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In this episode, we explore the concept of "sinking funds," which can be an extremely helpful way to save more money for short-term goals and more efficiently stay on top of recurring expenses. Check out more everyday savings tips here:

Through weekly video essays, "Making It Work" showcases how *real* people have upgraded their personal or financial lives in some meaningful way. Making your life work for you doesn't mean getting rich just for the sake of it. It means making the most of what you have to build a life you love, both in your present and in your future. And while managing money is a crucial life skill for everyone, there's no one "right way" to go about it — you have to figure out what works best for *you,* full stop.

Video by Grace Lee

Video narration by Kelly Dwyer

Based on an essay by Anna Craven

The Financial Diet site:

About eight months ago, I was introduced to a financial concept that has already changed my life, this sinking fund.

Right around November, people start saving rapidly for Christmas, Hanukkah, et cetera. But what if you had been putting $15 or $20 a month away for a no sweat holiday season?

This, in essence, is the value of sinking funds. Minimize the stress you feel about large, predictable expenses through small long-term savings goals. The purpose of sinking funds vary per individual, and can be personalized to you.

So whether you'd like to save for a $300 vacuum or a $3,000 car, you can do so. It is important to keep in mind that a sinking fund is different from an emergency fund. Emergency funds are meant as, you might guess, solely for emergencies.

However, a sinking fund is used to save up for non-emergency expenses. For example, if you would like to have $500 to spend by Christmas Day of 2020, you should start putting away $45.45 this February. If you would like $100 by New Year's Eve, you should start putting away $10 a month this March.

Saving large amounts for the year becomes easier the sooner you begin. I would like to have $300 to spend on the holidays in December. So I have been putting $25 into a designated savings account each month, which I started this January.

So how does it work? A sinking fund is often created through an envelope system. If you were saving as I did for Christmas, you would pull out $25 from your bank account each month, starting in January, and store it inside your envelope in a safe location.

This is a tried and true method for many. But I tend to prefer an online method for safety purposes. Using a high interest savings account means you can also put your money to work and earn a little on top of what you'd already be saving.

To set up my sinking funds, I went to my credit union and set up six additional savings accounts. Pets, $70. Salon, $120.

Vacation, $50. Car, $325. Holidays, $25.

Clothing, $20. While I already budgeted in $50 a month for my dog's needs, I have also set up a sinking fund of $70 a month for his medical expenses. I can't always know when an issue might arise and he will need veterinary care.

So this sinking fund gives me peace of mind. I get my hair dyed once every two months, and cut once every three months. So my salon sinking fund allows me to make those purchases with no sweat.

Previously, I struggled to properly allocate these funds in my regular monthly budget, because I did not like storing them in my typical checking account. For me, it is easy for my checking account funds to just walk away. While vacation is not a category I am aggressively saving towards, I still like to put $50 a month towards it for when opportunities for travel arise.

My car fund is by far the largest sinking fund I have, at $325 a month. This monthly savings account is designed to include my yearly car insurance costs, registration fees, and any unexpected repairs. My car fund does not include regular monthly expenses, like gas.

That comes out of my regular everyday spending. My holiday sinking fund is used to save up for my major holiday spends, Christmas and New Year's Eve. Lastly, my clothing sinking fund is a low priority fund that I use to put away for big purchases.

I have been eyeing a pair of athletic leggings to use for my boxing classes for a few weeks now. And if I decide to purchase them, I will be using the money from my sinking funds. A sinking fund is perhaps most important for expenses that are likely to come, but difficult to predict the timing of.

For example, a veterinary bill, high medical copay, or car repair can easily force you to swipe a credit card. By preparing for these expenses throughout the year, you can prevent yourself from the last minute money scrambling that so often leads to debt. Sinking funds are especially useful on very tight budgets.

If you are on a strict budget or limited income, you likely do not have a whole lot of wiggle room for unexpected expenses, making you vulnerable to debt. Packing even just a few dollars away for each of your major sinking fund categories will provide the necessary safety net that may be harder to build up as one large lump sum. Start with $10 a month towards the area that you think may be most likely to come up in the future.

Are your car's tires starting to go? Are you expecting any medical procedures in the next year? Is a holiday with expenses coming up soon?

These are the questions to ask yourself now. While having an emergency fund in place is smart. It is not wise to constantly have to dip into it for predictable, not actual, emergency expenses, and then have to build your emergency fund back up.

This not only relies on your ability to quickly replenish your funds, but also leaves you vulnerable during the moments after you have depleted your emergency fund. If building sinking funds for every major need seems overwhelming, start with just one, and build out from there. The two sinking funds that I suggest everyone have are for a car, if you own a vehicle, and for taxes, if you expect to owe at the end of the year.

You can save yourself a lot of hassle. When I was living in New York on a pre-tax salary of $40,000 a year in budgeting for the first time, I failed to address Black Friday and Thanksgiving in my November budget. That threw me off by $173, an amount that can be extremely hard to make up on a tight income.

Now that I have sinking funds in place, I feel confident in my ability to address the financial obstacles that might come up on the road ahead. The practice of creating these accounts has decreased my financial stress and increased my confidence, and in just a matter of months.