Short-Term Money Goals: How to Set Them And Save For Them

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of EQ Bank. However, as always, all opinions are my own.

I still refer to the moment I sat down to map out my short-term money goals as my “come to finance” moment.

It was right before I started Half Banked, and I was sitting at my computer staring at a list of goals that I wanted to achieve in the next three to five years.

And they all cost a not-insignificant amount of money. They included buying a house, fully-funding my emergency fund, and hosting a wedding.

Eek.

Figuring out how to balance them and not give up everything I liked at the same time has been a process, and at the beginning, I way overcorrected and tried to achieve my goals by brute force and radical frugality.

Let’s just say it didn’t last, and it wasn’t a solid long-term strategy. Instead, over the past three years, I’ve taken these steps to make saving up for my short-term money goals a sustainable part of my life. This is how to hit your short-term money goals:

Make a list of your short-term money goals

First and foremost, what do you actually want to accomplish in the next five years?

It’s a fun question, but can also be a little bit jarring when you sit down to do it. It’s easy to forget that things might look a lot differently in five years, especially when you’re coming up to major changes you’d like to make in your life.

That might mean your list includes items like “buy a house” or “get married” or “go back to school,” but you should also make sure to list out all of your goals—because even I can admit that getting a dog isn’t as big a deal as getting married, but it still costs money.

So do goals like “run a marathon internationally,” and “take a dream vacation.” Make sure your list includes all of your goals, because you want to get a complete picture now. It’ll help make sure you plan for all of them, not just some of them.

Short term money goals - how to save for vacation

Map out your short-term money goal timeline

Once you’ve got your list of goals, it’s time to think calendars: When do you want to do each one?

The easiest way I find to do this is to grab a pen and paper and write down a heading for each year. Starting today, you could write down 2018, 2019, 2020, and so on.

Under each heading, write down when you want to achieve each goal on your list. Maybe you’ve got nothing for the next two years, but then in year three, you’ve stacked up a dream vacation, a wedding, and buying a house—and then in year five you want to get a dog.

Whatever your list and timeline looks like, you’ve already got a solid foundation for planning, even without involving any numbers.

Map out your short term money goals - pen and paper can help!

Earn as much interest as possible, safely

Once you know your timeline for those goals, you’re in the best place to make a plan to earn as much interest as you can, safely.

Your regular bank account probably pays little, if any, interest, and earning interest on your savings can be a big boost to your short term money goals. But since these are short-term goals, investing the money in the stock market isn’t a good way to do it.

That’s why there are two approaches that are always my go-to recommendations of where to park your money for short-term money goals: high-interest savings accounts and GICs.

High-interest savings accounts are exactly what they sound like. They’re accounts that are specifically set up to pay you high interest on your savings, and you can withdraw the money whenever you want. I’ve been using EQ Bank’s high-interest savings accounts for a couple of years, and it has been a key part of my house down payment savings strategy.

But even though EQ Bank pays a whopping 2.3% on their savings accounts (I know!) you can earn even more interest by using a Guaranteed Investment Certificate, aka a GIC.

A GIC is a Canadian investment that offers you a guaranteed return on your investment, in exchange for committing your money for a specific period of time.

Generally, the return will be lower than other investments, because there’s no risk and you’re guaranteed a certain return—but when it comes to saving for short-term money goals, you don’t want to take risks anyways.

Since you have a defined timeline for your goals, you know exactly how long you have before you need the money. That makes putting your money into a GIC a great way to both:

  • Earn more interest than you’d get in a high-interest savings account
  • Avoid the temptation to spend the money on something else

And even better, you can earn 2.76% on a one-year GIC with EQ Bank, or a whopping 3.5% on a five-year GIC. Guaranteed.

You can open an account with EQ Bank to buy GICs from the comfort of your couch—seriously. It’s an online bank, so the entire process is streamlined and simple, and you’ll be able to take advantage of these amazing rates to help boost your savings for your goals.

Get started now.

Estimate your short-term money goal costs

Maybe I’m just a money nerd, but I think this is one of the best parts of the whole process. Now that you know what you want to do, and when you want to do it, it’s time to figure out how much each one is going to cost.

Your process will depend on what your goals are, since costs can vary tremendously, and so can the best places to look for information.

If you’re planning a vacation, you could creep AirBnBs in the area, plan out the restaurants and meals you want to eat, and check on flight prices.

If you want to buy a house, you could read articles about home buying, check out mortgage calculators, or research closing costs—and you could set a goal for how much you want to put as a down payment.

Whatever the process, try to find an informed number for how much your goal is going to cost, and write it down on the timeline you just mapped out.

Calculate your monthly short-term savings goals

Now you have all the information you need to calculate the most tangible part of the whole process: How much you need to save every month to make your goals happen on your timeline, at your target cost.

Take your total cost, and divide it by the number of months until you hit your goal. That’s how much you need to save to hit your goal on your timeline.

Once you’ve done that for every goal on your list, take a deep breath and don’t panic.

There’s a very good chance that your new monthly savings plan looks a little absurd right now. I should know, because when I did the exact same thing, I was like “Cool, I have to save half my income and I should probably write about it on the internet.”

You don’t have to write about it on the internet, and if you don’t want to save a bananas portion of your income, that’s OK too. Here’s what to do next.

How to calculate your short term money goals

Adjust and set up your short-term savings contributions

There are three ways you can take that seemingly impossible list of savings contributions and make them more manageable.

  1. You can adjust your timeline for the goals, to give yourself more time to save the money.
  2. You can adjust the cost of the goal, by looking for ways to lower the total amount you need. (This will entirely depend on the type of goal!)
  3. You can adjust the priority of the goals—so if you can realistically only do two of them, you can pick which ones matter most to you.

Once you’ve adjusted and come up with a realistic monthly plan, the best next step is to automate your savings contributions for the goal. Set up an automatic contribution to a dedicated savings account for each goal (this is super easy to do using an EQ Bank high-interest savings account, FYI) so you don’t have to worry about remembering every month—or feel the pain of moving it out of your account manually!

And then once you have an amount you want to lock in to a GIC, you can buy one through EQ Bank, and guarantee yourself a great interest rate on your money.

How to save for short term money goals

Planning for these goals is your friend

It just happens to be the friend who gives you much needed real talk, not the friend who glosses over the hard parts.

Even though there are points in this process that can feel jarring—ahem, seeing your total monthly contributions for the first time—getting real about what it’s going to take to hit your goals on your timeline is the best thing you can do to make your goals a reality.

If I hadn’t taken a very sobering look at my money, and all the things I wanted to do in the next five years, there’s absolutely no way I’d be writing this in a house I own right now, and I know that for a fact.

Even though it took me a long time to figure out how to make saving work with my monthly money situation, not to mention with having a life, I never would have started the process without that one “come to finance” moment.

And I couldn’t be happier that I did.

**GIC rates shown are in effect as of May 28, 2018 and are subject to change. For GIC terms equal to one year, simple interest is calculated on a per annum basis and paid at maturity. For GIC terms of over one year, interest is calculated on a per annum basis and paid either annually (simple interest) or at maturity (compounded annually). Interest is accrued for the entire GIC term. Non-Redeemable. For more GIC rates and information, visit eqbank.ca.
Interest on EQ Bank’s Savings Plus account is calculated daily on the total closing balance and paid monthly. Rates are per annum and subject to change without notice.
EQ Bank is a trade name of Equitable Bank.
Image credits: Burst.