This week on the Bucks blog, our contributors, along with some of our favorite sources, are writing about their New Year’s financial resolutions. Here, Tara Siegel Bernard, a personal finance reporter for the Times, shares her own plans.
When I interviewed Amanda Clayman, a financial therapist, last month, she made a statement that resonated with me: Money should be an energy source. It should help us get somewhere or do something.
So this year, I resolve to incorporate that theme more fully into my own financial life by making my budget more goal-oriented. I’m already part of the way there, but I plan on rejiggering a few things to make it more tangible. That will ultimately help me focus less on what my money and savings are not doing (earning interest, for one), and help me focus on how I want my money to work for me.
Part of Ms. Clayman’s budgeting philosophy involves setting up small financial goals. I’ve already set up a couple of larger savings goals. But this year, I’d like to separate them and also set up several smaller targets: for another trip to Europe, or wherever we may decide to go; a security-blanket fund, for unexpected expenses; a fun money account; and automated savings to Roth I.R.A.’s for both my husband and myself (which I was supposed to automate last year). That’s in addition to saving enough to get the full match through my 401(k).
This will be my new approach to budgeting, without officially budgeting. It will allow me to methodically, yet mindlessly, save for the experiences and other things that I need (or want) without having to lay out the money all at once, or dip into savings accounts that I did not want to touch (or were too accessible). I’ll initially need to figure out how much I should allocate to my smaller goals, after factoring in necessary and recurring expenses like housing, utilities, various insurance bills, etc. (I’m also in the process of trying to free up more cash by renegotiating packages with my phone, cable and other providers, which has become an annual ritual of sorts).
To set all of this up, I have to take a closer look at the online banks that allow you to set up and name separate subaccounts. If I didn’t have a reason to visit a branch once a month, I’d ditch my big brick bank in a heartbeat. After all, it pays an awful interest rate, and it doesn’t allow you to name subaccounts. (I’m open to suggestions.)