Sinking funds (without YNAB)?

The biggest part of my budget I feel like I still don’t have a good handle on (and it’s a big one!) is sinking funds. From what I gather, YNAB is great for this, but I wasn’t grandfathered into the nice YNAB pricing system and I’m pretty sure that’s not a service I want to pay new user pricing for.

Right now I have three savings accounts (four if you count my HSA): one attached to my primary checking which I consider my emergency fund, one attached to a credit card that I use as a general “dog stuff” sinking fund (both a sinking fund for his annual health insurance payment and regular vet bills, and an e-fund given that his insurance doesn’t cover 100%), and a third high interest online account for everything else. I’d ideally like to break things out more – one for race fees, one for car stuff (probably my biggest neglect right now), one for travel. I have a hard time mentally dividing up money that is all in one pile. Is the solution to just open several more savings accounts? Or does anyone here have a pretty solution? I’m just curious as to what folks here do outside of YNAB.

Right now I am budgeting via a works for me but I’m sure pretty inefficient google sheets file, as I get really irritated with programs like Mint or Nerd Wallet that take several days to update account totals, always seem to have a hard time connecting, and don’t always have the exact categories I want.


I am in the same boat. I am using google sheets to track everything. I have one sheet that details all sinking funds but al the real money goes into one savings account. I used to set up seperate savings accounts for each sinking fund but wanted to “clean up” my accounts and just have everything in one place. I may go back to the multiple savings account methods because I too have a hard time mentally seperating out all the different sinking funds. I’m curious to see what others have to say about this though.


Ditto, following.


I’m kind of relieved I’m not alone in this challenge, haha. I could probably use my high interest online account plus a spreadsheet to keep the categories divided within it, but I feel like that’s going to get messy (knowing myself, continuously neglected).

1 Like

I haven’t tried them, but Ally Savings accounts now offer “buckets”. According to the video demo, you can set up “buckets” within your account to show what the money is for.


I’ll check it out. That would be FANTASTIC. I’d way rather open just one new savings account I could divide up like that. Thanks for the tip!


I love that Ally bank idea!

Here’s what I do - I need simple or I’ll forget my system, so I apologize if my descriptions are super basic.

It took me a very long time to wrap my head around my budget being different than my money on hand in savings/checking etc.

I input my income, then assign it in my budget.

For expenses that would be part of sinking funds, I assign dollars to those categories.

When I check in (however often, daily, weekly, never) I make sure my spending in my budget matches my spending in my checking/savings accounts, and then I make sure my total balances in my accounts matches what I think I should have.

I use only my checking account for regular expenses including the sinking funds. My one savings account is just for short term emergency spending, so my spreadsheet has all its categories, including the sinking funds, and my savings account is a separate category so that I don’t accidentally spend from it for something else.

I also put the sinking fund target amount right in my category title; it helps me not constantly question my math.

My categories/buckets might look like:

I started typing this all out before I read the Ally bank comment though - that sounds ideal for your situation.

1 Like

[in Canada] I use Tangerine for this. We set up automatic contributions to a vacation fund (which doubles as an eFund), a property tax fund, and the house reno fund (which is a catch-all for whatever happens to the house, or household electronics, or expensive art).

Some of those are known costs, some are unknown, some are under our control, some are not.

  • property tax is known and not in our control, so it is easy to fund
  • house is unknown and partially in our control. But a new furnace, burst pipes, or other emergency repairs are not. Art, otoh, is only considered when the fund is high enough that spending money wouldn’t put us in a bind if we needed a furnace under short order.
  • vacation is in our control until we’ve committed, and then it is partially in our control. So we don’t commit until we have the money (plus efund minimum). We don’t anticipate more money going in between now and then to get us to where we need to be.

We put money into those buckets every pay, based on the annual estimates we have, and we track how close we were to them in separate spreadsheet tabs from day-to-day living. Since they are so lumpy (big house things are 4-5 years, big vacations 2-3 years), it doesn’t makes sense to look at them in the same timeline or on a 12 month rolling basis.


Yes, I think the Ally option is what I’ll likely go with, but it sounds like there are others looking for solutions to similar issues and it’s good to see a range of approaches! Yours makes a lot of sense, but I suspect may not work as well with my personality.


It seems excessive, but I have an account with each sinking fund I save for monthly. So I have

  • auto insurance/auto repair
  • new (used) car fund (this is planned for 5 years out-ish currently)
  • personal spending (fun, non necessities)
  • bike fund (mostly repairs, gear, etc)

My brain needs to have separate accounts for things, even though it might seem ridiculous. I like the process of moving the money to each account, it’s a good mental check in to see where I’m putting chunks of money, etc.

1 Like

I have Capital One and have multiple savings accounts for the various savings buckets. E-fund, vet care, travel, moving, hair appointments, medical, sales tax (I have to collect it all year for my side business making jewelry and pay it each January in a lump sum), those are the big ones.

It’s a lot to manage but it helps me to see that, for example, right now I have enough in the “hair” account so I can go get my color done whenever I feel like it (though I put it off and DIY in between appointments until it looks truly awful, haha.)


I just keep a big buffer in checking and pay those lumpy expenses as they come due… this is also our emergency fund. It’s super simple but it works.

1 Like

That would be a fine way to do it
if I had more money :slight_smile: right now it’s less intimidating to save toward multiple smaller savings goals that all feel more attainable than naming their sum would be.

1 Like

Makes sense to me. When we had no emergency fund, we had no real plan, so you’re doing better than we were there. :slight_smile:

1 Like