How to Reach Your Savings Goal Without Losing Motivation
A problem I come across when speaking to people about their finances is what they should do with extra money.
I know, I know. What kind of person is complaining about having extra money?
It’s not the extra money itself that can be cause for complaint. Instead, the elation you feel upon seeing that extra moolah hit your bank account can quickly dissipate when you have to put it all towards bills or debt payments. If you have no debt, but also don’t have a savings goal or other plan for your money you could be equally disappointed.
A lot of us don’t have the luxury of enormous disposable incomes (or even small disposable incomes!), so a surprise surplus of cash, whether it be from your tax return, some overtime at work, or a win at your weekly bingo night can result in splurging the extra as soon as it hits your bank account.
Although I absolutely support the need to treat yourself every now and then, I also advocate stashing money away for a savings goal. What better opportunity to make some serious headway on a savings goal than when you have extra cash?
Of course, these are not the only options:
Pay Off High-Interest Debt:
Credit Card debt, personal loan debt, car loan debt. If you can knock a chunk of it over and reduce the amount of interest you’re paying in the long term, you should. Getting yourself debt-free and staying that way is absolutely paramount to growing your money in the future.
Create Your Emergency Fund:
If you’ve been struggling to stockpile your money in the bank, or you’re impatient to see that money reach a significant amount, you can put your extra cash towards your emergency fund and feel that much more secure. A high-interest savings account is your friend here and bumping up your Emergency Fund and not touching that money until you absolutely need it means the compound interest can work it’s sweet, sweet magic!
Give Your Super a Bonus:
If you’re into long-term savings, topping up your super can be a great use of extra money. If you’re an eligible low-income earner, the Australian Government will even match part of your after-tax contribution – a.k.a free money! It is important to check any extra money you contribute doesn’t push you over any super contribution limits ($25,000 before-tax or $100,000 after-tax) and result in you having to pay extra tax.
So how do you balance your wants (spend the money on a nice dinner out, or a new piece of tech you’ve been lusting after) with your long-term goals (saving for renovations on your house or a holiday)? Since restructuring my budget, I’ve noticed that my husband and I get small amounts of extra income each fortnight. This is generally through one or both of us working overtime, and partly because I deliberately underestimate our earnings when I do up our budget (e.g. I budget for my earnings to equal $1,100 a fortnight, but my usual earnings are $1,136 a fortnight – giving me a $36 surplus).
If I didn’t have a plan for this extra money, it generally went to cushioning any overspending we did during the fortnight. Mentally, I knew we had an extra $100 or so, and I wouldn’t worry too much about spending more than I budgeted. Obviously, this was an unhelpful mindset – that money could easily be put towards something much more important. Some weeks we would only have $40-ish surplus, but after a really busy overtime week, we may have $2,000 unexpectedly hit our bank account.
Here’s How We Do It
It would have been easy to go out and buy a new fridge (which has been on my wish list for months, now!), but each fortnight we resist. There’s a trick I use to balance wants vs needs, and it motivates us to earn more where we can.
80% of our extra money goes towards our major savings goal, which is renovating the house we just bought.
The remaining 20% is split equally between my husband and me as Spending money – whatever we want, no questions asked.
It’s a simple as that: an 80:20 split.
Note: we don’t put regular savings into our renovations account. It relies entirely on us earning money over and above our regular budget to grow. However, it feels good to manually transfer that 80% every fortnight and see the balance on the account go up and up and up!
Working in percentages also helps keep us motivated – the more we earn, the more money we have to “spend”.
Although 10% is not always a lot for spending (I literally transferred $13 each to our spending accounts last week), the smaller amounts generally inspire us to take an opportunity to earn some more coin when we see it (taking surveys, doing an hour overtime, applying to act in a higher-paying role for a few weeks, etc.).
The magic of percentages is that small numbers still add up. We have a tidy sum in our renovations account already, and with our tax returns due in our account shortly we’ll be able to give both our spending accounts and the renovations account a solid top-up (and potentially get started on my new laundry!!!).
What do you do with extra money? Do you have a savings goal you can put it towards or some other plan? Let me know in the comments or email me! – firstname.lastname@example.org