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Reach your savings targets

Aspire. Save. Acquire. Repeat.

Being able to afford the things you want in life without taking on too much debt is one of the key benefits of careful financial planning. You don't need a large income to achieve your financial goals, just a good savings plan. Here's how to create an effective one.

An eye-popping home theatre in the basement. A brand new high-end vehicle. A fabulous world cruise. Everyone has something they want but can't necessarily lay down cash for. It doesn't matter what your dream is, achieving it means setting up a savings plan you can stick to. Of course it's not easy to save money, but like many good habits, once you start and stay with it, you'll be surprised how fast – and easily – you'll reach your goals.

1. Give yourself one good reason to save. Or maybe five.

So what are you saving for? Make a list of all your goals, including that special weekend getaway, your emergency fund, retirement, a new car or kitchen renovation. Then narrow it down. Prioritize the things you want to save for now. For some people it may be one single thing, for others, ten. The more goals you have, the more a plan will help you stay on track to reach them.

2. Decide how much and how long to save for each goal.

Add up how much your goals are going to cost and set a time frame for each – short, medium or long term. Then determine how much of your total income you're prepared to squirrel away and what you need to save every month toward each goal. You may want to set benchmarks and dates when you'd like to reach each goal. For longer term goals, you'll want to set a major milestone, like having $100,000 in your RRSP by the time you reach a certain age.

3. Evaluate, recalibrate.

A little overwhelmed by the total amount? You may find that you can't realistically achieve all your goals with the amounts and time frames you've set. You may need to adjust… perhaps choose a less luxurious car or vacation, eliminate the world cruise, or set a longer time frame for the kitchen reno.

4. Set up the right type of account for each goal.

Once you've finalized your goals, you may want to consider the best way to save for them; something separate from your day-to-day banking account. This makes it easier to track and manage.

  • Short term – less than a year away

    Choose a dedicated savings account that you can access easily with no penalties, such as a High Interest Savings Account.

  • Medium term – one to five years

    If you're not expecting to need your money in under a year, you can consider a term deposit or Tax-Free Savings Account. They provide a good balance between a higher rate of return and security. Just be sure you don't lock your emergency fund into any savings product that penalizes you for early withdrawal.

  • Long term – more than five years

    When you're talking about truly long-term savings for critical things like your child's education or your retirement, you should really talk to a financial advisor. With a longer time frame, you have far more choice, including investing in the market for a greater return, particularly using mutual funds or stocks and bonds.

5. Commit and automate.

Once you've decided on your goals, amounts and accounts, automate your plan by setting up a pre-authorized contribution, an automatic transfer to each account every pay day (or another schedule that works better for you). That way, you don't see the cash and won't miss it. Automating your plan is a good way to enforce savings and reduce spending on items you don't really need.

6. Review, rethink and revise.

Once you have everything set up, you'll want to monitor it closely at first to ensure the balance between your savings and spending is working. Adjust if necessary, and then revisit your savings accounts to see how you're doing. If you're not on track – perhaps you were hit with some unexpected expenses – you might have to increase your monthly contributions or revise your goals. But, don't let the fact you aren't saving as much as you want to stop you from saving at all. Don't wait until you have more money to start saving, otherwise you may never get started.

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