Change Your Savings Goals, Change Your Life

By Erik Martin

Not everyone is a natural-born budgeter — and that’s okay! Saving every possible penny only for practical matters can be boring. After all, you have to treat yourself sometimes. Doing so in moderation can actually be healthy and may even be beneficial, say the experts.

A Fun Goal = Motivation to Save 
“Saving for a fun goal can be easier and, in fact, help build better savings habits overall,” says Matthew Angel, USAA’s personal finance advice director. “Say you have a plan that calls for putting all your extra money into an emergency fund. You’ll probably get frustrated by constantly having to say no to entertainment, recreation and hobbies. Those good savings habits could start to slip.” 

Allowing wiggle room to save for a pleasant purpose — like a vacation, concert or new game console — and sticking to that goal, you’ll likely be more motivated to achieve that goal. Reaching the finish line and reaping the rewards will reinforce the value of staying disciplined and following a savings objective. And that can provide enough momentum to encourage you to save for emergencies, retirement, and college for your kids.

Saving for A Dream Vacation
Consider the Turners, a military family in Killeen, Texas. Mom and dad are careful to salt away extra money in their savings account for unexpected events like a car repair or trip to the hospital. Yet, they also have a dream of vacationing in Padre Island a few hours south, where their two young daughters can see the ocean for the first time.

“The Turners begin setting aside extra dollars in a second savings account. They choose to skip their monthly movie night out and postpone celebrating their upcoming wedding anniversary,” says Angel. “By the following summer, they’ve saved $2,000 — more than enough to splurge on a fun vacation in a nice Padre Island hotel.”

Saving for Spontaneous Adventures
Case in point #2: a young, single professional named Jeff, living in San Diego, enjoys the night life and spur-of-the-moment road trips with his friend Steve. But these expenses add up quickly and deplete Jeff’s funds. Jeff opts to devote $100 from each paycheck to an “adventure” savings fund. A month later, Steve calls and suggests attending a Padres baseball game that night. Fortunately, Jeff’s got plenty saved up for the sudden excursion.

“The key to Jeff spending this money without remorse is that he’s carefully saved for this circumstance over time,” Angel notes. “He’s financially ready when his friend phones, and he can make a guilt-free decision to go.”

Get Going On Your Goal
To make your fun fantasies a reality, Angel advises establishing multiple savings accounts for different purposes. One should be a rainy day fund for sudden necessities, like a doctor’s office co-pay or tire repair. Another can be a “fun fund” used for purchases like dining out, throwing a party or upgrading your smartphone.

“To help reach your savings goals, write them down and tell others about your goal” says Angel “Also, use visual aids. If you’re saving for a trip to Ireland, put a photo of Ireland on your fridge beside a chart indicating how much you’ve saved so far.” 

Lastly, “be honest with yourself about your goals — if it’s not meaningful to you, you probably won’t stick with it,” he says.

For more guidance and resources on this topic, visit usaa.com/goals.

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