8 Sinking Funds Categories That Every Budget Needs

Finance

  • Author Anne Amebo
  • Published October 16, 2023
  • Word count 2,014

Budgeting can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to long-term financial planning and nothing puts a kink in that plan like future financial obligations lurking around the corner.

Whether it's a broken-down car or a surprise visit from the in-laws, these expenses have a way of putting a damper on your finances and a heavy weight on your budget.

If you're looking to take control of your finances, especially in terms of uncontrollable circumstances, setting up sinking funds can be an excellent way to achieve your financial goals.

WHAT IS A SINKING FUND?

A sinking fund is a savings account that you set up specifically for a particular goal or expense.

They're basically little life rafts for your wallet, helping you stay afloat in the choppy waters of life's expenses such as home repairs or braces, or even date nights. Instead of trying to come up with the money for an expense all at once, you can save a little bit each month until you have enough to cover it.

This can be a great way to avoid going into debt or dipping into your emergency fund for every upcoming expense.

WHY ARE SINKING FUNDS IMPORTANT?

Sinking funds are an essential part of financial planning because they help you prepare for future financial obligations without compromising your current budget.

Without sinking funds, you may find yourself dipping into your emergency fund or using credit cards to cover unexpected costs, which can lead to debt and financial stress.

WHAT SINKING FUNDS CATEGORIES SHOULD I HAVE?

There is a broad range of sinking funds categories to cater to your every life expense, from holiday celebrations to annual family photos to charity. However, there are a select few high-priority categories that are considered essentials in every budget.

Now you might be wondering, What sinking funds should I have? And how much should I be saving for each one?

In this post, we'll explore different high-priority sinking fund categories and provide examples of each sinking fund to help you plan your budget effectively and guide you on how to successfully pull it off.

BASIC SINKING FUNDS CATEGORIES

  1. Emergency Fund: For When Life Throws You a Curveball

First up, the emergency fund. This one's non-negotiable, folks. This is the superhero of sinking funds categories, ready to swoop in and save the day when life throws you a curveball. Medical bills, car repairs, job loss – you name it, the emergency fund's got your back.

This is the foundation of any sinking fund strategy and financial experts recommend that you save at least 3-6 months' worth of living expenses in your emergency fund.

Classic examples of emergency expenses include car repairs, medical emergency fees, job loss, unexpected travel expenses, and so on.

To create an emergency sinking fund, set a goal for how much you want to save for your emergency fund, then divide that number by the number of months you have until you want to reach your goal. Save that amount each month, and you'll be ready to handle whatever life throws your way.

Pro Tip: Start small and increase the amount over time.

  1. Vacation Fund: For When You Need a Break from Adulting

Adulting can be tough. That's why it's important to take a break every now and then and treat yourself to a vacation. However, vacations can be expensive.

A vacation fund is a great way to save money for a holiday, whether it's a long weekend away or a two-week trip abroad without sacrificing your regular budget.

Examples of expenses it covers include airfare, accommodations, food and dining, excursions and activities, travel gear, and accessories.

To set up a vacation fund, determine how much you need to save for your next vacation and divide it by the number of months you have until your trip. Set up automatic transfers to your vacation fund each month to stay on track, and start planning your next adventure!

Pro Tip: Be realistic and factor in all expenses, including transportation, accommodation, food, and activities.

  1. Home Repairs Fund: For When Your House Starts Falling Apart

Owning a home can be a joy – until something breaks, and you're hit with a hefty repair bill.

A home repairs fund is a surefire way to save for the inevitable repairs and maintenance that come with homeownership. (Because let's face it, it will). Experts recommend saving at least 1% to 3% of your home's value each year for repairs and maintenance.

Some common examples of home repair expenses include fixing a leaky roof, repairing a broken window, or replacing an old appliance.

To set up this sinking fund category, take a walk around your home and make a list of potential repairs you may need to make in the next year or two. Research the average costs for those repairs in your area and set a savings goal accordingly. Then, add that amount to your sinking fund each month so you'll be ready when something inevitably breaks.

Pro Tip: Take a look at the age of your home and estimate the lifespan of its major components, such as the roof, HVAC system, and appliances to determine potential repairs.

  1. Health/Medical Fund: For When Your Health is Your Wealth

Health is wealth, but investing in your health can be expensive, even with insurance. A health/medical fund is basically a multivitamin in your budget, helping you save for routine check-ups, preventative care, and unexpected medical expenses.

Typical examples of health/medical-related expenses include routine check-ups, prescriptions, dental work, and unexpected medical bills.

To create a health/medical fund, estimate the cost of your healthcare needs for the year, including regular check-ups, prescriptions, and any ongoing treatment. Divide the cost by the number of months in the year, and save that amount each month.

Pro Tip: Consider opening a Health Savings Account (HSA) if you are eligible. HSAs offer tax benefits and can help you save money for healthcare expenses.

