One millennial's entirely half-baked
attempt to save half of her income.

It turns out, saving 50% is bigger than just one blog post. So here we are.

1
Why I Finally Increased My Retirement Savings
2
The Problem with Video Games is Leisure-Time Shaming
3
A Real-Life Time Machine for Your Money
4
10 Amazing Reasons to Automate Your Investments
5
Exactly How To Handle Not Hitting Your Money Goals
6
How to Budget for Non-Monthly Expenses

Why I Finally Increased My Retirement Savings

Why I finally increased my retirement savings every month, and a tool that will help you do the same.

Retirement savings are one of those goals that’s a tiny bit harder to convince yourself to save for, because it’s just sooo far away. But this past week, I did something I’ve been meaning to do for a while: I increased my retirement savings amount, and it was all because of Wealthsimple.

The Backstory: Why I Needed to Increase My Retirement Savings

I’ve been using Wealthsimple for about a year now, and if you’ve been paying any attention at all, you know I’m pretty much in love with what it’s done for me and my money.

Before I figured out the whole investing thing, I was so reluctant to actually put my money in the market. I had a bad experience with my Big Bank when I first tried to start investing, and ever since then it had been on the back burner as I went through my list of Money Things To Do As An Adult.

(Speaking of, I’m pretty sure “Money Things To Do As An Adult” is going to be like, the title of my first book.)

It was almost a year ago today that I stumbled on this whole robo-advisor concept, and jumped in with both feet. If I were going to do it all again, I’d definitely make sure to check out the things you need to know before you choose a robo-advisor, but in retrospect?

Absolutely no regrets.

It’s been a hell of a year, with huge market fluctuations starting to feel like just another day at the office. But as we turn the corner on my one year mark, my investments are finally starting to reward me for my good behaviour – like not selling when the markets were down, and sticking to my DIY Investing Plan, which you can spy on as part of Zero to Investing Hero.

As if that wasn’t great enough news, I also just had a major breakthrough moment with my investments.

This week, I finally convinced myself that yes, I do need to amp up the amount I’m saving for retirement every month. Since I started investing, my contributions have been steady, but my income hasn’t been, so it was time to increase my retirement savings amount.

And I’m not exaggerating when I say that Wealthsimple’s amazing new interface is the only reason I finally got around to it.

The Old Interface: A Good Investment Dashboard

Now, it’s important to note that I never had anything but good things to say about Wealthsimple’s old interface. It was nice, and gave me everything I thought I needed to know about my investments. As a hands-off investor, that was basically limited to…

  • How much money is in my account?
  • How do I add more money to my account?

Figuring out both of those things was bonkers easy, so I was a happy camper.

Bonus: Want to figure out what investment style is a good fit for you? Jump on in to Zero to Investing Hero, a free five-day email course that walks you through that and so much more!

But I had no idea what I was missing.

The New Interface: Everything You Need to Plan for Your Future

When I first saw the new Wealthsimple interface, I had a pretty immediate reaction, and zero chill about the whole situation.

 

 

I assume there’s some kind of special nerd level reserved for people who get this excited about financial tech interfaces.

But it was just so clear, and for the first time it gave me a full view of my entire portfolio, which is divided between my regularly-funded RRSP and my poor, neglected TFSA .

The new Wealthsimple investing interface that helped me increase my retirement savings - from the comfort of my couch.

It also showed me what my current savings would grow to by the time I’m 65, and clearly showed me their assumptions – which were comforting, since they weren’t assuming a bonkers 10% rate of return.

A snapshot of what my retirement savings will grow to, c/o the new Wealthsimple interface that increased my retirement savings (seriously.)

A snapshot of what my retirement savings will grow to, if I keep contributing, by 2040 (ish.)

The amazing, plain-language assumptions Wealthsimple makes for their calculations. Love this no-jargon approach!

 

I was so delighted with that account view, I entirely missed what is – for me – the most powerful tool in the entire new interface.

