Everything you never knew you needed to know about sinking funds and how to start your Christmas fund today! Sinking funds will make your holidays less stressful and won’t cause you to regret your spending when January rolls around.
What is a sinking fund?
Sinking funds are money that you set aside each month that is designated towards a one-time or irregular predetermined expense.
You set aside money intentionally each month so that when the purchase, adventure, vacation, couch, event, or christmas shows up, you don’t find yourself reaching to borrow, dip into your savings or emergency fund, and you are able to enjoy that event without the stress or the scramble of wondering where the money is going to come from!
Why do I “need” a sinking fund?
Without a shadow of a doubt, in the next six months to a year, you will encounter an expense that is outside the realm of your typical monthly budget. Don’t panic! It’s not a bad thing, it’s not something to be scared about. It’s simply a fact of life!
Life happens and when it does happen… you want to have a fully funded sinking fund ready to go for when it does so that you can kick back, relax and enjoy your life.
Sinking Fund vs. Emergency Fund
Emergency or “OMG Fund”- for true emergencies like breakdowns, illnesses, loss of income, suprise expenses.
Sinking Fund – designated for specific upcoming irregular expenses that are NOT a surprise. Car maintenance is not a surprise – if you have a car, you know it’s going to need oil changes, tires, inspections and registration. That’s not an emergency, it’s a recurring, albeit sometimes unpredictable expense.
Common types of sinking funds:
How much do you need to save?
1. List the categories of your sinking funds along with the dollar amount that you’d like to have saved for each.
2. Create a deadline (the date you’d like to have the money saved by) and look at the number of months you have to save.
3. Do the math: Divide the savings goal by the number of months and voila: that’s how much you need to budget each month into that savings category.
There are plenty of online calculators you can use to calculate how much to fund into your sinking fund each month, but my favorite way is with a plain, old calculator.
4. Save that much, every month!
We don’t create separate savings accounts for each of these items, because that’s just too tedious for us. Instead we transfer that money into a separate savings account and keep track of what’s in the account. If there’s $2,000 in that account it could be $750 for Christmas, $500 for an upcoming vacation, $250 for vet visits and $250 for home repairs.
If you have a habit of dipping into your savings “on accident”… consider setting up a separate money market or high yield savings account that is further out of your reach and less likely to get spent or used in a budget snafu.
Christmas is coming!
If you’ve already started a sinking fund for gifts – YAY!
If you haven’t… it’s not too late! You still have some time!
Take the amount you’d like to spend on christmas, divide it by the number of weeks or months until Christmas. That is the amount of dollars each week or month you need to save until Christmas to have a completely debt-free holiday!
Giving yourself a ceiling to what you will spend on Christmas gifts will help you to be more intentional and not find yourself in January with a financial hangover from going crazy during this season of joy and giving.