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Consumer Blog

How to Save Enough to Make Birthdays, Holidays, and Vacations Special

May 27, 2024 6:54 am

how to save enough for special occasionsWe all know that it’s important to save money for bigger life goals, like retirement or a new home — but it’s also essential to save enough to celebrate life’s little joys along the way.  Unfortunately, all that celebrating can get really expensive, really fast. Americans spent close to $1,000 just on gifts during the 2023 holiday season, and birthdays, depending on who you ask, can be just as costly.  According to a survey from, most moms spend around $500 on their kid’s birthday parties, but some admit to spending as much as $2,000. Even the smaller holidays aren’t so small budget-wise — Americans spent an average of $108.24 on Halloween last year, and on Valentine’s Day in 2024, we spent an average of $185.81. And don’t even get us started on vacations — in 2023, our average vacation spending limit was $2,743, according to a survey from GoCity.

It can all add up pretty quickly — sometimes dangerously.  When we aren’t able to save up enough to make these milestones special, we might be tempted to charge our celebrations to a credit card and end up in debt. Nothing quite takes the joy out of a party quite like still paying for it a year later!

Thankfully, saving more day-to-day may be easier than you think. Here’s a look at how to make your small savings goals happen over time.


What to Do if You Want to Save an Extra $500

Saving an extra $500 means saving an extra $41 a month for a year, or about $10 a week.

 If you’re new to saving money, welcome! Your first step should be establishing a budget. The best thing about a budget is that it lets you see all the money you have coming in and going out every single month. (Here’s how to choose a budget that works best for you!) When you can visualize exactly where your money is going. you’ll be able to spot areas where you might be able to cut back and save more.

For example, you might think that you only have $20 to spare every month, but once you sit down and look at your budget, you’ll be able to spot areas where you may be overspending. For example, you might see that your monthly rideshare habit is costing $40, or you may find that lunches out came in at over $100. And that $40 gel manicure? You’ll want to look at that, too. All of these things can be made much cheaper by making simple swaps to DIY more at home. It won’t take long to find enough “wiggle room” in your budget to give you the $41 you need to save every month.


What to Do if You Want to Save an Extra $1,000

Saving an extra $1,000 means saving an extra $83 a month for a year, or about $21 a week.

The more you want to save in a year, the more accountable you’ll need to be to your goals. Budgeting apps can be a great way to stay on track, says Stacy Miller, certified financial planner based in Tampa, FL.

“If you say, ‘Okay I want to save $1,000 for my spouse’s 40th birthday,’ it’s a lot easier if you can keep track of it in an app, and visibly see that balance growing,” Miller says.

Start with apps offered by your credit union and credit cards. Many of them offer sophisticated tools that can help you track how and where you’re spending your money as well as offer advice on how to reach your financial goals.

If apps aren’t your thing, then it’s time to kick it old school to reach your goal. Miller recommends having color-coded envelopes where you stash cash for a particular goal.

“The pink envelope could be for the baby shower that’s coming up, and you’re putting your $20 a week in there, every single week,” she says. “It’s so much more tangible when we have the cash in front of us.”

Likewise, you could also create an envelope system that helps rein in your spending. “You could have a green envelope dedicated to your Starbucks fund, and you’re only giving yourself $20 a month to put towards your coffee addiction — once it’s gone, it’s gone.” This envelope method prevents us from going over budget due to mindless swiping that leaves us further from our goals before we know it.


What to Do if You Want to Save an Extra $1,500

Saving an extra $1,500 means saving an extra $125 a month for a year, or about $31 a week.

Once your goal is to save more than $100 a month, you’re into more serious savings goals territory. The bigger the goal, the more intentional you’ll need to be about setting aside funds. One way to do it is to create a dedicated savings account for your goal, Miller suggests.

“If you’re saving all your money in a single savings account, it can be easy to pull from that money without thinking about exactly which dollars are earmarked for which goals,” Miller says. “This is why some people like to have four or more different bank accounts, so they know, ‘Okay, this is my account for Christmas, this is my account for birthdays,’ and so on.”

If you prefer to save in cash — which can be particularly beneficial for people who work in a cash business, like servers — Miller recommends using a “jar” method. “My girlfriend and I got a mason jar and glued some silk flowers on top of it, and called it our ‘fun jar.’ Anytime we had extra money, we put it in the jar, and after a couple of years, we had enough to take a girl’s weekend away,” she says.

Depending on the amounts of cash you usually have on hand, you may want to create different savings “rules” for your savings jar. For example, if you’re a server at a high-end restaurant and you know that you usually get a $50 bill for a tip twice a month, make it a rule that those fifties always go into your jar. Or, if you typically come home with a lot of $1 or $5 bills but don’t like the way they weigh your wallet down, make it a rule to always put the smaller bills into your jar. “No matter what you do, do it every week and create a pattern,” Miller says.


What to Do if You Want to Save an Extra $2,000

Saving an extra $2,000 means saving an extra $166 a month for a year, or an extra $41.50 per week.

The bigger our financial goals, the more important it is for us to put them on autopilot and ensure that saving happens like clockwork, without us ever having to think about it.

Thankfully, anyone can set up automatic transfers from their credit union’s checking account into a dedicated savings account. The goal is that having the money physically gone from your checking account will make it easier for you to adjust to living without it (because out of sight, out of mind, right?) and you’ll be less tempted to spend the money.

“Anytime you can automate, it’s a good thing. You will honestly forget that money exists until it ends up in your bucket of where you want it to go. It’s kind of magic,” Miller says.

Also, the more you need to save, the more important it is to use your goals as inspiration. Find a picture of something you’re saving for — perhaps a Christmas tree with a ton of presents piled underneath it — and set it as the background image on your phone. (Yes, even if it’s the middle of summer.) The next time you feel the urge to splurge, take a look at that picture and ask yourself if you really need to buy that thing you just “had to have.” Instead of making the purchase, instead choose to move a few more dollars into your online savings account at your credit union… Then visit that account at least once a month to recognize the fact that you’re making progress, and give yourself a pat on the back!


Remember: Good Habits Are Everything

 If you’ve never been in the habit of saving regularly, it might not come easily to you — but with a little practice, you’ll become a savings pro in no time! Experts say it takes about 28 days to start a new habit and keep it going. “Consistency is key,” Miller says. “Once you see that jar filling up, or that account growing, it’s going to fuel your discipline.”

from our partnership with HerMoney/Filene

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