Check Out This Funding Tool

I’ve been a bad personal finance blogger, and hadn’t yet set up automatic contributions to my retirement accounts.

Don’t get me wrong, I use and love my automated savings contributions, and have them set up for literally every other savings goal, but somehow I just never ended up setting one up through Wealthsimple.

With a paycheque coming up, and this snazzy new interface, I decided that yeah, I would finally get on it and set up some automated payments.

And what I saw when I did blew my mind.

Wealthsimple has built in a tool, right beside where you’re entering in your payment details, that shows you the impact of the payment you’re setting up over time. Putting in my automated contributions made a huuuuuge difference in terms of what my projected portfolio will look like when I’m 65, but nothing prepared me for what I did next.

Just for fun, I added in a $25 contribution to my investments, twice a month.

That $50 a month additional investment sounds like nothing in the scheme of my monthly budget, so I figured it wouldn’t make a huge difference in terms of my accounts.

Um.

I was so wrong.

If I increased my retirement savings by $50 a month now, at 27, I'll end up $58,000 richer at 65. Oh my god.

If I, at 27 years old, put aside an extra $50 a month starting right now, that one change will be worth over $58,000 by the time I’m 65.

$58,000.00.

And all I have to do is find an extra $25 in each of my paycheques.

Honestly, had it not been for this new calculator, I probably would have left my automated contributions as is, even though I’m well aware that I could – and should – be saving more for retirement.

I just never would have guessed that an extra $25 every two weeks would have made that big of a difference – and this is coming from someone who just wrote an entire how-to-start-investing course, including an entire lesson on why compound interest is the best thing since sliced bread.

It turns out, we could all use a wake up call now and again.

Mine came from Wealthsimple, so like, thank yous are very much en route to them, but if you’re not ready to dive into investing yet, or don’t know how to choose the approach that’s right for you?

Start with Zero to Investing Hero. It’ll point you in the right direction and help you feel confident in your choice.

And then if you end up using Wealthsimple like I did, we can geek out about how freaking fantastic their new design is, and how much it helps us both save for our futures.

It’ll be fun, I swear.

Confidential to friends who are just procrastinating investing like I did for way too long, and are ready to jump in: you can still score an extra $50 if you sign up for Wealthsimple through this link, but the offer ends on August 1st, so like – get on that.

The Problem with Video Games is Leisure-Time Shaming

 

There are so many articles out there about the problems with how millennials spend their time - the real problem? Is all the leisure time shaming. Everyone deserves downtime.

I’ve been working pretty hard for the past few weeks to get Zero to Investing Hero live, including some days that were part of my week-long vacation. So this past weekend, to celebrate the launch of the course, I gave myself basically the whole weekend off.

I spent time with family, ran errands, went to the gym, and then – horror of horrors – I played video games.

Not even like, for an hour. For an entire afternoon.

I went full gamer.

And I’ve done it before. In fact, I actually took a vacation day when Stardew Valley came out, because I was so into it that I wanted to spend a full day vegged out, gaming.

It was glorious.

So, given all that, you probably won’t be surprised that as a millennial who plays video games, I had Some Thoughts when my friend Bobby went on an admittedly epic rant about video games and millennials.

But they probably aren’t what you think.

Bobby’s key points are that if you’re spending all of your time playing video games, when you could be improving your life – by side hustling, building a business, etc. – then you need to take accountability and stop your whining.

Which, ok, I get.

I disagree when we got down to brass tacks though, because at the end of the day, no matter who you are, no matter how unhappy you are with your situation, leisure time is a non-negotiable. Yes, for everyone.

You Deserve – and Need – Leisure Time

Let’s get one thing crystal clear: with absolutely no downtime, you would be a burnt-out, unproductive mess. It’s science.

There are studies that show that in the long term, working more than 40 hours a week won’t actually make you any more productive. It’s just not sustainable. (And I probably do upwards of 60 if you count how much time I spend on the blog, so I mean, I need to read that article again probably.)

