How to Set Savings Goals Mindfully


YNAB makes it easy to set and achieve savings goals. I find the tough part is knowing exactly what I want to save for.

Sometimes it’s as simple as putting two goal categories in your budget, and having them compete for new dollars as they become available.

But I have tons of goals, real needs, and passing fancies floating around in my head at any given time, and I want to be more purposeful about how I save, and for what.

I’m starting a Wants List – a spreadsheet – with the following columns:

  • Goal
  • Estimated Price/Cost
  • Easy to Buy Used?
  • Frequency of Use
  • Is it Awesome?
  • Key Features
  • Contenders
  • Reviews

There are no hard and fast rules about how to use the Wants List – the point is simply to capture your goals and fully consider their value relative to each other. Here’s how I’ll use the columns:

Estimated Price/Cost will be (obviously) be a range from low to high.

Easy to Buy Used? forces me to research the possibility of buying the thing from a person else instead of a retailer. It’s not something I’m used to, but the merits are obvious.

Frequency of Use lets me consider how often I’ll use (and benefit from) the goal, and may lead me to a) scrap the goal altogether or b) realize that, while awesome, it makes more sense to rent the item (I’m looking at you, offroad toys).

Is it Awesome? is a continuum that runs between “No big deal” and “Gray matter all over the walls” (because the awesomeness made your brain explode). Is it Awesome? should be a source of lively discussion and debate between interested parties.

Key Features will be an evolving list. As I shop and read reviews, I’ll get a better sense of which features matter, and which perks are worth the increased cost.

Contenders is the running list of makes and models that could satisfy the goal.

Links to Reviews will be a library of good advice on the purchase, also helping me discover questions I didn’t know I should be asking about the product/experience.

The Wants List is a home for any goal that requires you to save up or prepare in advance – whether it’s a new TV, a vacation, or the goal to quit your job and become self-employed.