When was the last time you saved for a short-term goal?
Chances are, when you think of saving for something, you think of the long-term things. Saving up for a down payment on a house. Preparing for a dream vacation. Investing for retirement.
But there’s a good reason to save up for short-term goals. Too often we don’t plan ahead for the short-term purchases we make. Instead, we rely on credit cards to buy those items — and that can lead to debt.
Creating short-term goals can be a great way to ensure that you remain on top of your finances and still have access to some of the things you want.
What are some examples of short-term goals?
In general, short-term goals are those that you can accomplish in less than a year. Much of the time, we don’t think about saving up for these things. When it’s time to buy a TV or a laptop, we tend to pull out the credit card and make those purchases immediately.
Unfortunately, that can lead to debt if you aren’t prepared to pay off the credit card immediately. You wind up paying a high rate of interest and carrying a balance indefinitely.
Short-term goals are designed to help you plan ahead for those types of purchases. Whether you hope for a three-day getaway or you just want to make sure you aren’t going into debt to buy that new refrigerator, setting short-term goals can help.
Create multiple accounts
One of the cool things about online banking is the fact that you can manage your money in new and creative ways.
It’s possible to set up sub-accounts with most savings accounts, and name these according to your goals. This is a great way to funnel money towards different needs and make sure you’re accomplishing what you want.
I like to create accounts for items I know I will use regularly. One of my sub-accounts is set up to help me save for quarterly taxes. Another is used to pay for short getaways. I like to travel on weekends, and that means hotel, food, and transportation costs — a sub-account designed for me to put money aside each month helps me with those goals.
You can do the same. Do you want to save up for a new computer? Create a sub-account for tech upgrades. Once you buy the computer, use the account to start a short-term savings goal for a new smartphone.
As long as you have generic names for your sub-accounts, you can rotate your goals. Whether you want to replace your kitchen appliances or buy a new bedroom set, you can use household sub-accounts to save for your short-term goals in turn.
Small amounts of money accomplish short-term financial goals
You don’t need a lot of money to start saving for short-term goals.
If you want to buy a TV for $750, set aside $75 each month for 10 months to reach your goal. I have a friend who sets aside $20 a month in a sub-account for each of her three kids for 10 months of the year. At the end of that 10 months, she has $200 to buy each of them holiday presents.
You can even fund multiple accounts at once, depending on what you hope to accomplish. I put $50 every two weeks into accounts for repairs, technology, and short-term travel. It’s one way for me to regularly save up for short-term financial goals without breaking the bank.
If you use credit cards for travel hacking or other rewards programs, you can still incorporate credit cards into your short-term savings plan. Once you’ve saved enough, purchase the item with a credit card, then go home and immediately pay off the balance using the money you previously saved.
The key to making this work is planning ahead. You have to be willing to plan six to 12 months in advance for your short-term goals. Think ahead to what you might need, even before you need it.
I generally plan to buy a new laptop every two years. After I’ve had a laptop for about a year, I start diverting some of my discretionary income toward a technology sub-account. That way, when I’m ready to make my purchase, the money is already in the account.
Break it down into even smaller chunks to help you better manage expectations. You might feel like saving $200 a month is a tough sell. But can you come up with $50 a week? What about $10 each weekday? If you can break down the costs a little bit, it suddenly becomes doable.
Stay on track by making it automatic. My short-term savings for quarterly taxes are transferred from my checking account to the savings sub-account every month like clockwork. My travel fund is replenished every month. All of my savings goals are automatically funded every week, two weeks, or month, depending on the account.
You’re more likely to reach your short-term financial goals if you make the whole thing automatic. Work out your cash flow, and then save automatically each month.
Savings goals aren’t just meant for huge, long-term endeavors. You can break your short-term goals down as well. Make it a point to save a little bit toward all of your goals each week, and you might be surprised at how quickly you can reach your objectives.
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