Sinking funds work like this: Every month, you’ll set money aside in one or multiple categories to be used at a later date. With a sinking fund, you save up a small amount each month for a certain block of time before you spend. – Dave Ramsey
One huge stress factor in my life has been money and my finances. I might not have had the best ideas of finances but I did get by. Then I got married, for our standards today young at 25, we put all money in one basket so to say. We had the advantage that we earned quite some money so the idea if budgeting and tracking was not needed we felt. We were able to live like we wanted and felt like.
Funny thing is that that money that we so harmoniously shared at the beginning of our marriage, turned into only one persons possession once the separation was clear. Not just the money, but what we had use the money for- acquiring of a flat, furniture and our life.
I was not that lucky person.
I was left with absolutely nothing. Zero. Null. Zilch. All my financial stability was taken away from me, from one second to another. From having a flat, a car, furniture, and food in the fridge I was left with a flat that had a borrowed mattress, pillow and duvet. A cup and a instant coffee, sugar, kettle and a spoon.
This was it. For a long time I lived on without anything.
More than once did I need to ransack my bags, and pants, and check under the sofa to find few coins for bread and transportation for my child and myself to work.
Needless to say, I struggled financially after the divorce. And it created a huge stress and burden on me. Knowing that my daughter had to witness her mother in tears and stressing out, from the fact she needed to eat as there were no money, still makes me sad.
The shame of not having enough money to send her to school with the required equipment. Not knowing if we would be able to pay the rent or not. If I could have her living with me as I had no money for basic needs.
The thing I should have done I stopped doing and what I should have stopped doing I started doing. I did what I do best in stress. Eat. My weight started creeping up.
Starting Back from scratch again
I was able to return to Europe a year and a half after the divorce and the situation was not very well either. I had arrived with 4 suitcases and a scattered life and needed to restart again. But I was able to start to work on my finances after some time here. I sorted out a proper job that eventually could lead into better earnings. Slowly but surely did I go from bad to better situation. I did not need to live from day to day in my life anymore, but I could start live at least paycheck to paycheck which for me was a great improvement.
Living from one day to another is not a great way to live, then a month to month is considerably better.
But even though it was better, it never really improved on a real scale though. Even though I had better job, and better income. It was always something that happened, which drained all the small savings I had started. Always one emergency away from chaos. And as it was all together in one pot, I was never really sure about what I was actually saving for.
Beginning of school year expenses, yearly ticket with public transport, winter seasons and its clothes. And let us not think about Christmas and birthdays. I had a bit of a financial chaos back home as well. Would it never stop? There were quite some times when I did think I would need to surrender and just give up. One thing I am expert in doing when in stress is what?- EAT
And eat I did.
Something had to be done though. It could not be like this for the rest of my life. Always living in this angst world. There just had to be a way.
You might say Universe provide, I just say luck or that I was actually opening my eyes for a solution. And the solution came in the shape of a blog post. I came across The Financial Diet
Getting my first sinking fund in order
Right around November, people start saving rapidly for Christmas, Hanukkah, etc. But what if you had been putting $15 or $20 a month away, for a no-sweat holiday season? This, in essence, is the value of sinking funds. Minimize the stress you feel about large, predictable expenses through small, long-term savings goals.
This is exactly what I read. And it hit a cord inside me. I did budget to some degree but then those yearly expenses came. Or the unexpected expense that comes with a broken phone. Anyone that knows me can testify that I am expert on this field.
So why not try something new.
I started my first sinking fund to fund Christmas 2019. My plan had been to leave to visit family in Sweden and I had stressed about the idea, of how I would afford it. So 4 months ahead I started to, quite aggressively, put away some money.
I hit the goal and we went for a Christmas trip up to Sweden. It was a strange feeling as it was the first time I did not totally stress out about what we spent. I knew I had the money and it would not affect next month.
Maybe I was onto something.
- I decided to continue that fund for Christmas 2020. And every month I put away 500 Czech crowns– 20 euro. In the end it was 6000 which would more than cover the expenses for my girl and I.
- In the end of February my yearly ticket was up. I needed to get a new one. I had to get a small loan for it. I knew what my next Sinking fund would be for – Transportation pass.
I added 250 czk every month and by the end of this month I will get a new yearly ticket, with money over which will be my base for next years ticket.
- My daughters birthday would come, as it does every year somehow in the past I would always get so surprised by it, by the end of October. Why not get one for that too? So again, an amount of 500 CZK over the course of 8 months, did end up with quite something.
- I went freelancer last year, and income tax would be paid by me once a year. Even though it might not feel too much fun to remove an amount every month, 500 CZK was not that much compared to 6000 in one go.
Life with sinking funds vs without
I keep adding on Sinking funds into my Bank app. I have free accounts and it makes it all so much easier. The money are clearly divided and I see exactly how much I have, or need. To have a big chunk of money with no destination was so intangible for me. How did I know if I had enough money for everything?
I did not.
Now it is all so clear.
I just received an invoice for my freelancer address which I had totally forgotten about. I had the money but needed to play with my budget to be able to pay it. I needed to deprive myself from something this month to be able to get that big payment made.
I directly opened a new fund and will put a small amount every month so I will have it covered next year. This way I do fund all the things I want to have money for and want to do by a little every month nd without depriving myself from living during I save.
Some funds are long term goals and I only put in money once in a while or when a short term goal has been reach, not to send too much money to the sinking funds either. Dentist and house payments are not needed to add to every months whilst Summer vacation 2021 get a bit more attention now.
In many ways, even though it feels bad to say it, 2020 was the best in my life. I overcame the adversity with money. I have not been this financial stable since before the separation. This has reduced my anxiety immensely. And no anxiety means less overeating. No overeating means no weight gain.
I stress so much less. I stress over other things yes but my financial stress is decreased by the handful. I know that slowly but surely all those goals and needed payments are getting funded and I will have the exact or more of the amount needed.
That has had an immensely positive impact on my mental health, where I can sleep at night and I do not stay up wondering how I will be able to get that extra money.
And what I do when I am stressed is to eat. Over eat and overfill myself. I still sometimes do today, but at least not because of my anxiety over my upcoming invoices.