I Suck at Small Savings Goals

October 29, 2013
glass vintage piggy bank

Much like the title, this post is going to be short and rather blunt.

Since becoming debt-free, I’ve come up with a handful of different savings goals – some short-term, some long-term and some I haven’t even been able to start working towards – and I’m getting nowhere with any of them. Sure, life gets in the way. Moving got in the way – twice. Things happen. But, here’s the thing: I’ve finally realized that I just suck at saving small amounts of money each month. You know what I used to be good at? Throwing huge amounts of cash at debt! So, it’s time to kiss the small savings goals goodbye and go after what I really want.

For the past couple of years, I’ve dreamt of seeing $10,000 in an Emergency Fund. I don’t even have to close my eyes to see it; I know that one day I’ll be able to log into my online banking and it’ll be there. Well, I want that day to come sooner rather than later. And the only way I can make it happen is if I create a debt repayment savings plan.

I want to save $10,000 in an Emergency Fund by December 31, 2014. Currently, there’s a measly $1,250 sitting in the account, so I have another $8,750 to save. Spread out over 14 months, that’s only $625/month. Now, I know there will be months where I can’t save $625 (like the ones leading up to Christmas), but I also know there will be months I can save more – much more.

So, that’s that. Forget about all the other goals I’ve mentioned before this post. I’m still going to contribute to my RRSPs, of course, but aside from that I’m focusing solely on my $10,000 goal. Similar to my debt repayment milestones, I hope you don’t mind if I talk about my progress here. I’ve never been a good saver (but you already knew that), so we’ll see how I do!

What type of saver are you? Do you put small amounts of money into various accounts each month, or do you put larger amounts into fewer accounts?

PS – This morning, I’m taping a special episode of CBC Radio’s The Current with Gail Vaz-Oxlade and Bridget from Money After Graduation! You can listen to it on Friday, November 1st – the first day of Financial Literacy Month here in Canada.

  • Romona@Monasez October 29, 2013 at 4:08 am

    I have the same problem. It’s like I put money in my account and later in the week find every reason under the sun to spend it.

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 10:39 am

      I can always keep a little bit, but I have this mental block after $2K. I just need to make a big goal and go after it!

  • catherine October 29, 2013 at 4:21 am

    Oh ill have to listen for you. I hope I remember to tune into cbc friday. What time?

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:06 pm

      They’re not 100% sure yet – sometime in the morning, but they’re still piecing it together. I’ll tweet when I know!

  • kmac October 29, 2013 at 4:24 am

    Here’s a tip: create an online account with a different financial institution that you don’t regularly log into.
    I have all my home loan, credit card (only used for large purchases as it includes insurance cover on items purchased), and regular accounts with a local bank, then my mojo/emergency savings account with a different bank in an online high interest account. As a result I can’t actively see the amount in savings to avoid the urge to spend it, and it takes a day or so to transfer across if I want it so I can’t rely on it for splurges!!! Works a treat

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 10:42 am

      Most of my savings accounts are w/ ING, so I already do that! I think it’s just a mental block, because I’ve never had a BIG goal to go after before.

  • MakintheBacon October 29, 2013 at 4:42 am

    I put large amounts into my TFSA and RRSP every month. At the end of the month, it feels like I don’t have as much in my chequing account. I have to keep on reminding myself that they’re just in different accounts that hold mutual funds.

    I hear ya on it being harder to save during the holidays. :s

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 10:43 am

      Yea, my EF will be going into my TFSA – so we’ll be doing the same thing! :)

  • Ben @ The Wealth Gospel October 29, 2013 at 4:45 am

    Great goal! If you shoot for the stars, you might miss and land on the moon. But at least you’re off the ground!

  • Alicia October 29, 2013 at 4:53 am

    I think that is a great goal – make yourself accountable to saving large chunks of money again. And $10k in savings is one of my goals too – it will just have to wait for a bit. I like being a big saver, but since I am currently paying down debt it is just a couple hundred per month. Once I am done with debt, I should just be able to shift my debt repayment to savings and then barely feel it (except in my relief of numbers growing in my account versus digging out).

    Congrats on the radio spot – I will try to listen when it is on. I listen to the CBC at work, so as long as I am not in a meeting, I will be tuned in. :)

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:08 pm

      It’s good that you are balancing paying off debt while still saving! I failed miserably at that. Although, I guess I’ve always put a little bit of money into my RRSPs… but I’ve never made a goal like this before!