Plus, can you imagine how miserable you would be if you spent every single hour of your life trying to make more money, and then sleeping, and then repeating? Even as a committed side-hustler, who admittedly works way more than 40 hours in a week, I treasure my leisure time.

Without it, I would have burnt out on this blog and my day job long ago, and I like this blog and my day job.

So yes, you deserve – and need – leisure time, even if you have student debt, or consumer debt, or aren’t thrilled with your current salary, or about a billion other ways we are all not in the perfect financial situation.

There are a lot of things you don’t deserve, like a brand new financed car, or a dog if you can’t afford one.

But leisure time? You definitely deserve that.

You Need to Manage It Responsibly

But just because you deserve and need it, doesn’t mean you can just ignore everything else in your life.

Obviously. You knew that.

Just like a fun budget is an integral part of a balanced approach to your money, leisure time is a necessary part of your balanced approach to your time. And you know what they say.

Incoming cliche alert.

Time is money.

*Groan.*

In this case, though, it was worth the cliche, because you should think about your leisure time exactly the same way you think about your fun budget. It’s not unlimited, and it can’t get in the way of your other goals, but it is there, and you should use it.

And of course, if there are big problems in your life that need fixing, you should spend some time fixing them, whether they’re money related or not. Got debt? Want to earn more money? Want six-pack abs? Great, make sure you allocate time to that in a sustainable way. It will be more than worth it.

But for the sake of your sanity and future productivity, make sure you leave some time for leisure.

You Get to Decide What Matters to You

But in your leisure time – which you deserve?

Do whatever you want to do.

I’m not here to qualify what counts as “time wasted.” You are an adult, and you can do that for yourself.

Some people would argue I wasted my vacation time because I spent a good chunk of it working on Zero to Investing Hero, or that I wasted a vacation day to play video games. Those are both judgement calls, based on what they value doing in their leisure time.

But here’s the real point: whether I’m working during my vacation, or playing video games, they are equally valid ways to spend my leisure time.

Because they’re what I wanted to do. Yes, even working.

Here’s why.

I genuinely, for real, love writing this blog.

When I get emails about Zero to Investing Hero telling me it’s an amazing resource, and that you guys find it useful? It just about tears my heart open I’m so happy. (Confidential to everyone who has emailed me: I love you guys.)

That’s why I “work” on vacation.

But it’s also why I play video games on vacation.

That time is my time, to do with as I see fit. Just like my fun budget is mine to do with as I please, even if what I want to do is buy a ridiculously expensive paper day planner, or join a gym.

So go boat, travel, read, build LEGO, play Pokemon Go, write for fun, write for profit, side hustle, whatever you want to do with your leisure time.  

Even if what you love is something that I think is a total and utter waste of time and money that will get you nowhere in life.

Because what I think about your leisure time?

Really doesn’t matter if it’s what you want to be doing.

Also, because I just can’t not say this, the next time you read an article shaming people for playing video games, replace “video games” with your favourite leisure activity and see if you’re so quick to agree. “The Problem with Millennials and Reading” just doesn’t have the same ring to it – I wonder why that is.

A Real-Life Time Machine for Your Money

Three great ways to make sure you're making the money moves today that future-you will be happy about (and so they won't need to use a time machine to come back and fix them.)

Do you ever think about what you would do with a time machine?

Not like a for-real time machine, unless you know something about physics that I don’t, but more of a daydreaming, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” kind of time machine.

There’s the big stuff, obviously, in the context of History-with-a-capital-H, like righting the biggest mistakes of humankind, but you can’t seriously tell me that while you’re back in time fixing the world, you wouldn’t pick up some Apple stock in like, 1993.

Or while you’re at it, just go buy into the market as a whole in 1930.

