How Can People Achieve Their Savings Goals?

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No matter which income bracket you’re in, setting and achieving goals for savings is important. “We’re not natural savers,” says Brad Klontz1, Associate Professor of Financial Psychology at Creighton University. “We’re naturally wired to seek instant gratification,” Klontz adds. Fortunately, you can overcome these tendencies by setting realistic short-term savings goals and long-term savings goals as well that allow you to enjoy the things you want and need.


“Set priorities by creating a list of short-, medium- and long-term savings goals,” says Judith Cane2, a money coach based in Ottawa, Canada. Start by listing your baseline needs, including living expenses, transportation, an emergency savings fund, as well as education and retirement funds. Once you’ve established this list, you can account for the things you want. Even if your “wants” are more extravagant—like expensive vacations or hobbies—it’s a valid savings goal if it’s important to you. “I have clients who have a $4,000-a-year clothing account,” she says.


Cane suggests designating a separate account for the things you need, such as a 401(k) for retirement or a 529 for education savings. Then, price out how much you’ll need to pay for the “wants” you’ve listed and keep track of how much money you’re allotting to each item. Even if you exceed your savings goal, it’s important to stick to your original budget. “When the time comes to make those purchases, don’t overspend by buying a higher-model car or [booking] a more expensive hotel,” she says.


“You need an emotional trigger to override your impulse to buy right now,” says Klontz. “When you feel strongly about your savings goals—and they align with your values—they can be easier to achieve.”

Klontz conducted a study3 that gave one group financial education lessons and another group materials to create artwork about their goals. The former group saved an additional 22 percent, while the group who drew pictures of vacations and retirement saved an incredible 73 percent more.


Another way to reach your goals is to automate your savings. Set up pre-authorized deposits so money transfers automatically from your checking into your savings accounts. “If you have $500, and you’re [deciding between] buying that new gizmo or putting it into your 529, you’ll [buy the gizmo] more times than not,” says Klontz.

Cane also suggests considering automatic transfers. “You don’t have to think about it,” she says. It allows you to continue growing your savings, and makes it harder to cut back on those contributions.

Though saving can be a difficult habit to form, your commitment will certainly pay off in the long run. Learn how to prioritize savings goals, create tangible targets, and you’ll achieve your goals sooner than you thought possible.


  1. Brad Klontz
  2. Judith Crane
  3. Study Finds That Getting Sentimental Could Increase Your Savings by 67%

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