  • Well Heeled Blog October 29, 2013 at 4:58 am

    I’m like you – I find it so much easier to save in big chunks than to chip away at a savings goal. The good thing is that whenever I get a bonus, I save 50%+ of it. On the other hand, day to day it’s hard for me to say no to a latte or a snack because I can then save that $3.25.

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:09 pm

      You mean you buy the latte versus make the decision to save the $3.25? If so, I’m the same (obviously, haha).

  • Liliane October 29, 2013 at 5:09 am

    My goal is also to save $10,000 in an emergency fund. I usually save in big amts like once a month. Whatever I have left over for the month goes right in the emergency fund. I have $3100 now and hopefully should have the $10000 by May – June. I can’t imagine seeing that amt in my acct. Once I have my emergency fund up where I want it I will divert the money to home repairs fund. We have a lot of repairs that we have been putting off so that will take precedent along with my RESP for the kids. I will be cheering you on as you get closer to your goal and that will hopefully motivate me to stay the course. Good luck!

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:10 pm

      Woo hoo! Nice work so far, Liliane. Sounds like you’ll be the one motivating me :)

  • Elizabeth October 29, 2013 at 5:21 am

    I have a dozen little savings accounts that are partitioned into savings goals. Stuff like home maintenance, property taxes and insurance, a large purchase fund, and pay down the mortgage fund. First thing I do each pay check is move the preset amount of money into each of the accounts. Once it is there it is spent, it just hasn’t been paid out yet. Having that thought keeps me from spending it.

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:11 pm

      I have a girlfriend who also has 10-15 savings accounts for various things and she loves it! Sounds like your system works perfectly for you, Elizabeth. :)

  • Melissa October 29, 2013 at 5:32 am

    LOVE The Current! Can’t wait to listen to your episode

    Good luck with your savings goal =)

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:15 pm

      Thanks, Melissa!

  • Lynsey October 29, 2013 at 5:35 am

    First off, I think having nearly 2k in your emergency fund is a good start! I found the only way I can stop myself taking money out of my saving account is to name the account, so every time I get tempted to take money out I have to look at the account & see that I’m just taking it away from my ‘house deposit’ and 9 times out of 10 I resist! Obviously this doesn’t apply in emergency situations but maybe you can think of giving it a scary title?! Maybe I’m just in the Halloween spirit :-) x

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:16 pm

      Haha, I love it. Maybe I should rename the account to “Can’t Touch This”! ;)

      • Trista October 31, 2013 at 11:37 am

        Back in my drowning in debt days I used to have my credit card called “Escalating Debt” and my chequing account called “Dwindling Funds”. Thankfully I stopped being depressed by my debt and decided to go out and make the money required to get out of debt sooner rather than later. I make the last payment on my mastercard on Wednesday! :-D Then I’ll be officially credit card debt free.

        • Cait October 31, 2013 at 12:26 pm

          That’s amazing, Trista! If I don’t see you on Twitter that day, know that I’ll be cheering for you :D

  • KaseyM October 29, 2013 at 5:59 am

    You have $1,243 in savings more than me. Keep it going and you’ll be there in no time.

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:16 pm

      Thanks, Kasey!

  • Rob October 29, 2013 at 7:04 am

    Cait, I’m in the TFSA camp regarding savings strategy. In many ways it’s as good, if not better than RSPs in some respects. If you haven’t maxed in the deposits in this account for your $10,000 emergency fund then this is the best place to do it. As you probably know a TFSA account can be invested in anything, preferably something with safety but also some growth potential. And helping these savings work hard for you, TFSA earnings are totally tax free. For various reasons many Canadians tend to under use this valuable tool.
    (ref: http://www.tfsa.gc.ca).

    I’m sure Gail and other Canadian financial bloggers will agree. :-)

    And finally, I don’t have multiple savings plans, just one – which I regularly prioritize on how I will apply portions of the saved up funds. Life never stands still and so priorities (both short term and long term) do tend to change over time. It’s all you can do, in my opinion.

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:17 pm

      Oh, I’m with you! The $1,250 I have so far is in a TFSA, and the full $10K will stay there too. :)

  • Budget and the Beach October 29, 2013 at 7:08 am

    I think it’s because your sense of urgency may be gone? Anyway I tend to throw little amounts in a few savings buckets, unless I have a really good freelancing month, which I haven’t since August. Usually the first three months of the year are my best months.

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:19 pm

      You’re probably right re: losing a sense of urgency! But lately I have started to wonder what would happen if I couldn’t work for some reason – maybe because I’ve seen other people, like my sis, get hurt and have to go on leave? Anyway, it’s time to take saving more seriously! Of course, pre-Christmas is the worst time to start, haha… but, like you said, Jan-Mar are always good months.

