving for that kind of money feels impossible: I mean, we’re talking about more than half a million dollars (please pause while I breathe into a paper bag to calm down). My goal is to pay cash for at least the first few, and be able to plunk down at least 20% for the last one (YES I KNOW, YIKES).
Here are a few ways to help yourself save for any expense that you may have coming up, and a few useful strategies to use for saving.
Create Sinking Funds
What is a sinking fund? And how can a sinking fund help you save?
A sinking fund is a designated account for a purpose: you know exactly how much money you need in that fund, and how much you need to save to achieve that amount.
Let’s say that we’re working on a sinking fund to replace Joe’s car. We’ll go with a mid-range number from our budget for calculations: $8,000 is a good number.
When do we need to have this money by? Joe’s car is in okay shape, but it’s getting old and has had a few issues in the past year. We should be prepared to replace it in about a year.
So if we know that we need to save $8,000 in 12 months, that’s pretty easy to come up with calculations:
- Divide $8,000 by 12 months to figure out how much we need to save each month ($666.66).
- Figure out how that fits best into our paychecks and budgeting (paid every other week, it’s easier for us to save per pay period: $333.33).
You can use sinking funds to save for anything: from big purchases like cars and musical instruments to “little” things like your annual Amazon Prime membership, or even your Christmas fund!
Here are just a few ideas of things you can save for with a sinking fund:
- Replacement electronics
- Black Friday sales
I love sinking funds because it makes a “big” bill feel much smaller: I don’t feel the pain of my Amazon Prime renewal as badly because I set aside money for it for several months ahead of time.
Keep Savings Separate
We have a small but steadily growing house fund. All affiliate payouts and income go into that account, and anytime that I sell something (like on Mercari), I deposit the money into that account.
My bank, Navy Federal Credit Union, allows me to have multiple checking and savings accounts. I take advantage of that, and have created those accounts to keep savings out of our cash that we use for bills, etc.
Even better, I can “hide” those accounts, so that I cannot see them when I log into the Navy Federal app. That helps me treat that money as if it doesn’t exist, so I am not tempted to spend it.
The simple act of keeping savings separate helps me leave it alone and let it grow. I can look at the numbers and see how the sinking funds grow.
If your banking institution allows you to have multiple accounts, I recommend setting them up now! If your savings goal is more than a thousand dollars, I recommend setting up a separate account. If you only are setting aside a hundred dollars or so, just keep your sinking fund in your checking account, OR create a “Miscellaneous” sinking fund.
Here are the separate savings accounts for sinking funds we currently have in our household:
- House fund
- Car fund
- Travel fund (family trips, nothing too extravagant).
- Emergency fund (we’re saving up 3-6 months of expenses to keep on hand in case of emergency)
Once we get our car savings funded, I will be creating a harp savings account. Gotta keep priorities, you know?
How to Save: Create a Savings Plan
When I was about 10 years old, I wanted an American Girl Doll. Back in those days, if you wrote to Pleasant company, they’d send you “the savings game.”
It was a sticker puzzle picture of all the dolls, and you could designate a dollar amount for each sticker, and as you saved money, you could add a sticker to the puzzle.
I learned a lot from using that puzzle: while my parents did actually buy me and my sister an American Girl doll for Christmas when I was about halfway through the saving process, the process of creating a savings plan influenced the rest of my life and how I approach finances.
The biggest lesson of all was that to achieve a savings goal, I had to have a plan. I had to learn how to critically evaluate how much to save, break it into manageable chunks, and come up with a plan.
Now, granted, at that age, my plan was to kick dust in the gutters and hope to find some loose change. As an adult with more disposable income, I can use these principles to save money.
Thanks to the savings game, I know that I need to have a plan to come up with the money that I need. It may look different for each item (I mean, buying a harp and buying a car are TOTALLY different priorities, let’s be real).
A plan makes all the difference when it comes to saving money.
What are some of your best hacks for saving money? What disciplines do you use daily to ensure that you know how to save money?