Saving is more than just the amount of money you have left at the end of the month. It's an essential component of your budget.
Unfortunately, it's easy to forget to include your savings goals in your budget. And if you don't keep track of your savings goals, you are likely to spend your extra money on non-essential purchases, or accidentally suffer lifestyle inflation, instead.
When you include your savings goals in your budget, you create a comprehensive view of your finances. This understanding of your money—spending, saving, and earning—will help you take control of your financial life and reach your savings goals faster. Set up multiple savings accounts so you have one account for each of your goals.
If you want to start saving and making progress with your goals, this budget worksheet will help you list your goals, compare them with how much you can realistically budget towards savings, and rank your financial priorities.
Tips for Using a Budget Worksheet
Before you start, make a list of the financial goals you are working toward. These can be big or small, short- or long-term, such as:
- Create an emergency fund
- Buy a new car
- Save a down payment for a home
- Splurge on a vacation
- Pay for a wedding or honeymoon
- Save for retirement
- Build an education fund for yourself or your children
- Pay of student loans
Once you know your goals, determine how much you want to save for each one. Then decide on a deadline by which you want to have that amount saved.
This deadline will help you calculate how aggressively you need to save. Divide your goal by the number of months until your deadline to determine how much you should set aside each month.
For example, if you want to have $12,000 saved for a wedding within one year:
$12,000 goal /12 months = $1,000 each month in savings
Complete the tables below, add your totals, and compare this to the amount you're able to save. You can get this number by filling out the income and necessities worksheet and the discretionary spending worksheet.
At the end of the month, write down how much you saved so that you can compare it to your goals. Depending on whether you saved more or less than you intended, you can adjust your next month's savings up or down.
Immediate and Emergency Goals
Immediate and emergency goals are savings you may need at any point. They are the savings you rely on when life's emergencies arise and should be your first priority when saving.
|Illness or accident|
|In case of job loss|
You should have three to six months of living expenses set aside in case you lose your job.
These are non-emergency goals, and they can either be optional spending or life goals you want to meet. Most of them will fall within a one to 10-year timespan.
|Student loan repayment|
Your goals will change as your life changes. Reassess your mid-term goals every year to make sure that you are carefully planning for your future spending.
Long-term goals are easy to lose sight of when you have more immediate priorities to save for. However, they are often the most expensive, and starting to save early can help you take advantage of compound interest to save more easily.
|Buying a second home|
For some people, these goals may have a shorter time horizon, for example, if you are retiring within a decade. Adjust these goals into the mid-term category as needed.
If your goals cost more than the amount you can save, you have four options:
- Cut your spending
- Increase your income
- Reduce the number of your goals
- Extend the deadline for your goals
If your savings rate exceeds your goals, you can consider adding a new goal or saving more to accelerate your progress toward your current goals.
How to Manage Your Savings
One of the easiest ways to manage your savings is to set up an automatic withdrawal system.
Many banks, especially online banks, allow you to have multiple savings accounts. If that's not the case for your bank, or if it's a hassle to set up, look into other banks that have this option.
The easier it is to save, the more likely you are to do it, so you want to make the system as simple as possible.
Set up multiple savings accounts and name each for one of your goals to help you more easily track your progress. For example, you can have a wedding account, a down payment account, a car repair account, and more.
Once these accounts are set up, link your main checking account to them if they are at a different bank. You'll usually be prompted to do this while you're setting up automatic transfers.
Once everything is set up, use the numbers from the worksheet to determine how much money you should transfer to each account. Set up automatic transfers, preferably immediately after each payday, to make saving as automatic as possible.
Depending on your bank, you can choose to do weekly, bi-weekly, twice-a-month, or monthly transfers. Choose the option that works best for your pay schedule and spending habits.