It’s always easy to make those decisions in retrospect, since hellooooo, you would be sitting on a fortune of pretty epic proportions right now. And while yes, the buying-into-the-stock-market-during-the-Depression thing would have 100% required a time machine, there are definitely near-term examples that are easy to find as well – Apple, Tesla, etc.

If only I had bought those stocks and held onto them.

If only I knew then what I knew now.

If only I could go back 20 years.

Yes, 20 years ago was 100% the right time to have done the things you know would have made you rich today. But until we get this whole time-machine thing figured out, the second best time?

Is right now.

There are things you can do, today, that are just as big “easy ways to get rich” as going back 20 years and buying Apple stock. The only difference is, they’re entirely doable – they just take some time. These things are the ones that you-in-20-years is going to wish you had done this year.

Especially since, when you do them, you’ll realize how entirely not hard they really were.

And hey, wouldn’t you like to save future-you the hassle of being an early-stage time-machine adopter, just to come back to today and do some money stuff? Wait until that shit has been tested. New technology is risky.

Figure Out Your Money Goals

While I’m not a huge fan of bucket lists, now is the time to dream big – and there’s a reason I crossed out the money part of that title.

We’re here so that future-you doesn’t need to travel back in time to make you rich, right? So first things first, you need to figure out what rich means to you.

In my mind, rich is being able to do the things you love, with the people you love, when you want to do them. But that can look a lot different depending on what, specifically, those things you love are.

Personally, my version of happy involves lots of dogs – like, a lot of dogs – and a big open space for them to run around in. I’m only half-joking when I look at my retirement income in light of “How many dogs could I afford on this much money?”

Ok, I’m not even half-joking. That is literally my retirement savings metric.

But your rich could totally be different than my rich. Your rich could be travelling the world full-time, or eating at the best restaurants in the world, or driving a Range Rover, or taking your whole family on vacation, or having a whole lot of kids.

Whatever your rich is, that’s what you need to save for.

Start to Save for the Future

Notice how I didn’t say retirement?

I had an interesting conversation with a friend who didn’t believe in saving for retirement, and it brought up some points I hadn’t considered – mostly because, as you know, I believe that everyone should save for retirement.

But, that aside, you can frame it in a lot of different ways, and “being able to take care of yourself” – which is what I think of when I think of retirement – can look different depending on who you are and what you want.

You don’t have to plan on spending 30 years golfing in Florida to know that at some point in the future, you’ll want to do things. Maybe you want to have the flexibility to take two years off and travel the world, or launch your own business, or work part-time and not worry about the money stuff. Maybe you want to make a major contribution to a cause that matters to you, or have the time to volunteer with them directly. You might want to go back to school just for learning’s sake.

And yes, maybe you want to be able to stop working somewhere in the neighbourhood of 65 years old and not worry about money for the rest of your life. That’s valid too, whether or not you want to spend time in Florida.

Whatever your rich is, it’s going to cost money. How much money depends mostly on your plan, and how soon you want to make it happen, but the one constant is that yes, it will cost something.

The sooner you start saving for it, the better.

And if it’s more than 10 years away? There’s no better way to help yourself fund those Big Plans than by investing that money.

Invest Your Money

When you’re not investing, it can seem like the Last Big Money Hurdle. Like ok, I can switch to a no-fee chequing account all day long, but investing?

Ugh, nope, maybe tomorrow.

I know, because that was me a year ago.

Literally one year ago today, I had done everything on my get-your-money-shit-together checklist, with the huge exception of investing my RRSP and TFSA accounts in anything other than a pitiful 0.1% interest savings account. And when I finally did get around to it?

It was a piece of cake. Thanks Wealthsimple.

Don’t be like me. Don’t keep putting off investing.

Because future-you? Yeah, they’re sitting there, at their futuristic 20-years-from-now desk, and screaming at their supercomputer for you to start investing so they don’t have to come back in time and do it for you.