  • Jordann October 29, 2013 at 7:43 am

    I suck at em too. I’d rather have a single huge goal than several small ones. I haven’t had to deal with this yet, but I think my debt repayment history proves I’m quite single minded.

    I have no doubt that you can save a $10k emergency fund by the end of 2014. Go for it!

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      Thanks, Jordann!

  • Dear Debt October 29, 2013 at 7:47 am

    I throw $150 per month towards savings and roughly $1k-1500 towards debt each month. I can’t wait for that to go to savings. I simply hate having a low savings account, but it’s necessary right now. I can’t wait to be flush with cold hard cash! You are doing great Cait and congrats on the radio spot with Gail!

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      Thanks, hun! And I think it’s great you’re still saving $150/month, while paying down your debt. It shows you have some balance, even while working aggressively on one goal.

  • Erin @ Red Debted Stepchild October 29, 2013 at 8:34 am

    I’m bad with small savings as well. That’s why I only have one savings account, I like to see money stacked in there instead of spread out over a ton of mini accounts. A lot of people think you should have separate accounts for everything, but that’s not how I roll :)

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:22 pm

      Yea! I want to see 4 zeros in one account, not 2 zeros in lots of accounts. :P

  • Ashley October 29, 2013 at 9:24 am

    I too have trouble savings for small amounts or upcoming planned expenses.

    What I now try to do is put money aside automatically every pay day into a savings account, then we can use that for our bigger purchases like winter tires, or sports fees. I have found though that most of the time we can make those purchases with our regular spending money without going into savings. I keep a list of upcoming expenses or things we want and the cost. However I didn’t plan well enough for the cost of everything coming due in October and gasp I carried a balance on my credit card for the first time in a year.

    I do have 3 other savings account that are more specific, travel, Europe, and emergency fund. Also with those accounts it is automatic and since its ing there is that delay for transferring funds.

    I want to agree with another commentor that you just may have lost the urgency. That happened to us once we paid of credit cards and a loan. We just dropped to the minimum payments without focusing on the extra payments anymore. Once those were paid off I did increase our savings amounts though.

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:27 pm

      Yea, I think because this is a BIG goal, I need to tackle it aggressively. Once it’s full, I’ll probably be able to put smaller amounts into multiple accounts each month. Maybe. We’ll see. :P

  • Ashly October 29, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Small amounts work best for me… the kind where I don’t even know that I am saving! That goes for paying off debt too! If I am too agressive I find I relapse and go into debt again or spend all my savings. I’ve learned the hard way the best way for me to save is an automatic deduction on payday that way there is no excuse. I’ve got an RRSP already set up to do this. My goal with my tax return in April is to open my first TFSA and start doing the same thing.

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:28 pm

      Woo hoo! Do it, Ashly! I love that you have a savings system that works for you :)

  • dojo October 29, 2013 at 10:10 am

    I can go both ways. I can save a lot one month and little the next month with no issues. The main thing is TO SAVE. Whatever makes you click is what you need to do to achieve your goals ;)

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:29 pm


  • Kali @ CommonSenseMillennial October 29, 2013 at 11:21 am

    That’s a great goal! Sometimes I try to tackle too many little goals at once and end up feeling like I’m not making progress on any of them – when that happens, I take a step back, prioritize what’s important, and then single-mindedly work toward achieving that goal before getting to work on the next one.

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      Sounds like the exact process I went through: I saw a couple small balances, felt like I was going nowhere fast, and decided to change things up and just focus on one goal!

  • Nadia October 29, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Cait what I do is save for Christmas year round. This way when Christmas (and the bajillion and one birthdays that happen in Nov, Dec, Jan) comes around I’m not freaking out about how to pay for it. I keep a seperate ING account for it and so much every pay cheque goes into it. I like having the peace of mind of not stressing out over how to pay for Christmas.

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:31 pm

      I know lots of PF bloggers who do the same! I could try that next year, but Christmas doesn’t actually stress me out all that much. I don’t usually spend more than $300-400.

  • Heather October 29, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    I have a set amount taken out of my pay cheque that goes into an ING account for Christmas and birthdays, another ING account for my emergency fund (that I contribute to as I can) and then in my savings account at the same bank I have my chequing, I try to contribute a certain amount each month to cover irregular but necessary costs like oil changes, contacts, my kids’ school fees, etc. I haven’t settled on a comfortable amount yet because it’s hard to predict ALL of those things, but I’m just trying to establish the habit.

