How To Set Achievable Savings Goals Through Major & Bite-Sized Savings Goals

Did you know the simple task of setting a goal improves the likelihood you’ll achieve it? That’s true of savings goals too.  

But how do you set achievable savings goals?

Making a goal specific and measurable and setting a timeframe to achieve a goal allows us to see if we’re on track. Plus, it gives us milestones to celebrate along the way, which are key to staying motivated.

Types of Savings Goals

We can divide savings goals into two categories: bite-sized and major goals. 

The bite-sized goals serve our short-term needs. The major goals serve our long-term needs and likely will take a long time, months, or years to complete. We can break down our major goals into milestones or phases of the larger goal.

Bite-Sized Savings Goals

  • Make a monthly budget of income and expenses. Understand and plan for your income versus your spending, debt, and savings/investing needs. This can be tedious, but it’s vital to meeting savings goals.
  • Establish a savings account at an FDIC or NCUA-insured bank or credit union.  See this checklist for opening a bank or credit union account and this guide to selecting financial products and services to help you choose the best options for you.
  • Set aside a specific amount of money per month and have it automatically sent to your savings account. For example, set aside $150 a month to be sent directly to a savings account.
  • Build a starter emergency savings of $1,000-$3,000. This protects your finances from the unplanned but not unexpected things that happen in life, whether it be a vet bill, a dental procedure, or a cut in hours at work.

Major Savings Goals

  • Increase your emergency fund to 3 to 6 months of living expenses. This will buy time if a job loss or major medical event impacts your income. Most people will need to build up to this amount over time. 
  • Save for major purchases, such as setting aside money for a down payment on a car or a home. In saving for major purchases, it’s helpful to look 5 to 10 years into the future to see what you’ll need/want. 
  • Save and Invest for Retirement. I call this “being kind to your 65-year-old self.” After your full-time working years are over, the money you set aside for retirement will be one of your major sources of income. With pensions diminishing and social security only meant to cover a smaller portion of your retirement needs, the money you save/invest for retirement will shape how your financial life will look when you’re 65+


  • Break down the savings goal into smaller pieces, marking the completion of a phase or portion of your goal.  
  • For example, you may have a goal to save $4,000 for a vehicle down payment. That becomes four $1,000 milestones, enabling you to recognize your achievement after each $1,000 is saved. 

Take some time today to think about the savings goals that will help build your financial security. Write down your bite-sized short-term goals and the major savings you see as you look forward to the next 5+ years.

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