5 Things You Might Be Doing to Sabotage Your Savings Goals


You started your path to savings with such good intentions. Perhaps you have visions of a European backpacking tour or a cute flat in the city.

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You know you need to save some serious money to get there. But the end of another month comes around and you never seem to be much further ahead.

Chances are if you are struggling to stay on track with your savings goals, you may be falling prey to one of these financial saboteurs. 

Your Goal is Too Big or Unrealistic

If your savings goal feels like an impossible dream, you may give up before you’ve even tried. It may be that you have picked huge number, or you have set yourself an unrealistic timeline to achieve it by.

Do you know how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

The same goes with big savings goals. You need to break it down into little chunks.

If your goal is a house deposit of $60,000 – which seems really big and daunting – then break it down into smaller chunks. If you break it down over five years, that’s $12,000 a year, or $460 a fortnight. Just focus on putting aside that amount each fortnight and you’ll reach your goal without even realising.

If that amount is too much for you, then it may be that you have set an unrealistic timeline for your goal. It’s all very well wanting to save $20,000 for a wedding in a year’s time. But if you earn only $50,000 a year – unless you make drastic changes to your lifestyle – you’ll find it too hard to reach and just give up. Either lower your savings goal or extend your timeline.

Your Goals Aren’t Clear

If you aren’t emotionally invested in your savings goals, you’ll have trouble getting motivated to reach them.

Saving $10,000 is a pretty nebulous goal that doesn’t have any emotional pull.

Saving $10,000 so you can quit your job and start a freelance business is a very specific goal that has an emotional connection – you know why you want to reach that goal and the purpose.

Try to find the emotional connection with your savings goals. If you’re saving for a holiday, imagine the feeling of taking off in that airplane on a trip of a lifetime. Or if you are saving to by a house, imagine unpacking those moving boxes into your own home.

Then, when your focus wavers and you feel like buying something outside your budget, you can focus again on the reason why you are saving and get yourself back on track.

You Keep Ditching Long Term Goals for Short Term

Imagine you want to take a big Roadtrip across the US in a year’s time. You’ve worked out you need to save $7,000 to do this and if set your budget.

But then other opportunities to travel keep coming up in between. So you keep spending on smaller, cheaper holidays and sabotaging your big goal.

This is sneaky saboteur, as you feel same the emotional connection to saving for big trips and smaller holidays. The trick here is to factor both into your savings.

If you have allocated a certain amount of your pay for holiday savings, then divide this into long and short term holidays. I’d suggest setting aside 70 per cent for your big trip, and 30 per cent for weekends away and short trips. That way, you’re still on the way to reaching your big goal; but you’ll still have some fun in the meantime.

You Haven’t Systemised Your Savings

Are you ever out shopping and check your bank balance on your phone, see that there’s $200 in there and think, ‘great I can buy those shoes I want’. Then you get home and realise that money was meant to go towards your house deposit.

It’s all very well to have a goal, but you need systems in place to make sure you meet them. If you are manually making transfers to your savings account, or worse, keeping all your money in the one account, it can be hard to keep track.

Make sure that you have a separate account for savings – one that is online only is preferable as it makes it that little bit harder to give in to impulse spending.

I like UBank as you can set up multiple accounts under the one dashboard and name them according to what you are saving for.

Then set up a regular direct debit to come out on the day your pay hits your account. After a while you won’t even notice the money coming out and you will adjust to spending just what is in your spending account.

You Don’t Know the Difference Between Savings and Emergency Fund

Savings are for emergencies right? Well no, actually. If you have to keep dipping into your savings fund because you need to pay for car repairs or a new computer then you’ll feel like you are never getting anywhere.

Instead, you should build an emergency fund that covers you for your worse possible scenario – job loss, expensive car repairs, that kind of thing.

Then keep your money for your savings goals separate. One fund is a buffer for your day-to-day spending; the other is there to achieve big, happy-making positive goals. Know the difference.

When your savings are lagging, or worse going backwards, it can be easy to just give up and go back to spending all of your paycheque. But just by getting back to basics with your saving goals, you’ll find that your dreams are closer than ever.

This post was featured in the Carnival of Money Pros on The Frugal Toad.

Image: Original image from Etsy/ThePigPen

Nell is a freelance writer and blogger living in Australia. Nell writes about personal finance at The Million Dollar Diva. For more information on her writing services, click the Hire Me page.


  1. 1

    Beachbudget says

    “But then other opportunities to travel keep coming up in between. So you keep spending on smaller, cheaper holidays and sabotaging your big goal.” I’m guilty of that one. I really want to do more traveling overseas, but I took several domestic trips this year. I could have easily used that money. I also have been guilty of taking money out of my emergency savings for things that aren’t emergencies. :(

  2. 2


    Beachbudget yep that point was basically directed at myself. I’m guilty of taking smaller trips to the sacrifice of larger ones. Case in point, despite planning and saving for a US holiday in 8 months (my ‘trip of a lifetime’ goal for the past 3 years), in the meantime I’m also taking a one week holiday to India, plus a weekend in Sydney and a couple of trips back to visit my family. Argh!


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