As a favour to future-you, I have something that might help with some of the things that are crossing your mind right now, like…

  • But what if I lose money?
  • How do I even figure out which investments are right for me?
  • I don’t know what an ETF even is, halp.

Those types of questions are why investing seems like such a major hurdle, and why people – like yours truly one year ago – think of it as this massive Thing That Is Scary and Hard.

That’s why I created Zero to Investing Hero.

It’s a five-day email investing course that walks you through everything you need to know as a beginner investor – from why investing even matters, to how it’ll make you rich, to what the hell is the difference between a stock and a bond.

It’ll also help you avoid the one guaranteed way to lose money, and walk you through setting up a super-simple, DIY investing plan so you’re more than prepared to make investing decisions – or know how to talk to a professional about investing decisions, if that’s what’s right for you.

And the best part? It’s free.

Future-you will be so legitimately pissed off if you don’t even sign up to learn things about investing for free. I’m just saying.

 

Enroll in Zero to Investing Hero, the free, five-day investing course delivered straight to your inbox.

 

10 Amazing Reasons to Automate Your Investments

Do you ever read something and you’re just like, damn, they freaking nailed it?

That’s how I felt when I saw this pop up in my Twitter feed, from Wealthsimple.

The top 10 reasons you really, seriously need to automate your investments. When someone can link brewing beer with investing, I am *all* ears.

Here’s the full text:

The Top 10 Reasons to Automate Your Investments

  1. Canadians pay some of the highest fees in the world. If you’re not automating your investments, you’re probably one of those Canadians.
  2.  Research suggests that the common house cat may have a better chance of picking stock “winners” than your money guy.
  3. If you want superior returns, you’re better off matching the market than trying to beat it. And that’s not our opinion; it’s Warren Buffett’s.
  4. It’s good to be emotional, just not in the stock market. Automating means you won’t buy when the market is high, or panic when it’s low.
  5. Rebalancing your portfolio is like meditating – everyone knows it’s great for you, but most people still don’t do it. Wealthsimple is like getting someone to meditate for you. Ommmmm.
  6. Investing in the stock market is sort of like investing in human progress. They both trend upward over time, just not always in a straight line.
  7. Keeping your money in a savings account is like throwing it away very slowly. Thanks, inflation.
  8. Automatic deposits let you take advantage of compounding interest, mankind’s greatest invention (after antibiotics and Game of Thrones.)
  9. Instead of visiting a bank branch, you can open an account online, set your risk tolerance, and be off learning to brew beer while your money is on cruise control.
  10. Don’t worry, we’re not robots. At Wealthsimple, you can always talk to one of our smart, friendly, 100% human experts to help you hit your goals.

I’ve written about investing before, from how you can get started with investing in under an hour, to what you need to know to start investing, to how to choose the right robo-advisor for you. But this list captures how I feel about automating my investments even more perfectly than I ever could have.

Including the fact that sometimes, I help The Boyfriend brew beer, and no, I’ve never managed to get into meditating.

Plus, for a limited time, Wealthsimple will hook you up with $50, just for opening an account – which considering it takes less than an hour, is a pretty solid hourly rate.

PS. That’s it from me for today friends, because I’m currently sitting at the cottage on vacation for the week with limited internet access! If you’ve finished setting up your investments in the time it would take you to read my usually-much-longer posts, and you still want a personal-finance fix for the day, check out this interview I did with Family Money Plan, this guest post I wrote about saving $5,500 in four months for Northern Expenditure, or head over to my resources page for a list of my fave personal finance bloggers. New to that list is Kate Saves Money, and she has been writing great stuff lately – make sure to check her out too!

Exactly How To Handle Not Hitting Your Money Goals

Exactly how to handle not hitting your money goals - which let's be real, happens to the best of us! Four actionable steps to make sure you hit your savings, investing, earning and other goals next time.

It would be a magical world if you hit your money goals 100% of the time, with no roadblocks or hurdles along the way.

