Melanie, a faithful FWWL reader, asked about saving for both Long Term and Short Term goals at the same time. Haven't we all been there? If you sit down and think of all the things you really should/want to save money for, it will probably be a mighty long list. Where do you start? Most people don't have the personal discipline to prioritize their wants and needs, so they just buy everything on credit the moment they want it and soon find themselves in deep financial trouble.
There is a better way and it works every time.
First -- Write your list. Take a couple of days or weeks to work on it, as it often takes some time for all your past ideas to come to the surface. Take this time to decide what you REALLY want and need.
Second -- Divide your list into both Long Term and Short Term financial goals.
Long Term Goals might include:
Emergency fund (3 - 6 months of take-home pay saved in cash -- this money is used to cover unexpected car repairs, household repairs, major medical expenses, and possible unemployment),
A down payment on a house,
A new car paid for with cash.
Some of these long term goals aren't that exciting, but they will bring stability and safety to your future financial life. Definitely worth the effort.
Short Term Goals might include:
A new piece of furniture,
Re-carpeting a room,
Remember financial goals are about both wants AND needs.
Third -- Now comes the hard part. Prioritize your Long Term Goals. 1, 2, 3. . . Same with your Short Term Goals.
I suggest that you choose #1 from your Long Term list and #1 from your Short Term list and save for only those two. Decide how much money each of these goals needs to bring them to fruition. Then look to see how much money you can reasonably put toward each goal every month. Make yourself a chart (I LOVE CHARTS!) with completion dates. Tape the charts up somewhere you'll see them every day, so that you will keep these goals in the front of your mind. Take it from someone who has saved for dozens and dozens of things over the years -- the first few months of saving pass very, very slowly. But before you know it, it's been 6 months and your saved $ amounts begin to look pretty substantial. Those big numbers are highly motivating to keep moving forward! I've been saving up for a set of custom doors leading from my dining room to my kitchen for quite some time and just passed the $5,000 mark (these are expensive doors) and it feels GOOD. I'm ordering them soon!
The Short Term Goal will probably max out within only a few months and you can go buy whatever fabulous thing it was you wanted to get -- with cash! Celebrate not only by making your purchase, but also write across your chart in big red marker "SUCCESS!" and begin wallpapering your bathroom with these as you achieve each one OR fold up the chart and place it in your journal for future motivation. Then move onto Short Term Goal #2. You may find that some of your short term goals (possibly items #4 and below) begin to look a lot less interesting as time goes on. You'll be glad you didn't impulsively buy these items on credit and now 18 months later you're still paying for things that aren't important to you anymore. Delaying a purchase often causes your rational thinking to take control again or for you to simply change your mind. The VISA people hate that.
Your Long Term Goal may take you a few years to accomplish, but you'll get there too! It may seem like a slow process at times, but there is absolutely no other way to achieve your long term financial goals. This is where you see the value of keeping your monthly fixed expenses low. The more expensive your daily life is, the harder it is to save for your future or any extra lovely things.
By following this technique you will join that rare breed of people who save money to protect their futures and pay cash when they buy something substantial! Let me be the first to say it, "YOU are amazing!"