This blog post is sponsored by Alterna Bank.
This year I’m setting some aggressive savings goals. I want to add $5,000 to my emergency fund, and I want to re-start contributing to my RRSP.
My goals aren’t different from how most people set their savings priorities: it’s not just one goal, but a series of goals that they want to achieve over time. But the problem with multiple goals is deciding how to save for them, and where to save for them. There are two primary strategies to prioritize savings goals:
Saving for Multiple Goals Simultaneously
The first strategy is to save for multiple goals at the same time, splitting your resources between the two. For example, I want to save $4,500 to repay the money I borrowed from the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP), and I also want to save $5,000 for emergencies. I could choose to save for both goals by splitting my freelance income evenly between them.
If you have a fixed amount of income dedicated to your savings goals per month, saving for multiple goals at the same time is as easy as dividing the amount you send towards savings by the number of goals, and contributing to each one equally.
Saving for Multiple Goals Sequentially
I am not a big fan of saving for multiple goals at the same time. This strategy takes longer to see results, and you don’t get the positive feedback of the quick wins that quickly knocking out individual goals gives you.
Fortunately, there is another method, and that is to tackle your goals sequentially. When you attack your goals one at a time, you focus 100% of your efforts and resources on one goal. When you hit that goal, you do a happy dance, you give yourself a small reward, and you move on to slay the next goal.
In my case, I’m saving aggressively to repay the LLP, which is around $4,500. I currently have $2,000 saved, and every available dollar of my freelance income (except what I set aside for HST and taxes) is going towards achieving this goal.
When I hit it, I’ll do a happy dance, reward myself with a pair of leggings, and move on to the next goal: adding $5,000 to my emergency fund.
Where to Keep Your Savings Goal Cash
If you are going to need your savings goal money in a relatively short time frame, say, a few months from when you hit your goal, the best place to keep that money is in a high-interest savings account, or even better, in a TFSA where the money can grow tax-free
By choosing a high-interest savings account, like the one from Alterna Bank that offers 2.35%* interest, your money will grow while you work towards your goal, bringing you to that magic number all the sooner.
If you’re saving for multiple goals either simultaneously or sequentially, you’ll need to decide whether you are going to create an individual account for each savings goal, or save for everything in one account. There are pros and cons to each option. I’ve done both, so here’s my take:
Saving in Multiple Savings Accounts
Some people prefer to open an individual account for each savings goal. This approach results in several savings accounts, all with designated purposes.
- Keeps everything separate, so it’s easy to see where you are in your goals at a glance
- Some banks let you name each account, making organization easier (Alterna Bank lets you name accounts)
- Some banks have a goal setting feature that lets you track your progress
- Opening and closing various accounts can be a hassle – especially if they are TFSAs
- If your bank charges fees, extra accounts will incur extra fees
Saving in a Single Savings Account
Another approach to multiple savings goals is to save for them in a single account. With this approach, you’ll need to keep track of your progress towards individual goals in a spreadsheet or notepad.
- A single account is simple
- A higher balance in that account can be heartening
- Fewer account fees
- Less hassle of opening and closing accounts, especially if you are using a TFSA
- You’ll need to keep track of your goal progress in a spreadsheet
- See point 1
If you aren’t a spreadsheet person, saving for multiple savings goals in a single account might not be for you. But if you are a spreadsheet person, buckle up.
Right now I’ve got money for emergencies, a new set of tires, funding to purchase a dresser for my bedroom, money to install a fireplace, and money repaying the LLP, all in a single account. The total balance right now is around $17,000, but it is all neatly laid out in my account balance spreadsheet, which I update every time I make a deposit.
The Final Verdict
Whether you choose to make separate savings accounts or keep everything together in one account depends on how frequently you are setting and achieving your savings goals, and whether you are pro-spreadsheet or not. The important thing is to choose the strategy that you prefer, not the strategy that you think is right. Because after all, the best strategy is the one you’ll stick to.
Do you save money in a single account or multiples? I want to know!
*Interest is calculated daily on the closing balance and paid monthly. Interest rate is annualized and subject to change without notice.