Whether you’re saving for an automobile purchase, a special vacation, a new home, or retirement — a little planning and budgeting can turn a fuzzy dream into a reality. Use a step-by-step planning approach, take actions to reach your goal, and then sit back and reap the benefits.
Set Your Goal. Name your goal with as much specificity and detail as possible. Consider the advantages of achieving the goal. What will be the effect if the goal is not achieved or achieved at a different level?
Do Your Research. How much is it going to cost? Are there different alternatives? Compare the different costs and alternatives. Which option fits best with your current and projected lifestyle?
Anticipate Obstacles. Visualize obstacles and strategies to overcome those obstacles.
Name an Amount. Set a realistic dollar amount to your goal. A specific dollar amount can help you measure progress. Remember to consider all the associated costs.
Make a Plan. Compare your current budget to the allocation needed for your goal. You might need to make some changes to your spending to make savings happen. Again, be realistic; is this goal attainable? Do modifications need to be made?
Set a Target Date. Even if that date is years away, now is the time to start planning and saving. Divide the cost of your goal by the amount you’ll be able to save each pay period. The further out, the less you need to allocate.
Automate Your Savings. Use direct deposit to send the money directly to the appropriate savings vehicle.
Use an Appropriate Account. If the goal is five years or less away, a savings account is likely the most appropriate savings vehicle. Consider whether it would be helpful to open a separate savings account for goal funding.
For long term goals, such as retirement, consider a tax-advantaged retirement investment account. Start by investigating workplace retirement plans. If a workplace plans is not available investigate Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs).
Avoid temptation. Set-up an account that is not so easy to access. One strategy is to open an account and don’t keep an ATM card or debit card for that account.
Earmark windfall income. Depending on how long you’ve determined it will take to reach your savings goals, you may want to plan to move any additional non-budgeted income directly into savings. Receiving an end of year bonus? How about a tax refund? Allocate some of that money for your goal.