One of our biggest financial goals over the last 18 months was to save up and pay for our own wedding. Over the last year and a half, we saved $1,250 per month — which put us in a position to achieve that goal to pay for the wedding we enjoyed back in June.
It was an amazing feeling when we accomplished what we set out to do. And even though the big day is behind us and we’re officially married now, that monthly contribution of $1,250 to our savings account is still going strong.
We’re taking advantage of one of the easiest ways to continue funding our financial goals by keeping that momentum going.
Don’t Change Your Savings Strategy Even After You Reach Big Financial Goals
The big event that required $1,250 of our cash every month for 18 months is done and paid for — and it might have been tempting to see the end of the wedding as the beginning of an opportunity to free up some cash to spend.
Instead, we didn’t touch the automated transfer from checking to savings, even when we weren’t quite sure what to save for after checking the initial goal off our list. We took about two months to think about what to do with that cash.
We considered adding it to the money we already automatically transfer to our brokerage each month. We debated whether or not we should use it for travel, or add to our emergency fund.
But we already have cash savings set aside for both travel and emergencies, and the majority of the money we set aside each month goes to investments.
Keeping a little more cash on hand seemed smart, even if we didn’t know exactly what we wanted to keep it for just yet.
You Don’t Have to Know Your Financial Goals in Order to Save for Them
Eventually, we realized we did have a somewhat-pressing need: our car.
It’s a 2007 Mazda with 120,000 miles on it and we fully intend to drive it until the wheels fall off, but over the last 2 years it’s needed more and more costly maintenance — which made us realize we didn’t want a wheel to literally fall off before we bought a new vehicle.
So now, we have a new goal: we’ll contribute $1,250 per month to a savings account until we save $20,000 or until the Mazda costs more to repair than it’s worth.
During all this time talking through what we might want to focus on next, thinking about our needs and wants, crunching the numbers and seeing what part of our financial plan needed shoring up most, that $1,250 was already landing in our savings account despite the fact we didn’t have a set goal yet.
We never stopped moving that cash to savings, which meant we never lost our savings power — or more importantly, our momentum that pushed us to save rather than spend.
The Easiest Way to Accomplish More: Just Keep Saving
Once you reach a big goal, take time to celebrate. Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy your achievement and consider what you might want to make progress toward next — but know that your celebrations should not include removing any automated transfers to your savings account.
Just keep saving, even if you don’t know precisely for what, until you do know. Replacing a completed goal with a blank space waiting for a future goal is an easy way to keep your financial life running smoothly toward the future you want.
Nothing has to change and you don’t have to work any harder — and you don’t even have to figure it out right away.
But by continuing to save the same amount you already were saving to your old goal, you automatically start saving toward that next thing on your priority list (whatever it happens to be).
Objects in Motion Stay in Motion (and That Includes Your Savings Momentum and Trajectory)
It might sound obvious, but the fact is, people usually don’t do this.
They achieve a big, stated goal — and then see the money they were contributing to the goal each month as a freebie or bonus. You hit the goal, so why keep saving? Just spend instead!
Here’s the problem with that:
It’s much harder to put the breaks on your momentum (automatic savings) and start again down the road. It’s that whole “object in motion stays in motion” thing.
And in case you’re thinking, “well, maybe for some people, but I know that I would just start saving again once I had a specific goal in mind” — think about how hard it is to take a break from a regular workout routine… then try to pick it up after 2 months of not going to the gym.
The same thing happens here. If you pause your savings to “take a break,” that break isn’t actually beneficial because the money just gets eaten up by everyday expenses.
Life has a way of swallowing up available money — even if it’s just in the form of spending more on little things that don’t actually matter to you, like a few more impulse purchases at Target or eating lunch and dinner out a few more times each week.
Those things are fun in the moment. But ultimately, they’re pretty forgettable and not worth the struggle it’s going to take to rein in that spending at some point in the future to start up the savings toward a new goal.
Additionally, if you spend instead of save, you get to start with a big fat $0 balance when you do choose those next financial goals. But if you just keep the savings going, you may find you’re already halfway toward your financial goals when you finally decide on them!
Just keep saving. You still get to choose what you’re saving for, but you just won’t have to deal with the struggle of finding the money to save.
But What If You Need to Spend?
Okay — just keep saving. You get it.
What if you have a need to spend on something in the short term, but all your extra cash flow just kept going toward an undetermined savings goal?
That’s okay. Keep your savings moving into your savings account — but actively shift some back if you need to make a one-time purchase (for the exact amount of the purchase).
Remember, financial success isn’t about deprivation or avoiding spending. Money is a tool, and we want to use it well.
It’s about being proactive, and mindfully (deliberately) choosing how to use your money rather than reverting to reacting to everything. It’s a simple setup that will help you make major progress toward what’s most important to you.