If you’ve ever lived paycheck to paycheck, you’ve likely experienced that horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach when a financial emergency occurs. Questions start to flood your mind, like “How can I possibly pay this bill?” or “Why didn’t I prepare for this?”
The good news is that this surge of anxiety can be avoided by saving. And, saving will not only help eliminate financial stress, but it can help allow you to make larger purchases and, more importantly, establish more financial stability for your future.
If you don’t want to live in fear of unanticipated expenses or want to start setting long-term goals for yourself, you’re in the right place. With 2022 now underway, we’ll share some practical steps you can follow to begin your journey in savings and take ownership over your finances in the new year!
First Things First — Set Up Your Emergency Fund
A 2021 Bankrate survey revealed that 51% of Americans have less than three months’ worth of expenses covered in their emergency funds, with 25% claiming to have no emergency funds. Considering how unpredictable life has been during the pandemic, having adequate funds for emergencies should be prioritized.
Before saving for your personal financial goals, you need to establish some cushion in your bank account. A good rule of thumb is to have around three to six months’ worth of expenses saved. Once this has been established, you can have peace of mind setting savings goals without the worry of later needing to withdraw money from these goals to pay for an emergency.
How to Start Saving for Short-Term and Long-Term Goals
1. Establish Your Priorities
What matters the most to you?
Before setting goals, ask yourself this question and ponder over your life for a few moments. What are a few priorities in your life? How can you financially support these priorities in the future?
To be passionate about saving, you have to know what you are saving for! Ultimately, your priorities will affect your goals, and your goals will affect how you budget and save for the future.
So if something truly matters to you and makes you happy, then take note of this because you’ll want to account for this in your budget!
Side note: It’s important to note that your priorities will change over time, and that’s completely okay. Whenever you experience a significant life change (e.g., having a child, changing careers), you’ll want to set time aside to reassess your priorities since this will affect all areas of your financial planning, especially saving.
2. Assess Your Current Expenses & Identify Areas of Overspending
To set feasible goals for yourself, it’s important to first look at your current expenses and identify areas where you could cut back. With a stronger understanding of your current financial situation, you can avoid setting lofty goals that could be met by disappointment.
If you have not yet set a budget, you can take this opportunity to review your bank statements. If you have a budget, check how your monthly statements match what you expected to spend. Are there areas where you are overspending? How much do you typically have left after bills?
After you answer these questions, you can move forward with setting goals.
3. Set Your Savings Goals
Your goals should support your priorities and take into account your current finances. Goals will provide a sense of purpose, structure, and the ability to track your progress later. When it comes to setting goals, it’s helpful to distinguish between short-term and long-term goals.
Short-Term Savings Goal
A short-term goal is one that you would like to accomplish within the next year or even five years. Common short-term savings goals could include saving for:
- An engagement ring
- An emergency fund
- Down payment on a new vehicle
Along with saving for a specific item(s), saving to reach a specific amount or percentage is also a common short-term goal. For instance, you can contribute a certain percentage of your paycheck towards your retirement plan, save an amount equivalent to your annual salary, or pay off a certain percentage of your student loan debt.
Long-Term Savings Goal
Your long-term savings goals should be reached later in your life and can typically range anywhere from 10 years to even more than 40 years from now. They can include things like:
- Down payment on a new home
- Dream vacation
Long-term goals widely vary in the length of your timeline and the method or means of saving.
Many savers open investment accounts for their long-term savings in hopes of higher gains from their initial investment. If you have a larger savings window, you may be able to take a riskier approach to pursue gains. Should your investment dip in performance, you would have more time to salvage your investment than you would in pursuing a short-term goal.
4. Research Costs
In the process of setting these goals, research the costs. For any savings goals, you should at least do some basic research. You should know the answers to questions like:
- What is the average cost for this item or to achieve this specific goal?
- How much am I willing and can afford to spend on this goal? (Be realistic and don’t lie to yourself here!)
- If it is too expensive given my current financial circumstances, is there a more feasible alternative?
