It’s more than half way through the year and when we reflect back on how we started this year we probably set some goals. Maybe some were about health or career. Often times we set goals around money. A big one is “I’ll save more money.” But, why? It’s easier to accomplish our goals when we make them specific and measurable.
A personal goal I had this year was to save up for a vacation. A real one, where I’m not just traveling and working at the same time. I wanted to save up about $2000 to have to freely spend on my vacation including airfare and accommodations.
Conscious Spending & Tracking
First, I started being a little more conscious about my spending so I’d have money left over to set aside for this goal. I’ll admit it was a little tricky to track how much was left over and moving from month to month until we launched the Tiller Budget template.
Savings goals and seeing money automatically roll from one month to the next were a huge driver behind the development and launch of this upgraded version our budget spreadsheet template.
After getting started with this template in May, not only was I able to cleanly track my savings month to month, but I exceeded my goal. Here’s how I did it.
How to Track Savings Goals with the Tiller Budget
I set up a new category called “Vacation Fund” on my Categories sheet and made it a savings goal by entering $2000 into the Savings Target column for this category.
Then I turned on the rollover feature. The only thing I really cared about tracking with rollovers is this savings goal so I set all my categories to use “Vacation Fund” for their Rollover To setting. This means that any money left over in any category would roll over into the Vacation Fund category. It also means any overspending in any other category would be deducted from my Vacation Fund category.
Since I created this sheet in May, I only saw budget periods for May and April, but I wanted to begin my tracking with January so I set up the budget periods for Jan, Feb, and Mar in my Budgets History sheet using these steps.
From there I started filling in those past budgets and making sure they’re balanced on the dashboard so I don’t end up with a rollover adjustment value in the next month. (I love that big green check mark telling me when it’s balanced.) If I had extra income budget to allocate to my expense budget, I just applied that amount to the Vacation Fund category budget.
Each time I made edits to a past budget and felt good about it I ran “Analyze Budgets History” from the Tiller add-on Budget menu to make sure future months’ budgets were accurate. I cleaned up my past months budgets until I got up to the current month and then made sure the budget was balanced.
Tracking Spending and Savings in My Budget Spreadsheet
After that it was just a matter of categorizing transactions every few days, or at least checking in to make sure AutoCat is doing its job, and then refining my budget as each new month started. Month over month my rollover savings (vacation fund) grew. The only time I used the Vacation Fund category for a transaction was if it was for spending toward a vacation trip. Most of the months the actuals were $0 so the budgeted amount (if there was any) was applied to my rollover savings when the next month started.
My partner and I spontaneously decided in July to make a trip out to Colorado in August and got a good deal on plane tickets out of Asheville, which I categorized as “Vacation Fund”. I felt confident I could afford the tickets and the trip because I was well over my $2000 goal for a vacation by the time July rolled around and he asked me if I wanted to go on a rock climbing and adventure trip out there.
Any purchases made during the trip were categorized as “Vacation Fund” to deduct from that available balance vs the normal categories I might use like “restaurants” or “gas.” We saved a lot of money by staying with friends and camping, but we didn’t sell ourselves short on activities we wanted to do either, like renting mountain bikes or splurging on an extra day for our rental car. The rollover savings in my August budget helped me understand that my $500+ expense overage is okay. I don’t know if I’d felt that confident about my spending had I not used the Tiller Budget to help me manage and track this savings goal.