But if that was everyday real life? You probably wouldn’t be reading this blog, and let’s be real, you might be a robot sent from the future to show us how to be perfect with money.

Still here? Not a robot? Let’s continue.

As I told you last week, I won’t be hitting my 50% savings goal until October, thanks to how I’m handling some non-monthly expenses in the next few months. And in case you’re new here, it took me more than 5 months to even hit that 50% for the first time!

Let’s be serious, it’s a s-t-r-e-t-c-h goal.

Since I’m so very well practiced in terms of “not hitting your money goals,” I’ve also figured out a pretty bullet-proof system for handling it productively (instead of crawling into a cave, declaring the goal a failure and spending $600 on a pair of shoes because I DO WHAT I WANT, BUDGETS.)

Yeah, this system works way better than that.

It’s what I do every month when I don’t hit my 50% savings goal, and to be honest, it’s also what I do when I do hit that goal. It’ll help you learn what you can do if you’re not hitting your money goals, and build a plan to move forward with your goals – and your budget – intact.

Sorry, $600 pair of shoes, maybe next time.

Step 1. Review your spending.

In all honesty, spending is the biggest reason I haven’t hit my money goals in the past, and I would take a bet that it’s a big part of why you’re not hitting your money goals too.

I mean, it’s not like I was just too good at saving for one goal and that’s why I didn’t hit the other ones. (This is real life, remember.)

So when I realize I haven’t met my goal, I take a look back at my spending. For me, that means pulling up my handy tracking spreadsheet, but never fear – there’s a pretty easy way to do this even if you don’t write down every single purchase like I do.

Log in to your bank account and your credit cards, and grab your account history for the past month. You can either download it to an Excel spreadsheet or print it out, but you’ll want to be able to look at the full month in one place, and be able to make notes. This is, hands down, the biggest and best wake-up call about why you actually didn’t hit your goals.

It’s far too easy to forget how quickly small purchases add up over the month. Trust me, the fact that it took tracking my spending to realize that $20 at the farmer’s market every month was an extra $80 in our food budget still horrifies me.

Taking a look at your spending is basically guaranteed to come with a few wakeup calls.

Step 2. Check in with your values.

Before we even get into the actual money stuff, it’s really important to take stock of what you value.

This doesn’t have to be a huge, elaborate personal-development session either, where you nail down the exact top five things you value. Just take a minute or two and think about what is really important to you. I guarantee you know the answers – is it fitness? Family? Career? Growth? Learning? Friends? Fun? Adventure? Travel? Education?

Even just going through that list, I’m sure you had some yeses and some nos. No one can value everything!

Once you’ve got a good idea off the top of your head what your values are, take another look at your spending from the past month. Which items or experiences did you spend money on that are totally, 100% in line with your values? Which ones are unrelated – or even more importantly, which ones are totally against your values?

Because hey, it happens. I value health and fitness, but have been known to indulge in pub food. #balance

When you’re trying to figure out how to trim your spending to hit your money goals in the future, spending that doesn’t align with your values is a great place to start.

And you know what? Your money goals might be high up on the list of things that align with your values, too. If you value family, and are saving for a big family vacation or to expand your family (kids or dogs both count in my eyes) that should get a place on the priority list. (It might even help motivate you to hit that goal!)

Step 3. Ask yourself how much you enjoyed yourself.

Ok, this one is touchy-feely – yes, even more so than the values step. But hear me out.

Take a look at your spending, and ask yourself how each thing you spent money on made you feel.

Some of them will trigger awesome memories, like a dinner with your grandparents or food you bought for a picnic with friends. That’s awesome!

Others will fall more along the lines of “Oh right, I did buy that this month.”

If you’re trying to cut your spending while staying exactly as happy as you are right now? My suggestion is to keep spending on the things that you still remember, and that still make you happy, when you look back on them at the end of the month.

And start cutting out the “Oh right, that” items as much as you can (especially if they’re just recurring payments you don’t need anymore.)