    I’ve had the Holiday savings for years but it was only recently that I realized that a lot of my credit card debt could be attributed to these necessary but irregular costs.

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:33 pm

      You’ve inspired me to create a “Gifts” account next year – one that’s for both Christmas and birthdays. Thanks for your comment, Heather!

  • Steve October 29, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Never thought it could be difficult to start small savings after big, aggressive debt repayment. I’ll keep this in mind when I transition out of big monthly student loan repayments into savings!

    • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:35 pm

      Yea, and maybe it won’t be hard for you! I just see all these little amounts in random accounts and feel depressed about it, haha. I want one big chunk of savings in my corner, and then I’ll start a few smaller accounts – maybe. :P

  • Cait October 29, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    It’s definitely important to use the system you know works for you. Good luck, Mary!

  • Mo' Money Mo' Houses October 29, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    I’m more of a throw money into different accounts for various savings goals kind of gal. Though the past few months not so much. Hoping that changes soon!!! And that’s so frickin awesome about the CBC thing. You go girl!

    • Cait October 30, 2013 at 2:17 pm

      I’m sure that’ll change soon! And thanks! Bridget and I had fun – lots of laughs. I’m so excited to listen to it all pieced together!

  • Anne @ Unique Gifter October 29, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    I’m all about the massive savings goals, like pay off the mortgage, pay off the car, fill up all of our unused TFSA space, etc!
    Sounds like you have a plan and a single focus… best of luck!
    Also, have an awesome time on the radio, that’s a sweet opportunity!

    • Cait October 30, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      Single focus – I think that’s a bad thing, but whatever, haha. It works for me! And thanks! I can’t wait to listen to it. :)

  • Prosperous Not for Proft October 29, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    That’s interesting because I find I’m the exact opposite! I find it much easier to save for upcoming goals- big or small- than pay off debt in equally large chunks! For me I think its the mental idea of savings being ‘money that is mine’ and getting to a positive number whereas paying off debt you are racing to zero.

    Super exciting about CBC! I’ve started to tell all my coworkers about personal finance through Gail so I’ll try to get them all to listen in

    • Cait October 30, 2013 at 2:22 pm

      I can see why it would feel better to build up savings vs. pay down debt, but once your debt is repaid then your monthly income is really all yours. :)

      And I hope you can all listen in! It was fun chatting w/ Bridget and Gail.

  • Demaish @ Borrowed Cents October 30, 2013 at 5:39 am

    I never even used to save. I just started building my emergency fund in July and I have $1000 in it now. My goal is also 10k. I also have a car fund with 3k in it but my goal is 4k so I am almost there. I just hope I can keep saving and reach my goals. I am happy so far since I was not a saver.

    • Cait October 30, 2013 at 2:26 pm

      Nice progress, Demaish! Just keep thinking about how good it’ll feel to reach both of those goals. :)

  • Heather October 30, 2013 at 7:00 am

    I am throwing most of my money towards my debt right now – 9 more months to go :) When that is done, I am taking most of that money and putting it on my EF so I can rebuild it up to $10, 000. Should have that by the end of the year.

    I agree that big goals are often easier than little ones – you see so much improvement month to month! But, at the same time, I also set aside smaller amounts each month in an ING account for specific smaller savings goals, which I find works quite well. I just don’t have enough money to go after them as aggressively as I would like!

    • Cait October 30, 2013 at 2:28 pm

      Woo hoo! You can do it, Heather! And cool to read that you still put smaller amounts away each month. I’m hoping I can do a better job of that once I’ve reached my $10K goal.

  • Katie October 30, 2013 at 8:57 am

    The small goals are the hard ones because they don’t seem as daunting! I always think “it’s ok, I’ll catch up.” It’s terrible!

    • Cait October 30, 2013 at 2:29 pm


  • Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans November 1, 2013 at 11:07 am

    I have several savings accounts for different goals (i.e. travel, career, personal escrow, etc.) but they all have literally $1.00 in each of them. Every time I save more than that in those accounts, I take them out and throw it at my debt instead!

  • Natalie November 2, 2013 at 8:58 am

    I am just like you, I suck a saving/paying down debt just a little at a time. My strategy was the reverse of yours: first save, then pay down debt! I needed to get to my $10k emergency fund ASAP because I was paranoid about losing my job and then being stuck with no way to pay my loans. I went at it with $1000k a month. Obviously, it took longer than that as life happened.

    Now I am struggling with forcing myself to make larger debt repayments…