  1. Car Maintenance Fund: For When Your Car Needs Some TLC

Your car may be your trusty steed, but it's also a machine that requires regular maintenance to keep it running smoothly.

Just like homes, cars can be a money pit when it comes to unexpected expenses. That's where the car maintenance sinking fund comes in handy. By setting aside some cash each month, you can take care of routine maintenance and avoid costly repairs down the line.

Examples of car-related expenses can include regular maintenance, oil changes, new tires, and unexpected repairs.

To set up this sinking fund, start by checking your car's manual to see what routine maintenance it needs and how often. Estimate the cost of that maintenance and divide it by the number of months until your next service appointment. Add that amount to your car maintenance sinking fund each month to stay ahead of the game.

Pro tip: If you have an older car or one with high mileage, you might want to save a little extra each month to prepare for bigger repairs down the line.

  1. Pet Fund: For When Fido Needs a Check-Up

Pets bring joy to our lives, but they can also bring unexpected expenses. A pet fund is a way to save for your furry friend's health and wellness needs.

Whether it's a trip to the vet, a grooming appointment, or new toys and treats, having a pet fund can help you manage these expenses without breaking the bank.

Common examples of pet-related expenses include routine check-ups, vaccinations, grooming, and unexpected medical bills.

To create a pet fund, estimate the cost of routine vet visits and other expenses, such as food and toys. Divide the cost by the number of months until the expense is needed, and save that amount each month.

Pro Tip: You can also consider pet insurance to help with unexpected medical bills.

  1. Gift/Holiday Fund: For When You Want to Share the Love

Giving gifts and celebrating holidays can be expensive, especially if you have a large family or social circle. Setting aside money throughout the year can help you manage gift-giving expenses, travel costs, and other holiday-related expenses.

Other gift-giving occasions throughout the year, such as birthdays and weddings, can also add up. A gift/holiday fund helps save for these special occasions, so you can spread the love without draining your bank account.

Examples of gift/holiday-related expenses can include gifts for family and friends, travel expenses, decorations, and entertainment.

To create a gift/holiday fund, estimate the cost of gifts, decorations, travel, and other expenses associated with holidays and special occasions. Divide the cost by the number of months until the event, and save that amount each month. It helps to create a gift list for your loved ones. You need to know who you want to give gifts and how much you can afford to spend before you start saving

Pro Tip: Start planning for the holiday season early to take advantage of sales and discounts.

  1. Education Fund: For When You Want to Invest in Your Future

Education is a valuable investment in yourself, but it can be expensive. Whether you're planning to go back to school or saving for your child's education, an education fund goes a long way to prepare for those costs.

Having an education fund can also help you avoid taking out student loans or relying on credit cards to pay for educational expenses.

To create an education fund, estimate the cost of tuition, books, and other education-related expenses. Divide the cost by the number of months until the expense is needed, and save that amount each month.

Pro Tip: Start saving early so you can take advantage of compound interest and potentially reduce the overall cost of your education.

HOW MANY SINKING FUNDS CATEGORIES DO I NEED?

Now that we've covered various sinking fund categories, you may be wondering how many you need. The answer will vary depending on your financial goals and lifestyle.

As a general rule of thumb, aim to have at least three to four sinking fund categories. This allows you to cover the most common expenses such as home repairs, car maintenance, and vacations.

However, if you have specific expenses that don't fit into those categories, it's a good idea to create additional sinking funds to avoid unexpected expenses.

For example, if you have pets, consider setting up a sinking fund for pet care expenses such as veterinary bills or grooming. Similarly, if you have children, an education fund is another sinking fund category you may want to consider.

Remember, sinking funds are designed to help you plan for future expenses and avoid dipping into your emergency fund. By having multiple sinking fund categories, you can be more strategic with your savings and avoid the stress of unexpected expenses.

TIPS AND GUIDES TO HELP SUCCESSFULLY BUILD A SINKING FUND

  1. Set realistic goals when creating sinking funds.

You should consider your current income and expenses to determine how much you can save each month. If your income falls short of your goals, it might be a sign to consider building a second income stream or seeking out alternative ways to make extra cash.

  1. Set up separate accounts for each sinking fund.

This way, you can avoid dipping into your sinking funds for other expenses.

  1. Automate your savings to ensure that you're saving money each month.

You can set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your sinking fund accounts. This will help you save money consistently without having to think.

  1. Review your sinking funds regularly to ensure you're on track to meet your savings goals.

If your expenses or income change, adjust your savings goals accordingly. This helps to manage lifestyle inflation.

AND THAT'S IT!

Sinking funds are a vital tool for effective financial management. By setting up sinking funds for standard expenses, you can avoid the stress of unexpected costs and future financial obligations and achieve financial stability.

Remember to start small and be consistent with your savings. Over time, your sinking funds will grow, and you'll have peace of mind knowing that you're prepared for whatever life throws your way.

Anne Amebo is a freelance finance content writer/content marketer. You can find her on Linkedin @ Anne Amebo. You can also email her @ anneamebo@gmail.com

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