Step 4. Make (realistic) plans to do better next time.

This is the part where we figure out how to hit that goal next time.

At this point, you know where your money went last month, you’ve figured out which spending to prioritize based on your values and how happy it made you, and now we get to look forward to see what that means for next month.

First things first, jot down a list of all the non-negotiable things you have coming up – like rent, insurance payments, cell phone bills and feeding yourself. (If you want an easy way to grab estimates for how much you should be spending, grab your copy of the One-Minute Budget.)

Then take a look at what you know will be happening in the next month, from irregular expenses to fun events you’d like to participate in – especially if those things fall in line with your values, or they’re things that have made you really happy in the past.

Then, check in with your goals.

Is this month looking like hitting that stretch goal is feasible? If yes, commit to it. The only months that I’ve managed to hit a 50% savings rate so far have been ones where I knew the goal was within reach, and reminded myself of that constantly – trust me, it really helps avoid impulse spending!

If it looks like the goal might not (or definitely won’t) happen? Don’t be discouraged. Instead, remind yourself how valuable the progress you can make is going to be. (In my case, this is a strongly-worded reminder to myself that 40% savings rates are still pretty great, Desirae.)

So no matter what your goal is – paying down debt, saving for a house, getting started with investing, increasing your savings rate, or another awesome money goal – don’t get too down on yourself if you miss it. Instead, use it as an opportunity to check in with your progress, make sure your spending is making your life great, and make a plan to get closer to it next time.

Have you ever missed a money goal? How did you handle it – and do you have any suggestions for other people who might be in the same boat?

PS. This is actually an expanded look at a framework I sent out to my email list a few weeks ago, but it was too good not to share. If you sign up now, you’ll get handy content like this once a week on Saturdays, plus the One-Minute Budget delivered as soon as you’re on the list!

How to Budget for Non-Monthly Expenses

How to budget for those non-monthly expenses that come up sometimes, like annual insurance payments, vacations and more - and how to make sure they don't sink your monthly budget! Plus, grab a free worksheet to make it super-simple.

I have a confession to make: I’m not going to save half of my income this month. Or any month until…. October.

OK, I still have hope for July, but that’s a big maybe.

How can I be so sure, months ahead of time, that I’m not going to hit my savings goals for most of the next few months?

The Dread Pirate Non-Monthly Expenses.

Call them planned spending, irregular expenses, whatever you want to call them, at the end of the day they’re big purchases that don’t happen every month. We’re talking everything from a big vacation to an annual insurance payment to Christmas gifts (because egad, the holiday spending struggle is real.)

I know my next few months are going to be super-spendy, because I’ve planned to knock out some major non-monthly expenses over the summer, from my annual hosting costs to a big vacation to out west for fun, meetups with other amazing bloggers and a family wedding. I’ve also got a certain dog’s annual insurance payment coming up in September, which brings us to October before the non-monthly expenses really die down.

Until Christmas, that is.

The nice thing, though, is that I’ve had a plan in place to cover these expenses all year – and there are some simple steps you can take to make sure these big one-time expenses are stress-free for you, too.

Want to follow along with the worksheet? Grab your copy!

budgeting-non-monthly-expenses-worksheet

Map out your big expenses

I didn’t go high-tech on this part: I literally wrote out the months of the year and put notes about big upcoming expenses beside each month. These are the things you know – roughly – are going to happen, and when.

As you go through the list, think about

  • Annual subscriptions
  • Annual or quarterly payments (insurance, etc.)
  • Vacations
  • Healthcare purchases (glasses, etc.)
  • Seasonal expenses (sports, team memberships, etc.)
  • Holidays (gifts, travel)
  • Dependent’s expenses (sure, I mean my expensive dog, but kids count too I guess)
  • Business expenses

For me, I came up with 10 big expenses, tied to 6 months in the year (there was a bit of overlap making for some spendy months, clearly.) If you want an easy way to map yours out, make sure to grab the worksheet and outline your year of expenses!