The more specific and detailed your research, the more insight you’ll have when choosing your savings strategy and budget.
5. Establish Timelines For Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goal(s)
Now that we have established the differences between these two goals, it’s time to set timelines. After you’ve decided what you would like to pursue for each, set dates for when you would like to complete them.
If you are just starting your savings journey, it may be easier to keep it simple with just one short-term and one long-term goal!
6. Find Your Savings Strategies & Adjust Your Budget Accordingly
Once you get into the habit of saving, you may be tempted to put everything towards savings and watch the numbers climb. However, saving is a marathon, not a sprint. A sustainable, long-term savings plan and an effective budget to accommodate this plan will yield better results than an aggressive, short-lived savings strategy. You want to create good saving habits that you can stick to and still enjoy your life.
So, what is a feasible saving habit you can start now? How much should you save each month? Here are some general savings strategies that you can implement.
50/30/20 Rule (Our favorite)
By following this strategy, your take-home (after-tax) income is divided into three categories:
- 50% – needs
- 30% – wants
- 20% – savings
This is one of the most widely used saving strategies and for a good reason. By consistently saving 20% of your take-home pay each month, you can make significant strides towards your savings goals. You can learn more about the 50/30/20 rule, and other great money-saving tips in The Beginners Guide to Budgeting Like a Boss in 2021!
Open a Savings Account & Earn Interest
You can accrue interest over time with a savings account. With banking services provided by MetaBank® National Association, Member FDIC, Porte1 is a mobile finance app offering an optional savings account.,2 Open a Savings Account and earn 0.20% Annual Percentage Yield (APY) on your balance automatically. Receive Direct Deposits of $3,000 or more in one calendar quarter and make 15 qualifying transactions in the same calendar quarter to unlock Bonus Savings and earn up to 3.00% APY for that quarter on savings balances up to $15,000.2
Save 1x Your Salary By the Time You are 30
A good rule of thumb is to have your annual salary’s worth in savings by the age of 30. If you are 25 years old or younger and starting your savings journey, this could be a great goal to reach! Calculate how much you would need to save each month to have this amount saved by your 30th birthday, and then make it happen!
Round Up Your Everyday Purchases to the Nearest Dollar
A trend that has become more popular in recent years is to round up your purchases to the nearest dollar and place the excess funds into some type of savings account. Quite a few mobile apps such as Qapital now provide this service, each administering its unique process.
The greatest benefit of this saving strategy is convenience. If you are having difficulty building your savings at first, these apps automatically do it for you once you’ve set it up. However, the next step would be opening or contributing to a regular savings account.
Increase Your Contributions to Your Retirement Plan
You can increase your monthly contribution if you regularly contribute towards a 401(k) or a traditional IRA. If your employer withdraws a certain percentage of your paycheck for your retirement plan, try increasing your contributions by just 1%. If you increase it by 1% each year, you’ll be surprised how much you can save over time! A general rule of thumb is to contribute around 5% to 15% of your pre-tax income towards your retirement plan. So, making steady progress towards these percentages can be a step in the right direction.
7. Watch the Savings Happen & Track Your Progress
For liquid savings accounts, the ability to withdraw at any time or multiple times a year can be tempting. But by staying strong, letting these funds accrue interest, and only withdrawing when necessary, you can make the most of your investment or deposit. Plus, the most exciting aspect of this whole process is watching your savings pile up!
As you embark on your savings journey, don’t forget to check your account now and then to track your progress. If you’ve automated all of your savings transfers or deposits into your account, it can be easy to forget about your savings. While you may think forgetting about your savings account can be a good thing (avoiding temptation), it may benefit you to evaluate your account every few months and see if you need to make any adjustments. If no changes are needed, pat yourself on the back, and keep up the good work!
This blog is not intended to provide any tax, legal, financial planning, insurance, accounting, investment, or any other kind of professional advice or services. To make sure that any information or suggestions in this blog fit your particular circumstances, you should consult with an appropriate tax or legal professional before taking action based on any suggestions or information that we provide.