I’m a big fan of setting goals and creating plans – both short-term and long-term. It’s important to me to clearly define my financial goals, because I’m trying to live my life without borrowing money. Obviously, this means that I need cash – and quite a bit of it – in my savings account.
I only have one savings account, but the money in that account is allocated to very specific goals, according to my various short-term and long-term plans.
Here’s the current breakdown –
Emergency Fund –
I have enough money in my savings account to cover 12 months worth of household expenses. I do not plan to use this money except for a major life emergency – think job loss, sickness of a child, or other unexpected life-event. This money just sits in the account, as a preventative against life’s curve balls. It is our (my wife’s and my) security-blanket.
Annual Expenses –
Certain bills are due once a year. There is no need to keep the money that is budgeted for these expenses in my checking account, not earning any interest. Instead, I divide the annual expense by 12 and transfer that amount, each month, from my checking account to my savings account. Then, when the annual bill is due, I transfer the entire amount due from my savings account to my checking account and I make payment. It is vitally important, when you are making your monthly budget, to include any annual or non-monthly bills.
- Automobile Insurance Premium
- Automobile Taxes
- Renter’s Insurance Premium
- Club Fees
Short-Term Savings Goals – (less than three years)
Lets assume that in the next three years I want to purchase a new washing machine, a new dryer, and a new sofa. I can –
A. Save for one goal (purchase) at a time. For instance, if I want a new washing machine, I can allocate all of my short-term savings to the purchase of a washing machine. In my budget, I’ll create a line-item labeled washing machine. Suppose I have a total of $300 for short-term savings and the washing machine costs $900. For three straight months, I will transfer $300 from my checking account to my savings account. At the end of three months, I’ll transfer the entire $900 from my savings to my checking, and I’ll buy the washing machine. Then I will begin to save for the dryer. Once I buy the dryer, I’ll save for the sofa.
B. Save for multiple goals (purchases) at a time. Let’s assume that the washing machine will cost $900, the dryer $900, and the sofa $900. I will create three line-items, one labeled washing machine, one dryer, and one sofa. I’ll then transfer $300 from my checking to my savings, but in my budget, $100 will be allocated to the washing machine, $100 to the dryer, and $100 to the sofa. In nine months, I’ll have enough to buy all three items.
It really doesn’t matter which way I do it. It all really depends on how many budget categories I want to keep up with and how detailed I want my plan to be. Obviously, plan B can change to plan A at any time, and vice-versa. If I’m following plan A, and I’ve saved up enough to buy the washing machine, I might change my mind, and wait another three months, so I can buy the washing machine and dryer as a pair. Or, I might find a deal on the sofa, and buy it first. The idea here isn’t to bog myself down in the minutiae of a thousand different budget categories. The real goal is to think beyond today. If I know that I’m going to need, at some point in the not-so-distant-future, a new washing machine, I need to start saving today. If I don’t, I won’t be ready to pay cash when my old washing machine dies.
- New Furniture
- New Appliances
- Newer Automobile
- Dream Vacation
Long-Term Savings – (three to seven years)
I am trying to save enough money to pay cash for a house. This is a big goal, and I want to accomplish it in a relatively short amount of time. If I were to focus my savings, exclusively, on this particular goal, I wouldn’t have enough money to cover some of my smaller, short-term goals. So, I save for my long-term goal just like I did for my short-term goal, but with a twist. Every extra dollar of income, above and beyond what it takes to meet my other savings goals, is allocated to long-term savings. This includes income from my business, income from eBay sales, gifts from family members, etc.
In my budget, there is a line-item labeled new house, and a portion of my regular paycheck is transferred from my checking account to my savings account, each month, and is allocated for my future home purchase. In addition to those regular transfers, any additional income that I might receive is immediately transferred into my savings account and is allocated for a future home purchase.
From time to time, I’ll also use my savings account to store Roth IRA or ESA contributions, before I transfer those contributions to my Roth, my wife’s Roth, or my kids’ ESAs. I’ll probably stop doing this, once I move away from annual contributions and towards monthly contributions.
I’ve been very happy with ING Direct and their Orange Savings Account. If you want, you can actually open sub-accounts, link them to your primary account, and keep your money separate that way. I don’t do this, but I know many who do.
Keep in mind, many savings account limit the number of withdrawals you can make each month (or quarter).