Estimate the costs

Once you have that list, you can estimate how much each thing is going to cost you. If you’ve bought this thing before, it’ll be an easy estimate – plan for what you spent last time, and you should be within the right ballpark.

If it’s something you haven’t done before, like a vacation or a new pet’s routine vet bill, you can still make an educated guess! Google how much other people have spent on similar things, and if it’s something that involves multiple expenses (I’m looking at you, vacation) spend a bit of time planning how much you’ll spend on each part of it.

Plan your monthly savings

Now that you have a ballpark number for each of your monthly expenses, you can work on a savings plan to tackle them, without totally destroying your monthly budget. I remember saving up for running gear when I was a new grad, because a $200 pair of running shoes would have absolutely sunk my monthly budget.

We’re all about not sinking budgets here, right? Right.

But first things first: take a look at your planned expenses. Are some of them expenses you could handle within your regular monthly budget, if you just adjusted a few things? Maybe it’s a wedding gift, but the wedding is in town, so your expenses are minimal and you can totally swing it, no extra savings required. Those ones, you have full permission to not worry about.

Let’s talk about the bigger ones though – the ones that would 100% sink your budget and have you on a steady diet of ramen noodles if you had to also feed yourself that month. (Yo, you need to feed yourself, and as delicious as ramen noodles can be, don’t do it!)

For those expenses, you need a plan. Take the estimated cost, and divide it by the number of months between right now and when that expense is going to show up in your spending. That’s your new monthly savings goal, to make sure that expense is 100% covered by the time it happens.

Once you’ve done that for every expense, you’ll have a ballpark idea of how much you need to put away each month between now and those expenses happening.

Pick a way to keep track of your savings for these expenses

I know some people have serious reservations about setting up multiple savings accounts, which I totally get (and will talk more about in another post, trust me.) On the other hand, just leaving these savings in your chequing account is a recipe for spending them on something else. So here are three options you can consider to help make sure you actually save the savings you’re earmarking for non-monthly expenses.

Create a separate savings account for each expense.

Putting aside any reservations about opening a zillion accounts, if you have a few big expenses on your list (like, less than 5) this could be a great strategy. You could name each account, too, to help you remember why you’re saving – it’s way more motivating than an account number, I swear.

I did this for my new-bed fund, since my god mattresses are pricey. I’ve been putting away a set amount every month into it, and when I’m ready to buy a bed, the money will be there waiting for me.

Create an account specifically for non-monthly expenses, and group them together.

If you have way too many expenses for them to each get their own accounts, consider separating your savings for these purposes into a dedicated account. That way they’re safe from any “Oops!” moments of overspending in your chequing account, and don’t get confused with your other goals (like your emergency fund goal!)

Also, if you’re on Team Don’t Want a Lot Of Accounts, you’re only adding one more savings account to your list. One is a totally manageable number, right?

Bump up your contributions to an existing account (that you don’t touch!)

Maybe it’s your emergency fund, or maybe it’s an existing vacation fund that you throw your gift-specific saving into as well, but either way, you bump up your contributions to this account to add in the savings for your planned expenses. 

While this isn’t necessarily my preferred approach, when I stopped to think about it I realized I do this too. I throw my dog’s annual insurance payment savings into his emergency fund account, because it makes sense to me to keep them together! So there you have it. Combining approaches is 100% allowed and might make perfect sense for you.

That’s really all there is to it – map out your non-monthly expenses for the year, build a savings plan to tackle them, and make sure you don’t spend the savings on something else! If you want a handy way to work through this and build your own plan, I’ve got you covered with a 5-page worksheet that will have you prepared to rock those expenses in no time.

budgeting-non-monthly-expenses-worksheet

I’d love to hear what other strategies you guys use to handle big, irregular expenses! Let me know in the comments, especially if you’ve figured out another amazing system to tackle them.

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