Sunday, October 16, 2011

Banking Pro-tip: Automatic Fund Transfers & Multiple Savings Accounts

I have a banking pro-tip that I've been using for a little over a year now. It's nothing revolutionary, but I really like how it works and wanted to share.

My goal is to save pockets of money for infrequent but significant expenses: travel, gifts, and charitable donations. I bank with RBC, so I created a (completely free) e-Savings account for each of these expenses so that I wouldn't be pooling all of my savings in one big chequing account (which makes it too easy to forget about savings goals).

For instance, Robyn and I love travelling, but travel always takes a huge bite out of one's bank account. To combat instantaneous account drain before and after a trip, I set up an automatic transfer to send $100 to my travel savings account each time I get paid. Now I'm setting aside $2,600 over a year and I can avoid zeroing my chequeing account around travel time.

Similarly, I automatically set aside $40 every paycheque into a gifts account. I can dip into it during the year for one-off events like birthdays and weddings, and when Christmas rolls around I've got a buffer of a few hundred dollars set aside for holiday expenses.

Finally, I automatically set aside $20 every paycheque to give to charity. Like my other savings accounts, this account slowly buffers until I hear about an interesting cause. For instance, my buddy Kyle emailed me to ask if I'd support him in fundraising marathon, and I was able to donate fifty bucks without having to cut my weekly budget or dip into another pocket of savings.

I also contribute to an RRSP as well as set some cash into a TFSA each paycheque (saving for a house).

In total, over one-third of my take-home pay is automatically transferred out of my chequing account as soon as I get paid. Then I pay rent, car insurance, and phone bills, and what's left pays for my groceries and other weekly expenses. I really, really like this kind of budgeting - save what you need right away, pay your bills, and live on what's left. To make this type of saving easier, I aggressively paid down my (minimal) student debt as quickly as I could after finishing school.

Once Robyn and I buy a house we'll probably want to keep up a "household" fund - for all of those future broken dishwashers, re-shinglings, and deck repairs.

Any good finance or online banking tips to share?

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