Saving for big financial goals can be daunting. Having enough money to eliminate debt, buy a car, pay for college, or put a down payment on a house may seem way out of reach. The amount needed is large, and the deadline may feel way out in the future.
However, these and other big financial goals are achievable with some planning and self-discipline. Don’t let significant financial goals remain dreams. Here are some tips to help you save for today’s big financial goals. Not only that, you will gain the foundational saving skills to continue reaching your financial goals in the future.
Prioritize and Visualize
It can be tempting to tackle all your financial goals at once. There are better courses of action than this because it’s harder to achieve success and can lead to giving up. Instead, prioritize one goal and go all in. Once you know your goal, creating a visual reminder is helpful. This is a powerful way to keep your objective front and center as you make daily financial decisions.
Tangible goals like a car, house, vacation, or college savings are easy to visualize. Post a representative photo on your desk or make it the background screen for your computer or phone. For goals like debt elimination that may not have clear images, use a collage of associated words or feelings. Often people find success with an affirmative statement about goal achievement, such as, “I have eliminated all of my debt.”
Make a Plan and Budget
You’re more likely to achieve goals when they are specific and measurable. Figure out how much you need to save and by when. For example, if you want to make a $5,000 down payment on a car in 10 months, you will need to save $500 a month. Unless it is a norm for you to have that much money left over each month, you will need to plan out ways to cut expenses, bring in more money, or both.
The first step to implementing is understanding your current financial situation, including your income and expenses. Review your bank and credit card statements and calculate your spending by categories. The first bucket is fixed or necessary expenses, such as bills, food, rent/mortgage, insurance, and gas. The other bucket is discretionary expenses, such as entertainment, travel, and shopping. Lump these into your top categories to see where most of your money is going.
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Find Ways to Cut Expenses
After reviewing your expenses, it should become apparent where you can start making cuts. This will generally be to your discretionary expenses. Are you spending more on eating out than you expected? Has the ease of purchasing items online meant that you have purchased items you don’t need? Are you paying for streaming services or other subscriptions you are no longer using? Do you have a gym membership you never use?
Remember to review your fixed costs as well. Here are some ideas:
- Shop for new insurance rates.
- Research ways to keep heating, electric, and water bills down.
- Start meal planning to cut down on grocery expenses.
- Join a ride share to save on gas.
Bring in More Money
If you have slashed your spending or were already living frugally, you may need to focus on the other side of the savings equation: your income. There are several ways to bring in more money, including selling items you don’t need, picking up a side hustle, asking for a raise, or searching for a higher-paying job.
Start Building Your Savings
One of the best ways to start building your savings is to make it automatic. Set up automatic transfers into your savings account so you’re never tempted to spend it. This way, you’ll always be saving without even thinking about it.
Where you keep your savings matters. Look for banks with no fees and high-interest rates. Some banks even have a bucket option that allows you to keep all your savings in one account but assign it to different goals. This can be a motivating way to track your progress toward your big financial goals. For long-term goals, talk to a financial advisor about investing your money. Specific retirement and college funds have tax advantages that may save you money down the road.
Don’t Neglect Your Emergency Fund
An emergency fund is for unexpected expenses such as broken appliances, car repairs, or medical emergencies. Having even a couple of hundred dollars put aside can prevent you from clearing out your savings when these situations arise. It may feel counter-intuitive to put money into an emergency fund instead of towards your goal. But this safety net of cash can go a long way in protecting you from dipping into your savings when money is short.
We’re all different in what motivates us to reach our financial goals. In general, it’s essential to keep your eye on the prize, stick to the plan you have created, and avoid temptations. For some people, it works best to hunker down for a few months to put away large amounts of money quickly. Others feel deprived by this strategy and end up giving up. It may work better to give themselves a more extended period with small rewards for success. Finding an accountability partner, working with a financial coach, or joining a non-spend challenge are practical ways to keep yourself on track.
It’s always possible to start good saving habits. By following these tips, you can make saving for your most significant financial goals a reality.