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Ask a financial coach: What types of savings buckets should I have?

May 25, 2024 • Education

Saving money is hard. We get it. The truth is, most of us never feel like we have “extra” cash laying around that we can just hide away in a savings account. So, if you’re wondering how to start, congratulations. That’s an important first step to creating a budget and savings plan to help you manage your financial future.

Give Your Money a Job

Look at the money you have and give every dollar a single job. Set money aside money for bills, groceries, gas, energy bills, utilities, and phones—all your monthly expenses. As you track your spending, you’ll see where the money goes and get a clear picture of what’s left for non-monthly expenses.

Paying closer attention to your spending habits will also help you identify spending that may not be necessary or important. Can you unsubscribe from some of those streaming service apps? Do you actually use that gym membership? Are those impulse buys on Amazon really that important? As you dial this nonessential spending in, your savings will increase.

Consider the following groups of expenses when it comes to savings:

Things you have to save for

These are non-monthly expenses that you know will occur at some point. Some of them are entirely predictable, and others are

 not. Examples of both types include:

Predictable Non-Monthly Expenses:

  • Annual car registration
  • Holiday shopping
  • Annual subscriptions

Unpredictable Non-Monthly Expenses:

  • Car repairs
  • Medical and dental bills
  • Vet bills

Things you want to save for

Now that you’ve covered the essentials, let’s get down to the fun. Start by identifying the things you want to save for. Consider starting small, like saving for new clothing or tickets to a show you really want to see. But you can start planning for a trip to Paris or a ski vacation in Aspen too. Set up your accounts, and watch the balances grow. Your budget can help you make this happen.

Setting up Your Sub-Accounts

Determining your savings categories will help you budget accordingly so you can track your progress and know where you’re at when you need to access funds to pay a bill or deal with a problem. Consider the following categories to start:

Emergency savings

Ideally, setting aside three to six months income in case of a job loss or disaster would be great. But it’s a lot. A $1,000 emergency fund is a good place to start but consider aiming higher once you get there.

If you’re risk-averse, a bigger emergency fund category can give you more peace of mind. If you have large financial responsibilities like kids or a house that needs maintenance or repairs, a bigger emergency fund might make sense.

Health and medical savings

Set aside funds to cover copays, uncovered balances, prescriptions, eyeglasses, elective treatments, and other cash outlays that health insurance doesn’t pay in full. Consider a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA). Both are designed to help you cover qualified medical expenses, but they are different.

What is an HSA?

Designed to cover qualified medical expenses, an HSA can either be sponsored by an employer or opened by an individual. To open an HSA, you must:

  • Be covered under a qualified high-deductible healthcare plan (HDHP)
  • Not be covered by Medicare or any plan that is not a qualified HDHP
  • Not be claimed as a dependent

HSA contribution limits for 2024 are $4,150 for single individuals and $8,300 for families.

What is an FSA?

An FSA also allows you to save for medical expenses, but you don’t need to be enrolled in a high deductible plan to qualify. Your employer only has to offer an FSA benefit. The FSA contribution limit for 2024 is $3,200 regardless of whether it’s for an individual or a family..

Car repair or new car savings

This one’s pretty straightforward. If you own an older car that requires regular maintenance, set aside enough to cover expected repairs, oil changes, tires, wiper blades, etc. Consider setting more aside in case a big repair is necessary. There are reliable estimates for annual car repair costs online. You may also consider setting aside funds for a new car down payment if that’s your goal. Calculate the price and decide what you can afford. The larger the down payment the lower your monthly loan payment will be.

Have a question for our Canopy financial coaches? Sign up for a financial coaching session today at canopycu.com/coach.

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